Is it real or is just in my head?

As a child, right up until the age of about 19, I spent more time in a hospital than my actual home. Continuously being moved from one room to another, from one hospital to the next, it felt like this cycle was never ending. A normal girl my age would be out at the mall with her friends talking about boys, discovering the joys of caffeine, but me, I was different. I was laying in my hospital room waiting for the doctor to come in and say, “I’m sorry, but the treatment has stopped working, there’s nothing more that we can do”. There were more days that I can count, that I actually wanted that to happen, I was literally sick and tired. My condition was treatable, I mean I wasn’t getting any better but I wasn’t getting any worse either. I was just there; existing. I was one of the lucky ones who was loved and looked after every single minute. My mother, who was and still is my biggest support system, sitting on my bed every night listening to my ongoing complains and tolerating my every little tantrum. My dad, praying for me morning through night and my older brother being a wise mouth trying to hide his fear of losing his baby sister. I couldn’t complain though, I mean if something were to happen to me, I’d have the ones most important to me around.

Then the most annoying thing happened.

I started to get better and that’s where the real struggle began.

After spending almost the entirety of my 19 years in a hospital, I had to join the real world. I had to talk to people, I had to interact with strangers, a concept that was very foreign to me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had met someone ‘NEW’. The nurses and the doctors became my friends, but my best friend was the lady who brought up my food every morning. “God, I miss Andrea” I sulked through my first day of University. University was so weird, everyone had their head stuck into their computers or their ears plugged in. No one came up to me and asked me how my day was going, or how I’m feeling or even to say hi for that matter. “These people are so rude.” After the first day, I felt worse than I did in the hospital.

“What is the equivalent to pain killers for when you’re upset?”

The pain was real, not physically atleast, physically, nothing could beat an old haggered doctor sticking a needle in your back. But this was different, I found myself having a conversation with me in my head. What was wrong with me? Nope, didn’t want to think about it.

But I guess I was alright, what is mental health anyway? I mean if you can get through needles in your spine, what’s a little loneliness? or feeling sad? or feeling like you want to give up? It’s normal right. Everyone has their ups and downs, sometimes you’re happy and sometimes you’re not. You get over it. “Depression is not a real thing!” “Mental is how you think, so obviously mental health is how you WANT to feel.” I sat quietly at the back of my class listening to people give their ‘expert opinions’. Mind you these are kids who are my age or maybe a few years older than me, but they’re the future, which to be honest worries me a little. “How do they know so much about all this?” “Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought.” The fear and anxiety were starting to set in. How did people my age know so much information? How did they learn to be so confident and sure of themselves?

“I was kidding, you don’t have to take everything to heart.” I started telling people after snapping at them and trying to hide my real hatred of interacting with them. Jeez I had enough conversations in my head with myself, I didn’t need to talk to anyone else.

I noticed something was wrong with me when I sent my mother in tears after snapping at her for no reason at all. I didn’t want to upset her, but even I didn’t know what I was feeling so there was no way I could’ve expressed it. That’s when I knew something was wrong with me, I knew I had to speak to someone. Most people have a life changing moment, which usually happens when they’re sick or hurt in some way, but mine was going back to a normal, boring life. I didn’t know how to be part of society, how to be part of the crowd. Being sick meant that there was always someone helping me with almost everything.

I finally had the courage to look up my ‘symptoms’ online. Apparently according to Dr. Google, I was going into early onset depression. I laughed to myself, “yeah sure, I’m depressed.” “Sure, I can’t sleep as much as I did, but that’s only because I’m not drugged up as much as I was in the hospital.”

I kept making excuses for every symptom listed online.

I had to know for sure if I was sick, crazy or of it was just in my head. On the radio, I heard about some charity called Canteen, I thought I’d look it up online once I got home. Surprisingly, I was actually quite intrigued by the amount of support available. After attending two camps, I was so surprised to see how many people were ‘weirdos’ like me. Getting counselling felt stupid on the first day, but I didn’t realise how I angry and sad I was. Talking to the kids around me who were the same age was weirdly comforting. I never thought I could talk to someone about what happened, let alone feel comfortable doing it.

SO, LET’S REACH OUT TO OUR MATES. EVEN IF WE SEEM LIKE THE MOST UNAPPROACHABLE PEOPLE, LET US KNOW IT’S OKAY AND YOU’RE STILL HERE FOR US. REACH OUT TO THAT OLD FRIEND YOU HAVENT SPOKEN TO IN AGES, ASK THEM HOW THEY’RE FEELING. AS THE OLD SAYING GOES, HEALTH IS WEALTH AND THIS IS TRUE, REGARDLESS IF IT’S PHYSICAL OR MENTAL.

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