Sometimes saying “I am not okay” is the hardest thing to get out; slightly ironic really when everyone who knows me will tell you I never stop talking. But what is it about those four words…
Is it the fear of making someone else worry?
The fear of people interfering…
Worrying that people will look at me and think I am attention seeking…
The worry that they will not get it and assume I have nothing to be unhappy about…
The worry that they will be fed up of this after so long and they will just leave…. Is it easier to pretend you are okay so that others don’t give up on you and so you protect yourself and feel in control…?
Or that look of disappointment in their eyes…
In June 2016 I wanted to give up. I remember that evening as clearly as if it was yesterday. It was a warm summers evening and I walked from Tower Hill down to Waterloo to get home. I loved this walk and it wasn’t unusual for me. It was a walk I tried to do once a week and it gave me time to think, call my parents and avoid the busyness of London Bridge station. But this evening was different. I was tired, and felt trapped in these feelings of hopelessness.
I had been struggling for a few months now with my eating. Ever since my Grandma had gone. I couldn’t get the image of her there in the care home out of my head and I felt at such a loss. I was wrapped up in guilt over my last visit with her and I couldn’t shake these feelings. I was tired of painting on a mask each day showing the world I was fine and I was coping. Tired of portraying this perfect world on facebook and Instagram when in reality I was not okay.
'For some reason I had let anorexia befriend me again. This was the issue. I didn’t want her as a friend, I hated her'
In reality I was battling with not giving up on life altogether. I had spoken to the mental health trust a few weeks before but they hadn’t been overly helpful. I wasn’t thin enough to get 1-2-1 support and I didn’t know how to tell people I wasn’t okay. As I write this I still feel guilty that I struggled for so long to share how I felt. In reality it wasn’t fair and the stronger thing would have been to open up. The stronger thing would have been to share how I really felt. But for some reason I hadn’t been able to. For some reason I had let anorexia befriend me again. This was the issue. I didn’t want her as a friend, I hated her but at the same time she had begun to make me feel better again. As I battled with these discussions in my head daily I felt trapped and I wasn’t sure how I could go on.
As I sat there, that warm summer night, watching the commuters dashing on and off the train. I wondered what they were all thinking, And I wondered what they thought of me sitting there on the platform. Confused, and battling these voices in my head.
It is funny the things that you think about before you consider suicide. I remember wondering how I would be remembered. I wondered if people would care I had gone and I wondered what others would say or do.
And then it struck me. Ending my life wasn’t going to solve anything. Ending my life wasn’t the only option. There were so many others… I thought about my little sister, Mollie, she was doing her A - Levels back then. And I thought about my family, my boyfriend and my friends. Part of me thought it would be better for them if I gave up. They wouldn’t have to worry about me. They wouldn’t have to look on at me, an empty blank gaze staring back or a falsely happy face.
Beads of sweat began to drip down my back. I heard the train coming in to to the platform. This was my chance… my chance to end everything. As I imagined myself in front of the train I felt empty…
It took every strength that evening to pull myself together and get on the train to go home.
It is nearly a year since I nearly killed myself. And it has been a tough year at times but filled with so much excitement from completing my fastest ever half marathon (1 hr 31) to trekking through Jordan, enjoying hosting my first ever Christmas and publishing a book (Stand Tall Little Girl) which tells the story of my anorexia.
To those looking on they will read that and think my life sounds good and it is. I am very lucky.
But the truth is I still struggle at times. And I still struggle to find the words to say.
Opening up this year about my battle with mental illness has been hard. I have worried about the judgement and worried that people won’t really understand but starting conversations around mental health is essential if we are to educate the entire world that it is okay to talk about how you feel. It is okay to have a bad day and just because someone portrays this amazing, perfect life on social media, it does not mean it is reality.
Managing to find the strength to not kill myself and to beat anorexia does not make me any better than the next person but each of us have our own story to tell and here is mine.
Next time you feel like giving up, next time you want to miss a meal, over exercise, or sneak off in to a bathroom to make yourself sick please remember three things:
1. Talking is hard but it helps and it is 100% fine not to be fine every day. I sometimes think people don’t care, or that they will be upset if I tell them how I feel but every time I talk about it it helps. And I guarantee it will help you!
2. Giving up isn’t the only solution. Yes, it might seem like the easiest one but I guarantee it isn’t. My life last June felt like a battle I was losing. And yes there have been times since then when I have had suicidal thoughts when I have felt like not getting out of bed, but I have managed to keep going and every day you beat it the fight gets easier
3. Recovery is possible and ‘We cannot let mental ill health win’ not this time, not ever!
Hope Virgo, author of Stand Tall Little Girl, suffered with anorexia for over 4 years before being admitted to a Mental Health Hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year, fighting one of the hardest battles of her life. Since being discharged, she has fought to stay well. She now wants to use her experiences of mental health illness to champion the rights of others, inspire them to get well, and help break the stigma of mental illness.
Hope lives and works in London. In her spare time, she volunteers for refugee charities, and charities that support young and abandoned children. She is a dedicated runner, and has a keen interest in maintaining good mental health through healthy eating and exercise.