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Opinion: I was hurting inside but was worried I'd be seen as a weirdo, a freak, if I spoke up

After suffering in silence with a mental illness for many years, I finally realised that I had nothing to be ashamed of.

Siobhán Brady

AT 13 YEARS OLD I was surrounded by darkness, lost in my own world of negativity, doubting myself, harming myself and contemplating suicide. At the age of 13 I hid my feelings, thoughts and emotions. I allowed society to determine my actions, I allowed myself to believe it was wrong to talk, that it was wrong to feel the way I did and so I kept feeling that way, I kept harming myself and I kept considering suicide. I was ashamed, worried about how the world would see me if they knew, if they knew how much I was hurting inside and I was worried I would be seen as an outcast, a weirdo, a freak, and so up until the age of 15 I kept everything bottled up.

At the age of 15, still worried about how society would view me if I came clean – if I told them what was really going on – I reached breaking point, I knew I couldn’t go on like that for much longer and so I did it, I followed my plan and I attempted to take my own life.

Sadly, this only proved to confirm my thoughts about how people would view me. My peers retreated, they no longer wanted to be associated with me, I lost friends and I was struggling to find people who really cared about me and, after having little luck, I went back to my old ways, I let my depression control me and I let my depression determine whether or not to let people in and so I bottled everything up, I began self harming and I hid everything.

The path of destruction

For another two years I continued to hide everything. I continued down my path of destruction. I did this because I wasn’t ready to ask for help, I wasn’t ready to admit that I had been suffering from depression and I wasn’t ready to turn my life around. But one day things changed, things began to look a bit brighter because I found that one good adult, I found that one person who I knew wouldn’t judge me and I found the one person I could talk to. So after years of pretending to talk to the doctors and the counsellors and everybody else who I was put into a room with I had found the one person I knew I could trust, Mrs L.

She supported me, she looked after me, she helped me and – most importantly – she listened to me. So when I had again reached rock bottom and I was planning to take my life for the second time in 5th year I spoke up, I found some strength within me and I said “I don’t want to live like this any more”.

Something clicked within me and I knew that no matter how people would react to me knowing I was suffering from a mental illness, I told myself that I deserved to be happy and I deserved to control my life again.

Things happened pretty quickly after hitting rock bottom for the second time and after speaking to Mrs L the next day I was admitted into a psychiatric adolescent unit where I spent the next four months. It was far from easy, it was hell. I was 17, away from my friends, stuck in a hospital and my only way of coping was taken away from me, I was no longer in a position to relieve my thoughts and emotions through self-harm and while I did engage in self-harm while I was given leave and allowed home, and while I did take more attempts on my life, I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted: what I wanted was to get better. It wasn’t until I accepted that I had depression and that I accepted that my way of coping was a negative way I began my long road to recovery, a road which I am still on but with each day I get a bit stronger and a bit further.

I am open and honest about my past

My mental illness broke me down bit by bit but my family and friends built me back up and made me stronger than ever. I’m now 19 and I am open and honest about my past, about my self-harm and about my experience with a mental illness because I hope that someday my story will encourage just one person to speak up before it’s too late, before they are too ill to get treatment as an outpatient and before they are too ill to recognise that they do have a mental health issue.

I am now 19 and I have suffered with depression since I was 13 as a result of life experiences; as a result of my depression I have become a stronger person. Looking back over my time in hospital, my experience with stigma, my self-harm and my dark days, I see how that has made me who I am today. My actions over the years, although negative, have allowed doctors to correctly diagnose me with borderline personality disorder and treat my condition appropriately.

Do I view my talking as a weakness? No, because it took strength and guts to tell people how I really feel, it took courage and bravery for me to open up and risk being judged, and most importantly it took time for me to open up. A mental illness isn’t something we should be ashamed of, it is something we should use to teach us how life knocks us down but how it also helps us back up, we should use it as an opportunity to become stronger, and more resilient.

I have nothing to be ashamed of

I’m 19 and I have struggled with a mental illness, I have been addicted to self-harm, I have spend months in hospital and most of all I have become a stronger person. I made it out the other end of my mental health issues, I still have my bad days like everybody else, but I have learned to look after my mental health and I have learned ways of being kind to myself when I am having a bad day.

Sometimes it takes experiencing something negative to make you aware of things. I hope by sharing my story I will make some people more aware of looking after their mental health without themselves going through a mental illness. I am here today as a result of my friends and family, the doctors and nurses who looked after me in hospital – and also because others who have shared their stories with a mental illness made me realise I have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide and I have as much a right to speak about my illness/disorder as anyone with a physical illness/disorder.

This May I will continue to share my story in the hopes I can get people talking about mental health in a positive way. I’m ready to start a conversation, are you?

Siobhán Brady is a 19-year-old Community and Youth Work student in NUI Maynooth. After battling a mental health issue for many years, she feels it is her duty to promote positive mental health and reduce the stigma of mental health. She has become a See Change ambassador and has also started her own charitable initiative, , Label Jars Not People, along with her very supportive friends. Siobhán documents her bad days and good days on her blog, There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, in the hopes that she can encourage at least one person to open up and seek help if needed.

The month of May is all about the Green Ribbon Campaign, run by See Change in Ireland. 

Read:  Want to end mental health stigma? Get talking

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Siobhán Brady

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