This week, I had the chance to interview someone whose courage and strength I admire. This person has been suffering from depression, self-harm and is a multiple suicide attempt survivor. Yet, despite this illness, she has managed to take charge of her life, thrive and is now in her third year of medical school. Being born in Saudi and suffering from a mental illness, she shows that this illness isn’t only restricted to the west, it can happen to anyone regardless of religion or race. She prefers to stay anonymous and I respect her wishes so I’m not going to mention any names. But it was a pleasure interviewing her and I do hope this interview sheds some light on self harm and depression; and shows that you can survive and live your life despite the odds.
Tell me a bit about yourself
I am 22 turning 23 next March. I was born and raised in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Then I moved to Malaysia when I was seventeen for university. My brother was already there a year before me. I moved in with him and my cousin. I lived in Malaysia for three years; switched between electrical engineering and architecture throughout the three years. From there, I moved here to Sudan.
Wow, didn’t like the courses anymore?
Well, I couldn’t find myself in electronics engineering and I like to draw, so I thought I’d find myself in architecture and it wouldn’t be such a drastic change. But my dad had me change back (to engineering). I couldn’t get myself to go on with the courses so eventually, I got to transfer back to architecture.
Did your dad know you switched back to architecture?
Yeah my mum told him. At first he did mind, but there was nothing he could do really. Plus, it was my choice to make.
Yeah it is. Did you know a lot about mental health growing up?
My knowledge was of course limited and of course it still is, but I’ve always been greatly interested in that topic.
How old were you when you got diagnosed?
I was seventeen years and I was diagnosed with depression.
How did you find out?
Well, I’ve been depressed since my early teens but I never really knew what was wrong with me. And when I moved to Malaysia, it only got worse. I started self-harming and became extremely suicidal. I was very hesitant about seeing a doctor cause I was scared of my family’s reaction and how I was gonna be perceived. But a very close friend that I knew through twitter, who was (also) the only one who knew what was going on, managed to convince me to see a psychiatrist.
But how did you manage to hide the self-harm scars from people?
At first, I used to cut my legs only. When I started cutting my arms, I would do it in areas that weren’t noticeable. But after a bad incident, I had to start wearing long sleeves everywhere even at home which raised many questions from my brother and my cousin. But I always had a good answer ready.
What do you think is the relationship between depression and self harm? I mean, a lot of depressed people self harm, from your experience, why do you think it’s that?
Self harm is a way of coping with depression, or at least, it was for me. People that are depressed experience many emotions like emptiness, sadness, numbness and self hate. Expressing those emotions can be very difficult. And for some people, self mutilation is the only way they know how to do so. Read more