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Opening Up About Mental Illness

When visiting my family last September I suppose I did have a breakdown (I just Googled ‘breakdown’ to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating).

My emotions spilled out at the smallest trigger, making what was a fun family dinner into an emotional spectacle that nobody could walk out on (the table and chairs are so squished together that if you want to leave the table you have to ask a few people to get out of the way first). My brothers and my mum showed concern about this outburst and ushered me into the living room so I could calm down and talk to them.

I completely opened up to them about my depression over the last year, my suicidal thoughts and my inability to live the life that I used to live. That may sound like a brave and healing thing to do, and I suppose it was in some ways, but for the most part it felt awkward and isolating.

The next day my breakdown continued in the hairdressers – which by the way is my nightmare of a place to have a breakdown; the bright lights, strangers and mirrors all around me; not my favourite place on a good day as they bring out the BDD in me. Anyway, I was getting a fixer-upper bleach and tint job done to my hair. When the big reveal came my hair was a mixture of white and bright yellow – if that colour had a name I’d call it ‘fried egg’. It was worse than one of those DIY FAILS on Youtube that you may have seen because a lot of money was being exchanged for such a disaster.

I felt like I should shave off my hair and be done with it. I thought that anything good-looking about me had been bleached off and I may as well kill myself. Yes really, my terrible hair lead me to thoughts of suicide in an instant.

The hairdresser could see I was upset with the results (no shit) and tried to console me, but before that she tried defending herself by putting the blame on the bleaching process etc. I could barely get a word out from being on the verge of sobbing my heart out in the middle of a salon, so we quickly decided on putting another tint on my hair to fix it. I wasn’t feeling hopeful at all – I was completely exhausted with emotion and my depressive thoughts had taken over my mind completely. I just wanted to get out of there and be at home, back in Edinburgh.

As she tinted my hair I continued to hold back the tears. After what seemed like hours I was finally released from the salon, minus £120, still in need of some emotional release. When I got home my mum complimented my hair, saying she didn’t understand why I was so upset. An emotional outburst came pouring out, in anger rather than sadness, and afterword I quickly shut myself in my room.

I cried for a long time and then read for a long time (thank goodness for books as emotional distractions). I pretty much had my head in a book until it was time for me to leave for the airport later that evening. I was so thankful to get home, to be with that person who knew exactly how to look after me when I was feeling so low.

Sure, I was somewhat glad to open up to my family, to let them know how I had been struggling over the past year by letting them actually see those emotions spill out of me. However, for the most part, it only made me feel more isolated, as I knew from what they were saying in order to comfort me that they could not truly empathise.

Sometimes it is really tough to open up about your mental illness, especially when you think those around you will simply not understand what it is you are going through. That’s why services like the Samaritans, SANE and Breathing Space are so vital. They provide that listening ear and comforting voice on the other end of the phone. You can also find help with Better Help.

I know it can be hard picking up the phone to call in the first place – but trust me, it’s worth it if you just need somebody to listen.

Here are the phone numbers if you do:

  • Samaritans: 116 123 (open 24/7)
  • SANE: 0800 83 85 87 (open Mon-Thurs; 6pm – 2am, Fri-Mon; 6pm – 6am)
  • Breathing Space: 0300 304 7000 (open everyday from 4:30pm – 10.30pm)

This post contains one sponsored link.


  1. Emelie

    God bless you for letting yourself be honest with those you love. I’ve had breakdowns in front of my family over the smallest things and I know how embarrassing and haunting it can feel. I hope they responded appropriately, even if they have difficulty understanding. Keep persevering, friend!

  2. TheOriginalPhoenix

    I’m sorry you went through all that. 🙁 It sounds like a really rough experience. I don’t like salons myself either. I have a lot of hair on my arms and I don’t have perfect skin, and I always feel hounded when I go to them. Anyway, I’m glad you opened up to your family even though they can’t relate. I’ve been there. It’s easier when they know even if they don’t understand.

  3. Quinn

    Yeah that hairdresser shouldn’t have been paid, but I know if it were me I would have handed over the money and then gone home and cried.

    Yay for non-confrontational personalities!

    I’m sorry you’re feeling low. I send you a hug from across the pond, and wishes for you to feel better soon, and an always-available ear on Twitter.

  4. Laurali Star

    I really enjoyed reading this. I went through a similar situation, so I can relate. Not so much about the hairdresser incident, but the depression, and how I was afraid to tell my family how intense and bad it was. I totally sympathize with your struggle. It does somehow help to tell someone. I finally did too, but every day is still a struggle, but it helps to know I can be brave enough to talk about it again. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your words will surely encourage and help other people 🙂

    ~Laurali Star

  5. Gloria

    I wouldn’t have given that hairdresser one penny. They didn’t give you what you asked for and they messed up. They should have paid you.
    I have similar feelings at the hairdresser regarding the lights, mirrors, etc. It’s uncomfortable having to look at yourself in less than flattering lighting and I’ve always felt that way although it’s easier these days, since I’ve done some EFT tapping. But I suspect that this is a common issue that people don’t share. For example, I’ve never shared this before so there are probably millions out there who feel the same way. Hairdressers can also be unskilled in diplomacy and their opinion about your hair is freely given without having been requested. It’s a bit like finding a good doctor; find a good hairdresser and stick with them. Make sure it’s one who is going to make you leave feeling better about yourself, and not worse. I’ve met some of them and never go back. I take the same approach with hairdressers as I do with doctors. They have to respect my opinion and my knowledge about my body and be open to dialogue about why I’m there. That’s my golden rule.

    1. Lauren

      That’s a good way to go about it. I suppose when Eddy and I get settled again I’ll be able to find a new hairdresser and hopefully stick with them!

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