Stopping the Stigma

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Tilly Abbott, 16

Years Battling: 5

Posted August 19, 2020

"I was very lucky growing up to have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, and food on the table. I had ‘nothing’ to be sad about, but I was still sad. I never truly liked myself and I spent my early teens restricting my eating and constantly critiquing myself. I guess you could say it all started when I was 11 and started secondary school. I’d struggled massively with body image the year prior but other than that I had no real idea of what mental health was and whether I was suffering from it. Starting a new school is scary and daunting, and I never dealt well with big places and lots of people so this was terrifying for me. Within weeks I was crying every night telling my mum I wanted to leave, I was having these weird ‘moments’ at school where it all suddenly became too much and I would run out of class and sit in the toilets, struggling to breathe. What I didn’t know then, was that was anxiety, I was having daily panic attacks at the age of eleven. There was no real trigger, or cause as such, I just couldn’t bear the loud classrooms and the close confinement. My parents were obviously worried but didn’t make any changes, i don’t blame them I mean what do you do when your child develops a mental illness? [Self Harm TW] After six months of this cycle of going to school, panicking, coming home, crying myself to sleep, I became exhausted. I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally I couldn’t take it, I was so stressed out and so angry at myself and my body for making me like this. One night it all got too much and I took the kitchen scissors and attempted to self harm for the first time. I was 12. I didn’t do any real harm but it scared my parents, looking back on it now, I can see why. I was a child! My parents enrolled me in to see the school counsellor once a week. I was so embarrassed about the self harm, i couldn’t bring myself to talk about it, i talked about absolutely everything under the sun BUT my own mental health. Over the years both my anxiety and depression progressed. In 2017, I was diagnosed with an under active thyroid, this didn’t help matters and caused me to miss a lot of school. It’s not a serious illness and it’s one that (luckily) can be fixed with medication, however I struggled massively from it. I spent around three days at a time, almost every other week, in bed not able to move. This only made my mental health worse. [sexual abuse TW] The summer of 2017, I went to stay with my grandparents, without my parents. At the time, my uncle was living there, he has a drinking problem and throughout my childhood had the tendency to be really creepy and scare me. I don’t want to go to in depth, but that summer he was awful, so awful when I told my dad he told me I could never see him again. My mum, however, felt differently, after all it’s her own brother. She said to sweep it under the carpet and not to talk about it. For the next 5/6 months, I fainted everyday from anxiety, I dropped out of school and spent everyday isolated in my bedroom. My parents decided it got too bad and I got a new counsellor. I told her all about my uncle and everything that he’d done that summer. She got child services involved. That’s when my mum realised this was a lot more serious than she previously thought. I was told I was never gonna see him again and that was that. After that my mental health didn’t miraculously improve like my parents thought it would. I fainted less but was still out of school. My parents worked full time so I spent my days completely alone in bed. Ironically, I never slept, I couldn’t. I wasn’t working my body so it had no reason to be tired so I just lay there, I read a lot, I watched a ton of tv but for the most part I just lay in silence, hurting. My self harm never stopped, during this time it got more dangerous but I became very good at hiding it. Everyone knew something was wrong, but no one knew just how bad it had gotten. [suicide TW] One night it all got too much, I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I took a bunch of pills and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning. I was sick, and felt awful but I was alive. I was so so angry, I was so ready for it all to be over but i was still here. I’d hit a dead end. My parents never knew about my first attempt, I couldn’t bear telling them. Fast forward six months and things have only gotten worse, I tried to give school another go but only lasted one day. I started home schooling. At first it was amazing, i loved the freedomIi had and the fact I could literally do school from my kitchen. However it soon became incredibly isolating. Everyday looked the same and everyday I struggled. I wasn’t learning a lot and lost hope in my future. I attempted again in the spring of 2019. This time was more serious, I left a note, my parents found me. None of it was good, but yet again, I survived. In my note, I came out to my parents, I told them how much of a burden I felt, and how much I really truly hated myself. Seeing my mother cry talking to me about it kind of shook me into reality. I realised just how much this would affect them. I felt so so guilty. After that i decided to try and make changes, I moved to a new school, I tried to get out of the house more. Things kind of got better, but they weren’t normal. I was in school about 3 days a week (bearing in mind this was my last year of school). I didn’t like the people at my school, they were extremely racist and homophobic people aside from that they were also just not nice to me! I started going in less and less. My exams suddenly became very real and the impact of me being out of school for basically two years became very apparent. My anxiety hit an all time high, and my depression an all time low. I relapsed in self harm after being clean for four months. The intrusive suicidal thoughts managed to creep their way back in to my mind. The first two weeks of 2020 were the worst weeks of my life. I was having the worst panic attacks of my life and I was crying everyday for hours. Enough was enough and my parents pulled me out of school again. This changed everything. For the first time in a long time, things started looking up, I was happier, I felt good about myself. Everything seemed better. It wasn’t over night, but it was in a very short amount of time. A few weeks after this, I was enrolled in a teacher learning provision centre. This is what made the difference. I can say with full confidence, this is has been the reason I’ve been so happy this last month. I’ve made true friends, I’m learning efficiently and I have been clean for three weeks now! It has been a long, LONG journey, and I can say without a doubt I will dip again, I will have bad days, maybe even bad months, but I am finally at a place in my life where I get up every morning happy, I want to live my life now. Another massive help that I’ve found is finding hobbies for myself to keep my mind distracted from intrusive thoughts. I personally love to edit, it is very time consuming and doesn’t allow for me to just sit around with my own thoughts. If you’re reading this and have struggled with anything similar to me, that’s the best advice I have, keep your mind busy!! Especially during this confusing time. That’s my story, if you’d asked me two months ago to tell you, the ending would be no where near as happy. I am so so grateful for my learning centre for, without a doubt, changing my life. It just goes to show, if you are unhappy in a situation, GET OUT OF IT, trust me it is the best possible thing for you. Whether you just need to take some time for you, or if you change your life completely, getting out of that negative space will do you the world of good."