“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”
In case you’re wondering, these words came from Prince Harry a few days ago. Click here to hear his interview.
Alongside his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they set up Heads Together, a charity which promotes good mental well-being. A significant focus of their charity is to get people talking about mental health, without fear of judgement or reprisal.
I am deeply moved by their efforts and wholeheartedly support their message. Having personally experienced mental illness, I was able to recover through the help and support of others. Yes. Talking and sharing DOES help.
As a teenager I always prided myself on being a great listener and mate to my friends, but I had a tendency to be self-critical and internalised my own struggles. It was easy to keep quiet and I would hope and pray that those feelings would go away.
University was a lonely experience and this exacerbated my feelings of self-doubt. There were many times when I felt inadequate and I believed there was something wrong with me. These beliefs turned into sadness, which turned into despair and feeling hopeless. Of course I didn’t tell my friends and certainly not my family.
I recall one New Year’s Eve where I ended up leaving a party early and retreated to my bed. I lay there and told myself that I was useless, over and over again.
Then one day at University, I suddenly felt very upset and burst into tears. I made my way to the counselling office and was quickly seen by a lady who calmed me and spoke in a soft gentle way. This was my very first experience with a counsellor and I would go on to several more sessions. Whilst it was scary at first, I felt relieved to be able to offload and talk about things in a non-judgemental environment.
Depression is an ugly thing to experience… I remember the days when I felt like the world was caving in on me. I felt utterly alone and thought that nothing good would come in my life. Sometimes it was easy to seek comfort in being numb.
Whilst I was able to learn some coping mechanisms, my recovery would continue throughout my twenties. There were times when I struggled to regulate my emotions, and faulty thinking would ensue, mostly of the self-loathing and self-defeating kind.
I realised this had become a pattern so re-engaging with counselling was key to processing and understanding why I felt that way. In using techniques including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness, I was able to approach things in a more rational and calm way.
Today I feel a lot more at ease with myself and accept all my flaws, strengths, quirks… you name it! It is such a cliche, but I have learnt to love and appreciate myself a lot more and this helps me to navigate life’s bumps when they come along. I feel more comfortable expressing my feelings to others and I have trusted friends and family I can confide in. Yes, I still have down days but they honestly don’t sting as much as they used to.
To those of you out there who are hurting, struggling or finding it difficult to make sense of things, do know that you’re not alone. There are many people out there who will be feeling the same way you are and it is more common than you think.
Even though it feels hard to do, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone be it a friend, family member, colleague, classmate, counsellor or health professional. People have a huge capacity to love and support and they wouldn’t want you to suffer in silence.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.