I remember the first time I told someone I was struggling. I remember feeling my heart in my mouth, my head spinning and the electricity in my chest. I’d been holding onto these secrets about my mental health for over a year and a half.

18 months. 548 days. 13,152 hours. 789,120 minutes.

And I say that because every minute mattered.

I know you’re supposed to feel amazing once you tell someone that sort of thing; you’re supposed to feel light and relieved. But the truth is, when I finally admitted it I just felt angry at myself. I thought by bringing my secret out into the open that I was being weak. I thought I’d cracked or that I was being attention-seeking and melodramatic, and I hated myself for it.

I used to love keeping the secret. I loved knowing stuff others didn’t. I felt strong that I’d managed to keep it to myself, hide it for so long. I thought I was doing my friends and family a favour, not burdening them with my issues. I was being brave, I was holding on, I could fix myself.

The reality was, keeping my mental illnesses a secret was so damaging. I allowed them to manifest and to ruin my body. I honestly didn’t realise how bad it was until I was out of it. And when you’re sitting in amongst it becomes your norm and you begin to think it’s okay. Trust me when I say it’s not okay.

Getting help and opening up about my mental health was the bravest thing I ever did. I’m not saying it was easy; it took four professionals, over 50 sessions, self-help books and mindfulness exercises, diagnostic tests and who knows how many tissues. But I got there.

And I’m writing this in tears right now because reading this you have no idea how much my world has changed by just opening up and talking to someone. It was embarrassing, and excruciating and I had so many relapses and when I began my journey into recovery I thought those people were total knobs. I thought I’d never ever get better: I thought that was just how I was wired.

But I was so wrong. And I don’t want you to make the mistakes that I did.

Please, if you’re reading this and you’ve been struggling in silence, I am begging you to go and talk to someone. It’s not going to feel good. You might hate yourself for a bit and think that you’re weak, but that is so far from the truth.

You are worth so much – your body is working so hard to keep you alive and while sometimes you might feel like people aren’t there for you, we’re all rooting for you and there’s people out there who are ready and waiting to listen. You’re never alone.

We at Year13 encourage anyone struggling to speak out about your mental health and seek help if you need it:

by Zara

@xandeaburns

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