I didn’t enjoy my late teens (I know, I know: who did?). Several unfortunate events happened, one after the other in quick and queasy succession, as they often do in life when we’re least expecting it.
I — a kind of lost, kind of geeky, kind of insecure young woman with a block fringe that I trimmed haphazardly at home over the bathroom sink — wasn’t emotionally capable of handling this new and unwelcome onslaught of shit.
Prior to that, I’d had it easy. So easy. I’d been welcomed into and guided through the world by two parents who loved me and my brother and supported us in everything we did. They came to dancing shows and football games and watched our feet race through routines and across pitches. They checked homework, essays, university applications. They spent every moment with us that they could, even if that meant going to work earlier so we could have fifteen minutes in the car together on the way to school… they just loved us, so much. I’d had it easy.
As a naïve, sheltered teenager who — up until then — had made it through the trials and tribulations of being a human relatively unscathed by life’s thunderstorms, I coped in the way that lots of us do when we’re not really sure how to deal with sudden sadness and stress. I drank a lot, I made bad decisions (mostly because I was drinking a lot), and I began to hate myself (mostly because I was making a lot of bad decisions).
I stopped talking to my parents about how I was feeling. I stayed out without telling them where I was or when I’d be home. I let my phone run out of charge and ignored their frantic messages. I neglected friendships with people who knew me to my core and were worried about me, favouring friendships with people who didn’t ask, didn’t tell, and didn’t care about anything other than whether there was enough beer, vodka, or whatever else to go around. I threw myself into “relationships,” with people who didn’t care about me and I couldn’t even hate them for letting me. I didn’t care about me either — how could they be expected to?
Eventually, I dropped out of university. I cried a lot. I slept a lot. I skipped appointments and bailed on plans. I still wouldn’t talk to my parents.
At some point, things got bad enough that — in a rare moment of clarity — I decided to see a doctor. The next day, the fog rolled in around my head again and I changed my mind. A few weeks later, I found myself sitting in a waiting room on a vomit green faux leather chair, jiggling my leg up and down restlessly to stop myself from doing what I’d been doing in every other uncomfortable situation for the last few months: running the fuck away.
My name was called. I walked through a door, sat down in another vomit green faux leather chair, shot the doctor a shaky smile, then burst into tears and spilled my feelings all over his office like cheap beer. He prescribed enough of something I don’t remember the name of for a fortnight and said: “come back in a couple of weeks if you still feel the same.”
I didn’t go back. Whatever had driven me to the place where I finally accepted that I needed to see a doctor continued to drive me forwards over the next few weeks. My dad had suggested that I get involved in some sort of volunteering, so I did. Instead of throwing myself into superficial friendships and sketchy situations, I began throwing myself into work.
My volunteer position soon turned into a job, which then turned into another job, which eventually turned into a transfer to Toronto. I met kind, intelligent people who mentored me, cared about me, and saw value in me during a time when I couldn’t. I am still so grateful to them. It’s likely that they don’t even know how much their belief and faith in me meant, and means — but it did, and does.
I started talking to my parents about how I felt again. I tried to extinguish the embers of smouldering bridges that led to sweet, sincere friends. I stopped crying as much. I stopped sleeping as much. I began turning up for appointments and keeping plans.
At this point in my story, it feels like the time for some sort of “come to Jesus,” moment. I don’t want to disappoint, but I didn’t have one — even if I had turned up on big Jesus’ doorstep, I think he would’ve sent me away. I’ve heard he can turn water into Bucky: if that’s true, he’s probably got enough people in his gaff as it is.
The truth is, there isn’t just one moment where you think: “wow, I’m going to get my shit together!” and then it’s all fine and dandy from there. I’m doing a lot better now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle sometimes. When it comes to mental health — for me, at least — things fluctuate. They waver. Sometimes they just straight up (or straight down, to be more accurate) nosedive. And that’s totally normal!
What’s important is that you have the right support systems in place for when the fog rolls in. Maybe that’s a partner who’s all ears when you want to talk and all arms when you just want a hug and silence. Maybe it’s parents who’ll FaceTime you in the middle of the night when you’re sad. A brother who lets you wipe your wet eyes all over his shoulder after a rough day. A friend who brings you flowers for no reason.
I have all these things, and because of that, it’s finally starting to feel like I have it easy again. I hope you do too.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (in the UK), so I thought it was about time I shared my own experience after seeing so many brave friends share theirs. You can learn more about mental health, and how to find help if you need it, here.