CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with mentions of depression and suicide ideation and may be triggering for some readers. Please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 if you’re struggling with symptoms of mental illness.
I first felt the depredations of depression at 14. I had no idea what I was feeling, why I was feeling it and how to make it stop. All I knew was that I was in pain, I was hurting. It was a kind of pain that encompassed every part of my being, leaving me feeling weak and unable to fight against it.
I was extremely unhappy with many aspects of my life. I felt as though I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. My lack of self-worth contributed heavily to me not seeking help or telling anyone about how I was struggling with these feelings of depression. Along with depression came anxiety. I had become too afraid of being put in situations I would be uncomfortable in that I barely left the house, unless it was for school. I hated that anxiety hindered me from living a normal teenage life.
During this period of time, my sister was struggling with her own mental health issues. I believed my sister’s illness was more important than any feeling of depression I was having. I believed she was worth the help of my parents and doctors more than I. This meant I stayed silent about my struggles, bottling everything up, pretending that everything was fine and hoping that these feelings would disappear on their own.
I had begun performing acts of self-harm, at around the age of 15. These destructive acts increased feelings of depression, heightened anxiety. I felt like I did not matter, I didn’t feel important to anyone despite realistically knowing that I was. Feelings of depression altered the way I thought about myself and my relationships with others.
Bella shares her struggles with her mental health on SBS’ Insight.
This way of feeling became the ‘norm’ for me, I was so insistent on not having my parents find out about my struggles. I felt ashamed; scared that I would be nothing but an embarrassment to them, thinking that they would be ashamed of me. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak for feeling this way.
The next few years passed like a blur, I was stuck in this spot of helplessness and sadness. Getting up every day was a struggle, something I began to dread.
Around the same time, my parents went through a difficult divorce. My dad had left my family and disappeared from my life completely.
This was an enormous struggle for me. I was at a complete loss and did not know how to grieve the father-daughter relationship I had. I had lost a central figure in my life within a day and my feelings of worthlessness increased. The feelings of depression I had magnified to an extent I did not think possible. My relationship with trust, and my ability to trust the people around me was damaged. How could I trust other people to support me and my mental health if my own dad couldn’t even stick around?