A survivor’s story

My story starts from the very beginning, from the day I was born. I was born into quite an unusual family that included my 18-year-old mother and unusual father. My mother was from a small town and a very religious family. When my mother’s pregnancy became known, she was shut out from her community, and her own family turned its back on her. My mother moved from her small town to a big city to live with a man that she hadn’t known even for a year. One year after I was born, our family grew with my little brother. My mum and dad got married, my mother didn’t know then that she had gotten married to a psychopath.

Our life was very unstable and confusing. All the time, there were things happening around me that I didn’t understand and wasn’t allowed to ask about. Due to our situation, I was often left without the help and affection that I would have needed. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what was happening at home, I just had to smile and say that everything was fine.

When I sought comfort from my dad, he’d just look at me coldly and say, “Stop crying, it’s a sign of weakness.” My mum didn’t know how to react when I needed help and instead showed her worry by getting angry.

I was afraid of my mum’s anger, so I didn’t tell her if something troubled me. In my family, no one asked for help from anyone. We kept it all inside. We never talked about anything, but instead buried everything deep and left it there.

When I started elementary school, I was bullied.

At first, I didn’t talk about it to anyone, I wasn’t allowed to. I held my head high and built a protective wall around myself. I tried to show my bullies that their acts didn’t affect me at all. In reality, I cried at home almost every night and thought that I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. At the same time, my mind said to me that crying was a weakness, and I should just take it on the chin like a soldier.

For several years, I managed to keep it all inside, but at some point, the wall I had built started to crack, and it all came out.

I yelled and screamed at home, saying how I was hurting. The next day, my mum contacted the school and arranged a collective meeting. In the meeting, I sat opposite my bullies and looked at them as they sneered at me. My bullies denied everything, and things didn’t progress from there. The bullying got even worse because I had told my mum. My mother didn’t know how to handle the situation, so she did the only thing that she could: said nothing. After these events, I decided that I would never tell anyone how I felt, because instead of helping, it would only make matters worse.

The years of bullying and my childhood trauma created a tall, hard wall around me. As a teenager, I never told anyone how I felt or demanded anything, nor did I feel that I needed help with anything.

I thought that my childhood had made me so tough that nothing could hurt me anymore. Instead, I listened to everyone else.

I listened to other people’s worries for hours and tried to help everyone. By helping others, I was able to escape my own worries. I thought that if I pleased everyone, no one would hurt me.

As I tried to please everyone, I was often abused.

I was hurt time after time, which I didn’t even understand then. I didn’t see anything wrong with how others treated me; instead, it was always my fault. I was different from many others, and ever since I was a child, I had often heard it: you’re weird, why are you like that, don’t be like that, don’t do that, you’re doing it wrong, you can’t do anything, you’re stupid, you’re ugly. After all these years, I thought that I was always to blame and that I needed to change.

Due to the culture of silence in all those years and my low self-confidence, I didn’t know how to ask for help, nor did I want to ask for it. I felt that I didn’t deserve help, because it was my fault.

At times I hurt really badly and thought that I should get help. When panic attacks lasted for several days, I browsed therapists’ websites and considered getting help. As soon as I felt even slightly better, I thought that I was overreacting and didn’t need any help. Seeking help caused feelings of shame – I had always managed to cope without help. I considered myself weak and thought that everyone would think I was broken.

I felt that I was a lost cause, and nobody would be able to fix me. As an adult, I started to think differently.

When I was an adult, I met a person unlike anyone I had known. A person who cared about me, worried about me and liked me the way I was. With this person, I felt secure and accepted for the first time. With this person, I was allowed to be broken and openly speak about my feelings. This gave me the courage to say out loud that I needed help and to seek help for the very first time, something which I have never regretted. I understood that I wasn’t too broken and it’s never too late.

I understood that no one could fix me from the outside, but with the right help, I would be able to fix my own cracks. I understood that I deserve to be helped and have the right to be helped.

Every one of us is helpworthy, no matter what situation we are in. Seeking help is not easy, and there may be many reasons for this. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it takes courage and strength. Nothing in this world is so big or so small that you can’t seek help for processing it. Everyone has the right to care about themselves, and one act of caring is taking care of oneself. There is nothing shameful in seeking help. Instead, it means that you care about yourself. It’s never too late to seek help – each of us just has our own process for reaching the place where we’re ready to receive help. Let’s show mercy to ourselves, because everyone has the right to be happy.

Seeking help can be really difficult for many of us, and the reason isn’t always that help wasn’t available. The barrier for seeking help might be the deep-rooted feeling that you don’t deserve help or the thought that you need to cope on your own. Talking about difficult matters and experiences may feel overwhelmingly hard, in which case it could feel easier to just let it go.

It took me 25 years to be able to say that I needed help. It took a year more before I was able to say that I deserve to receive help.

I wanted to tell you my story about how I realized I needed help – and most importantly – understood I was worth it. I hope that my story may give someone the courage to take the first step towards loving and accepting themselves. To go back in time to where it all began.

The background of the story

As a part of the #HelpWorthy campaign we collected students’ stories about seeking help and the challenges associated with it. We published the stories during the campaign period between 12 and 23 April 2021 to show how multifaceted experiences students have had when seeking help. This story was published as the last of a total of seven stories. You will find the other stories on the campaign page.

With the #HelpWorthy campaign around Students’ Mental Health Day, we wanted to encourage young people and students to share their own experiences. Above all, we want to encourage you to seek help whenever you feel the need.

When you need support, there is help available. The most important thing is not to be left alone with your worries. You will find various bodies, which offer help to students and young people in various challenges in life, by category on our website.

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