In the second half of our two-part series, a St Andrews student anonymously recounts their struggle with mental health — and its stigma in St Andrews. To read the first half, click here.
After that moment watching the water, I felt like I needed to resolve my issues with those who had shunned me. For some reason, that was all I wanted. I thought that if I fixed this with them, I would be able to move on with addressing my more important health issues. When I arrived at their flat, they told me they were angry I didn’t answer their calls, since they knew that I had answered calls from my parents. I explained the trauma of what I had just experienced. I told them the truth, the horrible, disgusting truth. To this day, discussing it puts my stomach in knots. For the first time, I was actually going to ‘do it’. I was going to kill myself. It was all I wanted. Instead of offering support, they told me they were mad at me.
They couldn’t live with someone with this illness because they didn’t want to be anyone’s carer. It was not fair on them, it made them uncomfortable. I can understand being scared, worried or concerned for someone. Furthermore, it must have been an extremely difficult position to be in for them. However, their response of dismissal and anger is something I would not wish on my worst enemy.
Prior to that Monday, they had confided in me and relied on me just as much, if not more,
than I had them. I began to try and explain, to rationalise and justify my ‘behaviour’ to two
people who did not want to hear it. On a night that was one of the most horrific of my life, I faced interrogation and judgement — instead of support. I had hit rock bottom. My life had become utterly worthless and I couldn’t pretend anymore.
They told me that they didn’t think I was ill or depressed; I was making it up for attention. I didn’t exhibit the ‘real signs’ of depression. I was exaggerating and they didn’t want anything to do with it. I was lying to them and it was pathetic. After pointless attempts to explain and let them see the pain, the hurt and the confusion of this illness, I couldn’t do it anymore. I left, apologising for it all.
The top universities in the country are leading the way to breaking barriers for those treated unjustly and leaping forward liberally and intellectually (St Andrews included with their Night-line and Student Services). Yet for those suffering mental illness, the prejudice is clearly present. There needs to be a fundamental change. From both external and personal experience, it is evident that when it comes to mental health, we are nowhere close to the ideals of the journalists and activists. The romanticised notion that society can change if we start from the ground up is not being implemented, let alone achieved.
Currently, I have returned to university to study the course I have always wanted and have made supportive friends. I finally feel capable of day-to-day function without hurting myself. That in itself is one of my greatest achievements. I hope too, that sharing my story will be an achievement. Nobody should have to hide if they are hurting.
It’s okay to have depression and need help. It’s okay to struggle with anorexia and access support. It’s okay to have PTSD and have flashbacks. It’s okay have panic attacks or crave self harm. It’s okay to think suicidal thoughts or hallucinate. It can and will get better if we begin to support people in the right ways. What is not okay is to treat it as less than physical health or to not take people seriously when they talk about it. I am lucky to be alive and I feel proud every time I see the morning sun because I’ve made it another day. I relapse and it is scary, but I have people who love me and who I love back. I have things to live for.
Everyone has something and someone to live for–you just need to find out what or who it is. Discrimination destroys too many lives and it needs to end. I hope at least one person will read this and realise how serious mental health is, or maybe feel a little less alone and scared in their illness. Seek out help.
This is my story, but it will continue everyday.