The power of opening up: Alisha's mental health journey
Alisha, 14, shares her mental health journey and explains how things began to change for the better when she opened up about what she was going through.
I first started struggling with my mental health around a year and a half ago. I noticed that I’d started feeling low a lot, which soon escalated into panic attacks, crying in the nights and isolating myself. I struggled with my self-confidence and started feeling like I wasn’t good enough for the things I had or the people around me. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what had triggered this and, thinking about it, I still can’t.
I tried my best to hide all of this from everybody in my life because I didn’t want to be a burden or make other people's lives more difficult. I found out about YoungMinds from a YouTuber I watch, so I went on the website. I read blogs and articles for advice every time I found myself in a position where I was crying in my room late at night or having a panic attack in school and not knowing what to do.
After roughly eight months, I spoke to a boy I was close with and told him that I was struggling and hesitant to speak up, but it was getting too much for me. He told me that I should talk about it with someone. I told him I would eventually, but I wasn’t ready.
I came home from school to my mother telling me she needed to talk to me. She had read through the messages with this boy and urged me to talk about it. I told her everything from start to finish. We had a long chat about everything I was going through and she offered to phone my school for me and see if they could offer me any sort of help. I was hesitant, but I agreed because I realised that it was the only way things were going to get better for me.
My mother phoned for me the next day and a teacher helped me get counselling in school. I went on with it for six weeks (the sessions come in sixes). I found that it was helping me, and I was better able to control my panic attacks and ignore the things that were bothering me.
Everything was okay for a while - my panic attacks were less frequent; I wasn’t crying in the nights and I wasn’t isolating myself as much. However, towards the end of the year I found that my relationship with my friends had shifted. At first, I was just being left out of some things they did together outside of school. After a while, it got worse and I wasn’t invited to anything they did, and I was being left out of something as simple as their conversations in school. Because of this, I felt like I was back to square one. I struggled throughout the summer holidays and eventually deleted social media for a while so that I didn’t have to see everywhere they were going and feel even worse.
At the start of September, I decided to continue counselling in school for another six weeks. This time I noticed that I didn’t benefit as much as last time as I wasn’t given much advice on what to do about my situation at that time. I told my mother that I didn’t know what I could do as I’m a person who hates any sort of conflict and didn’t want to seem like I was being petty or childish. She told me to talk to just one of them, but I felt like I couldn’t.
Eventually my mother got involved and spoke to the mother of someone else in my friendship group to discuss what was going on. Over the course of the next few weeks, my friends started inviting me to their events and involving me in their conversations again. This dipped in and out occasionally, but I decided to just be happy with the way things were.
You're never alone
Roughly two months ago, I was offered counselling outside of school and I decided to take it. I’m now in counselling and, although I still struggle, I feel like I’m seeing a difference.
As a person with social anxiety, speaking out about anything can be very difficult for me, but I’m glad I did – it really changed things for me. I’ve found that even when it feels like the opposite, I’m never alone.
If you're struggling with your mental health and want support, have a look at our find help section for tips and advice on where to get help.