Hello, to my harmonious readers. This blog is about my mental health struggle. I was bullied by a primary school teacher and diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I was able to recover. Please see my previous post Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome . However, from that experience, I was left with severe anxiety and somewhat PTSD over how I was treated. I developed an intense fear of being around teachers, speaking in class, and presenting my work. I feared all teachers because I felt that they had the power to abuse me verbally. I feared that I wasn’t smart enough and I was scared that I would be yelled at, name called, or threatened. This fear intensified when I became a high school student.
As I live rurally, my choices of high schools were limited, so I attended the same high school as my friends. My high school was classed as a regular public school. However, our principal had decided to implement a new assistant innovative learning strategy known as the Academy of Innovative Learning (AIL). This assistant learning meant that we did not have properly structured classes. We had booths and sofas to do our work. We didn’t have a math’s or English class. We were required to use a website to learn and teach ourselves the compulsory subjects. There was no structured time or lessons to complete our math’s and English. We failed our math test at the end of the term. All except 1 student out of 120 passed.
Even though we didn’t have actual classes, teachers threw one project on top of another. Throughout my years at high school, I was always head deep in project work. I couldn’t understand how I could never get on top of it. Every night of the week, I would be up late working, in tears. I feared approaching my teachers for assistance as it triggered my panic attacks. I was forever in an intense state of stress and anxiety. I developed perfectionist expectations and set extremely high standards for myself that I could never achieve. At least once a week, I would break down in uncontrollable tears over the school. I would continuously have days off. It was rare for me to do a whole week. I felt so mentally and physically drained from being at school. Every time I walked through the school gates, a wave of panic would wash over me, and I would stay in this anxious, hellish state for the rest of the day.
I was living in a constant state of anxiety and depression, and that’s not living. I couldn’t feel positive about anything. I couldn’t even think clearly. All I could feel was anxiety. I felt like an entity had taken over my body. It didn’t feel like me. I was a shell of a person. I knew that my anxious thoughts weren’t correct, but they wouldn’t shut up, and then I would feel anxious about having those anxious thoughts. So, it was a vicious cycle.
My parents could see that I was struggling. My mum was constantly advising me that I needed to seek treatment. She knew what I was going through because she’d gone through it herself. However, I was in denial about my mental health. I thought that if I got on top of my schoolwork, then my stress would go away. I lost count of the number of times my mum took me to the doctor to get treatment, only to walk away with nothing. I remember once I went to the doctor in a dark mental state, looking for help, only to be told to take it one day at a time and one day it will get better. I walked away without even a referral to see a psychologist.
As I was an adolescent, doctors were highly reluctant to try antidepressants. I can somewhat understand their reasoning for not wanting to try medication, as there is the possibility that medication can worsen depression and cause suicidal thoughts. Still, there’s a good chance I would’ve ended up in that state anyway without treatment.
It wasn’t until I left school in year 12 that I finally received treatment, but my anxiety and depression had worsened by that point. I felt anxious over everything. I feared talking and having relationships with people because I feared being verbally abused. I became a hermit crab. I didn’t feel safe unless my parents were with me. I remember one time I was shopping with a friend, and my hands were shaking because I had to use a credit card and I was scared that my card would be declined in front of everybody, even though I knew I had money.
I tried making it through year 12. I had this plan of going to university, I didn’t know what I was going to study, but I was determined to work so hard to make my dream a reality. In the term 1 holidays, I worked hard to complete my assignments. However, at the end of the first day of term 2, my research project teacher had asked me to stay behind to discuss my work. It was my worst fear of being stuck with a teacher alone. He told me I was behind, and I needed to knuckle down and try harder. I was in tears talking with him. I had worked so hard and to be told that it still wasn’t good enough. I ended up missing the bus, so I called my parents, but I couldn’t stand being at that school any longer. I decided I would start working home in the rain. It was better than being there. I decided that I wasn’t going to go back. I had spent the last 4 years working myself to the bone. I knew that if I didn’t stop that I was going to dig my own grave. School was not worth my life.
Once I left school, I decided it was time to address my mental health. I attended a doctor’s appointment where I broke down in tears, and I finally received treatment. I was given a referral to see a psychiatrist. She told me that it was amazing that I had lasted that long without treatment. It wasn’t like I magically got better after seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist. It took a while to find the right treatment plan, but it was the start of getting help. I am now in a much better mindset and am happy and content with where I am. However, I wish that the doctors had referred me sooner. Maybe my anxiety wouldn’t have gotten as bad.
Anxiety is not who you are, and it doesn’t define you. What I learnt from my experience is that you can’t battle severe depression and anxiety alone. Anxiety will control your life until you reach out for help. Anxiety will tell you not to seek treatment and to keep it hidden. It’s not just about getting help from family and friends, though that is a start, but getting help from specialists. You wouldn’t try fixing a broken leg by yourself. You would go to a doctor. Why shouldn’t the same be for your mental health? Your mind and body are connected. If your mind is struggling, your body will struggle as well. I hope that sharing my mental health story could help someone else feel less alone. Know there are people out there who care whether they’re with you now or in the future.