I’m Annabelle, 22, and I’m not entirely sure how to start this, because I don’t want my mental health problems to define me, but I don’t know who I would be without them. I’ve never been formally diagnosed with anything, as I worry about the stigma associated with a diagnosis. It works for me, because now I have a team who are very supportive and do what they can to help me. They understand that my possible diagnoses: BPD, depression and anxiety, would cause me distress – especially BPD, because I have been to A&E and professionals enough times in the past, to know that you don’t even need the diagnosis to experience the related discrimination.
I think, for me, it’s hard because I have been experiencing mental health problems for as long as I can remember. I started cutting when I was 14 and I was hitting things before that. A lot of my developmental and adolescent years revolved around travelling from one crisis to the next, with me trying to keep as much to myself as possible, because people either didn’t know what to do with me, were frustrated by me, or were scared due to a lack of understanding. It upset me because we were taught nothing in school and, for my part, I know the statistics are that 1 in 10 people self-harm and 1 in 4 experience a mental health problem, so why were we taught nothing? It breeds discrimination through fear, because no one wants to show themselves up.
I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going to go with this and I’ve found I can go a few ways, so I might do separate entries for those. I think, for me, the most important thing was what it was that I actually needed since, even now, people don’t know and it's not that anyone should know as such, it's that blame can be thrown your way due to this. Labelling someone as attention-seeking, manipulative or a waste of resources is unhelpful. It feeds an already over-flowing cauldron of self-hatred and I felt like I was permanently on a rollercoaster and I wasn’t strapped in. I had enduring issues that never seemed to lessen (and, even now, I wonder if they’ll ever go, but now I also have a slither of confidence that they will) and I was trapped in a box that was getting smaller by the second. I couldn’t move or think or breathe without wanting to hurt myself and I didn’t know why, and nor did anybody else, so I assumed there was something wrong with me. I still think that, but I am doing a lot better now.
I’ve taken a while getting to this, I know, but sometimes I think it helps for me to describe what it is like, because it’s hard to talk about it when you’re caught in the moment and stuck in the secret, and it’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it, and the situation is different for everyone. I just wanted someone to listen. I wanted someone to take the time to be kind to me, to help me look after myself and to make me feel safer - even if this meant just knowing they were there, if I needed them. I wanted someone to inspire my independence and help me help myself along the road to recovery, and I didn’t want them to betray me and let me down. A great deal of people in my life had hurt me, and that can stop you from reaching out. Even when you think you are talking, you aren’t, and that can leave both you and other people frustrated. That word ‘help’ is stubborn and just won't come out.
I guess, what I’m saying, is that I needed someone to persevere with me, someone who wouldn’t let me push them away. I wanted someone to give me enough time to be myself but to show me that I didn’t have to do everything on my own, and to reassure me that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all my fault. I was hurting a lot, and sometimes people seem to think that it isn’t real, because you can’t see it. Maybe though, it’s okay to admit that you don’t understand something and to ask questions about it – I’d always answer if people asked me. Attaching critical labels to someone means they can lose themselves, and you have to work that much harder to get yourself back.
I am doing better now and that’s because of tenacity and patience on my part and on other people’s. The people I see now are open-minded and will not take it personally if I lash out of them. They know that recovery is not all plain sailing. It's a rocky road full of twists and turns that you don't always think you'll manage to get through, but at least I'm on it. It takes work to prove to yourself that you are worth it (and you are) and that you are a good person. Sometimes you need a supportive hand to get there. Everybody needs somebody sometimes and you should never be ashamed of that. It’s human nature. And I guess, what I’m saying, is that it’s always, always okay to ask for help when you need it, whatever the problem is. This is vitally important and should never be downplayed.
It is okay to ask for help. Remember that.