This entry was a late submission which I had to include, because it covers several topics which need highlighting during this awareness week.
Firstly – dismissing a teenager’s suffering as ‘teen angst’ is a potentially dangerous and even deadly thing to do. We know teenagers get angst – worry over exams, love affairs and breakups, crushes, rows with friends, get passionately obsessed with music, tv, films, literature.. that bit is normal. But self harm, eating disorders, violent relationships, sexual assault/rape and attempted/threatened suicides are NOT normal teenage rites of passage, they are not just ‘teen angst’ and should never be dismissed as such. They can be both symptoms and causes of severe mental illness.
Secondly – this is the first entry I had which touches on the subject of bipolar disorder (a condition which has been refered to previously as Manic Depression). Not all of depression revolves around being sad. There are highs as well as lows and they can be just as dangerous and destructive to the people who experience them.
This entry was sent in by a young woman in her 20s who wanted to share her life story with us.
(This is the first time I have had to do this for these entries, but I feel this one deserves a trigger warning for the subject of sexual assault.)
“Have I gone mad?
I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
You know, reading what everyone else has contributed, my experiences seem like a bit of a piss in the ocean really. I don’t exactly know where to start, I guess the beginning is good, but I’m not so sure where that is…
I guess I always remember my emotions being labelled as Teenage Angst. And to some extent, I guess they were. I always had bundles of attitude to give out and an issue with being told what to do, but I always knew it wasn’t just hormones or a bit of rebellion. I fitted in with the perfect emo sterotype when that faze kicked in. I loved black, stars, strips and My Chemical Romance. This was all around the early teens and I never considered my emotions or attitude to be anything out of the norm, it’s just what teenagers do. I thought I’d grow out of it, because that’s what you’re meant to do, right?
The problem was things always kept going downwards.
I had this fantastic use of wit and sarcasm to bring up a fantastic shield of humour to avoid talking about how I felt and who I really was, and that worked for me.
I felt depressed, I played with cutting myself, I felt angry, and the cycle would continue.
By 15 I was a smoker and drinker but still pulling mostly A’s out of the bag for exams, so as long as I could remember what I was taught, there was no reason I couldn’t be the normal kid I was meant to be. I used to go out most evening, either down the park smoking with friends or out around parts of town getting wasted.
The only trigger I can remember is what follows.
I had already arranged to be staying at a friend’s house, so it was pretty much game on that night, let’s get drunk and have a laugh. This is what youth is for, so let’s just go with what everyone else is doing. I got hammered. Wrecked. Absolutely plastered. I can remember taking shots of vodka and that’s it. The next day, I’m awake. In a house I don’t recognise, in a bed I don’t know. And then fuck it, the rest, as they say, is apparently history.
I got out of that house as quick as I could.
Before I knew it I was getting messages about being easy. How fun I was. How drunk I was. So apparently, my deepest fears had happened. It’d had gone. And I don’t even remember saying yes. Not even a little bit. I was so drunk and so fucking naive it hurts me now to think about it.
The following… well years, really, were torture.
I got abuse at school , I hid myself away in the library reading books on Kurt Cobain and the blues movement to have a break from the shit that was given to me by others. It was relentless.
I couldn’t turn around and say “I WAS DRUNK, THERE WAS NO CONSENT” because it would have just come back that I shouldn’t have got drunk. And, to the few people I confided in, that is exactly what was said. I was a complete outcast, having slut shouted at me in lessons, girls in PE laughing at me. I couldn’t go to a teacher, what the hell could I say? Judging by what others had said, it would have made things worse. I stuck it out, taking abuse day in day out, coping by getting high and cutting myself up. I can remember going so deep I should have told someone, gone to hospital, maybe just see a doctor. But I couldn’t. It was all my fault.
I ended up hooking up with someone for a couple of years, met through mutual stoner mates. He was a totally sadist, which worked as a relationship as I was a little bundle of hate, anger and pure self loathing. I can remember him biting my arm, just to see if I would cry, I didn’t. I sat there and took it. The whole of the top of my arm was black and purple. It hurt to move, let alone touch.
From that, a teacher in PE took notice and told my head of year. I remember being dragged into his office. He looked at me and I just burst into tears. Everything came out. Although he said he could do nothing about the past, he could help with my future. Pretty much every couple of days I’d just check in. We’d talk. He’d listen. I finally had one person that I had a little respect for.
Then my mum found out. i still don’t know who told her, I presumed it was my head of year. I hit the roof the next day. The worst days, even including that dreaded night of the incident, this was the worst.
My mum was in tears. Screaming at me. Shouting at me. Fortunately it was just me and her in the house. God knows what my dad would have done. I went into school, the teacher begged and swore it wasn’t him, and I now believe that it wasn’t, but at the time, it was a case of: fuck it, you don’t care, you don’t give a damn, none of you fuckers care outside of your little offices and ofsted reports.
And that’s where I stopped caring at all. I let myself go into dangerous situations, I let my mind wander about hurting myself, walking in front of a bus, jumping into a river.
Fast forward a few years of refusing help, shitty relationships and scraping through uni, just, and hey, I’d turned 21. I haven’t got much to say about the years of 16-21 as I don’t remember the lows. I remember the highs of music festivals, seeing family and playing bass in metal bands, but the rest, blocked out. and possibly not a bad thing. I guess it keeps me going focusing on the positives of the past rather than just the negatives.
I had my first set of counselling sessions, I had new doctor, who genuinely cared about me, and wasn’t throwing pills at me to shut me up for a couple of months and then change it to suit them.
The counselling, didn’t go so well. Because I wouldn’t, or even couldn’t now.
I found a relationship that I really cared about. Surrounded myself with people as equally mad and mental and fucked up as me, and from that, I built up new foundations. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine. I’d learn to accept the depression that came from the incident. I learnt to accept that I was a bit mad. I was a bit anxious, a bit nutty, and on my bad days, where everything was dark and scary, I could sit back and go: this is you. This is your bi-polar. You know you have survived it before, you can do it again.
I’ll admit, it’s not so easy having those words set on you. And at 18 I denied it. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t this labelled mental girl, I didn’t have this issue. I just didn’t.
Accepting was the hardest thing I ever did. But it was the best thing I ever did. I don’t speak about anything that ever happened to me, but I could finally vocalise feelings. At 23, I’ve made myself go to counselling. I had the same councillor from the first time around. I wasn’t a shadow. I was ill, a bit unstable. I was a yo yo. We came up with three things that I implore anyone with mental house issues to try.
Make a collage diary – nothing pretty, or meaningful, or perfect, just a book of you and whatever the fuck you feel.
Laugh – it’s laugh or cry, so let’s go with the happier option. The amount of times I’ve sat with my girls, and we are wetting ourselves laughing about our true emotions and how awful we are and how crap everything is does make you feel better. You realise you are not alone.
And thirdly, create an operation. This for me is the most powerful one. I can say if I’m angry or happy, I can’t say if I’m down, I can’t tell anyone. So I now have Operation Beige. It’s a code word, and now also a fantastic joke, I use with my friends when I’m feeling… well, beige! For me, it just sums up the worst parts of my life, a crippling anxious numbness.
All I can say is I have some amazing people in my life to put up with my shit, and to be fair, I’m pretty ace for putting up with theirs! Don’t just surround yourself with positive people, surround yourself with real people – they get it.
I’ve still gone through shit, losing friends, deaths and leaving a job I never though in a million years I woud leave. But I survived all of this. I’m not on the mend, as I guess I’m not broken, im just a little, well, bi-polar.
‘It’s rather splendid to think of all those great men and women who appear to have presented symptoms that allow us to describe them as bipolar. Whether it’s Hemingway, Van Gogh… Robert Schumann has been mentioned… Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath…’ – Stephen Fry (Apparently)
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