As a child, I never really knew much about mental health. I knew it existed but I didn’t know how mental health issues truly affected people.
That was until high school.
Throughout high school, I really learnt how mental health issues can affect people. As a 14-year-old living alone, working full-time and studying full-time, I had to grow up pretty early on. It was as simple as that. I had to live like a real-life adult. But as I was “maturing” quicker than everybody around me, it brought up a pretty long list of struggles too.
I found myself alone at school with minimal friends. I partied and drank too much for a 14-year-old. I was distant from my family. I ignored my friends who were trying to help. I worked too much. I dated somebody for a few years through high school who was my “first love” and he cheated on me. A lot. He was emotionally abusive. He manipulated me and made me feel like absolute crap, every second of every day but at the time, I thought we were meant to be. So, I put up with it.
Things were starting to get really tough. The world was seeming a little darker each day. At the time, I just put it down to being really, really sad and alone in the world. I thought it was just typical teenage problems. You know, the stuff you see in movies? I just thought it was all normal and not really anything to worry about.
I continued to live like this for years. I would self-harm through high school, in multiple different forms. It was the only way I could get myself to “feel” something.
When I was about 18, I remember waking up one morning to a friend knocking on my door. I just wanted to hide away and ignore her; I remember so vividly that I just wanted to be alone. She kept trying for a while and for some reason, I let her inside, despite how desperately I wanted to be alone.
She came prepared. She came armed with so much love and support. She came to change my life. She sat down with me and explained her concerns. She forced me to eat something. She forced me to shower and then she forced me to go outside for something other than work and study.
She forced me to live for the day.
At the time, I hated her. I hated every second of her forcing me to do these things that I so desperately wanted to avoid. I hated being outside of my home. I hated acting like everything was okay. I just hated the entire day.
That night, I went to bed feeling a little different. I was still in my dark place, but it was different. I felt lighter but I also still felt full of darkness. It’s a hard feeling to explain. Even now, as I write this, I can’t put that feeling into words.
The next morning, I woke up and remembered the conversation with my friend and decided to spend a little time on myself (something I never did back then).
I wanted to spend some time looking at my life and noting what I was doing. It wasn’t out of shame; it wasn’t out of pride. It was simply noticing what I was doing to see if I could see my friends concerns too.
I noticed that I was either eating 3000 calories a day of junk or 400 calories a day of junk.
I noticed that my home was trashed. It wasn’t clean or tidy. There was crap everywhere. It was barely a home.
I noticed that I only left the house to drink alcohol, work or study.
I noticed that when I went to drink alcohol, it wasn’t for fun or even social reasons, it was to try and fill an emptiness I had.
I noticed that I cried. A lot.
I noticed that I had pushed my friends and family away.
I noticed that I absolutely hated my job.
I noticed that my self-harming was making me feel worse.
I noticed that I had no plans. No goals. No ambitions. No future. I had absolutely nothing ahead of that moment in my life.
I noticed that my body felt empty.
I noticed that I didn’t care about myself at all.
I noticed I was struggling.
I noticed that I was not okay.
I was not okay at all.
I guess I kind of always knew inside of me that life wasn’t supposed to be lived that way. I knew deep down that people who cut themselves or took handfuls of sleeping tablets weren’t “okay”. I did know all of that, but I refused to believe it.
I didn’t want to be weak and I didn’t want to have to ask for help, but in the end, all that did was make things worse. It made my life darker and my body emptier.
That was a day that changed my life. I noticed a lot of things that I wanted to change and for the first time since being a child, I wanted to actually do something. Literally anything. I wanted help. I just wanted it to be different.
As I sit here now, I wonder what my life would have turned out like if she hadn’t knocked on my door or if I hadn’t done my self-exploration. I wonder if I would be alive. I definitely didn’t expect to be sitting here with two houses, a fiancé, a child, two successful businesses and I definitely didn’t expect to be happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely had dark days since then. Actually, I’ve had dark months and at one stage, a dark year. But things are different now.
Now, I notice if I’m not okay and I do something about it. I take action to make sure I don't end up in that incredibly dark hole again.
I know this story can be upsetting to read, or maybe even triggering for you, but I wanted to tell it because I truly never thought I'd be who I am today. I never thought I would be happy like I am today.
There is hope for you as well.
Counsellor + Wellness & Mental Health Coach