I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I have been living two lives; that of the outside smile and that of the inward tears.
My experience with mental health difficulties came earlier in my life than most would expect, as I am only 19 years old. I can however say that I have reached a depth of despair and depression that made me want to completely give up on life. Like many sufferers I have experienced a time where no words could begin to describe the internal torture I felt - always alone and often in silence.
As a young person I have always found that I have had to try and over- justify my reasons for feeling the way i do. This being because I have not been brave enough to speak up or because in stereotypical society I would just be classed as a overly dramatic teenager rather than a person suffering from an illness.
My father is a manic depressive and my mum has also suffered from serious depression as a young adult. My story starts from my childhood, from feelings of deep insecurity and issues that I never knew how to deal with. I found an escape from everything that was too much in the form of dancing which instantly took over my heart.
Growing up in social housing, adversity has always been a friend and dance became more than just a way to escape, it became the joy that I lived for. I was lucky enough to get involved in youth dance and then find a teacher who saw potential in me and offered me support in trying to achieve my dreams.
I guess that everything that ever went against me I tried to turn into determination and will to succeed. I was however easily led to anger from my fears and disappointments, and over a period of years it subconsciously boiled under the surface, unable to escape as my dancing gave me clarity and a reason to keep the niggling thoughts of darkness at bay.
I auditioned for a few dance schools whilst doing my A levels and working a part time job. I ran myself down with all the physical and mental activity, but I knew I had to give it my all as it was my dream.
Unfortunately i had never felt that my dad wanted me to be a dancer. I knew that my success would give me the opportunity to prove that I was worth supporting and that my dreams and aspirations were more than he let them be.
I was successful at three our of four of my auditions and I truly believed that maybe, just maybe, good things happened no matter your background or where you came from. Unfortunately this was not the case as I was unable to find funding for any of the courses.
Knowing that I had lost any chance of building a life away from the council estate I grew up on, I sank into myself more than I ever had. I couldn't see a way forward for myself or my dreams and I was desperate not to be stuck in my menial job just to pay the rent.
I let myself be railroaded into going to university to study journalism and let a big part of my heart and joy fall into a bottomless pit of darkness inside myself. I had lost who I was and at the same time I was trying to find myself in a new city with new people and no place to live for the first week of university.
I became a shell and would often break down in fits of tears that would take over my whole body. A dark cloud constantly hovered above my head, and I'm not proud to admit that I let it grow. I was just so lost and like a tidal wave, every insecurity and hateful thought I had managed to push back hit me with a ferocious intensity.
I seemed to pretend so well on the outside, yet on the inside I was breaking. I often cried myself past the point of cohesion and couldn't bare to let anyone see me, as I was ashamed that I had become everything I had ever fought against, I had become a failure.
The year that followed is almost a blur, a blur with very vivid emotional scars and some physical ones to. I took three overdoses within 6 months, the last of which made me quite ill and left me in hospital for 3 days. I still remember sitting in my pjs in hospital with the mental health nurse, trying to hold all the pain in as i held my knees to my chest and hugged my numb body as tears rolled down my cheeks. I had once been embarrassed to let anyone see me cry, but I had gotten to a point where I had stopped caring about anything - especially myself.
Through this time many people tried to reach out to me, and I would not be alive if i had not had two very supportive tutors at university who went above and beyond their call of duty to look after me. However as I fell deeper and deeper into the darkness I seemed to have created for myself, the hopelessness and despair created an unbreakable barrier around me that no one could reach through. I did not feel my smile for a very long time.
However after coming out of hospital I knew that things just couldn't go on the way they had been. Having come into contact with quite a few nurses and doctors, I was shocked and quite angry at the ignorance toward mental health. I count myself lucky to have been in contact with one mental health nurse who seemed to understand and didn't judge me for what I was going through.
I am now back home and back dancing again, my heart feels lighter but I have not forgotten the days when waking up was its own nightmare.
I am blessed to be able to say that as i write this I am recovering and rebuilding my sense of self, a journey which is far from easy but a lesson well learned for later life. I have created a blog of my experience as I have a passion for writing. I only wish that i could share my hope with those who feel like they have none.
If I could go back, I wouldn't change my experience because it has enabled me to learn so much. I only wish that I hadn't felt like I had to fall so far in order to be given the help i needed.This is why I believe that the most important thing is to make mental health an issue that is okay to talk about rather let it be hidden away with all the labels which are associated with it.
My greatest aspiration apart form fulfilling my career in dance is to give something to people who have felt/feel the way I have felt.
The saddest thing about my story is that I was extremely lucky and I know that there are many people who struggle each day just to feel okay.
This story was submitted to Mind by a website user, and is republished here with her permission. If you would like to share your experience of mental health with us, please tell us your story.