About the Make a Ripple campaign
This series of blog posts are part of the See Change Make a Ripple campaign, an initiative to help end the stigma of mental health problems by sharing experiences and building public understanding. If you’d like to tell your story, you can visit the Make a Ripple stories portal. If you’d like to write a longer piece like the one below, you can contact a member of the See Change campaign team firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01 8601620
My name is Claire, I’m 16 years old and this is my story.
So many people say to me that I’m too young to suffer from any mental health issue and that I haven’t experienced anything yet compared to the real world but I beg to differ. I know I’m young and yes I’ve got a lot to learn but we live and learn every single day. I’m still trying every single day to not let my regrets or past mistakes determine my present or my future.
I’m not too sure where my problems really began because I had a relatively happy childhood; I grew up in a nice home with my parents and older sister. I settled in pretty well to my first year in secondary school I made friends I was bubbly, outgoing, happy and I tried not to let things get to me too much even though looking back I know I was and I still am a very sensitive person. That was okay until I met the guy who I was to spend the next two years of my life with. I was 13 years old and I felt like I had the world at my feet. I liked David a lot. We had lots in common he was sweet but I didn’t think much of it when we kissed and then next of all we were in a proper relationship going out together. For the first few months things were okay, but every so often if we had a little disagreement I saw a completely different Daniel to the one who I thought I knew. He got angry, aggressive and snappy. Daniel around two and a half years older than me and as our relationship progressed it felt like he had a hold on me, pretty soon I wasn’t allowed to go out to my girlfriends anymore, no more sleepovers or movie nights or gossips instead he wanted me to stay with him and have sex. The first time we slept together I was just13 I remember the pressure I felt to be good enough even though neither of us had done it before. I almost cried with the pain it was so sore. We continued to sleep together, with my consent for the next 1 and a half – two years. I hated every second of having sex with him it made me feel horrible, dirty I could wait for it to be over. He had such an angry streak and he screamed and shouted at me if I ever don’t anything wrong that I just couldn’t afford to be wrong. I don’t what he said and what he wanted me to do to avoid arguments. I was so afraid he would hit me. I’ll never forget a fight we had one night when I told him I wanted to go to the cinema with my best friend Rebecca the next day. There was no one in my house only me and Daniel and Rebecca was upstairs in my room drying her hair. I told me and he went crazy. I ended up sitting on my kitchen floor repeatedly banging my head so hard against the worktop behind me with my head in my hands crying to try and block out him screaming at me for being so selfish wanted to go to the cinema. Things like that happened every single day, he was always breaking up with me because I wasn’t good enough and I always took him back. I loved him so much and he meant the world to me because he could be so nice and so sweet but then he turned. Finally after two very difficult and long years together I eventually broke the whole relationship off with him and I have never looked back.
This was just the start of my problems. All through my relationship with Daniel I was self-harming. The first time I ever hurt myself was around 3 months into our relationship and just after we had sex for the first time. I was so angry at myself for sleeping with him when I knew it wasn’t what I wanted so I took all the hurt and anger I felt towards him for pushing me into doing It and I took it all out on myself and my body.
It took me quite a while to realise why I was Self-harming and why I chose to do it when my feelings got so unbearable. Hurting myself was a huge secret from my family and friends. Daniel knew about it but he just assumed I was doing it for attention. My closest friend Ciara knew and she was a huge support to me. My family didn’t know, I wasn’t very close with any family member I shut myself away from people I stopped talking and even at the start of second year in school I barely said two words a day. I was a completely different person to the one a year previously. My head was in turmoil I hated myself so much and I felt like my whole world was falling apart. But I never talked about it. I suffered in silence and continued to self-harm.
Eventually I made a huge step and at the start of third year in school I decided to go to the guidance counsellor in school and see if he might be able to help me. I was so nervous going for the first time I was convinced he would judge me or tell me I was being stupid and looking for attention like what Daniel used to say to me. The guidance counsellor was a massive help I owe him so much he helped me beyond what words can describe. I told him what happened with me and Daniel and he helped me to see that my problems went much deeper and much further back than what happened with Daniel, even though that’s where I recognised things started to go wrong from.
My granny died in 2005 when I was 11. I was so close to her she was so amazing I loved her to bits. She was in a nursing home when she died. I was so upset, I was devastated but I never talked about it to anyone because I didn’t think my problems mattered very much even though I missed her terribly it really did affect me.
Another thing that the guidance counsellor helped me with was my relationship with my family. I can’t tolerate my Dad. When he walks into the room I walk out. I’ve never been very close to him he’s always been very aggressive and angry even though he hasn’t physically hurt me, I have always felt like he doesn’t really care and he never really wanted children. He also drinks a lot. He goes to the pub every single night rain hail snow or sunshine and comes home and drinks more. He is so moody and snappy when he’s drunk every night. I just avoid him altogether now. I still live at home and I love my mam I get on really well with her now but unfortunately the same cannot be said for myself and my Dad. I still can’t stand him it makes me angry even thinking about him.
The guidance counsellor, by law, because I was a danger to myself had to tell my mam I was self-harming. She was so upset she was really saddened by what I was doing to myself inside and out. I think her seeing my arms made everything very real. I remember the first time she saw my arms. She was devestated and so was I because she had to see me like this, see my arms like this and after everything she had done for us that this is how I had turned out. Even though I have never, ever turned to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs I remember once she said ”Claire to be honest sometimes I wish it was something else because I dont know what to do with you anymore.”
Throughout the rest of third year at school (I was 14 -15 at this time) it was such a dark time. I was down, low, suicidal, depressed and self-harming so much and so dangerously. I was cutting deeper and my weight was up and down. I have always been small and healthy weight. I’m only 5 ft. 1 with a healthy BMI and it’s always been that way but I still hated my body with a passion. My scars disgusted me and I only had myself to blame for creating all that damage to my body. In November of 2009 my guidance counsellor referred me to a place called Pieta House (the centre for the prevention of self-harm and suicide). They were amazing there and so understanding but unfortunately at that time right then for me to considering stopping self-harming. I just wasn’t ready to let go of it. I felt so alone and so different to everyone else in school and outside school. No one could force me or talk me out of it. I had to stop because I was ready and because I wanted to.
Just one tiny part of me said ‘’don’t give up on yourself, maybe you can pull through’’. I never gave up hope. I prayed and prayed I would pull through even when other people started to give up on me.
I have been seeing a psychiatrist regularly since around November of 2010. I’ve had around 5 different doctors since because they rotate so I’ve found it hard to build any kind of relationship with any of them when I know they will change soon. I was going around 1-2 times a week and the doctor I had when I first started going clinically diagnosed me with depression and prescribed me antidepressant medication, which I am still on today.
I’m not too sure if my medication has helped me much because I have never been consistent to it. Even now I really struggle with it because I’m always scared it will make me gain weight and I just can’t risk gaining weight even if the medication will help me. I was also prescribed sleeping tablets as my sleeping patterns were all over the place, they have helped me so much to get a good night sleep and I still take them every night.
So where am I now? I am still in school, I completed transition year last year and I’m in fifth year now. I did TY because I thought I could try to get my life back together before I went on to do my leaving cert. In some ways that has happened and in other ways it hasn’t.
I’m still supposed to be on medication but I don’t really take it, although my doctor doesn’t know that she thinks I still take it.
My arms are severely scarred and it’s very noticeable. I don’t wear short sleeves often; I did in the summer but not really very much now. People did stare and some commented or asked questions about my scars but normally I say I have eczema. I don’t tell the truth about my scars because there is a huge stigma around mental health and although I’m definitely not ashamed of myself for suffering from depression I still do get worried about what people will think of me. I’ve been called an attention-seeker, a freak, people have said I should be locked but I know I’m none of those things.
For a very long time I was so ashamed of myself, my body, my scars and my depression but now I have realised they have all made me who I am today. I would not be the girl I am now sitting here today and writing this story in the hope of it helping someone else if I had not spend hours on end crying every night or cutting myself in the school bathrooms or attending dozens and dozens of support groups and youth groups for people my age suffering from mental health issues.
I have worked so hard to get where I am now. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me move forward and who is continuing to help me move on with my life. I can’t even put it into worlds how grateful I am to so many people who have helped me, to those who are in my life now and to those who are no longer here I can’t thank anyone enough.
It’s been far from easy but I’ve learnt so much. I have realised that no matter what place you are in in your life and no matter what anybody tells you or how difficult things seem, you have the power to choose happiness. You can’t please everyone. I used to think I had to live up to the world’s standards, being thin enough, being pretty enough but as long as you’re happy then that’s all that counts. Being selfish is not always a bad thing; you need to make sure you’re happy before you try to make anyone else happy. Put others first but never, ever at your expense.
My hopes, my dreams my faith and the people in my life now and that have been in my life have all made me who I am today. No one is perfect and I am most definitely not but I wouldn’t change who I am, what I’ve learnt or what I’ve been through. I also wouldn’t change my past or my present for the world because were all one in a million, no one is the same.
My dreams for the future? I hope to become a psychiatric nurse. Thats my dream. I want to give something back, I want to help people. I want to give the hope that people gave to me back to someone else.
To anyone who is struggling or that can see no light at all, dont give up. Have hope in yourself and get help. I hope my story helps someone, somewhere.
I’ve still got a very, very long way to go but I’m on my way now.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in Siobhan’s story, or if you need to speak with someone, click through for a list of organisations that can help
See Change understands that there is a complex multiplicity of perspectives on mental health problems and the experience of being unwell. See Change encourages the publication of material that promotes understanding of mental health problems, the experience of being unwell, and recovery. The opinions expressed by contributors to the Make a Ripple campaign are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of See Change, funders, or partner organisations.