I’m lucky to have been born in an era where mental illness is being pulled out of hiding and given the attention it deserves. Although I know technology is the magna causa for this century’s mental illness epidemic, it has also enabled the sufferers among us to gain self-awareness and seek help and support.
I fall on the depressive spectrum — I have, off and on, for several years — and have started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks more recently.
I suffered from mental illness long before I realised I did. Looking back, I see a childhood rife with grief-riddled poetry that I hid aggressively from family and friends.
I come from a normal, slightly orthodox middle-class family and had a normal, if a little dysfunctional, upbringing. I was a brilliant student, most often described as ‘happy-go-lucky’. But I was fat-shamed from a young age and also faced restrictions families like mine place on dating, going out, sleepovers, wearing clothes of your choice — in general any expression of my identity that was less than ‘ideal’. It seemed like a necessary part of growing up, and I imagined everyone around me was suffering equally.
What I couldn’t imagine at the time was how much my fairly ‘normal’ upbringing would continue to shape my life as an adult.
In my early twenties, I stepped out of home to receive a bitter shock: I was an under-confident, closed individual with poor self-worth despite a lot of talent and opportunity.
It was only after years of being grief-stricken, low on motivation and energy, and persistently hopeless that I began to suspect I suffered from mental illness.
Unable to understand or vocalise my condition, I went away to university hoping the new environment will help. To an extent, it did, because it was there that I began seeing signs of mental illness first-hand and developed a vocabulary to express and understand it in. I still didn’t have the courage to admit my own condition. So I suffered in silence while helping everyone else deal with theirs.
Eventually the day came when I knew I needed help, and I sought it.