My story started when I was in high school. I was in year 10 and going along well. I was academic, sporty, involved in community activities and had a good group of friends. One girl joined our friendship group towards the end of this year. We opened up and let her in as she didn’t seem to have many friends of her own. All of a sudden the dynamic of this group changed once we started school the following year. This new girl to our group didn’t seem to like me and I was unsure as to why. She started making comments about me to other people and before I knew it my friendship group didn’t even seem to even acknowledge me anymore. I was made to feel isolated and excluded and I was confused as to why. What had I done wrong? I felt I had to try and make a new group of friends and quickly otherwise high school would have been a terribly lonely place.
Having to try and make new friends in year 11 when friendship groups really seemed to be developed by this point was hard. I was upset with my friends for acting the way they did and listening to the mean comments being made about me. This girl continued to bully me throughout high school and gave me a tough time. I was just looking forward to finishing high school as I felt I’d be better suited to university life- being able to be independent without worrying about being bullied or ridiculed.
Once I was at uni, life seemed great. I was studying in my dream course, living with my boyfriend and mental health issues weren’t even on the cards. Things took a turn once my boyfriend and I broke up halfway through my first year of uni. We were best friends, together for 3 1/2 years and did everything together. He was my rock. So when we were no longer together and I had to learn to do things on my own I felt lost. This is a feeling I wasn’t used to and I didn’t know how to cope. I started to feel down more often than not and couldn’t seem to stop myself from crying and experiencing negative emotions. I decided to be proactive and went to my GP to seek help. I told him how I was feeling and he referred me to a psychologist. She helped me to face these emotions and work through them. This was a really confronting experience as I generally push away negative emotions so I don’t have to deal with them.
After this I felt better. The negative emotions were going away and more positive emotions seemed to be coming through. I continued to use the counselling services provided at uni to try and get my life back on track. I was making friends at uni and focusing on my studies. It was still really hard to completely readjust my life and start fresh. It was a real mental battle that I struggled with but eventually I started to feel on top of things again and enjoy life for myself. I had made new friends and was no longer worried about feeling alone.
In 2013, I moved away from my home town near the city to a more rural location. The closeness and great community feel gave me a sense of belonging. I became involved with local sporting and community groups and landed myself a job at a wonderful and supportive organisation. I had made some really good friends and had a boyfriend too. I was learning to live away from home and be independent. However, what I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t actually being fully independent. I’d lived my life following the ways of other people, whether it be family, teachers or a boyfriend. I had never truly experience adult autonomy. So at the start of 2014 when my boyfriend and I broke up I began to spiral again. I was unable to cope with the negative emotions I was feeling. I felt lost and empty. Nothing in my life seemed to have meaning anymore. I felt that I had no direction.
Soon after, I spoke to a work colleague about how I was feeling. I broke down in tears and she could see how distressed I was. She suggested trying mood stabilisers to help me get back on track. I decided to make an appointment with my GP to discuss this with her. She could also see my distress so agreed for me to try the medication. A few days later I started to feel the anxiety building up. I was shaking and crying uncontrollably. My heart was beating so fast and the pain I felt in my heart wouldn’t seem to go away. I rushed over to my friends’ house as I thought talking about my feelings may help me to get passed them. We were out for a walk when I broke down. Again, I was crying uncontrollably and couldn’t bare these feelings of distress. Having no control over the situation I was in made it hard for me to cope. I was asking ‘why me?, ‘what have I done?’. I couldn’t seem to make sense of this all in my head. I went back to the doctors shaking, crying and feeling helpless. She believed that the mood stabilisers had reacted with other medication I was on which made the side effects worse causing me to have extreme anxiety.
I was admitted to hospital with severe anxiety and depression. I had the medication flushed from my system and nurses there to keep me calm. I was still in a daze, I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I sat there on the hospital bed, being poked and prodded, nurses surrounding me but everything was a blur. I felt alone, unable to move. I just sat there feeling numb and empty. This is it. I am having a breakdown. I have hit rock bottom.
The next couple of days I spent in the hospital with my mental health being monitored. I had no appetite, no motivation, I felt nothing. I never once had suicidal thoughts but I felt so far down with no way of getting out. I couldn’t see the light at the tunnel and just felt like I had nothing to look forward to. My best friend had just gone overseas, my parents and other friends were also away on holidays and I was stuck feeling as though I had little support. Nothing seemed to mean anything to me anymore. Food had no taste, words had no meaning. I felt empty and alone.
Whilst I was in hospital I was well supported. I had nurses checking on me and visits from a social worker and psychologist. A few days later I was discharged from hospital. I had follow up visits with my GP and the psychologist. I was determined to sort out my life again and get back to being the happy, motivated person that I know I was. I hated feeling so down and depressed. I wanted to be proactive in seeking help. I continued to see my GP who wrote up a mental health script for me which referred me to a social worker. This was great as it offered me 6 free sessions with a professional to work through my depression and anxiety.
I have worked really hard to overcome my mental health issues and am learning to understand ways to manage my depression and anxiety. I have been seeking help and learning to cope and sit with negative emotions. I openly discuss how I am feeling with my friends and family. Everybody in their life will experience negative emotions at some point and it is important to understand that it is okay to have these feelings. It is about learning to deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than trying to run away from them. It is okay to talk to others about how you are feeling or to seek help. I want to encourage others to know that it is okay not to be okay and that you are not alone. Everybody should be able to talk about their feelings openly without being judged. Poor mental health is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength for a person to be able to talk to somebody about how they are feeling or to admit they need help.
Lauren can be found on Twitter: @loza_1818.
She has a Facebook Page dedicated to raising money and awareness of mental health issues and hopes to spread the message far and wide.
She is planning to trek the Himalayas in order to raise awareness for Black Dog Institute and positive mental health. If you are interested at all please check it out! https://www.facebook.com/trektohappiness.
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