Disclaimer: I will be mentioning self harm a lot in this post and other posts. I’d like to make it clear that I don’t condone self harm in any way, shape or form. It doesn’t solve anything and it can leave you with permanent scars like the ones I have now. It quickly turns into an addiction. But for some, like myself, it is/ was a (bad) way of trying to deal with emotional pain/ feel alive. I know it’s probably very hard to understand if you’ve never done it yourself. As I write this, I have been SH free for 3 and a half months.
For the first few months I saw the psychiatrist, my parents came along to every appointment with me. This meant I couldn’t talk about anything to do with suicidal thinking, as I didn’t want them to worry about me. Of course, this meant I didn’t really get much help for a long time, and appointments were quite infrequent. I’d had far too much hope that seeing the psychiatrist would somehow make me better and able to get my life back. I was – for various reasons – sorely disappointed.
I continued to work and study hard with schoolwork despite my anxiety and low mood. The suicidal episodes were much shorter than I experience now, lasting an average of about 4 weeks. Overall, I did very well in my standard grades (the equivalent of GCSEs) despite everything that had gone on. A family holiday to Spain over the summer also improved my mood for a while.
That October (2009), my parents told us that they were splitting up. It was quite a shock at first. My dad said that we might have noticed the increasing tension between him and my mum, but I really didn’t have a clue. There had been plenty of times in the past when I’d overheard them fight at night (unknown to them), but I hadn’t picked up on anything like that within the last year or so. This was probably due to the fact that I’d been suicidally depressed throughout the whole of September and therefore too self-absorbed to really notice what was going on with everything else. The only thing I had noticed was that my dad had been spending more and more time going out and less and less time with us. Now that I look back on it, there were a lot of signs that they weren’t getting on very well, which my depression made me quite oblivious to at the time.
I remember feeling very numb for about a week or two afterwards. I felt no emotion whatsoever during that time. I didn’t really want to believe it and everything felt completely unreal (derealisation) for a few days. I was suicidal again but not quite as badly or for as long as before. I was glad that my parents had waited until I was feeling better to tell us. My siblings seemed to take their separation better overall than I did, though I don’t know if this was really the case. My dad continued to live with us until summer 2010, which was quite awkward at times, although as far as I know, they never fought or anything. I think we were all fortunate that my parents stayed friends with each other despite their separation. I know that a lot of marriage breakdowns can be a lot worse.
My mum seemed very down (perhaps even mildly depressed) for a few months, especially after my dad moved out. She seemed to be the one who suffered most from the breakdown of their relationship. I felt so bad for her that she had to deal with this mostly on her own (we don’t get on with her side of the family because of the way they are, and she only has a couple of friends), and also had to raise four kids effectively on her own. I tried to help her with things like housework, letting her ‘vent’ about work and things, and trying to get my siblings to behave themselves and also help out. But at the same time, I was feeling very alone myself because I couldn’t really talk to my mum about how I felt, for fear of making her feel worse or putting even more pressure on her.
I was put on fluoxetine in December 2009 (after a different, highly incompetent psychiatrist made it seem like I had no choice in the matter). I wasn’t very keen on taking pills at first, but after reading a lot about it and talking to my aunt (who was put on antidepressants when she was 16), I decided it was at least worth a try. I stayed on the prozac for about 13 months, during which my doseage was put up twice, but all it really did was give me a massive list of side effects, the most noticeable being ‘brain shocks’, trembling/shaking/jerking movements, and intense anger/irritability.Although I did feel better during the summer, I don’t believe this was related to the medication, especially since my depression became even worse that autumn. It was round about this time that I first started to suspect that I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which, after looking closely at how my mood and behaviour varies with the seasons for the last 3 years, I am now certain of). However, this doesn’t fully explain the problem, since I also get depressed in summer. My depression appears to be a lot more complex than that – something which I might elaborate on later.
The cutting began in late October of that year (2010). I’d occasionally hurt myself for about a year prior to that by putting elastic bands around my forearms, pulling them back as far as I could without them breaking, then releasing them so that I had a series of welts along each arm. For some reason though, this never felt like enough. So one day I took a blade to my skin. It began in an attempt to dull the emotional pain somewhat, and also as a way of punishing myself for my perceived flaws. At this point, it was only little cat-type scratches on my arms – which always healed – once every fortnight or so. I’d manage to stop for a while and then start up again as my mood worsened. I’d do more and more cuts each time.
I tried to talk to my parents about my depression, but every time I did, my dad would simply say something like: “If you think you have it bad, try being my age and working in a job you hate. You have no idea how easy you have it; no idea”. This was an idea that was mirrored by other relatives – “You’re too young to be depressed!” – as if depression is simply the worries of adult life or working in a dull job with people you hate for most of your life. They seemed to think that because the teenage years were the best of their lives, I should therefore also be completely happy and carefree. And if I claimed I wasn’t, I was either being ungrateful, ignorant, or lying. The attitude that teenage years are the best of one’s life was echoed by everyone – relatives, school staff, others my age, and society in general. I felt that if these were the best years of my life then I sure as hell wouldn’t be sticking around for the rest of it. My mum was supportive, but she didn’t understand at all. She thought that my depression was just a case of feeling a bit sad for a few days (in reality, it was feeling suicidal for months at a time), and was something I could just snap out of by thinking positively or smiling. They’d both be mad at me for being negative or not wanting to talk to anyone. I couldn’t ever seem to get it through to them. I’d have to face this with no real support from anyone.