One young woman who contemplate suicide tells Catherine McCurry of her struggle with depression and how a local support group has helped her on the road to recovery…
“AT THE age of 16 when my GCSE exams where coming up I started to develop extreme stress. If I didn’t do perfectly, I would kill myself. I remember saying this to my mother in a casual way. My anxiety and depression worsened as I got to the age of 17 and 18. The negative perspective I held of myself and life in general was crippling. I would feel bad for feeling bad.
“With a great life, great prospects and the world in my hands, I hated myself for being depressed when so many have nothing. I controlled what I ate, became fatigued, developed severe anxiety, mood swings and isolated myself. Drink and drugs became a form of self-medication.
“Although I was visiting counsellors at the time I didn’t connect with any of them. I started to smoke weed every day to block out the intense pain I felt.
“I would skip school and stay in bed all day, crying, ignoring texts and avoiding dinner. Many days where spent in my room alone smoking, even one Christmas day.
“The weed stopped working and I started to self-harm. I honestly hated myself. I felt everyone would be better off without me. I was an incurable hindrance.
“My loved ones would bear the brunt of my anger. My mother did not know how to cope with my behaviour and neither did I. We both thought I should move out and into my aunt’s house to give everyone some space.
“On the evening I was due to leave I was overwhelmed with the feeling of abandonment. I swallowed handfuls of painkillers and said nothing. Later that evening I started to feel sick, my aunt found out and I was brought to hospital.
“When I was referred to [mental health support group] Zest I met an amazing counsellor who connected with me on every level. He talked with me, not at me.
“He helped me quit smoking and reassured me that I wasn’t alone, explaining that one in four people suffer from a mental illness.
“He empathised with me and treated me as his equal, inspiring me to live. He had an enormous impact on my life. I hope he reads this.
“After quitting weed I had nothing to block out the emotional trauma I was feeling. After another suicide attempt I was sent to the Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital twice and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression.
“I was put on medication which I still take to this day. Then I was referred to a psychotherapist who I talked to up until I went to university.
“She talked me through my emotions, my behaviour, my past and my present difficulties. She also got me tested for a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which affects your moods, memory and energy.
“It turned out my body cannot absorb vitamin B and this had a huge impact on my mental health. To any person suffering with mental health difficulties ask your doctor to check for a hormonal imbalance, B12 deficiency and Folic acid deficiency.
“Mental health is a taboo subject. People need to understand that being diagnosed with depression is no different than being diagnosed with diabetes.
“Talk to your doctor. Ask to be taken seriously. Don’t take what they hand you. Demand therapy and a proper diagnosis.
“The suicide rate among young people in Northern Ireland is a tragedy and an epidemic which needs to be taken seriously.
“Nineteen people have taken their own lives this year in Fermanagh alone. Doctors and the general ‘pull yourself together’ attitude leave a lot to be desired. Young people need to be listened to. Their suffering is real.
“I am lucky to have joined an organisation like Right Here, a safe place where like-minded young people can come together and discuss, promote and campaign for mental health awareness.
“Despite some anxiety, low confidence and feelings of depression I no longer feel that I am alone or out of control.
“To any young person reading who identifies with me, trust me, it will be OK. If I could go back in time and wave a magic wand and not have a mental illness, I wouldn’t because it’s made me who I am today.
“There is beauty in everything and although I don’t see it when I am in the depths of depression, I see it through my writing.
I honestly cannot believe I have made it this far from lying in agony in bed at night to looking in the mirror and being comfortable in my own skin, scarred or not.
“Looking at the fading scars on my arm I smile because it reminds me of what I have been through and what I am capable of overcoming. Never be ashamed to have a mental illness.”
• Right Here Fermanagh can be contacted on 028 6632 3630.