I’m not sure how people remember me from High School, the truth is I hardly talk to anyone from then now. I hope they remember me as happy, smiling, laughing and maybe even funny. All the things a teenage girl should be, wants to be and all the things I tried so desperately hard to be. All the things I was most of the time.
I remember many things about my High School years. Friends I thought I’d have forever. My first crush. My first boyfriend. My first love. My first exam. My first pass. My first failure. The first time I contemplated suicide.
That memory is raw and etched into my brain. I remember my Mum begging me to talk to her. I remember sitting on the swing in our backyard and not moving. Just back and forth swinging and deciding how I’d do it. I remember truly believing that I could slip out of this world and no one would ever notice. Not my Mum, not my Dad, not one of my 3 sisters or 3 brothers (the 4th yet to be born). The memory of this time is what I like to call ‘The Bottom of the Rabbit Hole’. There is no one to blame for the path that led me there.
Even now I can’t explain what led me down such a dark path. I have no idea how or why I went from who I was to a shadow of who I am. I don’t know how I lost my appetite and started throwing my school lunches in the bin on the way home so Mum wouldn’t notice. I don’t know how my obsession with my body became so dangerous or how I even became so self aware. I don’t know how I started pretending or why I started pretending to be happy and why I couldn’t tell anyone I wasn’t.
I don’t know if it was the girl that teased me for being lanky, too skinny and berated me to eat more pies that led me to start hating my body and pick it apart in the mirror, something I still do now. I don’t know if it was the shock of my fellow class mates when I made an extension class that led me to think I couldn’t possibly be smart. I don’t know if it was the boy I had a crush on laughing at me that led me to think a boy would never like me. I like to think that these things didn’t impact my life so dramatically because they are normal ‘teenage’ things but the fact that they are still a part of this memory so many years down the track makes me wonder otherwise.
One day I was me. I was ok, nothing could touch me. I could handle the jibs and jabs of teenage life. I took it on the chin, I laughed it off. The next day I could not, the next day I was not ok. I didn’t want to feel or be this way. I didn’t want to be so angry or sad but I didn’t know how to stop it. That is how I found myself sitting on that swing in the backyard thinking up ways to stop it forever.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I suffer from Depression. It is an illness and it does not define me. It is not uncommon and it will effect 1 in 5 New Zealanders this year. It could be you, your parent, your child, or it could be that girl in your class with a constant smile.
Step Forward NZ is an initiative to raise awareness and to help remove the stigma attached to mental illness. Step Forward is the way forward and if you click one link today to check out, I hope it’s this one.
Where to find help:
Lifeline NZ – 0800 543 354
Depression Org NZ – 0800 111 757
Suicide Crisis – 0508 828 865