Written By: Maddie Riddle

The waves that keep knocking me down 

My psychologist once told me my mental illness had made me more resilient. She said my mental illness was like a consistent wave and the harder it hit me, the more determined I seemed to keep walking into the water.

When she said it, a visibly scoffed and said, “I don’t like the beach very much and I’m terrified of waves.”

She laughed and changed the topic, but my head stayed in that moment.

I didn’t feel resilient. I felt like an absolute failure. When I eventually decided to get help for the first time, I was in my first year of university and I should have been having the time of my life. Instead, I was hiding behind a smile and good grades. I kept up appearances, but the cracks started to show. I was drinking too much. I was making terrible choices and pushing people away.

When I was at my worst, I felt anxious every single day. I struggled to get through the day without feeling an overwhelming and intense fear. I had at least two panic attacks a week that were so bad I couldn’t leave my tiny shoebox bedroom. I was suicidal. I was so depressed I would self-harm almost every night, ensuring I kept it hidden so no one would know what was going on.

Eventually, and with a lot of help, I got better. And eventually I realised she was right.

It took me a long time, but now I understand what she meant. I am resilient.

I won’t be naïve. I know that I didn’t struggle as much as some people did. I know I had a good support system and someone who pushed me to get help. I know that compared to some people, I got back to a ‘good’ headspace pretty quickly (good is questionable).

But that happened because I am resilient.

I learnt how to pick myself up even when I didn’t want to. Every single knock back, every single panic attack, every single time I sat in the shower and cried; I still picked myself up and got on with life. I worked hard to ‘get better’. I started to understand that every situation I perceived as a failure was really an opportunity to learn, and to grow.

I’ve developed coping strategies which help me overcome any feelings of anxiety or depression. I write. I walk. I lift weight and punch stuff. I remember that I am strong, and I can bounce back.

Day to day, I manage stress and challenge far better than I ever would have in the past. Like what my psychologist said, I am confident, a large part of that is because of my struggles with mental health. I feel like if I can get through that dark place in my life, I can get through pretty much anything.

I’ll be honest. I still get overwhelmed and anxious. My chest still feels tight sometimes and I can’t stop my hands from shaking, or the sweat from dripping down my back. I still have days where I don’t want to get out of bed, and I forget to look after myself but I know that these moments that are not forever.

I’ve learnt that I will always get back up, even when the waves knock me down.

And do you know what? I’m not so scared of waves anymore.


Thank You Maddie Riddle for sharing your story with us
Do you have a story of your Mental Health Journey you would like to share? If so, please email us at [email protected]
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