I was thinking as I was walking to the bus stop, as I often do, and started to reflect on what the early indications were of my mental illness. Without a doubt I was depressed from the moment I hit my teens; my first suicide attempt was at that age where the pressures of school and hormones are totally overwhelming. Being bullied played a huge part in it. I had bad acne and attracted nicknames like “spot the dog” and “pizza face”. I was very tall too, and developed breasts before I knew what a bra was for (yes, there was an incident when my school shirt came unbuttoned). I didn’t have the skillset to cope with all the crap life was throwing at me, so I simply surrendered. It was too traumatic to continue.
My “treatment” at that time consisted of a trip to see the GP who referred me to a psychiatrist. I suppose if I’d been treated as a mature teenager (“young adult”, awful phrase) then I might have found some benefit in the sessions with that psychiatrist, but from the moment he told me that he was obliged to disclose any danger I presented to myself I bottled up. How could I risk telling him about the constant suicidal thoughts and self harm if I couldn’t trust it wouldn’t get reported to my mum.
The events of my now-13-year story of depressive episodes are pretty clear in my mind. What I didn’t realise until recently is that my psychotic episodes started young too. The most notable of these was at a gig in a local club. My friendship group often went to see bands there and generally it was a great night out to exercise our rebellious teenage natures. One of these nights, I remember being freaked out by so many people making so much noise. The memories are vague, but I do recall seeing the face of Kurt Cobain on the wall and somehow getting behind the vending machine to hide. I wish I could remember what happened that my friends were able to calm me down in time to be picked up by mum after.
Anxiety has also been a constant companion for me, probably for the longest time of any other issues I’ve had. I was a paranoid child, believing that I had to crawl under my window to cross the room because I was convinced a sniper had a gun pointing my way, or making plans for escaping my room in case of fire or flood. As I grew older, the fears faded into a sense of general anxiety, at meeting new people, unfamiliar situations, or being put under pressure. I lost count of the number of panic attacks I had at college. My classmates became expert at helping me get through them.
So my history of mental illness is a long one now. The beast has changed and transformed but the essence is the same. Finally I am better equipped to deal with it.