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When I was eight, I felt true sadness for the first time; real, deep sadness. The kind of sadness that can’t be cured with a hug from your mum.
When I was 10 it came again, and again when I was 13. And it stayed. It stayed for the bullying, it stayed for the pain, it stayed for all the reasons in my life that I had to be sad, and, for a fleeting moment, all the reasons I had to not be sad.
I remember standing outside of my classroom in year eight, uncontrollably sobbing. I couldn’t hear anything. My head was racing with this voice yelling my name. And then another voice, and another, until it was so loud it was all I could hear.
A friend came to my aid, and that was the first time I admitted to harming myself.
See the truth is, I had been experiencing strong highs and extreme lows for a long time, and when the lows came, they collided into me, like an uncontrollable tidal wave of pain.
At the time, I marked my sadness up to other things in my life. Other happenings, if you will. Until I reached 15 where it finally crossed my mind that I might be depressed. The lows were lasting longer every time they visited, and the highs were getting more extreme. Total elation. Though they weren’t as often.
The highs didn’t even cross my mind as strange, I thought they were entirely normal, I thought I was just a really hyper person when I wasn’t low. Spoiler alert, they were just as abnormal.
I lived with it for a while, until I turned 16, when I went to speak to a doctor about my moods. I didn’t dare tell them my other secrets. The man and the woman in my head, the things I would see. That was a complete hard limit. In fear of being committed, or labelled as crazy, or told I was dangerous; I kept it hidden. I went on anti-depressants, and they helped- for all of two months, when the high kicked in.
Oh boy! Let me tell you, when you have endorphins being pumped into your body on top of mania, it’s really something. But of course, what goes up—must come down.
And it was two weeks later when I finally did. After some unreasonable spending and camping in the forest.
This low triggered an eating disorder, which lasted two years, and most of that part of my life I try not to revisit. It was one of the darkest, scariest times I’ve ever gone through.
After I recovered, after a lot of lost friendships, and after the damage I had done to myself, I started doing some research.
Turns out, my symptoms, weren’t singular. There were other people in the world that experienced what I did, and do. And that community urged me to go to the doctors, but this time, tell them everything.
So after too many years feeling unstable, too many scars both physically and mentally, I went.
And I was referred to a psychiatrist on the spot.
It was the year before I was due to go to uni, and I was completely out of control. I didn’t go out, I didn’t sleep, or I slept too often, I started listening to things the voices were saying, hoping if I appeased them, they’d go away...
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, psychosis, PTSD, and panic disorder the week before I left for my new start.
It was both the best and worst thing that could have happened.
On the one hand, I knew why I was the way I was. Everything made sense, when the monster is given a name, it holds less power.
But on the other, there was no time to get on medication or get help before I left.
So I left, unmediated, without proper psychiatric help, secretly terrified.
I was scared of myself.
I knew I wasn’t dangerous, but the more I explained to people who I believed deserved to know, (i.e. people who I was around a lot) the more strange reactions I received.
And with every doubt written across their faces, I sunk deeper into fear.
It took two years, two years to finally see a psychiatrist in Wales. To finally be put on mood stabilisers and anti-psychotics. Every doctor I saw just prescribed anti-depressants, despite my telling them they wouldn’t help. I wasn’t depressed. I had a mood disorder.
They were the best and worst years.
My point is, every face that made me doubt myself, every voice that harmed my self image and worth, we’re wrong.
I’m not a monster.
I have never, and will never harm anyone, medicated or not.
I’m 109 percent more likely to hurt myself before I hurt you.
If someone confides in you about a severe mental condition; don’t recoil in fear, step forward.
We all just want to be normal.