Life is hard.
That sentence is the same old sentence that people say with a carelessness – usually it’s disclosed as a laughable but agreeable comment that can be disregarded as a simple fact of life. Yet it is hard. It is difficult. And for me, life proved itself to be its hardest when I was 17 years of age.
My childhood had been one that had been filled with struggle in many ways. I was born into a family with both parents and an older brother. I was loved by them and I was in a family that would care for me no matter what. When I was five years old however, the love for me was challenged by hardships when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. In other words, Cancer.
As it was at such an early stage of my life, it is hard to remember how I felt exactly but I can remember segments of this monumental stage in my life. Segments that cause me to feel a weight on my heart even now despite how much I can joke about it now because it is the past. I do remember however the sadness in me even as a child. I knew something was wrong, my parents had told me, and yet to understand Cancer as an infant is difficult when you don’t even truly understand the world around you. I have memories of being bathed by my Mother, asking her “Why does God hate me?”. I’ve never been particularly religious but it seemed in stages of fear and anxiety in your life, there’s a certain part of me that is compelled to search for another being to seek praise in – or to even possibly blame.
I have memories of crying. Sitting on the stairs of my house and the only friend I had being a cat, of whom, at the time, I felt understood why I was crying. The cat just sitting with me and letting me pet her until I was comforted enough to continue to play and have as much of a happy childhood as I could possibly have. This was difficult however when entering school. Having lost my hair to chemotherapy I would often enter the girls toilets and be questioned, “Why are you in the girls toilets? You’re a boy” and each time, having to explain in my innocence, that I was a girl, I was just very very ill.
I was cured by the age of seven. I do not remember being told I was better. It just seemed that there had been a moment in my life where I was suddenly no longer sick, no longer bald, and for once everyone was smiling in a genuine nature instead of just pretending.
Yet at seventeen things changed. I entered college.
My life had never been straight forward. I had been bullied without truly acknowledging it in secondary school. I seemed to go by without realising I was being bullied, which now that I reflect on it, was a good thing – I never had allowed it to effect me to a point of crying. I was oblivious if anything. Naive. Yet when I entered college, finding a new source of independence and understanding my identity a little bit more…things changed. For the worse.
It was almost as if I was being punished for knowing myself, or perhaps, by knowing myself I found that I was a much more complicated person than I would have liked to admit. I do not remember how it occurred. There was no specific point of triggering me to this depressive state that I entered. By knowing myself and being content, it seemed my mind worked actively to torment me and challenge me when I was at a comfortable place in my life. I had friends and was being accepted for who I was instead of being judged. By doing so however, I entered a state of depression.
I had never been aware of what depression was. When it began, I considered myself as strange. ‘Why am I crying? I have nothing to be tearful about’, ‘Why am I being like this? Am I attention seeking?’. All of these thoughts were in my mind. I considered myself to be involuntarily seeking attention. I thought that perhaps I was foolish. Idiotic. After all, who lays in bed all day? For hours? Just doing nothing? I was numb. I didn’t understand. My family, despite being close to me, could also not comprehend the issue for quite some time because I had been hiding it well. They had only noticed when I could not get out of bed. When I was physically too weak to not get out. Too mentally weak. Vulnerable.
The help I received was from my local doctors. I was referred to a therapist, which did not help me too much. The therapist I saw could not help me through talking therapy (CBT) because she could not understand why I felt this way if I had not had a moment in my life that had made me this way. Yet perhaps all moments in my life had built up to this moment. It is how I was made to be however, lacking an amount of serotonin levels in my brain which caused my moods to switch constantly. It took months to come back to a state of mind of which I thought was back to my normal self. My usual being. By the time I was eighteen, in the Summer of 2014, I was back to who I was. Well, sort of. It was a shaky version of myself. Constantly on edge, constantly thinking I might enter a dark spiral again – a dark abyss.
It was a rocky road. Being who I am now, two years later, at the age of twenty. I find that perhaps that I am back to who I am. This is the steadiest I have ever been in my life. After taking medication and coming off of serotonin induced medications, I am now in a place where I can control my moods. Not with any flashy tasks to preoccupy myself when I’m about to fall into a state of sudden sadness or anxiety. Sometimes I’ll hold an icecube to melt in the palm of my hand until my thoughts become less panicked. Sometimes when I can feel my sadness beginning to linger, I join a room of friends, making them talk to me, or AT me. Anything to stop myself from falling into sadness. Other times, I’ll listen to music – Frank Sinatra to be specific. Quite odd for a twenty year old to be listening to, but a vocalist that has helped to ease me through songs.
It’s hard to offer advice for those that are suffering or dealing with their own challenging situation whether a mental health issue or otherwise. All that can be advised is that you fight through the battle and understand that a positive future is always a possibility. No matter how long it takes, life won’t be bad forever. It just can’t stay that way. Positive thinking is the way forward.
Just have a little belief.