When I was seven, a friend called me annoying.
I remember my breath catching in my throat, my cheeks burning and my eyes never leaving the floor that day.
I started littering apologies in every other sentence.
And learning how to be quiet, so I wouldn’t burden anyone.
I’ll never forget getting a test back and seeing that I got an A instead of an A+.
I still remember the disappointment on my mum’s face.
I became obsessed with numbers.
And I started believing that my grades were a measure of my worth.
A girl at my school pulled back the corners of her eyes, and said she looked like me.
She asked how I could even see, and I didn’t know how to reply.
I started wishing that I just looked like the other girls.
When I was 12, I had a breakdown in class after a rough night at home.
My teacher sent me to the school counsellor. It was the first time that someone had really sat me down and asked me how I was doing.
It was then that I heard those two words. Depression and anxiety.
Each of them had enough challenges on their own. Together though...
My depression made me want to sleep all the time. But I my anxious thoughts were too loud.
My depression took my all motivation away. But my anxiety berated me for not trying hard enough.
My depression said friends and family were better off without me. But my anxiety was so scared of being alone.
After a while, I became numb. It just felt like I was a lost cause - like there was something wrong with me and I was never meant to get better.
When I was 14, I tried to end my life.
When I was 15, I started missing out on events. Because I wanted to avoid food. Or because I starved my body of the energy to participate.
I became obsessed with numbers again.
This time it was my weight, which I believed determined my worth. No-one seemed to notice, because I still looked okay.
I also realised something about myself. I didn’t just like boys.
I didn’t know at the time whether I was bisexual or pansexual, but I did know that I wanted to feel accepted.
I tried to explain to my family. They asked why I would do something like this to them.
Soon the numbness came back.
I tried to end my life again.
I didn’t want to stop living. I just wanted the pain to stop.
In a moment of desperation, I did as many would do - I looked to Google.
I found Beyond Blue and the online forums, where brave people were sharing their stories.
I had tried different traditional therapies and medications, and they had helped... to an extent.
But the catalyst in my recovery was finding people who understood what I was feeling, because they had lived it.
My early 20s were defined by firsts.
I moved into my first apartment.
I bought my first microwave and I nicknamed it Michael, so I could call it Michael-wave. (I’ve always liked puns.)
I finished my degree, majoring in computer science and music. Alongside me at graduation were friends that I’ll know forever.
A year later, I moved from Perth to Melbourne by myself.
This city is so colourful. I’ve never felt more at home.
As I write this, I'm 25.
I work as a peer support worker, using my experience to try to help people just like those forums users who sparked the change in me.
I’m grateful to have found mental health professionals who I connect with. They’ve played a big role in my recovery and I still see them regularly.
My family is trying to understand more about mental health. None of us are perfect, but we're making tiny steps together and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
Most importantly, I live a life that I want to keep living.
It wasn’t the darkest times that made me stronger, kinder and more empathetic. It was how I handled them.
And that credit is mine.
For those who are struggling, I’d like you to know:
You are not too broken to get better.
You are not a failure for wanting help.
And you are not alone.
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Imagery and video by Good Grief Productions.