SENSITIVITY WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CONTENT AROUND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE. ONLY READ ON IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS TOPIC. THANK YOU.
Interview by Stuart Graham
Answers by Ismay Hutton
Q- What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the words mental health and why?
A- I would say struggle, because it’s been a struggle for most of my life that I can remember. Even before I was diagnosed I knew I definitely had mental health problems but I didn’t know that was what it was and so before I was diagnosed I just thought this was how people existed and it wasn’t. That was kinda relieving to find out.
Can you describe a time in your life you felt most affected by mental health in some way or another?
A- There’s definite points in my life that mental health affected me more but it’s knowing that it affects every part of your life. So it’s not just when you are walking down the street and things are kind of okay. There’s still that part in the back of your head where its saying “No, no, everything is terrifying and nightmarish”. But I have had so many times in my life that it had gotten to the scary point that I don’t really know how to count how many but a good number of times that I have contemplated and been very close to suicide.
I think [at these times] it’s really difficult to keep up with studies because when your entire world seems to be collapsing and there is so much pressure on you, trying to maintain like a good grade is 1) an extra added stress and 2) just impossible when literally going outside is terrifying.
Q- Before you yourself experienced mental health issues did you know much about the spectrum of the way people can be affected by mental health struggle?
A- Before knowing that I had mental health problems I always thought of it as something that was for other people. I have never looked down on anyone with mental health problems, I knew that my aunt had them and she had tried to commit suicide when she was in high school. But there was never a point in my life where I was like, oh this is wrong or this is stupid of other people or a fake thing. I’ve always known that it was a very real problem the way that it was projected to me was always through people who have never had problems in their lives.
So when you first heard about your aunt, what was your reaction at the time? Did you find it changed the way your looked at her?
A- I probably did yeah, a little bit. I probably didn’t think differently about her but I began to think differently about mental health problems because everything that I have known about my aunt is that she, since I was young, has always been the most outgoing, the most sunshine child of the world. So then finding out that she had been through this, it was that kind of wake up moment for me. So it wasn’t so much I felt differently about her, it was just a lot of me coming to terms with what it means to have mental health problems.
You mentioned when we last spoke that you had been going to therapy recently, at what point did you come to realisation that therapy was the best option for you?
A- I definitely had to go to therapy after leaving university, that’s something university doesn’t really prepare you for even kind of. You’ve been going to school since you can remember and once you leave it’s an entirely different atmosphere.
After I left, it was hard for me because there wasn’t just this institution in place that made me see people every single day and made me be sociable with people every day. It’s people that you love to death and people you get along with, you are interacting and you are social every day and the second that you are taken out of that and you have to fend for yourself it gets very difficult. At the time my thoughts on the matter was that everyone had forgotten about me and nobody cared. It felt like no matter how much I reached out I got the tiniest percentage back of caring, it’s difficult to go through that and feel worthwhile from that moment.
But now after going to therapy and after seeing things in a different light, it just reminds me of the way I have been when people have left that were my friends in older years. Every time they’ve left I’ve not kept in contact with them and it wasn’t due to me not caring about them, it wasn’t due to not wanting to talk to them anymore, it was always just because they are not in my immediate life anymore and so of course they have left sparing on my life. It wasn’t anything they did or anything I did that was wrong, that’s just how it works. You are with the immediate people in your life and anything outside of that is important to you but you can’t face it every single day so it definitely has less of an impact on you.
It was difficult for me to realise people from university didn’t stop caring when I left, they didn’t stop wanting to be a part of your life but as an adult I couldn’t have people in my life in that kind of way anymore.
Q- I think in terms of talking to people you are very unique in that you have a blog which you openly discuss your own struggles on, so what motivated you to first make the blog and what was your process of selecting what you will share and what you will censor from including on the blog?
A- I started writing my blog because I thought that it would be helpful to me, it was a really rough time of my life. A lot of my mental health problems revolve around me trying to make other people happy at the great expense of myself. It was a really big and scary moment for me to put something forward that would make me feel better cause I wasn’t used to doing that, I didn’t know what that meant. It was during a time where I had to make sure people know what I’m going through at this time.
At the very very beginning I didn’t think anyone would actually read it to be honest, it was more of an online diary for me. Putting the first one up I was terrified cause I knew some people would see it and while it wasn’t a secret to many people that I had mental health problems, no one really knew the extent. At the very beginning I just put a couple of things up about how I was feeling, how sometimes I couldn’t go outside and how it was sometimes difficult for me to communicate with people.
Then there was another time where I wrote very little cause I knew people were now listening and I was afraid they were getting worried about me in a lot of ways. But it was just a moment after that where I had to just sit down and think “no”. Since I’ve done this people have come up to me and discussed their mental health problems and how it has really helped them to hear that someone else has been through the same kind of things that they have.
A lot of the time mental health problems are very very isolating. The first time I wrote about suicidal thoughts and suicidal tenancies was like a really big thing for me cause I had very close friends who knew that that was a thing in my life but none of my family had and even a lot of friends didn’t know that it was something I had thought of, considered or tried. It was definitely a good 20 minutes of me staring at the publish button thinking “Okay, em.. let’s give it another 10 minutes, whatever, it’s fine”. There was a lot of time there where I just had to look at that and think I was doing it for me because it will help people understand me better but a lot of motivation came from thinking it would help other people who have thought about or attempted suicide but had not had a voice on it because they thought it was something to be ashamed of.
For more of Ismay’s thoughts on mental health and personal stories check out her blog: https://moreimpossiblegirl.wordpress.com/