SENSITIVITY WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CONTENT AROUND SELF-HARM, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND SEXUAL MOLESTATION. ONLY READ ON IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS TOPIC. THANK YOU.
by Tessa Richards
Many people know this about me, and many people don’t. But like millions upon millions of people, I’ve struggled with a variety of mental health issues, and not all of my experiences are suited for young audiences.
It started in high school. I had spent my whole life defining my worth on grades. I was the girl to come to when you needed an answer or help with your homework. When things got tougher and tougher though in my last couple years, coupled with a relationship that wasn’t really right for me, I snapped. I got depressed, and I got anxiety.
Honestly, the story isn’t all that fascinating. That is not to say that anyone who has a textbook diagnosis of depression and anxiety should be dismissed and their experiences shoved under the rug—not at all. These experiences are important because they’re all too common, and people don’t talk about them. My school didn’t, and now I’ve heard that there have been three people in the last two months there who have tried to commit suicide. I never talked about my suicidal ideations, but I did have them. I didn’t do it (obviously), because in the end, seeing my father cry for the first time made me realize how shattered my friends and family would be. Suicide is selfish. I do understand it, though; I really do.
But I got through it; I took medication, I saw a therapist, I had a social support network. Come university, I was feeling okay.
Now comes the part I struggle to talk about. I recently did an exam for Clinical and Health Psychology, and I wrote an essay on PTSD. It’s one of the only psychiatric disorders in which the cause is necessary for a diagnosis, and not just the symptoms. I never saw any professional about this, and so I was never diagnosed, but I think I had PTSD in my first year and second year of university.
The cause was, well…I was molested.
It was by a friend, and it was in November 2014. The morning after it happened, I huddled in the corner of my room on my bed and told my friend as she sat across from me what had happened. I seemed like a wounded animal, looking back. It was awful. And it led me to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, I’m sure of it.
Symptoms of PTSD are classified into four categories. I had some from all of them. The smell of the person who did it specifically made me freak out. I constantly had flashbacks to the event, sometimes seemingly at random. Nightmares plagued me. I felt empty and scared. People couldn’t even tap my shoulder without me wanting to scream—this is called “an exaggerated startle response”. Hugs were a no-no, though I still embraced people as if nothing were wrong. I also cried the next time a guy kissed me (yikes); intimacy was ruined for me, basically.
As first year went on, things got worse. I would have panic attacks, often during rehearsals for plays. I started self-harming. I stopped eating. I once picked at a scratch of one of the scars on my arm and it bled all down it, though I kept going with the scene we were doing. To be honest, I was very confused; I experienced moments when I wouldn’t feel anything at all, and then others when I felt way too much; I often got hyper in ways that made people stare at me like I’d gone insane. I got drunk for the first time too, which was way out of character for me. I hallucinated (and still do sometimes).
I sought help because it was all becoming too unbearable, and so, turns out, rapid-cycling bipolar II disorder had been added to this lovely little psychiatric cocktail. (My PTSD also continued in second year. I became irritable and angry and would hit the walls until my knuckles were swollen).
However, despite all that, I’m okay. I still take (different) medication, and will have to for the rest of my life, and I do have hypomanias and depression too, but I deal with it. I have friends and family who love me, who can relate, who can support me. I sought help, and I got better—as better as I can be. I thought of killing myself, I hurt myself, I screamed and couldn’t be touched, but now, I don’t do that anymore.
To build on my experiences, I’d say that there isn’t enough awareness for mental health disorders; especially ones that aren’t depression and anxiety. Of course those are important, and they’re underrepresented in the media, and people don’t talk about them as much as they should, but I want more awareness for ALL mental health disorders. I was experiencing symptoms that would classify me as “crazy”; I didn’t know what was going on with me. So, I hope that in the future, other people can see those signs and say: “She’s acting crazy; that’s not normal. I think she needs help.
“Let’s help her.”
P.S. I can kiss without crying now. Just thought you should know.