Sticks and Stones

Question: What words come to mind when you think of someone suffering with mental health problems?

“Nutter, crazy, insane, psycho, fruit loop, suicidal, dramatic, touched, unhinged, lazy, weird, odd, sad, aggressive, weak…”

I will never forget that.

Picture me sat in this class, having already battled with anxiety and depression for 7 years and still developing my self confidence.

I studied Media at school in sixth form and one of our projects was to produce material for our local Mind service. We aimed to reduce stigma for mental health problems and raise awareness within the school and local community.

We were 16/17 years old at the time and were yet to learn. We could not have been more wrong.

Because of this, I know just how easy it is to reel off these terms and contribute to the stigma.

Whilst I know that these words were not used with intention to offend, and they do not necessarily offend me, we need to change this attitude.

As previously spoken about in my last post, one of the biggest reasons that people do not speak out about their mental illness is that they are afraid of being given one of those labels. They are worried that if they tell someone, they might be deemed ‘crazy’.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.

Just because I suffer from depression, does that mean I’m ‘crazy’? Does that mean I am a ‘psycho’? no.

Just because I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks, does that make me a ‘nut job’? Does that make me ‘weak’? no.

Just because I have an obsession with funky socks and sausage dogs, does that make me a ‘Fruit loop’? okay, well maybe a little…

But, I am a person. We are people. We are the same.

I actually think that having suffered with anxiety and depression has helped to shape me as a person. It has made me more mindful of other people and their situations. It has been the reason I have met some of my best friends and It’s the reason I’m so passionate about mental health and the reason I am here now.

Writing this blog has bought together so many people already. I have received heaps of messages from people and I have heard some truly inspirational stories.

What I don’t think people realise about mental health, is that it affects everyone. It doesn’t target a certain type of person. It can affect any occupation, any gender, any race, any age, any background… Anyone.

It is not acceptable for these terms to be thrown about making people too afraid to talk about what they are going through.

People should not have to cower away in fear of being judged or treated differently.

Having a mental health condition is like fighting a war in your own mind, every moment of every day. It can’t be switched off. It’s a medical condition and needs the care and attention that every other medical condition gets unconditionally.

Why should I and my mental health be treated any differently?

I am not ashamed.

I will do what it takes to make that difference and to beat this stigma.

Stay with me here.

Anxiety + Depression + Me = Still me!

In just 2 days, my blogs have been read over 1,100  times.. and counting! The numbers go up every time I look.  I never expected this to even reach the hundreds, let alone the thousands!

To me, this just proves that people do want to know about mental health… people want to learn about it, read about it and talk about it and that’s great!!!

In less than 24 hours, I received messages from lots of people; people in appreciation that my story had been shared, people who have shared some of their stories with me, people who could relate to my experiences and people who wanted to know more.  That is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all the support and kind comments from all of you. It really has boosted my mood.

I think one of the biggest reasons that people avoid a conversation about mental health is that they don’t know what to say. People worry about offending you or saying the wrong thing.

In my experience… it is the acknowledgement that I am a person that really matters. There is nothing worse than seeing someone you know and for them to avoid conversation with you. It’s is more offensive to me for you to avoid me because I’ve been ill, nothing you could say would upset me as much as that. I have experienced this, and it made me feel isolated, weak and unwanted. It made me feel like that was how the whole world saw me and that I might actually be crazy.

No one should have to feel like that.

I don’t believe that it’s deliberate attempt from anyone to upset someone. I’d like to think that my friends, family and people who know me wouldn’t do something like that to be rude or nasty. I think it is a case of people being unsure on what to say.

You don’t need to worry. Yes, I have depression, Yes, I have anxiety, but I’m still me.

Just like anyone else, some days are better than others. Some days (just like everyone else) I won’t be up for a big conversation, but that’s okay. The fact that you smiled at me or the fact that you said hello and asked how I was, or asked how my day was… that means the world.  It makes such a big difference when you feel like the rest of the world is against you.

I’m not saying that everyone I see needs to smile and give me jazz hands or I’ll be an offended quivering wreck – not at all. What I am trying to say is that avoiding that conversation with someone because you are aware of their diagnosis, their label of ill mental health, is far more detrimental to them than you know.

Having a mental illness does not mean that you are incapable of everyday conversation or that you don’t want to talk to anyone. It doesn’t mean that anyone we talk to will have to sit and listen to the whole 9 yards and be expected to console us. There are professionals for that, so you’re off the hook!

Mental illness is invisible. If I hadn’t have mentioned it, I very much doubt people would know about my diagnosis. This further proves my point… I AM STILL ME 😀

Talk to me about funky socks. Talk to me about the weather. Talk to me about how bad the coffee is. Talk to me about mental health!

Stay with me here.

#littlevictories

Would you believe me if I told you that just this morning, I was struggling to get out of bed? That just this morning my life had no meaning and there was no point? Knowing that I needed to get up and have a shower because I needed to pop down to the Post Office filled me with dread and panic?

Welcome to mine and many others’ world.

It isn’t always like this; Some days, I’ll get up and it’ll just be another day on planet earth. I’ll get up, put on my funky socks, go to work, spend my day smiling and laughing, come home and carry on as little old me. I can go months feeling ‘normal’, and these times are great!

Other days, however, I wake up, my brain is overanalysing everything. Irrational thoughts will race through my head. Take this morning for example..‘If I get up and I get in the shower, someone could break into the house and I wouldn’t hear’ orrrrrrrrrr ‘The postman just came, what has he delivered today? unexpected bills?! oh no, I’ll have to pay them, and then I won’t be able to buy food or pay rent…?!’ orrrrrrrr ‘I’m going to go out with wet hair today, if I put the hair dryer on, it’s too loud and there might be someone in the house that I won’t hear’. And that was just an hour of my morning!

Just from that, you can imagine how exhausting it is to be so on edge for so long. That’s before we have even looked at the physical symptoms.

Your body becomes a dead weight, like all the life and personality just leaks out of you. Everything you stand for and all that you’ve worked towards feels like it’s all for nothing. Your stomach cramps and you start to wonder if you have actually swallowed a golf ball and it’s gotten stuck in your throat. You shake and shiver uncontrollably, but you’re sweating, flushed and feel blood rushing to your face. You can feel the adrenaline consume you and all you want to do is get out of where you are. The only way I can even come close to explaining the physical sensation is by asking you this… have you ever walked down the stairs and missed the last step? Leaving you to fall to your doom? Right, imagine that exact feeling for 5-15 minutes. Panic squeezes your heart and chest so you can’t breathe and leaves you feeling like you’re falling to your doom, even though you could be safely sat on the sofa minding your own business.

For all of this to happen before you have even eaten breakfast is exhausting. You’re ready to go back to bed! This goes in circles and circles.

Depression and anxiety often come hand in hand. Like an evil Mental health Villain and a sidekick. They seem to feed off of each other, and I can see how. Feeling like you’re on the edge of dying several times a day is bound to make you hate your brain and start to question why it keeps happening to you and whether or not it will ever stop.

With this duo, it can feel like you’re going in circles; You panic, you get depressed because you keep panicking THEN you panic more because you’re depressed THEN you’re more depressed because you’re still panicking THEN you are more depressed..

Starting to get the picture?

Having gone through all of this, getting up and having my shower today AND getting to the Post Office and back, that was a pretty big win for me. These are what I like to call little victories.

Thankfully it is not always like that, but, it is damn hard to get out of that spiral once you’re in it. For that, I’d love to congratulate and really shout out to all of those people who have done it and continue to kick butt every day. You are so strong. you are never alone, let’s do this together.

It is not easy, but it can be done.

I hope that if you have not suffered from anxiety or depression, I have given you some insight at least as to what it feels like.

As always, if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to help.

There is so much more to talk about and to learn.

Stay with me here.

 

(image credit to The Funky Fork – http://thefunkyfork.com/anxiety-girl/)

 

The ‘This is me’ bit…

I’m 25 and I’m from Kent. I love musicals, sausage dogs and hedgehogs, I always wear funky socks and I am a self confessed Pinterest addict.

More to the point of me starting this blog, I am an anxiety, depression and panic sufferer. I have been for as long as I can remember.

Through my experiences, I’ve learnt just how important it is to talk about mental health and take the time out to look after ourselves. There’s still a big stigma around mental health, and I can understand why – it’s misunderstood. The only way that we are going to beat it is through education. That’s why I’ve started this blog, I aim to educate and share my story to really change the attitude towards ill mental health.

It’s not easy to talk about these things, but my goodness can you reap in the rewards afterwards.

Over the years I have lost lots of people in my life, but I have also gained lots of friends who really mean the world to me. Rather unexpectedly, some of my closest friends were met through starting a simple conversation about our experiences with mental health.

1 in 4 adults will suffer from a mental health condition of some sort during their life time. 

Whether you are one of these people or not, I really do urge you to stay with me and read my story. I want to educate, I want to relate and I want to learn.

I hope to post regularly with different parts of my experience and focus on anything that may pop up from you guys along the way.

Stay with me here.