The first time you open up about your mental health is likely to be difficult. Choosing the right person to speak to can feel daunting, the person should be someone you feel comfortable with and trust, such as a friend, parent or partner. Try to choose a time when the conversation will not have to be cut short, and in a place where you feel comfortable.
Talking about mental health is hard. Partially because it has been seen as a taboo for a long time, and partially because it is simply hard to explain what is going on inside your head. But things are slowly changing. I have created an interview series about mental health to share with you all. Please remember how personal each journey is, and opening up about it is scary and leaves you feeling extremely vulnerable. Without further ado, I shall begin my first mental health interview!
You keep a lot to yourself because it’s difficult to find people who understand.
*I initially wrote this for my personal Facebook, it was to try to explain a little of what goes on in my head.
Some days are harder than others.
Sometimes I find it difficult to do things, I lose track of time: minutes, days, weeks, months. Some days I can’t even leave my bedroom on my own. Some days I feel normal, and on others I forget how to exist. I can feel fine one minute and an hour later I can barely function. I fight every day. Sometimes I fight myself, my thoughts, my mind. Sometimes I fight to get downstairs or out the house. Sometimes I fight to put a smile on my face and pretend it’s all ok, it’s fine, I’m normal. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not easy to explain. It’s anxiety. Not a ‘I’ve got a test tomorrow’ nervousness, not a ‘I’m starting a new job and I don’t know anyone’ scared, not a ‘I don’t like spiders’ fear. It’s is an anxiety disorder. It breaks me. I’m not in control of my own thoughts. I fear things I rationally know are safe. I push people away, and yet, I fear losing them. I feel overwhelmed around people, yet don’t like being alone. There is no major trauma in my life that has caused it, there doesn’t need to be. But sometimes, I think people would understand better if there was.
Some days I’m exhausted from the moment I wake up.
Some days I sleep for twenty hours and I’m still tired. Some days I have too much energy. Some nights I don’t sleep. Some nights I wake up crying and shaking, sweating and afraid. Most nights are interrupted by vivid nightmares. Some days I am exhausted by having to put on a normal façade, when everything inside is screaming. And some days I don’t have the energy to put on that face. Equally, some days I am normal, I feel normal, I feel like me.
Some days I can’t eat.
The nausea is constant. I can barely keep in water. Some days I feel sorry for my self, and on others I feel guilty about it. Sometimes, I know I go quiet; I fidget, fiddle or shake. Sometimes I have to sit in a certain place in a room, sometimes I have to do certain things in a certain way or order to help me show myself that I am still in control of me. These are all coping mechanisms, things I use to get me through. I know I look crazy, I know it seems weird, but it’s what I need at the moment. Sometimes I struggle to respond to people, not because I’m not listening, but because listening to someone else speaking is calming and listening to someone else allows me to ignore my own thoughts. Some days I can’t concentrate. My mind is racing, I can’t take things in, I can’t remember, I don’t always even know that I’m meant to be listening. And some days, it’s like my mind has grown infinitely. I can see every shade of colour, hear the tiniest sounds. Movements seem like slow-motion and yet too fast to comprehend. These days are the scariest, because everything is so overwhelming.
And then there are days like today, where something small happens.
And that small thing can knock me either way. Today, I received a tiny piece of post from Andrea [awesome bestie] and suddenly the clouds in my mind all lifted. I’m not fighting my own thoughts. I’m not fighting all the physical symptoms, the shaking, the nausea, the tears, the racing heart, the shortness of breath. I’m just able to be.
So, thank you.
To Samuel, my parents, and to all my lovely friends that have been there for me, waited patiently for me to actually be able to see you, to feel up to leaving the house. Thank you to those of you that know, even though I’ve not been able to talk to you in a long time, I’ve not forgotten you. Thank you to those of you that have treated me like normal, even when my mind isn’t. Thank you for still telling me your problems, issues and moans, because they help me to feel normal, and I do try to always reply, even if it sometimes takes a while. Thank you for putting up with my panic attacks and my moments of doubt, and for always saying something, even though I know you are worried you will say the wrong thing (there is no wrong thing, I promise!) Thank you for asking me about things if you are not sure or not understanding, I do my best to explain, it’s not easy, but I’d rather you asked than assumed, or were scared or confused, ultimately, I’d always rather you ask. Thank you for your thoughts and gestures: a text, a piece of post, an invite (even knowing I might not be able to make it), encouraging words, grounding words, normal words, a hug. They all mean so much to me, more than I can explain. They help me to get through the tough days. And they make the good days better.
At the moment, the good days are outnumbering the tough ones, and that means I’m winning. I’m winning the fight with my own mind.
But I’ve not won yet.
Celebrate what you want to see more of.
– Tom Peters
Every other blog seems to be doing a New Year emotional round-up/resolutions for the future post, I’m not sure how this will turn out, so although my intentions are to be less philosophical, and more practical, I may get swept away in the theoretical side of New Years changes!
So, five things have I learnt this year, and what will I be taking forward to 2014.
This disease comes with a package: shame. When any other part of your body gets sick, you get sympathy.
– Ruby Wax
Travelling with Anxiety. How my day differs to yours.
8.00: Your alarm goes off, you wake, you might shower, you grab some clothes from your backpack, you head to breakfast. You eat wherever looks good, and at the right price
8.00: My alarm goes off, I wake, I must shower, I put on the clothes that I pre-prepared the night before (as happens every day), I head for breakfast. I eat where there are people, but not too many, I sit by a wall, with my back to it, so I can see both the kitchen and the front door/windows. At the very least, I face towards the door to make sure who is coming in.
Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.
Today I will focus upon flying.
That stressful time that begins all far away travel.
I travel because I have to, because I was born to, because I love to. However, it is not without its difficulties. I suffer from both depression and anxiety. And it is the latter which affects me most.
For those of you that are unsure, I will try to explain. For those of you that suffer, I know it is different for everyone, so I will not pretend to be an expert. I know how my own feelings are, but even this is hard for myself to comprehend. So here goes.
One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.
– Linda Poindexter
I have a post to write on travelling with an anxiety disorder, but I want to do it justice, so it is going to take some time and editing.
I hope to have it up here by Monday night, but as I said, I want it to be right as this is important to me, and to the people that I need to write it for.