Trigger Warning: Suicide
My relationship with depression is rocky. It comes and goes in waves, and the theory is that I’ve been depressed since I was a young child in primary school. The pressures of a high functioning society, raising children to believe they could do anything they wanted then telling them they’re not good enough, trying to live up to the standards of my parents and my own high expectations set me up for the long road ahead. Touching on this, I wanted to share a story from my past and how I found climbing has helped me with my mental health. In my first years of university I struggled a lot with depression, especially in my first year. I was still learning to cope with scarred lungs and impaired breathing after being ill and in and out of hospital for so long, I didn’t have a student loan, and lived in London, and I was broke. I worked a job that degraded me as a woman; being touched by strangers every night without my consent when I just wanted to pay my bills. I worked late nights in the club scene and studied during the day so was exhausted. Staying awake was more important than anything. If I was awake I could work. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t, so would find myself involuntarily falling asleep at my university desk whilst doing my architecture degree. I worked so hard I’d cry due to just being tired. During this time I ended up moving house, and had one of the worst break ups of my life. I chose to throw myself into my work. With my depression comes a handy switch that can disable emotions. I felt numb. This was good. I still craved the man I was held by for years, I wanted him to tell me it was ok but he was holding someone else and telling them it was ok. Then the worst thing happened. I failed my course; my rock wasn’t there to help me through it. My parents were going to be so disappointed. I didn’t fit into this high functioning society. I was a failure. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone, because no one would understand. I vaguely remember crying in my shower on my bathroom floor and not being able to get up. I remember the scalpel and the blood running into the drain. I don’t remember any pain, I still felt numb. All I felt was relief. I wondered if I could I feel more relief. I woke up on my shower floor. Luckily, I had turned the water off. That was good. The packets of tablets were slightly blocking the drain along with whatever food I had that had come out of me. I crawled out of the shower still in my work clothes, I never took them off when I got in, my legs in searing bloody pain and checked my phone. 17 hours I was out. 38 missed calls. I’m alive? After this obviously I felt rough. The worst thing I felt was guilt. I wanted to die and I didn’t, somehow I was still ok. The first thing I did was call my mum sobbing that I’d failed my course. Of course that was more important than my health. She told me how proud she was, that it was all going to be ok, and the greatest achievements can be made from failures. Keep going. Keep trying! I did just that.
One thing I put down to saving my life is climbing. I started climbing after this experience as a way to help my mental health. It completely removes thoughts, and makes you focus deeply on your body movements, isolating any negative intrusions from that ‘other voice’.
I’m still struggling, don’t get me wrong. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Some days feel like I’m wading through a pool of thick treacle with no way out, but it’s… Better. I’m not happy yet, but I’m surviving and I think that could be enough for now. Just enough so I can gather the strength to learn how to fully be happy.
Many people struggle with mental health and feel that they can’t talk about it or see a way out. This year, with the help from a friend, we started Chats & Climbing Mats. A group to find happiness through climbing. This is hosted at Rise and Hang climbing centres in London at the moment and we hope, through this, to be able to help others with it in the same way that climbing has helped change our lives for the better and in turn meet likeminded people. Although it is difficult, I have learned that it does get better.