Recently I was brought to tears and stunned into silence when a 17-year-old girl opened up about her problems for the first time. She did so in front of a large audience of school friends, staff, parents and the local MP… she felt able to do so following work her school and the charity Fixers had done to make it okay to talk about mental health. Nobody had any idea of what she was about to say when she stood up. She gave such an articulate, beautiful and painful insight into the world of a young person secretly suffering that I was compelled to share her words. Her story is shared, in her words and with her full consent. I urge you to take a few minutes to read it. You will learn a lot. I did.
If you looked at me you’d think I was just a normal, happy teenage girl- this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I was separated from my parents at the age of 6, I was told it was just for a few weeks. Those few weeks turned into 10 years.
During this time I feel due to the stress and the uncertainly of what I was going through I started to hear voices in my head, they wouldn’t make any sense and they were so loud everything else just seemed like a blur, when they did come nothing would make them go away it could happen at any time, this is where my anxiety and panic attacks also started. As a 7 year old I didn’t understand what was going on or why, I didn’t want to tell anybody in case they thought I was going mad and I was scared of what they would do to me, or where they would take me.
This continued for a few more years after begin taken from my family, I learnt to deal with this issue and over time it started to get less regular. I was still always in fear that this could happen again at any time, I become anxious and started to become sensitive to smells and sounds which some I still find some unbearable to this day. As well as sounds and smells I started to worry about myself as I learnt of the concept of death, every head ace or pain inside my body I convinced myself I was going to die, this affected my sleeping as I started nightmares and had a fear of not waking up again. Life carried on through primary school and teachers started to see I was different from the other students due to dyslexia.
During the transition to secondary school I kept the my issues to myself and carried on and tried to fit in with my new environment which didn’t last long as I was put in special learning difficulty classes for English even though it was only my spelling that wasn’t up to the standard it should have been. This made me feel really different from everybody else and I was embarrassed as teachers treated me differently which made other pupils notice I was different. In fear of not being accepted I started to shut myself off from everybody else. I also didn’t want to open up and make friends as I didn’t want them to reject me because of who I really was, I became an outsider and a easy target for bullies as I wouldn’t fight back.
This is where my panic attacks really started as I was worried about going to school and having people constantly call me names, this was all happening when I was just finding my own identity which I found didn’t fit in with the social norm which yet again made me a more vulnerable target.
Time passed through secondary school and I learnt to deal with my panic attacks as I hid them and only confided in a boy who I trusted and started a relationship with, it turned out we had similar problems and I felt like I wasn’t so alone anymore. As this got more serious I met his family and having never really experienced this for myself I became very attached to them and I felt my panic attacks getting less and less regular, for the first time in forever I didn’t feel as alone anymore.
I decided to move schools in year 11. I was told that maybe I would be better suited for college as I was still in some leaning difficulty classes , I felt that they didn’t believe in me and I was determined to prove everybody wrong. That was a big summer for me as I moved back in with my parents and I felt like I had finally gotten the life I had always wanted, and I had a perfect ongoing 4-year relationship. This was a time of great celebration but also came with some difficulties.
I started my AS levels and my grades went from the average C, D to As and Bs I felt like I had never been given a real chance before at pushing myself due to my restrictions on classes, this was a amazing feeling and took my mind off anxiety and my fears, I felt like I had a goal and wasn’t going to stop until I got the best grades I could. I challenged my issues and made something bigger and more important than what they were, I found this really helped me. Everything was going so perfectly, but you don’t just magically recover from problems on this scale just like that.
My relationship which I now look back on and think I pinned my whole life and happiness too ended not too long ago in may 2014, this knocked everything back down, I felt like I haven’t just lost that person, I had lost the family I had never had, and the people that knew me better than anyone else. I didn’t feel anything at all I started to panic and yet again get anxious and think it was all my fault it had ended, this hurt more than anything had ever done before because I believed I had recovered from my past events. From there my life spiralled out of control, even then at aged 17 living back at home I felt I couldn’t go to my own parents because the relationship wasn’t there as we hadn’t been all together that long , I didn’t know where to look or turn, I felt so alone, so worthless like nobody cared. I seemed so small and insignificant, why would anybody want to help me anyway? I stated to self-harm as it was the best way to let out my feelings. I was feeling alone and lost weeks before my vital AS Exams I felt I was just set up to fail… I decided to go to my local church which I had been attending for a number of years and finally open up to them. I learnt that I never had to be alone.
I am still not fully recovered from my experiences and still suffer from my panic attacks but I am pleased to say that the self-harm and depression have been wiped from my life completely.
I am not telling you this today because I want you to feel sorry for me. I want to help raise awareness for mental health issues so that people like me don’t feel so alone and out cast from society. You don’t know who is suffering from a condition you can’t see from the outside…