When the Sky Is Gray
Updated: Jun 28, 2020
| This is the 338th story of Our Life Logs |
I grew up in a small village on the west coast of Scotland in the late 1980s. I had a good early childhood, playing in the sand on the beaches, gazing up at the clear blue sky, and feeling free. However, happiness is easy to be interrupted. All that changed when I started secondary school.
I constantly felt like I didn’t fit in, and those feelings were exacerbated by boys in school who would call me names and sometimes physically harm me. By the time I was 15, I was regularly getting into fights. I didn’t have any friends as I was becoming more and more withdrawn.
Usually, I just let these boys bully me, but one day, I had a moment of defiance that led to more confrontations. One of the bullies in my class was supposed to give me the math jotter for the week but never did. When the teacher asked about it, I told the truth. The boy didn’t like that very much. On a dull drizzly afternoon two days later, I was outside on our break while most kids were inside because of the rain. As I walked around the corner, I came face to face with that boy—and he looked angry.
“Don’t ever grass me up again,” he said, pulling a knife from his pocket and moving it towards my face. I took a step back and froze as the knife floated centimeters from my face, nearly touching my nose. He pulled the knife away and walked off. My breath caught in my throat and my legs turned to jelly. I slumped down against the wall and sat there until the bell rang. This fear and sense of dread were constants during my school years.
When you’re constantly teased and threatened, you begin to feel that something’s wrong with you. My self-esteem was as low as can be to the point that I was nervous to talk to people—any people—in fear that I’d say something worthy of ridicule. I kept to myself which only invited more dark thoughts.
I started contemplating suicide and wanted my inner pain to go away so badly that I’d slice my leg with a razor blade. Transferring my emotional pain into physical pain made it easier to cope with, and gave me the chance to have control on some form of my pain. I only ever cut my legs as it was easier to keep covered up. I didn’t want to tell anyone out of fear of being judged or mocked. I felt embarrassed about my self-harming and kept it hidden. It was my secret coping mechanism—my way to get through.
After high school, things seemed to get better. I moved to the main city and started university, happy to get away and start fresh. I made some friends and stopped self-harming. Then, somehow, anxiety began to creep into my daily life. Constantly being surrounded by people became grueling and soon the city became suffocating. Although I’d made a few friends, I still felt nervous talking to people, especially in larger groups. I found it hard to trust people and was often worried that something bad was about to happen. I couldn’t move on from my past and was struggling to process the trauma I endured. I was emotionally trapped and angry which led to panic attacks and suicidal thoughts again. Everything just felt like too much.
After 18 months, I dropped out of university and started self-harming again, as it was the only way I knew to get rid of the thoughts in my head. Deep down, I knew I didn’t really want to die. Self-harming wasn’t good coping, but it did stop me from doing anything worse.
I fought with these demons inside me alone for the next few years until I finally went to see a doctor when I was 21. I was officially diagnosed with depression, prescribed anti-depressants, and instructed to go to counseling. I thought this would help change everything and that I’d finally be able to have a happy, normal life.
Initially, I felt like the pills were helping me. I became more confident and was thinking about the past a lot less. The counselor also found me ways to cope. However, she eventually suggested I need more help than she could give me and referred me to a psychiatrist instead.
Turns out, I got less help from the psychiatrist, as I only had a 15-minute appointment every month and saw three to four different doctors over the course of a year. They kept changing my dose of medication and that was making me feel up and down.
In the end, I stopped listening to the psychiatrist as it wasn’t really making me any better. They said that I had depression and anxiety disorder but then doubted how severe I claimed them to be since I was still able to have a job and function. They didn’t realize that stacking shelves in a discount store and washing up at a restaurant were the only jobs I could do under my mental health state.
In the midst of the therapy, I was still having suicidal thoughts and occasionally self-harming. The medication was giving me rough side effects that made my depression worse. It didn’t seem to matter what I tried, nothing would help. I’d walk to work feeling helpless. I needed a change.
On my way to work every day, I would walk past the Student Travel Association. As I stopped to look at the ads for exotic destinations, I wished I could go to one and escape my current life. I thought to myself: What was stopping me from doing that? Why not try to start somewhere completely new? Maybe this could be what I needed to fight my mental illness.
So, one day when I was 24, I made up my mind—I applied for a working holiday visa and booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand.
That decision instantly breathed an air of hope into my mind, and I started to prepare for the trip. I had often felt like I was being drugged from my anti-depressants. I was constantly tired and would sleep a lot. I wasn’t sure whether it was the medication or the depression that was making me feel like that. I decided I wanted to see how I’d feel without them, so before I left for New Zealand, I slowly started weaning myself off them.
It wasn’t easy coming off the medication. I had bottled up emotions from taking the tablets for the past four years, so I was crying a lot when I first started getting off them. But I tried to focus on the future and made plans of what I would do in New Zealand.
When I first landed in New Zealand, I was still taking small doses of medication, knowing that when I ran out, that’d be it. I wasn’t registered with a doctor in the new country and I knew I would have to pay to see one, but I took the risk—make it or break it.
I continued to experience anxiety but I was less tired once I stopped taking the tablets. There were still times when I felt very lonely and sad, all alone on the other side of the world. However, I got through it. I did various jobs such as fruit picking, café work, and cleaning while embracing the chance to travel around New Zealand. I wasn’t always happy, but I was definitely happier than I had been back home.
The sky began turning bluer.
A year later, I moved to Australia. In a land where it was always sunny and warm, it was easier to be happy and forget all my problems. I worked on a farm and made friends with people from all over the world. I was also living in a hippie community and started practicing yoga and meditation every day. This really helped me calm down and feel better about myself. My confidence started to grow. I realized that keeping to myself had been making me feel lonely so I made more of an effort to connect with people.
For the next four years, I continued to work and travel in New Zealand, Australia, and Asia, until I returned to Scotland in 2014.
I am now working part time in a shop, running a business selling gifts on Amazon, and doing freelance writing on the side. I like the variety in my life and am feeling much happier. It is not always easy battling depression and anxiety—there have been setbacks, I admit. Last year, my job got really stressful and I could feel all the anxiety I tried casting out come back. I was diagnosed with depression again and given a different medication. But I didn’t stop fighting. Knowing that it is just dark clouds passing by when the sky is gray makes me feel lighter.
I have come to accept the presence of my depression and anxiety that loom in the gray skies overhead, but I will not stand and be overcome by them. From now on, I will always seek shelter in life and wait for the clearing that the dark clouds promise.
This is the story of Megan Maine
Megan grew up in Scotland and was bullied a lot at school as a child. As a result, she suffered from anxiety and depression which led her to self-harm and contemplate suicide. After years of searching for solutions and the right medication, Megan decided to go traveling in New Zealand, Australia and Asian countries, where she eventually found a better self. In the future, Megan hopes to do more traveling and become self-employed. She would also like to do some volunteer work in Europe, maybe helping refugees. Megan enjoys the variety in her life and is looking forward to a future with more blue skies than gray ones.
This story first touched our hearts on May 19, 2019.
| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Kristen Petronio |
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