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Hafsa has always been a friendly, outgoing, social kid. With a family she loves at home and good grades at school, no one would have ever suspected Hafsa was anything other than the bubbly over-achiever she appeared to be. But that wasn’t the case. “It was like wearing a mask,” says Hafsa. “I would wake up with dread, I was emotionally exhausted and over years it slowly got worse and worse. I couldn’t understand why I had such a difficult time coping. I was suffering and I’d mentally beat myself up for it, which just compounded things.” As she explains it, after a while, every morning felt like she was waking up into a nightmare. Taking her own life became an option she always kept in her back pocket. And one dark day, when she could no longer cope, and felt she had nowhere to turn, she overdosed on painkillers and went to sleep. She did wake up the next morning and spent the day vomiting, and became too weak to get out of bed. Her worried dad took her to the walk in clinic, still not knowing what his daughter had done – thinking it was food poisoning or flu. The doctor at the walk in clinic referred her to Emergency at the ACH. Reluctantly, Hafsa allowed her parents to take her to the ACH. When Hafsa had to explain what she’d done to the triage nurse, she broke down. The nurse showed incredible compassion by coming around the desk, hugging Hafsa and telling her that they were going to get her through this. The hardest part for Hafsa was seeing the look on her parents’ faces when the learned what was wrong and what she’d done. The painkillers had put her into liver failure. In fact, it was touch and go whether she’d make it through the night, and at the very least, she’d need a liver transplant.
Miraculously, Hafsa did survive. And though over the next week she physically got stronger, she had hit rock bottom mentally. She wasn’t prepared to face what she’d done – not thinking she’d ever have to answer to anyone for making an attempt on her own life. Hafsa was admitted to the Mental Health Unit at the ACH where she had all of her belongings taken away for her own safety – and stayed for the next two months. She underwent extensive therapy and counseling, and while she was closed off to help at the beginning, she soon realized that there were many others who also needed this kind of help. She began to understand how many people wanted to help her and that she wasn’t alone. Hafsa says that although depression is something she’ll deal with for the rest of her life, what she learned at ACH will get her through. She now has coping skills, and most of all, hope for her future. She wanted to share her experience because she wants to educate the community on people with a mental illness. Mental illness doesn’t mean you’re weak. It actually means you’re strong, resilient and resourceful. She also wants those suffering who feel they have nowhere to turn, to know that people do care and help is available.