Michael | Interview 1
What is the particular mental health that you have/struggle with?
I have had very obsessive thoughts on a certain topic which has come into play in the fact that I’m autistic and those obsessions were so much so that they really disrupted my life in that my qualifications were going downhill and I was more afraid of hurting other people than myself. I was prepared, that if counselling failed, to make the ultimate sacrifice and I would have taken my own life because I don’t want to hurt people. It’s not what I’m here for. If counselling hadn’t worked, because of these obsessive thoughts - which was the mental health - that’s what I was prepared to do.
How long ago was that?
It was most prominent probably about a year ago. A few years ago, lets say. Time frame - I’ve obviously tried to wipe it from my memory. I’ve learnt from it. I used to have these evil thoughts that I can deal with a lot better now.
Are they still as strong as they were then or have they become a bit more tamed?
Definitely more tamed and they are almost eliminated. It is great and I am very lucky that I have had the resources and help that I got early on - I say early on. I mean it could have come quicker and I think it’s important that people go and take the step of getting help before decided anything rash.
Is there anything you want to say off the top of your head?
What I would say is, get help - there is help available out there. If it’s something family orientated, I would recommend going via social services. Having been in care myself, I know they have a bad reputation which is absolutely unmerited. Every individual - apart from the anomalies of course - in social services are well trained, they will deal with your request and I think it’s important that if you’re a young person you get in contact with them. This is under 18. If you are 18 and over, I recommend going to your GP and talking it through - there is still patient confidentiality but get help. Try not to - don’t commit suicide straight away. Self-harming - I’ve never done that but I get why people do it but just remember that the only person that is really going to look after you is you yourself and life is precious especially if you are an atheist. If you are an atheist then this is your one shot, I think it would be an awful shame to mess that up. All you have to do is ask for help. That failing, then you need to try and delve yourself in your passions that you like and even starting a family. It might sound rash if you’ve got mental health issues but it gives you purpose. With things like depression it’s about looking at the future and not seeing reasons to live. Talking is very important.
Is there anything you regret not doing or you wish you could have done differently looking back on your experiences?
I think self-discipline through practices such as mindfulness where it is something that is seen as a bit hippy, almost sort of, in a society where we see academia and studying as really important, we kinda forget and lose touch spiritually and its not even a spiritual thing. If you’ve got a body, you can meditate, and that’s what I would have done. If I had known about it more, or when I did know about it, I should have done it more, I should have been using the practice of mindfulness to stop those thoughts. Meditation is very helpful because it lets you calm yourself down in that moment but also when the going gets tough, and you’ve practiced it, then you can deal with stressful situations, similar to the anti-depressants. That’s what I would have done differently.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One thing I would add is; the one thing that’s helped me - and you have to be careful with the amount/degree that you use this is drugs - prescribed drugs by your GP of course. I, myself am on anti-anxiety pill, Sertraline . I found that, and has my mother who has lived with me, she’s lived with my problems - of which she didn’t know herself of what was happening because I hadn’t been diagnosed with Aspergers with autism so she didn’t know how to deal with it. So there’s two things there; by getting tested for certain illnesses, people are more aware. It’s not a label that’s going to diminish your status as a decent human being. It’s going to open doorways, it’s going to open funding as well, it’s going to help you so much. Don’t be afraid and as I was saying, drugs, they don’t turn you into someone you’re not, they just give you the best of who you are and you can be. You are still you just you’re more balanced and no one should feel ashamed for taking any help like that. We’re lucky that we are in a country where no matter what government comes into power, there’s still a lot more help here than there would be in other countries. So get assessments that can help you with your studying by getting diagnosed. Don’t see labels as pejorative and perhaps consider anti-depressants, not even forever. If you’re going through a tough time, you can take them and then wean yourself off them but with the advice of a medical professional. Also, there’s so many helplines out there, free helpline. I myself applied to work for one but they haven’t got back to me yet but just talking about it and with like-minded people [helps]. When I went to my first counselling session, the weight that was lifted off my shoulders was unbelievable - things I would never tell anyone - just saying it is really important because you’re not keeping it inside and not festering it and the other person might even turn around and say “that’s not so bad after all”. If you’re really in a state of bad mental health and you think that life is going to end, what have you got to lose by telling someone about it, if you truly believe that you are going in the downward spiral - it can’t get any worse.
Writer's note: if you are struggling with anything, talk to someone. Do not be afraid or ashamed. There are so many people silently struggling with things similar to you. There are many people willing to listen to you and all you have to do is trust them and open up. You'll make it through. It's not the end x