When you first told me it would be nice to have me on the project, I thought I had no original story to tell. Giving it a thought, I do have my own story with my past struggles. What I want to talk about is the needed quest to mental health. Of course this is a topic much talked about nowadays and some public figures stand up for to raise awareness. However I feel that many people are still dreaded by the idea of having an appointment with a shrink or just talking about their feelings to a close friend or member of their family.
For me it all started in two steps with two different phases of shrink appointments and depression. As a kid, I had talent at school. I learned very fast and skipped a year at a very young age. I was considered as a dork by my classmates, a dork whom you could make fun of. I had no resilience due to my younger age to defend myself. I got depressed at the age of 10 because of that. Of course it didn’t get much better during teenage years. But still I guess I am not the only thing who faced this kind of situation. One of the ways I got some respect from my classmates was after I kissed a girl at a party when I was 14.
A couple of years later, some guys were hitting on me. I was attracted by the idea of kissing boys too. When it went further than just a kiss I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I couldn’t bear the looks of others when I went to drink with a guy on a date. It was mostly in my head. When I came out to my friends months or years later depending on who, nobody said anything mean.
During the months that would decide whether my results would be good enough to be accepted in a renowned university in Paris, my mum stopped working for some months. She was in a burnout. At that time, that expression wasn’t used. She was clearly depressed and it affected me a lot.
Later at university, after a couple of months in Paris, I had a breakdown myself. I had my first and only girlfriend at the age of 17. I felt overwhelmed but not in a good way. I was trying to live on my own in a huge city I didn’t know. My classmates came mostly from a social status that I didn’t have. I couldn’t cope with the studies. I knew I was gay and my girlfriend knew I was attracted to boys too. I let her go in a traumatic way.
I fainted in class one morning due to continuous lack of sleep during the previous nights. I was brought to an hospital and, long story short, missed 3 months of classes, went back to my parents in the countryside, lost a grandmother, a grandfather and an uncle during this time span. My 18th birthday was the worst birthday I ever had. I cried all day and couldn’t sleep the night before.
I got help medically and since then my life got better luckily. When I went back to university, I was finally with people of the same age as me. I met a great girl who understood quickly I was gay. We didn’t let each other down during all these university years. I had my first boyfriends. I didn’t try to be the best in class. I did what I was supposed to do to get my degrees and the anxiety slowly faded until my mum tried to commit suicide.
It all came as a surprise. I was in a relationship for 2 years. We met in Paris and he left for Brussels but we stayed somehow together. When he was visiting me in Paris, I got a call from my sister telling me my mum tried to kill herself. I always knew she had issues. But this was an horrendous shock. At that time, I didn’t feel at ease telling people around me why I was clearly sad. She got treatment. But one year later when I was about to finish my master and decided to move to Brussels to be with my boyfriend, she did it again. I was upset. I still moved to Brussels.
In the early years in Brussels, I faced some challenges. One was the first job I had. The other was the break up with the boyfriend I moved here for. That 1st job was horrible. Colleagues were literally smoking IN the office. I was given instructions from 15 different employees. They were giving me tasks that they didn’t want to do and had no clue how to do anyway so I couldn’t be properly trained. It put me into a really terrible state. I was wise enough to quit after 5 months.
A year later I had to find a new place to live on my own as my boyfriend and I decided to break up. That marked a turn around in my life. At first I felt very lonely and lost most of the people I was confiding in. I had to make new friends again. My problem too at the time was that I didn’t enjoy the time I had alone. I felt a lot of anxiety. Luckily I got a permanent contract in the company I was hired at later. I could plan some holidays finally. I got extra money, learned what made me happy such as travelling, going regularly to concerts, playing tennis and so on. Through these activities I made those new friends.
Now it’s been 8 years that I live here. My life has changed a lot. I am 30. I don’t describe myself as an anxious person anymore. I learned what resilience is. I know what makes me happy. The cards are falling in the right place. I have a job and colleagues that I like. I have a circle of friends which make me feel it’s unthinkable to leave Brussels. I even became Belgian too. And I met a guy that I fell in love with and loves me back. Still I believe that I could seek help even when all is fine. I am not in full control and that’s perfectly normal. Insecurities make you happy in a certain way. I know my limits.
Mental health is something that we should all be concerned about. From the needed medical help to just talking to someone close. I see many people around me that feel helpless about a lot of things. It should not be like this. You should always have someone to talk too. You should always be able to reach out for help.