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I hid my mental illness after I was told to ‘man up’

Alex - Time to Change

I hid my true emotions as best I could growing up because the few occasions when I mentioned I was feeling low, not even depressed, I was told to ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’.

I’m a 23 year old man, and I’ve struggled with my mental health for about a decade. What began as having low moods turned into suicidal thoughts, psychosis, addiction, anxieties and depression. At one point I tried to take my own life.

Growing up with these emotions resulted in me feeling very isolated.

At a young age you listen to peers, so you think that’s what’s best.

From the age of 15 I knew I needed help, but I just lied to myself and tried to just make it through a day at a time. This build up simply led to a decade of not being able to express my emotions in a healthy manner.

It felt like a prison within my mind, a cell that could not be escaped. A self sentence. It felt like I had no control when it got to the darkest days. Nightmares at nighttime during the little sleep I could get.

I turned to alcohol in my late teens and early 20’s, and opiates when I was diagnosed with a condition which affected my stomach and liver. They were prescribed to reduce the pain but very quickly became addicted as they numbed the pain I was experiencing physically and mentally. Again, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I just didn’t know how people would react. What people would say. It was a period I look at as a lot of lessons learned.

Since this time. I have had CBT and anti-depressants. I no longer let things build up. I’m more open with friends and I don’t listen to negative comments. I’ve been very fortunate that friends, family and colleagues have supported me. At work, I’ve even recently set up a blogging project called Write It Out which is aimed at students who study while experiencing mental health difficulties. I did this based on my previous experiences and I just wanted to provide an accessible service which can support students.

No matter what though, talk to someone. A teacher, a friend, a mentor, a relative, a doctor.

All it takes is one person for you to be able to express your true emotions and that weight you’re carrying on your back lightens. You feel lighter and better within yourself. You go home and even feel better about yourself, that honesty and knowing you’re no longer battling this alone provides comfort.

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