Saturday, 8 September 2018

Mental Health Over The Years: Age 13 vs Age 28.

I first started experiencing poor mental health when I was around 13. At the time, a lot of it was brushed off as 'just being a teenager' and not taken very seriously. People assumed it was hormones and that I would grow out of it. It wasn't and I didn't. I've now been living with it for around 15 years, and I thought it might be interesting to see what's changed in my life during that time...


Age 13: Obviously, at 13, relationships are a bit different. While I did start dating around this age, clearly nothing was serious. I didn't really notice mental health influencing my 'romantic' relationships until I met Alex, a boy I dated on and off for two years. I definitely look back on that and can see the beginning of my abandonment issues showing; I would break up with him regularly and then wait for him to beg for me back. So unhealthy. My relationship with my parents wasn't great, but that probably wasn't mental health related (ha!). Anxiety was a huge thing for me back then, and it stopped me spending a lot of time with friends. I think this left me feeling really left out and I didn't build the relationships other people were. I felt out of place constantly.

Age 28: My mental health has definitely got a more obvious impact on relationships now. I am very isolated, with basically one friend. I'm a lot more open with her about my mental health than I have been with any of my other friends, so I think we understand each other better. Apart from that, depression and anxiety have claimed me haha. I struggle with BPD so I don't find making friends easy. BPD also really impacts my relationship with my husband, and it is something I constantly have to work on. I'd say it's probably getting slightly better, but it's definitely a process! It often gets me down that I don't really have any friends and I do feel very lonely, but I just can't seem to manage mental health and friendships properly.

Career prospects

Age 13: At this age, I was already bored with high school. It felt like I wasn't learning anything (christ I was an arrogant wee bint) and I didn't want to be there. But I had ambition. I wanted to be a forensic psychologist and I knew I had to get through school and uni to do it. I had a plan in my head and despite my low periods, I knew that is what I wanted.

Age 28: Well, erm... I have basically nothing to show for my life haha. I don't work, I never did the Masters I'd wanted to do, I kind of just let everything slip away. University was an incredibly hard time for me and my depression was at its worst. Work after uni was unbearable for me. My anxiety was completely out of control, I'd have daily panic attacks, sleep paralysis most nights, and cry before shifts cause I couldn't cope. Not working has been so much better for me, but it always embarrasses me to tell people I don't do anything. I've also now got a lovely big gap in my employment history that basically makes me unemployable. It stresses me out to think about it if I'm honest. This is probably the major thing that bothers me about approaching 30 and still being ill - comparing myself to the successes of my peers always leaves me feeling hugely deflated.

Dealing with symptoms

Age 13: I was, everyone though, just being a teenager. That's why when my self-harming started, it wasn't taken very seriously (apart from earning me some horrible words from the horrible girls who saw my scarred arms in our school swimming pool changing room). But for me, it was the only way to cope with the emotions I was going through. I also started drinking at 13, and I continued to drink waaay too much every time I was on a night out until the age of about 20. I just basically blotted everything out, OR I acted out. Shouting matches with my parents were regular, I was a brat.

Age 28: I haven't self-harmed in around two years. I barely drink at all. Yes, I still have emotional meltdowns and I can be a moody nightmare to be around. I start arguments with my husband for no real reason other than I feel overwhelmed. But I'm doing a lot better at identifying my triggers and controlling my symptoms. I still regularly struggle with depression and feeling like I can't get out of bed but my stable periods are becoming more frequent and last longer which feels great. My issues might never go away but I am learning to work with them.

Sense of self

Age 13: I was a very confused teenager. I didn't really know who I was or have any confidence in myself. I was mouthy and tried to act confident, but behind the scenes, I was anything but. I was 100% that kid who says she's watched films she hasn't or likes bands she doesn't, just to get people to like me. I'd hang out with people who weren't very nice to me just because it was better than being alone. In fact, I think that's a large part of why I spent so much of my teenage years drunk - because it made me worry less about fitting in. 

Age 28: I'm still not entirely there. With BPD, identity issues are fairly common and I quite often find myself wondering what is the real me and what is put on for other people. However, I'm constantly gaining confidence in myself. I know what my morals and principles are and I will stand up for them. I am beginning to figure out the things that make me happiest and I am relishing cutting out things and people who don't bring me joy.

Mental health is a complicated beast, that affects you differently at different ages. Recovery from mental illness is not a straightforward, linear path and it can often seem like I'm not making any progress at all. If nothing else, this post has helped me realise how far I've come. I still have a long way to go but I'm working on it and doing my best - and that's all I can really ask for.

Have you noticed any differences in your mental health as you age?

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