More Than Just The Wrong Side Of The Bed
Content warning: personal experiences with depression and anxiety, self-harm, suicide.
I was always known as the “sensitive” kid, my mum saying that I cried every day of my life as a child. You name it, I cried over it. This sensitivity emerged into something greater as I reached high school. I couldn’t quite comprehend why I felt so low, but I knew that it was much more than simply waking up on the wrong side of bed – it was something a cup of tea or a warm bath couldn’t quite fix. Over the next few years my low mood and anxiety became consuming, and the sick days off school and withdrawal from things I once loved raised red flags at home. Mum constantly asking “Is everything ok?” and me putting on a façade that I was fine and dandy was my daily regime, becoming a professional at putting on a front. I started resorting to self harm as a means of coping.
Eventually, my walls broke, and after containing these feelings from the age of 12 and opening up to no one, at 14 I broke down to my mum and finally answered “no” to her routine questioning, “no – I’m not okay”. At age 15 I started treatment, seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist regularly where I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. I began medication shortly after, trialling multiple antidepressants with no success. My sleep began deteriorating, and I was experiencing constant panic attacks and a melancholic dread which clouded my thoughts from the moment I woke up, til the moment I went to sleep, or tried to.
Based on my poor attendance at school, I made the decision to start fresh in a new environment and made the move in year 10. The school was incredibly supportive and ensured that I was able to receive help through an array of compassionate staff who went above and beyond for my care. I still was missing massive chunks of school, which lead me to opt to do “Pathways”; an alternative way of graduating the HSC where you split year 12 into 2 years, meaning my peers moved on to UNI and jobs whilst I was still at school.
I continued to deteriorate rapidly, with self harm and suicidal ideation being my go-to coping mechanisms to manage my distress, resulting in 8 psychiatric hospital admissions between 2016 – 2018. Aside from immediate short stay in the public system (only a few days) my inpatient experiences were in Private Hospitals. The public system is certainly more confronting than the private setting, yet both are still exceptional when you compare them to what comes to mind when you think of a “psych ward”. When I first went into hospital, I was absolutely terrified, with many assumptions of what it might be like. Angelina Jolie in “Girl, interrupted” had me petrified. I assumed hospital gowns and a dark padded room with no windows. This was so far from true. Most Psychiatric hospitals today are incredibly accommodating and the furthest from what you’d imagine a hospital setting to be like.
Hospital was essential as I couldn’t keep myself safe at home anymore. Hospital, or help of any sort for any mental illness is nothing to associate with shame. These lengthy admissions which involved various treatments, such as TMS treatment and a variety of medications, unfortunately did not shift my mood in the slightest – changing my diagnosis to “Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder”.
As cliché as it sounds, I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I’d run out of steam. This lead to my most recent suicide attempt in January 2018 which landed me another stint in hospital. My vulnerable state lead to me also developing Anorexia Nervosa which I am currently inpatient and in recovery for at the moment. I have also started ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) which is commonly used as a treatment for those with treatment resistant depression.
I found it hard for a long time, and still do today, to open up about my struggles. There is a lot of unnecessary shame associated with being mentally ill, leading me try my best to mask what was going on – as my mental illness has become so ingrained within my identity. I no longer know myself as “Bridget”, but instead identify myself as my illness, finding it almost impossible to differentiate the two. Any hope has quickly been stripped away leaving me as an empty shell.
I am lucky enough to have incredibly supportive family and friends. Despite my attempts to isolate myself from the world or purely cease to exist, I am always picked right back up by those around me – without them even realising. I cannot express how important it is to stay with a loved one and remind them that you care during this time. You do not have to fix it. By simply sticking by the side of someone with a mental illness, you are holding their head above water more than you know.
It is incredibly hard to know what to do when you feel there is no way out, or what to do when you are struggling to comprehend a loved one’s experience. In a sense, ignorance is healthy. One should not have to understand what may drive an individual to suicide. If you do – that means you have had to experience it first hand which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
By exposing the raw reality of my experience despite how anxious this revealment may be, I hope to reinforce to others that mental illness is not a sign of weakness, and most definitely not a choice. Depression is not waking up one morning on the wrong side of the bed. These issues are too often romanticised and glorified, feeding into the misconceptions people develop which make an individual less likely to ask for help.
With 3 million Australians currently experiencing Depression and Anxiety, and suicide being the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15 and 44, more awareness needs to be raised. Depression and Suicide need to no longer be “Taboo” topics and words we tiptoe around. In a typical year, about 3,000 people in Australia die by suicide, averaging to 8 people every day.
My aim for this post is for those who may be struggling with mental health issues to feel less alone and more inclined to reach out for help, and to guide those who have a misunderstood view of what may drive an individual to suicide.
Written by Bridget Hatton
Edited by Paris Jeffcoat & Samantha Callender
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.