Getting out of bed was difficult... facing the day was even worse
Chloe doesn’t know when her depressive thoughts began, nor what might have been the cause, but the effects that it has had on her are very clear; she separated herself from everything she once loved and sought to take her life.
I’d think about death a lot as a young child, but I always assumed that everyone else was doing that too. I never thought that it was strange. It was only when I reached age 11 that I can remember having genuinely depressive thoughts.
Only in the last three years did these thoughts develop into something else. I can pinpoint the specific incident which started the whole thing. I was at school one day in the middle of a football match. The emotions that I had been bottling up for years suddenly wanted to break free, and I felt like I was going to burst. It would later turn out that I was experiencing a panic attack, but at the time I had no idea what was going on.
After I finished the match, I punched a wall and locked myself in the toilet.
I went home that night and began to self-harm, just to try and take the pain away. It was behaviour that I’d continue for months, first as an escape, then out of reliance of the way it made me feel.
The next day was my birthday. Getting out of bed was difficult, and facing the day was even worse, especially when I didn’t know if I wanted to live through it. I woke up and immediately felt emotionally and physically drained.
At school, my friends were looking to celebrate, but I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was walking around in a daze with my arm still bandaged up from the night before.
Even PE, the one thing that I used to look forward to, didn’t make me feel any better. Sport had always been a huge passion of mine, but I could not bring myself to make an effort. This raised immediate red flags with my teachers. They’d notice how I’d left the evening before, and it was obvious the day after that my mood had not improved. They asked me if I was ok, if I needed to talk? But what could I tell them? That I’d self-harmed last night and I wanted to die? Instead I just said that I was feeling fine, even though I was feeling a massive internal pressure to bottle things up.
I was self-harming as often as I could. I became addicted to taking the pain away, something that I could turn to at short notice to quieten the voices in my head telling me that I was worthless. I knew that this wasn’t normal behaviour, but by this point very little made sense to me.
By June 2016 I’d isolated myself almost completely. My friends and family were worried and try to help, but I would push back every time, choosing to sit in silence rather than engage. I became someone no one wanted to be around. No one else knew how I was feeling, and I didn’t want to explain to them.
I soon became friends with another girl that I knew was struggling with similar feelings. She became my best friend, someone I could share anything with. For the first time throughout all of this, I felt as though I wasn’t alone. She encouraged me to open up to others, and I chose one of my PE teachers. They already knew something was wrong, given the distinct change in our relationship over the last few weeks, but this was the first time I’d shared properly. My teacher was incredibly supportive, and gave me the confidence to tell my mother.
My mum was obviously very worried, and we went straight to talk to my GP. I was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, with my first appointment being scheduled for four months’ time.
The wait turned out to be too long. Although I’d some progress, I remained in a bad place. I still wanted to end my life. Before I could reach CAMHS, I overdosed and was rushed to hospital.
The reception that I received at A + E was disappointing. I was made to feel as though I was taking up a bed for someone else more important, or more ill, than I was.
The next morning, I underwent a psychiatric assessment and received a formal diagnosis of depression. Whilst it confirmed what I had always suspected, it only made me feel guilty and ashamed.
Counselling was extremely disappointing. I never got the impression that the counsellor wanted to hear what I wanted to say, she just looked to tick the boxes that said I was feeling better. In response to this I began to manipulate her, telling her exactly what she wanted to hear. “No, I’m no longer self-harming. Yes, I have stopped feeling suicidal.” It meant that I was discharged within one month of attempting to take my life. One month.
Once discharged I immediately went downhill. Starting to self-harm again. Everything below my neck was covered in cuts. As before I was pushing my friends and family away, I even stopped going to lessons. It got to the point where a teacher took me to one side and told me sadly that he thought I’d lost my spark.
Being told that hit me like a ton of bricks. I began to confide in the teacher more and more, making small steps towards believing that maybe people did care about my wellbeing. But before I could continue, the reality of my depression struck again. I planned my suicide, down to every detail, even writing letters to people that I wanted to say goodbye to. I set a date, and was sure that nothing was going to stop me going through with it.
Everyone knew what was going through my head. My friends saw the signs and quickly told my teachers. My mum called me at school and begged me not to go through with it. A teacher made sure to ask me what I had planned for the next week.
When the date came, I made sure to say my goodbyes to the teacher that had helped me so much. He immediately panicked and took me to one side, sitting me down to talk to me. It was only at that moment, after such a long time, that I realised what I was doing to those around me. I had become so consumed by my illness that I was blind to everything else. That night, the night that I had intended to take my life, I wasn’t able to do so.
I knew it was time to go to the doctors again, and I was rushed in for a psychiatric assessment. They offered me counselling, but given how little it helped me last time I turned it down. I still didn’t know if I was ready to get better.
It was at this point that my PE teacher stepped in again. He took me under his wing, someone that I could speak to for an hour a week. It took time for me to open up properly, and I struggled to explain the way that I was feeling. I caused him a lot of headaches, but he persisted in trying to help me, getting me to write down my feelings instead of talking about them.
Without this weekly support, I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be here today. I’d be lying if I said that every day is a good day, but I’m now in a place where I accept my illness, and I know that I can ask for help if I need it.