The following letter is from ginelle sharing her person experiences of dealing with mental health. Next week there will be letter two, sharing expiences from another point of view
Hi there, I’m Ginelle and I’m in my 2nd year of university. I’ve always felt like mental health was never that serious. That it was something you could just get over with a few counselling sessions and less complaining. And that if you just get on with it, you’ll be fine. But as time has gone on, I’ve learnt that this isn’t the case.
My education has always been something that I cherish. I’ve always made sure that nothing could get in the way of my exams and coursework, that any situation that I go through, my education should not be affected.
I hold my family very close to my heart. I may not show it (I’m not very affectionate lool) but they mean a lot to me. And one of my greatest fears has always been disappointing them or making them feel like all their efforts have been wasted. On top of that I am a pastor’s daughter. And so I never spoke to them about my “mental health” or anything surrounding it. Always made sure that I was happy around them.
Two major events happened to me between 2013 and 2016. Both events I tried very hard not to allow them to throw me off course.
Those events I bottled up so much emotion and hurt. I only let out a little at a time. I’ve had counselling many times and yet I wasn’t getting anywhere. If anything I was becoming more and more suicidal and I had made plans to end my life this year. I had several small panic attacks, serious sleep paralysis (sometimes 3 times a week) and I was never really happy. I spent half the time in tears and the other half pretending to be okay.
At the beginning of 2017, those two events took a massive toll on me. And I was put in hospital twice. The first time was after the big clash game show. I got involved with the game show to use it as a way to take my mind off everything that I couldn’t cope with. It worked for a while but I cracked. For some reason, I had put winning the show as one of the most important things. On some days I made out as if I didn’t care but deep down I did. I wanted it to be the one thing that would go well and I was involved. It didn’t. We lost 3-4. And reality hit me fast again. Everything bad came back. My shield was gone. And I had a massive panic attack after the show. I panicked about everything. I was in fear of being hurt by someone who had seriously and illegally hurt me in 2013, I panicked because in 2016 I did something so abominable that I had really lost the connection with God and didn’t even try to rekindle it. I panicked even more because I realised that I had a coursework deadline I couldn’t fulfil. Which then meant I was disappointing my parents. I panicked more when I realised the ambulance where being called because I though it meant I was going crazy. I really really PANICKED that day. I cried and cried and in all my tears realised that I didn’t want to live anymore. I went into hospital and they sent someone from the psychiatric liaison team to talk to me. They were worried that I was going to end my life asap. I assured them I wasn’t. I was telling the truth. I had a plan to die much later than that.
I went back to counselling the following week and told my counsellor that I was ready to die and that I didn’t care if she was going to inform anyone because it was my choice, my plan and no one could stop me. She was so concerned she wasn’t sure whether to let me leave even though my session was over.
I told my boyfriend and my best friend. Both of them, of course, didn’t take it well. And I even laughed at my boyfriend’s reaction. I honestly didn’t care anymore. I had given up completely. I had researched all the drugs, what to take, how many, what with and what time. I knew where to get them and how to get them. I had money saved (the drugs were kinda expensive) and I knew where I was going to do it. I even had the date in my head. I stopped caring for myself long before that. I didn’t eat much, I didn’t sleep much, I didn’t care about what I looked like. I just became a mess.
The second massive panic attack was the day I decided not to go to counselling because I was “tired”. Really and truly, I couldn’t be bothered. I just didn’t care anymore. That afternoon I was not okay. I was behaving almost like a zombie, completely out of touch, almost as if I wasn’t on this earth. It got worse, I was hearing things (I’m a very spiritual person, I am not schizophrenic) and replying to them, I was screaming, in tears, I was trying to run out of my uni accommodation but my man wouldn’t let me go. He really held me down like a wrestling match and called the ambulance. The paramedics thought I was going crazy, I shouted at my man telling him to stop telling them about the voices. They took me to hospital and called someone from the psychiatric liaison team to come and talk to me again.
Now, because this attack was so extreme, my parents were informed. And it now meant that I had to explain everything I had been through. It felt like my biggest nightmare of disappointing them was coming to pass.
But that wasn’t the reaction. In fact, we’re even closer now. I had created this nightmare in my head that I would be disowned because of those events, my grades slipping and pretty much being unable to cope. I was wrong. Talking is something that should be encouraged. Talking to family and GOOD friends (not all your friends are good) is what will pull you through hard times. Sometimes we create our own nightmares without having any proof of it coming to pass. When I informed my parents about everything that had happened, I was even encouraged to do the saviours prayer again and I did. But even then it still wasn’t enough for me. I was happier of course and a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But it wasn’t enough after a while. I still wanted to die.
I was still under stress, there were mental health appointments I should have attended but didn’t and I was being chased up on it. I was receiving phone calls and emails about my issues. I felt like a case study. I hated it. I was stressed because of uni. I wasn’t ready to quit and I wasn’t ready to fail either. The doctor on campus tried to suggest that I shouldn’t do my exams. That hit me hard because again my education was at stake here. I insisted on doing them anyway. And so exams May 2017, here I come lol.
One day, it got to a point where I even told my family in front of my 9- year- old brother. The sound of his older sister saying “I’m going to kill myself” scared him so much his face went pale and he left the room. But I honestly didn’t care at all. But during that discussion, something changed and the question I was asked was “do you really think you have finished your assignment here on earth?” As in did I really believe that I had finished the calling God has given me and my time was up and that I could just pick and chose when I wanted to quit? I did. I really did. But then the discussion made me realise that I was wrong. Why would I go through all this just to die at the end? Surely, I can use my story to help others and one day I will (hopefully).
There was someone else that I had completely shut out as well. God. I had stopped going to church in January and didn’t go back until March. The entire time I had shut God out. I didn’t pray, I didn’t speak to him, I completely shut him out. The moment anyone mentioned Him, I became frustrated. I didn’t want to know, I wanted to get over things my way. Completely forgetting that He was the one who carried me through from 2013 until this very point. And that was my mistake. I felt like because of the sin I committed last year, I couldn’t run back to him, I felt like He wouldn’t want me as his own anymore and so I gave up on Him thinking that He had given up on me. I was wrong. Even after giving my life to him again, I didn’t try much. But after having the discussion with my family, I decided to try. The following week, I received the gift of tongues, to pray in tongues and since then I’ve been banging it out every time I pray. And all I pray for is peace. And I pray for any peace that was taken away from the people I affected during my panic attacks. Because I learnt that depression doesn’t just affect me, it affects those involved as well. So I pray for any peace that they have lost to be restored.
I guess my main message is, never be afraid to open up to those who love you and I mean really love you, those who actually show it. But also be weary of those who call you sister/ brother and do nothing to show it. Those people always end up stabbing you in the back or sometimes make your depression and anxiety worse.
Pray for those who help you through your dark times as well because they could be going through something awful as well but because you’re stuck in your problem, you might not realise it.
We all need to make sure that the people around us are sound. A simple “how are you today” can sometimes be all a person needs. As random as it is, letting someone know that you’re there if they need to talk can also be helpful. You could really save a life just by listening to someone’s story.
Also, never leave God out. Things will get hard but don’t shut him out. We are his children and he’ll never leave us. When you cry out to him he’ll be there, maybe not in the way you want but he’ll be there in the way you need and when you realise this, you’ll have no choice but to give him praise.
Mental health shouldn’t be something we shy away from. It should be talked about because it’s real. And the more it is ignored, the worse it will get. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re just sad all the time; it’s a state we can’t control sometimes and that’s okay. Its this overwhelming state of hopelessness that just takes over leaving you lost and confused. But it doesn’t last forever, there’s no such thing as a dead end. Sounds cheesy but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
Mental health is often triggered by bad events that have happened to us which are sometimes caused by other people. We have to learn, and I’m still learning that if you allow that person or those people to still get to you then you are allowing them to cheat you twice. You don’t want that. Forgiving and forgetting isn’t easy but making a start will definitely make you feel 1000 times better.
Sometimes, our mental health is triggered because we find it difficult to learn to forgive ourselves. Remember I said I did something really bad in 2016, I’m still learning to forgive myself. That’s all part of the healing process. Learning to forgive and forget.
Encourage your friends to speak, don’t force but encourage them. Encourage them to get in touch with their family and move closer to God.
People always say that when they speak about mental health, then God/ Christianity gets brought in and it’s annoying. But it isn’t. It’s just about finding the balance. Express yourself yes, talk, go counselling but don’t leave God out of it. Always remember to lean on Him because in your darkest hour, when it’s 3am and there’s no one to talk to, He is there. Speak to him and sleep. Leave everything to him but learn to talk to people as well. Man was not made to live alone, that’s why people surround us and at the same time, God created man. So He knows what to do when our body and mind can no longer cope. Where the physical fails, the spiritual will kick in.
I am still trying to conquer my mental health and I will eventually. And to anyone who is also affected by mental health, you will too. We all will.