Student Journeys

Alone on the Mountain

There is a painting in my flat of a man standing on top of a mountain shouting help. It’s painted in acrylics with straight strokes and solid colours divided by thick black lines. If you asked me what it meant when I first painted it, I would have told you I just copied it from something I saw online. In truth, I painted it a day after I tried to kill myself for the second time. I painted a cry for help (how of me).

I had been suffering from mental health for three years at that point, and for two of those years, I refused to believe anything was wrong. I had been suffering from multiple traumas from witnessing horrific acts from humanity. I had no idea that ignoring to talk about what happened would result in me trying to kill myself on three separate occasions over four years. It pushed my relationship with my family to the limit and resulted in losing a girlfriend as I used her for an emotional crutch insisted on just reaching out and getting help.

A question I get asked a fair bit is why I didn’t reach out sooner if I knew something was wrong, and the answer to the question is I was scared. For years I had people I love to see me suffer and watch me neglect and refuse to get help, all because I was terrified to face up to what I witnessed. The longer I left it, the heavy the strain on my relationships became; I drank heavily to try and mask up the feelings and get rid of the nightmares, but this just made things worse as I would fight and argue with everyone. I feel with mental health is that you can be told you need help 1000 times, but it’s not till you admit it to yourself that you need help that things start to change. I realized this when I woke up at my sister’s house, who lives 2 hours away from my parents, with no memory of the previous night. I had fought with my mum, dad, and brother, and I ran off wandering the streets in my bare feet till the police found me. My parents refused to have me in the house, so my sister and brother-in-law picked me up. I woke up the next day extremely hungover, and glass in my feet. I had a phone call from girlfriend, telling me she could no longer emotionally cope with me. My life felt like crashing down around me. However, I decided to get help instead of just ending it as I had done three times before.

Who knew talking to someone would help, and it did. Allot. It put everything into context and what I was feeling and why I acted, and I learnt how to recognize negative emotions and overcome them. I also knew that it was ok not to be ok, and not to be ashamed of my feelings and to neglect them and think that I’m a lesser person for not coping. So, I finally started healing and made recalculations with my family and my then-girlfriend. It was hard, and things felt like they got worse before getting better, but they did, and I now know myself and my emotions. So, if you asked me what that painting meant now, I would tell you straight what it meant because there’s nothing wrong with not being able to cope at any level.

Euan Southwell, Year 1, BA (Hons) International Relations and Development.

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