Bullying

Bullying is still very common amongst young people today which is a very big problem. I personally have been picked on continuously since I started primary school for the colour of my hair and sometimes even my weight. I haven’t really talked openly about it before but maybe it’s about time. To begin with, I just kept it to myself and allowed it to eat away at me rather than doing anything about it. If I could go back and change anything, it would be that I talked to someone earlier. The older I got, the more it affected me especially as I started secondary school. My self-esteem was basically non-existent because all I could think about was what these bullies were saying to me, I began to worry that this is what my friends also thought of me. I understand it is daunting to tell a parent or guardian about you being bullied; I felt embarrassed and scared about how they would feel knowing what bullies were saying to me. My mum especially is quite sensitive and the thought of how upset she would be pushed me to keep things to myself. Also in school, there is always the potential for someone to say you’re attention seeking if you openly talk about your problems; this also scared me into silence. But I didn’t realise that I am important and I did need to tell someone about what was being said to me.

If you take anything from this then please know that you are the most important person if you are being bullied; it may be hard for the people you love to hear about it but they are there for you. Talking about how you feel is key, even if it is to your friend or anyone you trust, they can give you the confidence to tell someone and do something about it. Having a strong support network is so important, I was very fortunate to have some of the kindest friends who held me when I cried and stayed with me when I told a teacher at school. You realise who is worth your time and tears because believe me, it is definitely not those bullies who think they’re powerful by putting others who are so intelligent and wonderful down. I do not regret telling my friends and eventually my family because now the bullying has stopped and I am back to being happy and confident. You are not alone so please don’t suffer alone.

Anxiety

What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal feeling that we may feel before a frightening stimulus in life such as a test, making an important decision or a problem at school or work. However someone with an anxiety disorder will experience this feeling intensified. The fear and worry can be constant and more overwhelming.
If you have a friend who suffers with anxiety then my advice to you is be patient. This is the golden rule. Even if you think they’re overthinking something that’s silly or unnecessary to them it can be a life or death situation. So by being patient you are relieving them from any more pressure then they’re already going through.
Another tip I’d give to a person trying to help someone with anxiety is to be open-minded and to listen. Sometimes just knowing someone is there to listen and cares enough to help can be enough so that it can ease their mind a bit. Also a productive way to help is making a visual list of things that they’re feeling anxiety over. This way together you can go through that list and check off things once they feel like they’ve been dealt with.
The main thing I’d like to talk about are panic attacks which can be a big part of anxiety disorders and these include symptoms such as: shortness of breath, racing heart, trembling or shaking, crying, fear of dying and feeling dizzy or faint. Some panic attacks may experience all these symptoms and some may only experience one or two depending on the person and the situation. When someone is having a panic attack the worst thing you can tell him or her to do is “Just calm down” it’s really not that simple because if it was then they would have done so already. Another question I’d avoid is asking is “Are you ok?” It’s quite obvious that they aren’t so I wouldn’t bother asking. A tip I’d give when dealing with a panic attack is to just stay calm yourself. It won’t help the person having a panic attack if you’re also panicking, it will just make things worse. The best things you can do are just be there for them, reassure them, make sure that you’re not making them feel uncomfortable by asking them to do things, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help and the most reassuring thing you can tell someone who is having a panic attack is that it can only last twenty minutes. So to summerise the best thing you can do is drop everything to be with that person for twenty minuets to make sure that they’re as comfortable as they can possibly be in the situation.
So to conclude, anxiety disorders are a big part of around 1 in 10 peoples lives and therefore should be taken as seriously as any other disorder, mental or physical. The reassuring thing is that anxiety does get better if you speak out to people and get help. Teaching the sufferer to manage their illness rather then be engulfed by it can do this. To read more about anxiety and how you can help a loved one then this website is a good one to start your research with https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk. I’d like to leave you with a quote: “When a person breaks their leg everyone runs to sign the cast, when someone says they have a mental illness everyone looks the other way.” This proves the discrimination in our society and together we can get rid of it by making more people understand these disorders.

Depression

I suffer from depression and I have a history of self-harm.
I have done since year seven but due to the stigma associated with mental illness together with my own stubborn ‘I am fine’ attitude, I couldn’t admit it. But then, something happened that changed my whole outlook on life. I told someone.
I was 15 and after holding on to a dark, scary secret for over 4 years, a chain of events made me feel as if I was losing control. I couldn’t cope anymore. I was convinced that this dark secret would soon be exposed and people would judge me. I began to fear that life as I knew it was changing. I was losing my ability to hide this secret away. As my fear escalated and everything was spiralling out of control, in desperation I broke down and finally confided in someone. I reached out and shared my secret; the secret. I told a teacher at my school, someone I knew I could trust.
In doing so, I felt so many things. Firstly, guilt. Why the hell have I told someone else ‘the secret’ that was plaguing me for so long. I shouldn’t have burdened them with the issue.
Then came the shame. I had to face my confidante every day. She knew what had happened to me. She knew everything. She saw me at my most vulnerable; I felt naked and exposed. My rational mind knew that what happened wasn’t my fault and that telling her was the best thing to do. But my depressed mind didn’t. So my depressed mind regretted exposing ‘my’ issue; ‘my’ failing – my dirty little secret.
But it was soon evident that telling this teacher was the best choice. She was not judging me or feeling annoyed that I ‘burdened’ her with the information.
It ultimately saved my life. Because once I told her, sharing my experience, my feelings and emotions became easier. Once I had told her, I felt I could tell another, and finally considered counselling. I was referred to CAMHS or to be posh, Child Adolescent Mental Health Services. This changed my life. I felt like I was not alone anymore, I finally felt like someone was listening.
When you start a conversation about your mental health and the triggers behind it, things get better. Not because some therapist waved a magic voodoo stick in your face. Not because therapy cures it all. But because you’ve freed yourself from purgatory. Keeping your pain, your hurt, your guilt, your shame; your devastation to yourself consumes you. It eats away at you; changes you, shapes you, moulds you. Makes you believe things about yourself that simply are not true. Mental illness suppresses you and dulls your shine. Strips you of YOU. And all you’re left with is your pain, hurt, guilt & shame. It holds you back. It stops you from developing healthy relationships and it makes you believe you are worthless and have no value.
By talking to someone about your struggles, you are allowing yourself to view you externally. You see your mistakes and successes and figure out how you’ll go about fixing yourself. You allow a chance of recovery, otherwise that feeling of guilt, shame and pain will continue to consume you.
Because I started that conversation I got better. Obviously, depression and self-harm will always be a part of me and they have helped to shape who I am today, but I am adamant that I won’t let them consume me the way they did before. I can deal with tough situations now and not turn myself away and turn off the world.
That one teacher I confided in changed the course of my teenage years. I could be in such a different place right now if I was even here at all.
Please confide in someone. Please tell someone how you’re feeling. Because once you do, you can let go of the darkness that appears to consume you.
Remember, you are loved. Someone loves you. But also remember, you need to love you. Love yourself enough to reach out and start a conversation. Love yourself enough to know your mental health isn’t your fault. You deserve to be happy. But you can only achieve that by taking that first step.
It’s good to talk.

Stress

Stress is seen to be an inevitability in school, and in a way it is; it’s something everyone stumbles upon at some point in their school career, but it doesn’t have to be the all-encompassing factor during school that many people suggest it is. I am a naturally stressy person, regardless of the time of year, and around exam or deadline time I become 70 percent stress and 30 percent cake, which isn’t all that fun for my friends to be around. Yet, over the time I’ve spent in education, I’ve learnt that there are ways that work for me to deal with stress, and that other people have other ways and you just have to let people do their thing. I’ve got friends who will shut themselves in silent rooms and just slave away continually, in every free and every waking moment of their time at home, and friends who will put everything off until the very last second because they simply don’t want to have to face their workload. Procrastination isn’t always the best method, it can make people far more stressed, but after 4 years of taking textiles I learnt that I am someone who works far better under pressure and I now leave everything to the very last minute, and other people think I’m mad as a result, but it is something which helps me combat the stress that builds up around exam time. Some schools give study leave around exam periods, and people have found that planning your days at home around the school day help them. Continuing to get up at 7 in the morning may seem torturous but it means that you’re more likely to be productive rather than sluggish and tired, and that means that that huge amount of revision will be whittled down far more quickly than you’d expect, but all of this depends on the sort of person you are – it’s all trial and error at first.
Dealing with the stress of assignments and exams is something very very personal to each individual, but it can be done (even if sometimes it feels like it can’t be), and it is often a case of simply working with other people. Near exams it has to be expected that at least one person a day is going to lose their temper or cry because of stress; so if a friends seems overwhelmingly negative or moody a week before their exam don’t take it as a personal hit but rather offer a word of encouragement because, in the grand scheme of things, everyone is in the same boat. It’s not a fun boat to be in, and it may feel like it’s going to collide into an iceberg and sink Titanic-style because of the sheer amount of stress you are under, but once you have learnt what the stern is and how to put up a sail you’ll eventually manage to glide your way to the beautiful beach of stress-free moments. Just keep at it, learn from your mistakes and master your plan of how to make stress work for you – even if that involves copious amounts of cake and the potential for violent screaming like it does for me – and make sure you don’t give up all of your social life and free time while you’re at it, everyone deserves a break once in a while. Exams and school life may feel like a brick wall of stress, but with a bit of magic and planning (think Hagrid and Diagon Alley) you can shift the wall and continue on your path.

Self Esteem

I’m writing here, not to advise, not to tell you what to do, but to share what I’ve been through and how I coped through what I can safely call the toughest year of my life. Sometimes I feel that my issues haven’t gone away but nevertheless, I feel that I’m in a comfortable enough position to be writing this – why should mental illnesses have a stigma? Would it be such a big deal if I was writing about my recovery after breaking a leg? This is only society’s problem and I’m going to take my first step to changing this.

Last August, I came out to my mother as gay. It was the scariest moment of my life and still is but I was lucky enough to have her support and acceptance. I’d been trying to deny my feelings, block out the thoughts and even tried to make myself feel an attraction to girls. I realise how much of a mistake this was now. Those feelings were never going to go away and despite my efforts, I could never change my sexuality. When you can look into the mirror and say to yourself, ‘I’m gay’, then you’ve accepted yourself which is in my opinion, an even larger deal than coming out to someone else. Because I managed to come out to everyone I know but I still feel uncomfortable whenever I say the word ‘gay’, or whenever I think about my own sexuality. There shouldn’t be a rush to tell someone if you’re not ready. My mum coaxed it out of me and if she didn’t do that, I think I would probably still be in the closet!

That was a massive relief coming out to my mum and I thought that all the depression that I’d been experiencing for half a year would automatically go away. I couldn’t accept myself and when rumours began to spread at school, I would always be worried when I went out in public. I felt that everyone could just look right through me and determine my sexuality and for someone that was so afraid of how my friends would react, and whether or not I would be attacked in public (luckily not so far!), I almost became paranoid.

I came out to my friends in December of that year and almost immediately, the self-consciousness began. I went to the point where I was practising my walk and trying to restrict my hand gestures and change my voice because I felt that they immediately told everyone that I was gay. Because I was still not happy with it, I felt that I had to change myself so I could be happier with myself. By that point, I didn’t have any friends that would really be comfortable if I acted myself so I spent a couple of months like that.

There was nothing that really helped me slowly accept who I was, only time and after a year, I feel that I haven’t really made that much progress, despite what my mum has been telling me. Some nights, I feel almost angry that it was me out of forty people (if the statistics are correct), that had to be gay. I don’t see it as a strength and I still try to distance myself from it. Perhaps I have stopped trying to be more masculine and act more like myself but still, I feel like I am putting on a brave face whenever I leave the safety of my room. Eventually, I’ll feel differently but if I was given a choice, between being gay and straight, then I would undoubtedly choose to be straight. Life would be so much easier for me and I would be so much happier.

I managed to find quite a few people who were more supportive and more accepting of the real me which really helped although I’ve never actually met a gay person my age which is really demoralising and sometimes I feel like there is no-one to relate to and that while other people may have problems that they are trying to overcome, mine is truly unique and a lot of people don’t understand.

Insensitivity at my school as well as the occasional joke and wildly inappropriate remark really make me doubt if life will be easy in a supposedly ‘more accepting’ world. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, yes, life will be difficult; I will likely be single until I’m at university since I’ve met no-one so far; and that I will always have to deal with people for the rest of my life.

But if I think positively, I am living my own life finally, without having to conform to what society thinks is normal and I know what things will get better. I’m just tired of hearing that ‘It’s bad now, but it will be better in the future’. I have no patience and I simply want to skip forward 4 years into the future and hope that life is easier and more natural, without the false pretences and the fear of being judged every minute.

Nevertheless, I feel that I am one of the luckier ones, having grown up in an accepting household. From my experiences, I have learned that whenever I have a problem, it just makes it that much easier to talk to someone. Whether it be someone you trust or someone online, for example, a Childline counsellor, you don’t have to carry that burden yourself. It helps to surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable around. With some of my new friends, I am much happier and freer in that there’s nothing that I need to be worried about when I’m around them anymore. Finally, actively search for someone that you can relate to. LGBT youth in the UK are remarkably underrepresented and I feel like they don’t have a voice. It forced me to bottle up my problems which I should never have had to do.