Phone call saves woman as 'irrational mindset' leads to self-harm

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·5-min read

A woman has revealed how a phone call she received in her darkest moment triggered her to seek help as her mental health deteriorated.

Perth woman Amber Merritt, 28, didn't notice the red flags of her depression until it suddenly hit her "like a freight train".

As an elite sportswoman playing wheelchair basketball at an international level [she was born with clubfoot], she had sacrificed a lot as a teenager to be at the top of her game.

Amber Merritt smiles at the camera in a selfie.
Amber Merritt has revealed how she took control as her mental health deteriorated. Source: Instagram

But in 2019, it all became too much and Ms Merritt crumbled underneath her commitments to full-time work, study and training.

"I put way too much pressure on myself to be the best," she told Yahoo News Australia as part of its What's Up? mental health series.

"I was trying to be superwoman ... I was trying really hard and felt I wasn't going anywhere and was quite stagnant for a period of time."

Woman's split decision during depression battle

One night in 2019 Ms Merritt was feeling the weight of her life so severely she began crying and couldn't stop.

"I realised how alone I felt and I tossed everything out the window to be this person I didn't want to be," she said.

"I felt so alone."

Ms Merritt said her "irrational mindset" took control and she started to harm herself.

"It wasn't to end my life ... it was because I felt so numb – my life was really numb – and I needed to feel something," she said.

As we enter 2021, after struggling through a devastating 2020, Yahoo News Australia has teamed up with Lifeline to tell the truth about mental health with real stories from the real people who have lived it.

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It was in that moment Ms Merritt received a phone call from her partner who she was able to confide in about what she had done. He immediately called her parents to get her some help and she was hospitalised.

"It wasn't the prettiest of phone calls but the fact he cared enough about me to reach out to my family and say, 'are you OK, are you OK?' – that was invaluable," she said.

"It was a pretty full-on time and when I was in that space it was pretty clear to everyone who was involved in that initial healing phase that I was putting too much pressure on myself.

"The reality is you can't be superman, superwoman or superhuman – you can only be the best by investing time in what you want to invest in.

"I needed to start filling my own cup before I started serving others."

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In the aftermath of her split decision, Ms Merritt said she was shocked and ashamed by the point she got to as she was an athlete who was in tune with her body.

"I was just really ashamed I hadn't checked in with my mind," she said.

The red flags something wasn't right were subtle, according to Ms Merritt, who said she was burning out and watching everything around her crumble.

"It was almost like a slow creep and then it just hit me like a freight train," she said.

"It came out of nowhere and smacked me.

"Hindsight is a beautiful thing – Why didn't I see the signs? – I wasn't producing my best work but when you're in that space you're so blinkered you don't realise it and then it hits you."

Amber's realisation amid depression battle

In the wake of her scary split decision, Ms Merritt decided to step away from her job in a first act to take the pressure off.

"I sat with mum in a cafe and went through my calendar and she said, 'You don't need to be stressing yourself over a full-time job'. As much as I loved it, it wasn't the direction I wanted to go in," she said.

Ms Merritt decided to put her focus into competing in the upcoming Paralympic Games and reassess her priorities.

"I don't need to make bank-loads of money. I just need to pay the bills and stay afloat and the rest will come to fruition."

Ms Merritt also came to the realisation she wasn't passionate about her studies and it was not something she wanted to pursue in the future.

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She bought a gratitude journal and wrote down five things she was thankful for every morning and reflected on the day before going to sleep at night.

"I did a lot of journal writing ... the only thing I could trust at that point was pen and paper and a good psychologist when I was in the mind frame of feeling a bit bleak writing it all down and reflecting on why I was feeling like this," she said.

To calm her overactive mind Ms Merritt also started practising yoga and meditation.

While she still works, studies and prepares for the Paralympic Games, Ms Merritt has realised the importance of balancing her time.

"I thrive when I'm busy but I don't survive when it's too much," she said.

"If I'm having a rough day I don't stress out, I put myself first. Being an adult really does suck sometimes and we need to take care of ourselves and be kind to ourselves."

Ms Merritt said mental health was nothing to be ashamed of and if people didn't feel comfortable opening up to somebody they trusted, they could contact Lifeline.

"The reality is they care and won't judge you and are just there to help," she said.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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