Suffering silently through his depression, it was when a teacher noticed his pain that he decided it was time to ask for help.
With a firm belief in making your mess your message, Connor is on a mission to show others the hidden blessings in a life with mental illness.
Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?
I first realized my mental health was more than just a teenage phase after experiencing two grueling years of a severely deflated state. I initially thought it was all down to the transition period of school to college because it made me feel like a small fish in a big pond and I lost contact with many school friends. The people I did still talk to didn’t share the same thoughts and feelings as me, so I resorted to Google and discovered countless articles about depression, anxiety etc, but I was in disbelief.
I didn’t want to accept that this was what was wrong with me because I’d seen depressed people in TV shows and films, but I wasn’t like them. I brushed it all off but over time my situation got worse. I began skipping lessons to avoid being around people and this quickly turned into skipping entire days of college so I could stay at home where it was safe, easy and comfortable. I could play games and escape the world and even myself. My social life was non-existent, horrendous diet, no motivation for anything and a constant feeling of self loathing and sorrow.
What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?
The first person to actually notice something wasn’t quite right with me was my product design teacher. She had obviously noticed my lack of attendance in the lessons and my coursework was barely scrapping the barrels. I was asked to stay behind one lesson to have a quick chat, which instantly sent me into a state of panic. After a while of listening to me explain and justify myself she said, “Have you ever thought that you were depressed?”
In an instant, it dawned on me that maybe I actually was depressed. I was recommended to see a counsellor on site at college and I did because I was starting to worry about my exam results and how they would affect my future. After a couple of weeks of this counsellor I got a sudden urge to help myself further and receive help from my local doctor too.
How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?
Currently, I am in a far better place than I have been for the six years of my battle. My journey has made me realize how strong I actually am and despite mental health knocking me down, I’m always able to get back up; even if it takes me weeks or months to recover from a set-back. My OCD in particular is still as persistent as before, but I’m now able to keep on top of the emotional aftermath and not let things spiral out of control as often. I now think of my problems as challenges that are there to test me and make me grow, which really makes the whole situation less daunting because the only outcomes from these challenges is that I either win or I learn.
Whenever I get these negative thoughts or emotions, I try and use them to my advantage by using the energy as fuel and converting it into something positive which then often times allows me to push further, due to the added incentive/reason. The main skills I’ve been able to learn from all this is being mindful, which in my opinion really has been a game changer and has given me moments of clarity which is hard to come by with all the usual mental fog. Ultimately the best thing I do to cope is give myself plenty of TLC and treat myself as my own best friend – rather than my worst enemy.
How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?
I believe in making your mess your message and I’m constantly trying to make the most out of the bad situations. I think of my mental health conditions as a blessing disguised as a curse – on the surface it creates pain and suffering, but there’s always a deeper meaning and learning opportunity to grow from. I always tell myself that I’ve been given this life because I’m strong enough to live it and with this attitude it gives me a positive approach to any obstacle that life throws at me. Although I’m not necessarily proud of my problems, I am proud of the person I have become from all this. I’ve gained a stronger level of compassion and empathy as well as a genuine desire to help support and love others who are in need. Overall, I would say mental health has given me an opportunity to express myself fully and create something beautiful out of what others would see as a tragic end.
What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?
The advice I would give myself would be; ‘You’ve come too far to give up now.’ Life has thrown some tough situations your way but you’re still here, you survived it all and you’ll continue to overcome anything else in your path.
Instead of questioning ‘why me?’ you should be saying ‘try me’ because you are stronger than you think and capable of whatever you put your mind to. When you finally beat your mental health, you’ll become an incredible person that could only have been sculpted by the life you’ve lived. You still have a lot to learn, but keep thinking long term because it will all be worth it. You’ve got this.
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