For the most part, a battle with mental health is personal, but I destroyed my family when I fell ill. Life just got the better of me. I had so much going on at the time that I failed to see how much my actions were affecting my family’s lives. It was damaging my parent’s marriage, their work and home life, and they had to give up so much to help me feel better. It’s difficult when you’re struggling with your mental health, because you don’t think of anyone but yourself. But when you improve and you look back, you see how much you hurt the people around you. From a parent’s perspective, when you see your kids come undone, it destroys years of trying to protect them in a single day.
I destroyed my family in ways I didn’t know were possible. It started off small – a crack in the pavement, so to speak. I struggled with anxiety and depression, but I also had a lot of issues with food. It was the first sign my parents noticed in me that told them that something was going wrong. They realised that I either binge ate, or barely ate at all. I know now that what I did was self-destructive, but at the time, I just didn’t read between the lines. My mom was so worried about me that she asked a dinner lady at school to keep an eye on me and make sure I was eating properly. But I wasn’t. Some days, I’d buy endless food to fill the void – slices of pizza and cake and sugary drinks and biscuits and toast at break time. I chose the things I like best, and I gorged myself. Whatever my budget allowed, I got.
But most days, it was the opposite. I’d sit and watch my friends eating sandwiches and burgers and bowls of pasta, and I wouldn’t eat anything at all. Usually, I just felt that I wasn’t hungry. Other days, I told myself I just wasn’t like other kids, and I didn’t have to read into it. But my attitude to food has always been unhealthy. I used to be desperately thin, and now I’ve gained a lot more weight, and I struggle to eat without feeling guilty. It’s like I can’t win either way, and I can’t work out what I need in place of my misery. But back then, I didn’t notice that I ever had a problem. My friends always complimented how slim I was, so I thought I was okay. I was wrong. Day after day, I would go home with my pockets stuffed full of sweets, or I’d make no effort to eat dinner at all. My parents kept telling me that my attitude was unhealthy, and threatening taking me to a therapist. I always insisted I was fine and dodged the bullet, but even I was beginning to see there was a problem. After years of abusing myself, I didn’t know how to help myself. I wanted to feel good. I wanted to start over as a new person. I wanted to know my own mind, but it was like a maze to me. I still don’t understand the marriage between my mind and soul. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a marriage headed for disaster.
It wasn’t until college that my anxiety and depression reached its peak. It was at this point that I destroyed my family completely. I began to have panic attacks so severe that I had to miss days of study. There were days when I would refuse to get out of bed because I couldn’t face the world. Sometimes, agoraphobia kicked in and I’d be trapped in my own room, afraid of the judgement that lay outside of it. I didn’t know how to feel good anymore, how to say things that made people like me, My parents did the best they could to support me, but they were falling apart too, even if I didn’t see it that way. Plus, what could they do? They’d never experienced someone like me before, because it was hard to categorise what I was suffering with. I had so many problems that just seemed to mould into one, strange mental health problem. I felt that way, anyway. I felt like I was the only one feeling the way I felt. I thought I was abnormal, and that sank me further into depression.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I did get better. After college, I managed to move on to university and find a place where I belonged. It was a slow process, and at first, living away from home set me back into my old ways. But now, I’m a happy, healthy person, and I look back on how I destroyed my family with fear. I never want to put them through that again, and I strive to make sure they know that I’m okay. I think they’ll always be afraid that I’m so fragile, and that I could just break at any minute. But for now, I’m doing okay. For now, I’m stronger than my own mind, and I’m hoping to keep it that way. I think I need to say what’s in my head more often. This time, I was lucky enough to pull through, but in years to come, I might need help. I want to be strong. I want – and need – to live a good life without fear. I can only hope the best is yet to come.