Five years ago, the term ‘mental health’ was absent from my vocabulary. ‘Health’ as I knew, was purely physical. Pushing myself to meet the unrelenting high standards I set for myself was okay, as long as I did not fall ‘ill’.
Unknowingly, pressure from all areas – academic, athletic and social, was slowly making me ‘ill’ – mentally ill.
In late 2017, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I remember looking up my psychology textbook for the diagnostic criteria. Low moods, check. Loss of interest and motivation, check. Insomnia, check. Thoughts of wanting to sleep and not wake up, check… Am I depressed? Do I really have a mental illness? No, it can’t be. I don’t have a mental illness. That was the lie I kept telling myself, until one day – I broke.
Am I depressed? Do I really have a mental illness? No, it can’t be. I don’t have a mental illness. That was the lie I kept telling myself, until one day – I broke.
Looking back, it is clear to me now – a life full of vigour, optimism and enthusiasm had slowly turned a gloomy shade of grey. Life became meaningless and in the wake of a failed relationship, I lost all hope. Thankfully, my school counsellor brought me to the A&E on the morning when I decided that I could not go on with life anymore.
The following months were not easy. I struggled with daily routine. But thanks to medication, therapy, and support from my family, mentors, friends and fellow peers, thoughts of wanting to end my life eventually went away, and I saw light again.
Today, I can say with absolute certainty that I am not only living, but thriving in recovery. Depression was my blessing in disguise – by emerging from it, I have found my purpose in life – to share my recovery story and help others to overcome similar struggles.
To those out there who are struggling, please know that it is not the end of the road – help is out there. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness, but an act of bravery and strength. Life can be better than you imagine if you learn to accept your condition and accept help. Trust me – for I am, among many others, a living testament of these words.