Because Of This I'm Stronger

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It has taken me weeks (months?) to build up the courage to write about my journey (story, whatever it is) with my mental health and share it with the world. It’s just something I don’t like to share because to be honest it makes me feel completely uncomfortable and I hate making people worry... But here I am, putting myself out there instead of hiding away from it, because I know deep down sharing my story is something I want to work on doing, in the hope that maybe I’ll help someone else feel a little less alone.

So here we go, here’s a brief insight into my never-ending journey…

I can’t exactly pinpoint when my journey with my mental health struggles began. For as long as my memory goes back I have always felt this constant sense of worry. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I feel like I’m on “high alert”. Each day it could be something new: “what happens if I have to meet someone new”, “what happens if I pronounce a word wrong”, “what if I don’t get there in time”, “what happens if something doesn’t go to plan”... the list can go on and on. Sometimes I simply don’t even have an answer as to why I feel worried, I’m just… worried.

When I was younger, I didn’t know that this sort of everyday worrying wasn’t exactly “normal” and to be honest I had no idea that there were/are people out there who don’t feel this way all the time (seriously, this information blew my mind). It actually wasn’t until my late teens when my life hit a slight “bump” in the road that I found out my mental health was a little bit “different”. It was the start of HSC and my first ever broken heart that lead my “worrying” reaching an all time high. Along with that, a feeling of depression flowed through me and my will to live seemed to slip away from me. My everyday thoughts and emotions changed. Not only did I feel like I was on “high alert” all the time, I also felt this uncontrollable feeling of sadness. Each day I woke up wishing I hadn’t and I would end it by laying in bed crying, wishing it all to end before I had to wake up to face another day. I couldn’t understand how one day I felt “fine”, just living my life, as I knew it and then the next day it all changed and it felt like there were no more happy days ahead of me. To be honest, I felt like a completely different person and I had this stupid voice inside of my head telling me things that made me feel absolutely worthless and a disappointment to all of those around me. I became so desperate to feel something other than that complete darkness that ending it all seemed like my only option.

At the time, I did think that maybe something was wrong with me and maybe I should ask for help, but I was scared and I didn’t know that much about mental illnesses. I knew that there were such things as depression and anxiety, but I didn’t actually know how they affected people. They didn’t really tell us much about mental health at school and no-one I knew seemed to ever talk about it. So to be completely honest, I thought only “adults” who had a “valid” reason to be sad could be depressed, not a 17 year old girl who couldn’t find her “valid reason”, who lived in an amazing area, surrounded by a loving family and a big group of friend. So I was back to square one, feeling alone, scared to tell people how I felt and, yep, still stuck in that darkness.

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But then somehow without any words exchanged between us, my friends came to my rescue, (I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough for this) they pulled me aside, took me to the office of one of the teachers we trusted and told him that they thought I was depressed. At first I was shocked that they thought that, I thought I was doing a great job at pretending like I was “fine” and life was great. I also still thought that there was no way I could be depressed because I was that 17 year old girl who had that picture perfect life! Not an adult with real life problems…

My memory from that moment in that teacher’s office is mostly a blur, but there’s one thing I’ll always remember: hearing the words “its going to be okay, we’ll get you some help.” To hear that while all I could think about was how shit and alone I felt was so relieving. I felt a slight hope enter my mind for the first time in months! After leaving that office I had no idea what kind of wild ride I had ahead of me with my depression and anxiety. It took me two years of continuous work to stop those suicidal thoughts entering my mind every damn day and feel like I was actually going to overcome that darkness alive.

Over those two years, I regularly saw a psychologist. I still had so many shit days but I did have a few okay days too, I learned a few tips and tricks about how to get through those shitty days, I got into exercise (I know everyone says exercise helps but seriously IT HELPS!), I learned how to look after myself and the biggest thing that kept me going was hearing that I wasn’t alone and hearing stories of other people who survived their own darkness.

It’s been seven years since I first felt depression and anxiety really become a part of my life and I’m not saying they have completely gone and I’m better now - I still deal with my anxiety daily and I still have times where I feel that darkness come over me in the same way it did back then - but I know how to handle it and I know not to give in to that shitty voice inside my head. I hit what felt like my rock bottom and I came out of it alive and I’m bloody proud of myself for that!

It’s been a long, tough road getting to where I am today but I can’t give myself all the credit, I couldn’t have done it without my amazing friends and family standing by my side every step of the way and who still continue to show me their support.

I know I’m not done with my journey but I’m stronger now, I’m ready for whatever challenges might come my way. I’m still here and I’m living happier days and I’m forever grateful that I’m lucky enough to say that.

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A letter to my past self,

Believe it or not, you are going to get out of this darkness. You’re going to experience those happy days again, just focus on getting through each and every one of these shitty days as they come. I’m not going to lie and say it’s going to be easy because I know this shit is hard. And yep, you’ll have setbacks but please don’t let them defeat you, because look how far you’ve already come!

This is going to take time and I’m sorry but there’s no quick fix (so stop looking for it). It’s going to be a battle we will always have to fight but keep pushing through because you’ll get stronger at fighting back. And remember, you’re not alone! You’ve got your friends and your family. Plus I’m going to be here right by your side and I’ll help you every step of the way. So don’t give up, let’s work together towards those happy days you keep dreaming of! Because trust me when I say I’ve seen those days, I’m living them and my god it feels good.

Written by Emma Crump

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.

Leanne Westlake