If you saw me with my friends or even walking down a street alone you would probably think I am a happy and confident person. However, I am in fact the complete opposite. I struggle hugely with low self-esteem and I find it difficult to like anything about myself. In the past year I have had two suicide attempts and I also suffer with self-harm. However, I think this would surprise many people I’m not close to as I’m always smiling and look happy.
I was seeing a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Dublin when I first tried to take my own life. I told them how I was feeling, the way I viewed myself and how different it is to the way other people see me. However, while I was talking to the psychiatrist I was smiling as I was talking. The psychaist then said that I didn’t need medication because I looked happy.
It was extremely frustrating for my mother and I as it felt like we weren’t being listened to. I was angry with myself for coming across “happy” because inside I was in such a negative space. It was a judgement that was made about how I look. It felt like my feelings about myself and the world had just been cast aside because I hid how I was really feeling.
I had a similar experience after my second suicide attempt. I talked about how I constantly felt low and it never really changed. I talked about how my self-image is entirely different to how other people see me. However, they said to me that a person with a smile like that can’t be depressed.
These were two separate psychiatrists who had told me that I looked happy. However, if someone is happy they don’t have suicidal ideation or self-harm. It’s really frustrating to be told that you can’t have a mental illness because you look too cheerful.
It’s something I personally think really needs to change. I find it hard to express my emotion and I like to smile when I am around people. It shouldn’t automatically mean that I am okay. I am really lucky because I have tons of support and help around me but what about people that don’t? We can’t turn people away because they don’t match the stereotypical look of someone who is struggling.
After I faced these challenges I found other support that really helped me and there are so many supports out there that could benefit you if you have had a similar experience or if you just need support. I found a counsellor I really like and who understands what I’m going through. For me counselling is hugely beneficial and has helped me realise where my problems have come from and how to change the way I see myself. Youth groups have also helped me to get involved with other people and have helped me feel so much more confident. It has also helped me realise that there are so many people beyond my family that care about my wellbeing and how I feel.
There are so many different supports, clubs and groups that can help, offer advice and support. Just knowing that there is a friendly face who is there for you can be extremely helpful. There are so much support out there that goes beyond mental health services and professionals that can make a huge difference. Linking in with people in my community has given me so much hope and courage to deal with things that I’m feeling. It really has helped me immensely and I encourage you to find things that you are passionate about and love doing.
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