Experience

Why We Need to Fight the Stigma – My Experience

Head’s up, this post contains open and honest discussion of abortion and suicide. If you can’t or don’t want to read it, then please don’t. Just go and take care of yourself. If you do, then I trust that you know yourself well enough to know you can deal with those topics.

Photograph credit: livialazar.com

*****

18th July 2016. 

This was the day my life changed forever. The day my depression took hold and I slowly became a different person. That year I had trained to be a teacher. It was a challenge but looking back this was one of my best years of my life. I made some fantastic friends through my course and became great friends with my housemates. I had obtained a job near where I wanted to live and was all set to complete a new adventure in London, kick-starting my teaching career.

Then found out I was pregnant.

I say ‘found out’ – I had known in the back of mind for a while. I had been feeling ill for the last month of my teaching course. I had a lack of energy, constant sickness, aching – all the signs were there. I even went to see the doctor, but they didn’t think to check for the obvious. My mum even gave me a test when I was back home one weekend when I told her my symptoms, but I ended up pissing all over my hands and breaking it. I’m not a graceful soul and clearly can’t even piss on a stick right.

I fully ‘found out’ when I faced myself in the mirror, with a growing stomach, and decided it was time to face the truth. I took a test and it was enough to tell me everything I had feared.

“Fuck.”

That’s what my grandma said when I told her. I was living on her sofa at the time as she lived close to where I was going to be working. “What are you going to do?” Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time inappropriately came into my head. What was I going to do? I couldn’t have a child. My grandma furiously typed at her iPad that evening, trying to find out my options and where the local BPAS clinic was. She couldn’t use the fecking thing, but I think she didn’t know what else to do. I decided I would ring BPAS and make an appointment. I remember it being easier to make an appointment with them than it was with my local GP. They were understanding, calm and explained all my options clearly.

The 18th July 2016 was my surgery date. Although it didn’t look like a surgery when I arrived, it looked similar to a bed and breakfast you’d find near the seaside. Benches outside, old Victorian houses, you wouldn’t have driven past it and known what it was if it wasn’t for the giant sign outside. I remember seeing a young girl sat outside crying, she must have been 17 or 18.  “Too young to be dealing with something like this.” I thought at the time, as if 23 was old enough to have all this on my shoulders.

I didn’t have any feelings. I’d switched them off. I’m very good at that. That’s how I deal with sad situations. Well that’s how I used to deal with things, now it’s hard to stop the switch from coming on. It just was a simple appointment. The staff were fantastic, supportive – there was no judgement or disapproval in anyone’s eyes. All I really remember from that day is being wheeled into the surgery room and hearing Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ on the radio as I was told to count down from 10. And then I buried everything deep inside. Or at least I tried to.

It took me 6 months to tell my counsellor what had happened. God knows what we had been talking about all those other times (£45.00 an hour, well annoyed at myself). I only started to open up about it once she had gained my trust, once I knew she wouldn’t tell me I was a horrible person. I only told my best friend months after it had happened. Some of my best friends still don’t even know (I’ll know if they read my blogs now!) or have only been told recently when discussing my work with ECBC and my mental health.

Their normal question is “why didn’t you tell me?”. This is something that I have been processing for a long time. Why didn’t I tell anyone? I guess because I was scared people would judge me. Because, as long as it was my secret, it didn’t happen. But it did happen. And I’ve thought about it every day since. Over 730 days of thinking and over-thinking. It’s exhausting, being your own worst enemy. But it does mean I don’t have time for normal enemies like the noisy neighbours or that girl that gives me a dodgy look when I go for a run.

Why have I chosen to share this now with, effectively, the world? I’m trying to be more open. I want to show others its okay. I’m sick of hearing about people taking their own life because they felt like they couldn’t share their negative thoughts or experiences or admit how low they were feeling. Suicide isn’t our biggest killer. Shame is. The shame of having to admit you are not okay and you need help. You don’t want people to judge and you don’t want to be seen as weak. Often people find out when it’s too late to help.

This is something I came dangerously close to finding out myself. A few months ago, I was in A&E telling a mental health specialist I wanted to die. I had written a note- typed of course because I’m a millennial and have forgotten how to use a pen. I didn’t really want to die, but I just wanted the pain to stop and didn’t know any other way. I had planned to step off the Edge at Alderley Edge forest. I couldn’t remember how high it was, but I thought it would at least knock me out so that I wouldn’t have to go back to work and face the silence of my own thoughts. When I got there though it was surprisingly busy, and I was very annoyed at all the people inconveniencing me.

At that moment, I received a text from my boyfriend. I can’t remember what it said. Probably something about how to make your own shelving unit. But it made me stop and think. I then found myself struggling to breathe, panicking because all I could think about was that my boyfriend might not find another person who would tolerate his DIY obsession, that he would hate me for leaving him alone. I then thought of my mum, my dad and my brothers. Before I knew it, I was in the car driving and I was in A&E, sobbing and telling them I didn’t want to kill myself, but I thought I was going to kill myself.

Credit to the NHS, they saw me within 40 minutes. They worked with me to come up with a plan on how I could use my counselling and medication to help me regain control. I felt myself instantly calmed down – because I had opened up. I had let out my demons and someone had listened, without judging and told me there was a way to help.

Depression comes in waves. Since then I have left my job, started an amazing mental health awareness organisation and feel more aware of my condition. Every day is different – I have low days, but I am able to accept those days and not take it out on myself. I still struggle with my anxiety but it’s manageable. I’m able to recognise when I am over-thinking and able to use breathing techniques to calm myself down.

I have not written this blog for attention, or to start a conversation on abortion rights. I have written this blog to encourage others to open up, share their negative thoughts and stop the shame of mental illnesses. I’ve reached a stage in my recovery where if people are unable to support my mental illness they aren’t worth my time.

Keep fighting everyone.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Love, Emma x

2 thoughts on “Why We Need to Fight the Stigma – My Experience”

  1. Thank you Emma for sharing your story. I was sexually abused by my boyfriend for two years and didn’t tell a soul because I felt like it was my fault. My mind is my own worst enemy and because of that I tried taking my own life in January. I am on the road to recovery and will most probably be for the rest of my life but because of people like you sharing your own story, it helps me feel less ashamed.

    Like

  2. Thank you Nat for commenting and sharing your story. I’m so sorry that happened to you but glad you are trying to recover. I understand that feeling of shame and self-blame but I hope you learn to love yourself and see how strong you really are.

    Like

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