Today I logged back into my old Twitter account. This is the Twitter account that I made at age 13 (@heatherls_, if you want to give us a cheeky follow..).
As a teenager, Twitter was the place that I would rant, vent and express all my feelings – much to the dismay of my followers. I eventually stopped using this account in 2016, meaning that the content on this account is almost like a time capsule of me throughout my entire teenage life. From the age of 13 to 18, I used my Twitter account almost like a diary, and it’s crazy to see just how much I’ve progressed and developed as a person.
Reading back on the tweets, and looking at the photos on this account gave me a mixed sense of pity and pride.
This has to lead me to realise that my poor mental health has actually enhanced my life in ways that I never thought it would.
During my teenage years, whilst (unknowingly) fighting anxiety and depression every day, I never for a second thought “This is really going to benefit me in later years! I really appreciate these horrible feelings!!!” – rather, all I could think was “I hate my life” “I want to die” “This is shit” “Where do I get a normal brain from” Therefore, I hope the content of this blog post doesn’t deter from the fact that my teenage years were often excruciating, embarrassing and extremely isolating. I can confidently say that I spent at least three-quarters of adolescence feeling the lowest of low, and doubting that I’d ever feel contentment.
However, I’ve always been someone who likes a challenge. I like to get to the bottom of things, I like to achieve something and recovering from mental illness was something that I absolutely wanted to do. Therefore, I’ve always accepted treatment, I’ve always tried to force hopefulness into my life – whether this was successful or not.
Based on the content on my Twitter account, and my strangely detailed memory, I’m going to write a mini timeline of how my mental health declined and progressed, and how this has lead me to the point where I am now – which is the best I have ever been.
Age 13 – 14
There’s probably not anything overly remarkable to report on here. I was very awkward, but not in the shy sense – more in the sense that I never shut up and I thought I was absolutely hilarious. I was very insecure, and I would literally cry my eyes out at school if my hair didn’t look perfect. I would obsess over trying to fit in, and I guess this is common in many girls at this age.
This is the age where I started to properly develop depression. Obviously, at the time I had no idea, but I just used to be very very very sad, comparing myself to other girls around me and feeling extremely inferior in comparison. This is also the point where I reached the highest weight I’ve ever been. December 2012 is the month when I can first remember being fully determined to do something about how shit I’d been feeling – and I figured that a diet/weight loss would help me to stop feeling so low.
Ironically enough, a combination of low self-esteem, depression, weight loss and burning determination lead me to develop anorexia. This was the first time I was formally diagnosed with a mental illness, and the first time I realised that there was actually something wrong with me and that I needed to start working on myself, rather than treating myself like shit all the time. I received extensive treatment and a sort of half-arsed recovery. Being pulled out of high school also meant that I had to take a year off education, which forced me to grow up a bit quicker than others, and find a job.
This is probably just the most awkward and weird year for me. I was convinced that I had recovered from my eating disorder, which I hadn’t. I was also just really depressed and hopeless, spending a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and moping around. I was still insecure, more so than before, and I thought that I was doomed to be at this shitty level for the rest of my life. I was in and out of therapy, but I was convinced that I didn’t need the help, and discharged myself from mental health services.
I struggle to really differentiate between age 17 and 18. I remained in a limbo stage for such a long time. I felt trapped in my mental health, and I was unaware that my actions were feeding into my depression and anxiety. However, at this point, I was at college and I’d begun to expose myself to changes in routine, different people and different challenges. This caused me to change how I behaved in some ways, and see things from a perspective that challenged my own. My grades were terrible, which was a reflection of the minimal effort that I put into my life.
I think age 19 is when things really changed for me. At 19, I’d passed my driving test, completed my A-levels with really good grades and been accepted into a well ranked University. I also managed to save up quite a good amount of money, through working.
Although these are standard events for an 18/19-year-old, I felt like this gave me the confirmation that I am worthy of achieving the same as everyone else, and that I can actually do things if I try. I started to do a lot more self-development, reading self-help books and unfollowing people online who were unhelpful for me, as well as disconnecting myself from relationships which held me back.
I really focused on learning the ins and outs of my mental health, and this was actually encouraged by studying Psychology at A Level, and developing a basic understanding of why and how mental health works. I would listen to podcasts and take part in more things that challenged my mind’s limitations. The big part of this was moving to University, which turned out to really force my anxiety and depression out of their comfortable little box
At age 20, having “completed” teenager years, I think this was the year where the slow bubbling of poor mental health finally burst. I’ve spoken quite extensively about what happened last year so I won’t go into detail here. I challenged myself every single day, because I was determined to fully recover from my mental health.
I guess the stickler here is that I never realised that it’s impossible to fully recover, and I was too hard on myself too soon. I forced myself into situations which were out of my depth and made myself carry on without allowing feelings/emotions to be fully embraced. This lead me to hit rock bottom, and the problems I’d been trying to mask finally reared their head.
By holding my hands up and giving up, I managed to set myself free and allow my mental health to make me a better person.
Over the last 7 months, I’ve accepted where I am. I try to improve where I can, but I am also really confident and understanding of where my mind and mental health currently stands. I don’t force myself to be a certain way. I don’t try to fit in with everyone, and I respect my limits.
I still have goals and ambitions, but I am a lot more flexible now.
My journey with mental health has to lead me to accept myself for who I am. I believe this has to lead me to become more understanding of other people, I know how to challenge myself in a healthy way, and disregard any negative input from others. I’m learning to treat myself with the same respect that I’d give others, and I believe that’s the most valuable part of life.
More importantly, I’m open about mental health in a positive way. I used to rely heavily on self-deprecating humour (Which is still true, to some extent), or completely denying that I ever had mental illnesses. Right now, I am confident and open in my experiences, as I know that they are not who I am, merely a part of my experiences in life.