MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK | MY STORY

 It feels weirdly nice to be sitting down, opening my laptop to blog after declaring my blogging days were over. You see, I’m someone who makes quite rash decisions and giving up blogging was one of them. One thing about blogging you don’t realise until you start is that it’s all-consuming. You think about it at length, brainstorming new ideas, crafting posts, taking 1000 pictures while there is good light and engaging on social media. It’s got to be something you really LOVE or it’s never going to work, trust me. It was always going to be a hobby for me and because there was no career goal or reason for me to do it unless I felt like it, I started to slowly take a break and when I was on it, I felt SO. MUCH. BETTER. No social media, no fretting about honing a post and promoting it. It felt like breathing space. Recently though, I’ve been missing it. Purely for the outlet it gives me. Writing is something I find very therapeutic, and while I’m not some perfect A+ English student and sometimes struggle with my grammar, I let it slip over my head and just enjoy watching words flow out of my sometimes very cramped little mind.

 It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I’m sticking my hand in the air and finally admitting I have a mental health condition – anxiety and depression and even writing those words make me feel free. It feels like a giant secret I’ve been hoarding for some time now and I’m relieved to see how openly mental health has been discussed on social media this week. It’s inspired me to finally open up about it, help fight the stigma, share my ‘story’ to help raise awareness and just finally feel like that weight is off my shoulders.

I’ve been suffering from anxiety for quite a long period now – a large part of which I dismissed, ignored my symptoms and just charged ahead, pretending everything was ok. My face was painted with a smile, but inside, I felt like everything was falling apart. My mind would race and create different potential scenarios that deep down, I KNEW would never happen but I would stress out about them. My hands would sweat, my heart would race, my breathing became rapid, and my chest would tighten. My first anxiety attack, I was convinced I was dying. I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like everything was a giant blur and I couldn’t understand what was happening. They still to do this day, terrify me, although I know exactly what to do in the event of one because I know how quickly they materialise and consume me. Since learning more about anxiety attacks and the different ways they strike, I now know this wasn’t my first one.

Last year, the simple things in life we take for granted seemed like they were impossible. I was always on edge – my feelings completely heightened but still, I ploughed on despite feeling utterly miserable but did seek help from my GP. I was prescribed medication, and I remember thinking ‘GREAT THAT’LL HELP ME GET ON WITH THINGS’ when in fact, my body was probably screaming for me to slow down. But me being me, brushed it off until one weekend, everything came crashing down. My sleep was so poor; I was eating one meal a day because my medication was making me so nauseous and instead of adapting my usual ‘it’ll pass mentality’, I couldn’t bear it any longer.

I saw a doctor at my surgery first thing on Monday morning. She upped my medication, asked me if I went to a gym and when I replied yes, her answer was “well make that part of your prescription. Come back if you need anything else”. I left, got into my car and sobbed. By the time I got to my parents’ house, I was hysterical. They called the GP surgery alarmed and managed to get a doctor to speak to me, to calm me down, who requested I come back up to meet with him instead and I agreed. I called in sick to work, balling my eyes out struggling to explain what was going on. Later that day, I was signed off from work for what would end up being a three month period. Looking back, that day seemed like a giant blur, but it was my mind and body finally telling me that I couldn’t overlook them and as stressful as it was – I can’t explain how thankful I am that it happened.

 Over the course of the three months, I tried multiple medications and sleeping tablets. I went to counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, more commonly known as CBT. I had my bad days – days I could barely sleep or not even leave my bed. Days where even putting a foot passed my front door seemed impossible. Days I would sit in front of my TV and be six episodes into a TV series but not be able to tell you a thing that happened in it if you’d asked. Then I’d have my good days – I could go out and socialise, I could work on my blog, I could go walks, I could go to the gym until eventually, the good days outweighed the bad. Once I was at this place, I was able to return to work, resume my life back to normal and suddenly feel like I had control again.

Fast forward to now and this day marks three weeks since I took a series of anxiety attacks and started to feel extremely depressed. Since that day, my doctor has signed me off of work which trust me, is a tough pill to swallow when your an ambitious person who gets bored quickly. Being at work normally makes me thrive if I have things going on in my personal life – it offers something to keep me busy and distract my mind. But I got into the same negative mindset again, not making myself a priority and neglecting to say ‘I need to take my foot off the gas’ and instead revving the engine to go even faster. I am my own worst enemy, but this is a journey. I’m learning more and more about myself each day.

 I’m now on new medication, which so far seems to be working *TOUCH WOOD* and undergoing CBT but privately this time, as opposed to the NHS.  I just feel the NHS help was very generic and right now, I need something that is more frequent, tailored to my specific needs and to be honest, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. I leave a session feeling like I’ve achieved something. It reminds me that I’m being proactive and that I’m taking a step towards making my future a much brighter one. My therapist discovered I did a blog and what is this weeks homework? This post.

Life is very unpredictable but one thing I never expected was that I would ever experience any issues with mental health. I’ve always considered myself a reasonably confident, positive person but mental health does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. There are so many misconceptions out there – that anxiety only strikes more introverted people, that depression has to be triggered by events in your life etc. This is not the case.

 A staggering 1 in 4 people will experience mental health-related issues in their life, and it’s crucial we do start to talk about this more openly, so we can help other people recognise when things aren’t going well and to educate others on how to help their loved ones. It’s time to end the stigma and although this post has been INCREDIBLY daunting to write – I feel free. If one person can read this and feel like they can relate or have the courage to be able to speak about their experience more openly, then it’s made the fear of putting myself out there, completely and utterly worth every single second. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I want to use this experience to help other people. To raise awareness and end the stigma and actively do my best to turn this negative period in my life into a positive – to be another voice standing up and encouraging others to talk.

 If you’re suffering anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem, I’ve linked some great resources below that I hope you find helpful. Remember – the first step to recovery is taking the step to talk. Thank you for reading.

MIND | The Samaritans | Breathing Space

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