It is world mental health day and I have seen so many stories amongst my friends today of how they have suffered from so many mental health problems and the struggles they have been through. Some of the people sharing their stories I would have never suspected that they suffer from some of these struggles.
Seeing my friends sharing their stories inspired me to share my experience with mental health and why I feel it is so important to talk about it, especially in our New Zealand culture where we feel as though we need to hide behind mental health problems because it makes us weak.
My first experience with depression was when I first got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Through Diabetes NZ, the Waikato Diabetes branch is able to offer a wide range of services to youth that is recently diagnosed including a psychiatrist. The nurse told me about these services and I went straight home and told my partner that I didn’t understand why they would offer a psychiatrist to us. In my mind that was who you went and saw when you were crazy or been through a traumatic experience, I hadn’t been through either.
For the first month or two after being diagnosed I acted like nothing had changed. I believed I was still the same old Sam and that diabetes was no big deal. I started to get major complications through trying to live my old life and not allowing my body to rest and deal with having type 1 diabetes. I eventually had to quit my job and I stopped pretending as though I could still go out with my bestie and enjoy wine, cheese, and desert.
I had to give up everything I loved for the disease. I fell into a dark hole and I didn’t want to get out of it. Negative thoughts consumed my mind constantly throughout the day. I never wanted to go out to see friends, or go to the gym with my partner or even leave bed.
I had nothing to get out of bed for, so why not stay in bed?
I fell further and further into the hole and didn’t end up in wonderland with Alice and the Mad Hatter. Instead, I pushed my friends away, pushed my partner away and watched plenty and plenty of Netflix. I would cry for no reason out of the blue, I would stay in bed all day only getting out to go toilet. I remember one day my partner asking me if I wanted to go to the gym like we had planned and I just burst into tears.
I would eat chicken nuggets or chicken tenders every night for dinner as comfort food, I would never cook for myself or have a decent meal, and would constantly be sneaking around eating lollies and chocolate.
It was around the time that I was walking down that hole I got a letter in the mail with my appointment with the psychiatrist. It was a sign. I went into the appointment, however, thinking that it was pointless. She wasn’t going to tell me anything amazing and I don’t want to lie on a black leather couch telling her about my problems.
The experience was completely different to what I thought. We joked around and talked as if we were friends. She asked me about my life and my job, what I liked to do for fun and about sex. I explained I was having trouble getting out of bed and that I had no purpose. After the appointment she made me realise that this was normal for anyone in my situation. It was the first time in my life I had nothing to do with my day. She explained I needed to make a plan the night before for my day, even if it was “9am I am going to get out of bed and go to the couch to watch episode 3 of Orphan Black”.
The psychiatrist helped get me out of bed and find something to do with myself but I knew I had reached rock bottom when I eventually had a massive fight with my two best friends over nothing really. My partner eventually sat me down and told me I needed to move home. I needed to be back in a city that I loved and around my super supportive family. It was the only option he saw to make me happy again, as they only time I seemed happy was when I was travelling home to visit my family.
It has been a year and I definitely can have some dark days where I just don’t want to deal with the disease and wonder why this had to happen to me. Why I had to change my entire life and who I thought I was for the disease.
We need to start talking more and more about mental health because it affects each and every one of us. Some of us just an experience a day of negative thoughts whereas others can live in these dark thoughts and never be able to see a positive side to it. Talking can help and feeling comfortable to talk is so important in being able to vent these negative thoughts and get opinions on how we are able to see the positive and work through it.
Next time someone says they are having a bad day or thinking some negative thoughts rather than tell them to “Harden Up, Get Over It, You’ll Be Right Tomorrow” like most of us do in NZ. Ask them to talk and listen. If you can’t help suggest a professional who can.
We all deserve to be happy and healthy.