Mental Health Awareness Week 2016: Relationships and Mental Health

I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of nine, and the diagnoses of anxiety followed quickly after when I was 11. My early teenage years were difficult, to say the least.

At the age of 12 I was self-harming nearly everyday, and I felt hopeless. I didn’t want to be that way, I didn’t want to have to hide away from my friends. But I was so ashamed, and so scared that all the people I loved would leave me if they knew what I really was. So I never showed anyone my vulnerable side, because I came to quite enjoy the façade I was putting on. I felt normal.

I never thought I would actually find someone that would ever understand the real me, I never thought I would find someone who would love me for what I actually was. But then I did. I was 17 and in love for the first time. Everything in my life felt perfect. I had finally found someone who loved me despite my ongoing problems with anxiety and depression.  I found someone who made me stronger, and who helped me grow. For the first four months everything was perfect – I had stopped self harming and my daily panic attacks were reduced to just three a week. I had someone to support me, and that was the most amazing feeling in the world.  I thought that this would be the time to mend my broken self.

But I was so wrong.  The two years that were to follow were the darkest years of my life.

It all started with the trust issues, and the accusations of cheating. He became so paranoid. He was constantly going through my phone and when I wasn’t with him he was asking me to send him pictures of myself to prove that I was actually where I said I was. He stopped trusting me.

He would call me things like ‘slut’, ‘bitch’ and ‘idiot’. He used to threaten to come to my school and embarrass me in front of my friends. He threatened to put intimate pictures of me on the Internet, so that my friends and family would see. He told me that if I left him he would tell people what I really was. And slowly but surely I felt my self-esteem deteriorate. I went back to self-harming, and the thought of suicide was one that I couldn’t get away from.  I felt hopeless.

I tried to leave him, I really did. But I failed…miserably. I felt weak and lonely again. I pushed all my friends away, I couldn’t tell them what was going on. How could I? They all thought my life was perfect, they all thought my boyfriend was perfect.

Nobody knew what he was capable of, not even I did.  This sort of verbal abuse continued for another six months, and things only got worse. He started to physically hurt me. He would choke me, he would punch me and he would pull my hair. Yet, he still somehow managed to convince me that he loved me, and that all of what he was doing was my fault. He convinced me that my anxiety and depression wasn’t real, that I was just doing all of this for attention, and I believed him. I tried to change myself to remedy the situation; I thought if I changed the person I was then maybe we would go back to how we were in those first four months.

So I stopped eating, because he always let me know that there were other girls who were prettier that wanted him. I lost two stone in three months, and only then did he call me ‘pretty’.

I started having sex with him a lot more, because that’s what he wanted. Often I would just lie there and let him do what he wanted. I would lie there with him on top of me and think ‘it’s going to be better after this, it’s going to be fine again’.

I pushed everyone away, my friends and my family. Because I only wanted to focus on making my relationship perfect again.

During the summer of 2014, a year into our relationship, we went on a weekend away with our friends. Only then did everyone see the true extent of what was going on, and I’ve never felt more relieved in my whole life.

We had all come back from a night out, and whilst he was in bed I went to wake him up so I could have a cuddle with him. He decided to physically kick me out the room and bang my head against the wall. Everyone had seen, everyone knew what he was.

I finally realized that it wasn’t me that was the problem, it was him. Did I leave him? No, that took another three months to do. I had to rebuild my confidence.

The night I went to end things with him, he pushed me down a flight of stairs.

But that was the end of it all. I was free.

I was moving to Leeds a few weeks later, ready to start my new life. It took me so long to realize that my mental health was more important that anyone or anything else.

Sometimes I look down at my wrists and I see the scars that I inflicted on myself when I was with him, and I feel strong. I overcame something that no person should go through. Often I see him, and I hear of the things he’s up to. I don’t hate him: that would be too much effort. I actually appreciate him. Because this whole experience has made me the person I am now, strong. And never will I let anybody put me down in any shape or form ever again.

I’m currently seeing the counselling service at the university to help with my anxiety and depression, and I can say that I am on my way to really getting better. If you are reading this and you or someone you know is going through something similar to what I did, then please don’t forget that there are people who love you, and help is always available.

Remember in the end, the only person you really have to count on is yourself.

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