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"The risks now feel worth taking"

2004, the year my life started to collapse. As I was driving down the A12, 3am, with a bottle of vodka in my system and no idea as to where I was going, I had a strong feeling of the lack of care I held for my own life. My first love had just broken up with me, and not knowing how to handle this new pain, I seemed to fall off the rails.

My recovery period from this fairly regular life event lasted longer than I had expected. I’d always known I was more sensitive than others, and that life’s tragic events would hurt that little bit more, but I had never expected a relationship of only six months would leave me bed bound and hollow for as many more.

What followed was a further ten years of tragic ups and downs. I would often think I was just unlucky, and that any normal person would react with the same emotional intensity to my life, but what I went through was no more tragic than any regular path to 30.

Each small and unremarkable event just acted as a trigger in me that would set off an unstoppable feeling of negativity, and each time I would have to claw my way out again, I would be left a little emptier. After a while I started to avoid situations that might set me off. Girlfriends, family, work, all suffered because I was afraid to fully immerse myself. The blinding fear that I would fall into despair again became worse than the falling, so I ended up only living half a life, if that.

During those times, my Mum was a strong pillar of support, she would often say “sometimes, you need to hit rock bottom before you can start rebuilding”, and in some ways that did ring true. Every time I found myself at my lowest, I always eventually found strength enough to start my life again. The usual process would be to seek professional help, but that often ended in me seeing a doctor, who, inexperienced in dealing in with mental health, would prescribe me another dose of anti-depressants that left me feeling numb. I do realise that medication can be effective in a lot of cases, but for me personally, I decided I would rather feel everything too much than nothing at all.

I had to find another way to help myself. Medication wasn’t right for me and I felt like it shouldn’t be a permanent solution. Counselling worked, but with limited resources on the NHS, I couldn’t afford to have regular treatment.

I would sit and think for hours about why I felt a certain way and how could I change those feelings. It occurred to me that after 10 years of suffering from depression, anxiety and hyper sensitivity, I'd become pretty good at coping, and that maybe I could use what I knew to help someone else.

I started volunteering as a mentor and found I got a lot of satisfaction from it. I would honestly say it helped me as much as it helped the young man I mentored. Because of that, I decided to quit my job and volunteer full time abroad. Again, I found myself feeling more confident and generally happy. When I got back to the UK I began working for a charity that helps young people get a head start in life, I completed a diploma in mental health studies and started thinking about making a career for myself in mental heath awareness.

I wouldn’t say I’m emotionally stronger by any means, I just know how to cope better, and taking a new direction in my life has giving me something positive to focus on. As I’ve gotten older, I find I throw myself into love and work more, not because I’m any less scared, but because the risks now feel worth taking.