Monday, 12 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week

This isn't entirely a book post.  This is a post about mental health.  It is Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and as someone who has tried to be as open and honest about my own mental health issues I feel my blog is a place I can share my own experiences.  Hopefully they can offer a glimmer of hope that things can and will get better.

So, here's my story.

Looking at photos from my childhood I often look awkward.  I was a shy, sensitive child and would much rather sit at home reading books than do anything else.  I did have friends, but I was shy and preferred the company of my fictional friends. One of my best friends growing up was my cousin Lola, she was like an additional sister to me.  It is only as I look back now, after counselling and therapy, that I think maybe part of my reluctance to make friends was because my Dad had died when I was young.  There weren't as many child bereavement charities back then in the mid 1980s and those there were weren't as widely known-remember this was pre internet!  Now there are lots of fabulous bereavement charities that work with children- Winston's Wish is the one I support. I didn't know anyone else who had lost a parent.  I think it is fair to say that some of my mental health issues stem from this- my neediness, my fear of losing people, my lack of confidence.  It has taken me a long time to get past the anger deep within me at growing up with just one parent.  There are so many things I wish my Dad could have seen- my graduation, my wedding day, meeting his all the minor things too.  He was a book fiend as well, I would love to be able to talk about them with him. 

School was hard for me.  I was a bit of a geek, plus I was different (one parent family, remember- and they weren't common then, in any guise).  I was also overweight.  I was bullied, verbally and emotionally, and my already low confidence became worse.   I also admitted to a few friends that I was attracted to girls as well as boys, and when they treated me like I was a freak my sense of self was utterly lost.  I didn't mention that I would identify as bi-sexual again until I was in my 30s.  When I was in Year 10 I moved schools.  It had reached the point where I wasn't eating properly (I'd eat raisins as snacks and half a tin of tinned spaghetti for tea) and I thought I was huge.  Looking at photos now I know I wasn't at all, but at the time I felt like a blimp and the comments people made only served to reinforce that.  I was happier at my new school, but still ate erratically.  With hindsight I can see that I had issues with food, probably related to my mental health and because I felt I couldn't be honest about who I was.

I left for University when I was 18 and had my first round of therapy.  I struggled terribly being away from my Mum and used to ring her in tears from the phone on the corridor in my halls of residence, begging to go home.  Somehow I made it through University, and I can tell you now that it wasn't down to the therapy, which was useless.  It was probably down to paracetamol, which I was pretty much addicted to for the three years (I'd take them every day, normally 3-4 times a day) and sleeping tablets which the doctor had prescribed.  I really should have been on antidepressants then too, but again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Then there were two events which hit me for six.  My Gran died, and I was mugged.  Both of these made me want to be reclusive, and the mugging in particular left me closest to the brink.  I had anxiety attacks, was scared of leaving the house and in particular waiting for buses, I was scared of being in crowds.  When I look back to that time I can still feel the sensation of every nerve ending in my body twitching, almost like pinpricks on my skin.  Urgh, just typing that has made me feel the sensation and it makes me feel sick.  Still I didn't seek help.

It was only after my son was born in 2007 that I finally sought medical help.  He was born neutropaenic, which meant he had less white blood cells than he needed, leaving him open to infection.  There were concerns as it could be linked to leukaemia.  He had blood test after blood test, ending in genetic testing and a bone marrow aspirate when he was eight months old.  I was given fluoxetine to take and life became more manageable.  Not perfect, but more manageable.

Since then I have been on and off antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs (I currently take 100mg a day of Sertraline).  I have had some amazing counselling.  I made a promise to myself that I would be more open and honest about my mental health, and that regardless of what others think I will always be true to myself.  'Learn to love yourself' has become my mantra.  Some days it is really hard to do that, but I try.  I am also fortunate to have a strong faith, without which I really wonder whether I would have survived.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is help out there.  Sometimes it is hard to admit you need it, but IT ISN'T A WEAKNESS.  If you had a broken arm, you would go to a doctor.  There are people there to give you advice, to counsel you, to medicate you (if that is what you want).  There are online forums, and if you can be brave enough to tell people what you are going through you'll realise there are lots of other people going through similar things. 

It is time to talk.  You can visit .  Never feel alone xx

These songs are two of the songs that helped me during my lowest points.


1 comment:

  1. Sorry to be coming to this post a couple of days late! Your honesty and upfront writing about your mental health issues is very encouraging, I'm sure, to others with similar problems. I think so many mental health problems are only made worse by the need to 'seem to be normal', to play a part in every day life. The more people who say 'yep, I have mental health issues and look, I'm a person just like you!', the less of a stigma this will have. The more we regard others mental states as less of a label and more of a facet of their personality, the more respect we will have for ourselves and others.

    Well, that's what I think anyway. Be good to yourself and be yourself. x