Tuesday, 10 October 2017
So today it is World Mental Health Day and I thought why don’t I share my story?! I can’t remember exact dates etc but I can remember what I’ve been through and how it felt. So let’s get into it shall we?!
For as long as I can remember; I’ve always had some kind of issues but I guess that comes with the territory of having a rare connective tissue disorder causing me to have complicated health issues. Although it was just a part of my life; being in and out of hospital so this wasn’t so much an issue for. My first memory of suffering with anxiety and stress was when it was the period between leaving my primary school and senior school. Everyone else in my class knew which school they were going to but I didn’t as it was being dealt with by the local education authority. I remember I started pulling my hair out and by the time we realised what I’d been doing was when I had a little bald patch. To be honest, if you look at Michael Jackson from when he had his burns accident, it looked like that. Thankfully we were able to style my hair to cover it. The school situation went on for quite a few months and I went to senior school part time until it all went to tribunal. Anyway they had made the decision without even letting me have my say, in my mind, I was all set for going to my chosen school so it was a complete shock when they came to their decision. So the next thing I struggled with was settling into a full timetable as I had missed lots of my subjects. All of my friends had made new friends and I had to start all over again and doing it alone. I just wish I expressed how I felt to the lady who was my school assistant but I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to.
So anyway, moving on from school and I’m away at residential college (read a previous post about this college). It was my last few weeks and I was prepping for leaving this college, and then starting my new college after the summer. I was in my bedroom procrastinating after a day of lessons and out of nowhere... my heart started beating really fast and I felt like I needed to escape but I knew I would only end up hurting myself by falling over so I sat myself on the floor. I stayed in the same position for about twenty minutes while I calm myself back down. I felt really silly and embarrassed but I did talk to my friend later on. She actually stayed with me in my room until about 5am as we sat talking, watching films etc. To this day, this girl is still one of my closest friends and I’m so thankful that I had her at the college. Thinking back; I’m not sure what exactly caused this panic attack but my only reasoning is that it was the upcoming changes and I felt anxious. On another occasion while I was in this house at college, I had been home for the weekend and I was feeling homesick, I felt comfortable to express myself with the staff there. They made sure I was okay and chatted to me for a bit of time. I just wish I had told them about my panic attack but to me, it felt different to suddenly getting upset about being homesick as I couldn’t explain why I had the attack.
Now half way through my first year at my local college, I had moved into the flat that my parents owned and here is where my panic attack started getting worse. We tried to make it work; me living in the flat by between my family and friends staying with me. I couldn’t get full time carers because I didn’t need the physical help 24/7 but even to this day, they should take your mental health into consideration. During this time, I had started seeing various counsellors. Then sadly me and my family came to the decision that I needed to move back in with my parents, I got used to this eventually. They started giving me Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well and this helped a little bit but not enough. I was still struggling badly and to be honest, my mental health issues still were happening. The CBT made it worse if I’m honest with you. So I made the decision to stop as it was getting too much for me to cope with. I was still at the college and I was doing great academically.
In my last year at this college, I had three and a half months off due to having surgery. This was a horrific time for me and I will write a blog post about it on its anniversary. I started back at college and I found it hard to settle back in. I was constantly worrying and crying. My pain was really bad and I wasn’t sleeping. The psychological factor of no longer being able to use my left hand made a big impact on me. It caused such a strain to my right shoulder and was eventually diagnosed with Osteoarthritis. My doctor diagnosed me with depression after doing all the important questions etc. She tried me on different medication but they didn’t work for me. They weren’t helping me and together with their guidance, I came off the meds. She then referred me to see a psychiatrist and after a short period of counselling, she started doing hypnotherapy with me. She couldn’t understand my issues or where they were coming from. Eventually it came to an end. The college then arranged for me to see the college counsellor and she was so lovely. It was just nice to talk to someone who listened and understood college life. We worked on my self esteem and just being there while I tried to deal with the aftermath of surgery. Once I left the college, it meant I couldn’t keep seeing her although when I bump into her, she always says hello.
Now my mental health issues have gotten worse as time has gone on due to my physical health deteriorating. I have done some research over the last few years about mental health in relation to a connective tissue disorder and I personally believe there must be some links. For example; you have connective tissue all over your body, from head to toe even your brain. When everything else in your body is affected in whatever way it is, surely the tissue in your brain is going to be affected also? Some people might think that this is just an excuse but how can it be when you have tried many different treatments and therapies all to no prevail.
Every day I live with anxiety, and depression in relation to pain, fatigue and lack of social interaction. I do my best to stay positive and me and my family/friends work round my issues. You wouldn’t think I have mental health issues by looking at me or being around me (unless you’re my immediate family who see my tears, my bad days and help me back up) as I’m always smiling and I try to focus on other things. It’s like wearing a mask but this is the same for when I’m in so much pain; I hide how much pain I’m in. Sometimes as a way of dealing with anxiety, I do find myself pulling my hair and my lashes out. It’s something you do without even realising you’re doing. It is definitely not a cop out for those who may be thinking this but when you’ve been through all these treatments and therapies, you do your best to make the most out of life and I’m not willing to let myself end up in hopsital, poorly. Recently I went to Amsterdam for a family holiday and the anxiety and distress it caused me, you couldn’t imagine it. Strange things were happening like my lip had suddenly swelled up, my tummy had the runs and my eating had not been great. Other things happened too. I know these are the effects of anxiety on the body and when you’re not particularly a well person to begin with, it’s not good or healthy to put yourself into these situations. Some things you can face the fear and not much physically happens which is brilliant but there are some that are not. It all depends on the person themselves. We all respond to things differently. I for one have been made to feel guilty, that I am selfish and that it is pathetic. The person who is being made to feel these is already feeling that way about themselves. It’s a constant battle within yourself; trying to rationalise and keep yourself calm without someone purposely trying to make you feel even worse. This definitely made me feel ten times worse than I was already feeling. It actually upsets me when people who have never experienced panic disorder or anxiety are so quick to judge and think they know all about it, when in fact, I feel like they cause more harm than good. Mental health is already so fragile, that people need to be kind, gentle, patient and understanding; not belittling someone.
I always try to be there for other people and have an open mind. No one should ever feel judged or judge another person. We should always be kind and understanding. If you are feeling alone, isolated or you are having panic attacks etc, please try and talk to someone. It can be someone you know in your family, a partner, a friend or a doctor. There are also charities that can talk with you through things and maybe give you guidance in what the next step is. Don’t feel ashamed because there is nothing to be ashamed about. Your mental health is just as important as your physical well being, if not more. Don’t forget it’s okay to have good days and bad days, I too. You are not alone.
There’s one in four people that are affected by mental health issues; according to the NHS. There has been an increase in anti-depressant medications being prescribed, the fourth highest number for any type of drugs. Mental health issues can happen to anybody, from you, your sister, your son, your favourite pop star to a royal prince.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope that you no longer feel alone. I hope to see you in my next post. 😘❤️xxx