The Shona Project was built for girls, by girls, and we love having a safe space to share our experiences. This week, we decided to shake things up a bit and bring some boys into the mix, to hear from them about their lives.
Our fifth guy up this week is Jamie. Jamie is the welfare officer of UCC Student’s Union and just a fella who supports Chelsea (but we won’t hold that against him). Jamie has had a challenging yet formative few years and has found writing in a diary to be a good way of coping. He has been kind enough to share a recent entry with us. So, Jamie, it’s over to you …
This article is a bit of a tough one, so mind yourself while reading it. But sometimes important messages are tough to hear. It has a trigger warning for suicide and self-harm so please read at your discretion.
I feel like that you’re the only constant I have right now. I’ve neglected writing to you in quite some time as I’ve been petrified to admit that I’ve been struggling.. again. I know I should reach out to my friends but I feel like I’ve burdened them enough in my life. They’ve always been there for me and would no doubt be there again but I just feel guilty.
You see, I live with a very common yet uncommon disorder. A disorder that quite frankly can be an absolute disaster to control sometimes. A disorder that flipped my life upside down, inside out, and hammered me to a point where the thought of ending my own life was the only way out.
Obsessive Anxiety Disorder; what does that even mean? Does that fella Jamie who supports Chelsea and drinks Guinness in the local have an Anxiety Disorder or does he have OCD? To be quite honest with you, I don’t even really know myself.
Basically, I fixate on certain aspects of my life and over analyse them until I start to panic. This can range from a wide variety of instances or situations – from what relationships I engage in, to the social outings I chose to attend, to what job I hold, to who I choose to spend time with. This then leads to a weighted block perching oh so menacingly on my chest.
It all started back in my first year of college. I knew deep inside me that my college course wasn’t for me. I absolutely hated studying Nursing (pay the student nurses please) but I loved the social side of college, so, I forced myself to endure the dreaded 12-hour placement shifts in an area I had no interest in working in. This, coupled with the mistreatment from staff and a failure to accept that this path wasn’t for me resulted in countless hours of hyperventilating in hospital toilets, crying every morning on my walk to the hospital, and battling the urge to turn around and run home.
Alas, “getting on with it” can only work for so long and in the summer of 2016 I had a nervous breakdown.
I locked myself in my room, didn’t leave for days on end, and couldn’t bring myself to shower. You see showering would leave me alone with my thoughts and that’s somewhere I couldn’t be. I went to the doctor who referred me to the mental health service in my town. Upon telling them I wasn’t going to kill myself, I was discharged with no follow-up care. To touch on this, I was centimeters away from being admitted to a psychiatric hospital the night prior.
So I decided to drop out and change my college course. Out of Nursing? Problems all solved right? It was always Nursing that was the problem. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My mind now began to question the course I was in, a course I had wished I had been in for years. My mental health continued to get worse. I couldn’t fathom why I was feeling this way. I developed a highly skilled armory of suppression tactics in an attempt to curb the “this isn’t for me feeling” forcing myself not to think about it. This culminated to the point where I would have panic attacks in my part-time job and the only thing that I could think about was ending my own life. My mind would wander in lectures to dark places, I would have to run to the bathrooms in lecture halls to have panic attacks and as a result of having these panic attacks, I began to feel down and depressed.
I had the course I wanted and yet still my mind was screaming at me 24/7 that I wasn’t supposed to be doing it. I would receive Man of the Match awards and feel numb. Whilst sitting around a table with all my best friends, all I could think about was how much of a pitiful useless human being I was.
Eventually, I reached my wits end and drew up a plan to end my own life. Thankfully, I decided not to go through with it but I stood there wishing it would all end. I went public with my mental health and began taking medication. I’d be lying if I said it solved everything but it provided the platform and impetus to a voyage of self-discovery into a life I never thought I’d have and this is what has brought me back from the abyss.
On this journey, I have bounced between various counsellors and mental health services, and through this, I have discovered my cornerstones. These cornerstones allow me to function and live with my illness and be the best me I can be.
These include –
- Practicing Gratitude – Listing 30 things I’m thankful for every day
- Keeping a Journal – This allows me to be honest with myself and allow my thoughts to roam free without judging them
- Meditation – Specifically the Watching Thoughts practice which I try to do everyday – https://www.mindful.org/a-meditation-on-observing-thoughts-non-judgmentally/
- Exercise – Getting to the gym or out for a quick run can change my outlook on the day
- Staying Connected – Leaning on my friends and family and talking to them about my problems is what keeps me going.
All of these tie into one common theme which has aided me to live the best life I can; Self Acceptance. I equate living with Obsessive Anxiety to someone who lives with Diabetes. A person living with Type One Diabetes needs to take regular insulin and avoid certain foods to ensure they are healthy. I have to stick to my cornerstones to keep my condition in check.
Quite honestly Diary, there are times even when I am sticking to my cornerstones I still feel anxious and find myself obsessing over certain areas of my life and that’s okay.
I don’t view the last few years as rough. I funnily view them as the best years of my life as I’ve learned so much along the way.
I’ve learned on this journey it’s better to embrace the darkness rather than fighting it and as long as I stick to my cornerstones, that these feelings like everything else shall pass.
We want to say a massive thank you to Jamie for sharing such a personal experience with us.
If you want to keep up to date with Jamie, you can follow him on his Instagram here.
Keep an eye out for more of our Lad’s Takeover Week here at Shona where we get the boys involved in the conversation. If you have a story you would like to share with us, pop us over an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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