Mental Health Awareness Week: Practice What You Preach

Mental HealthThis week is mental health awareness week and instead of preaching my usual spiel of being honest about your own mental health and promoting speaking about it; I thought it’s about time I womaned up and shared my own story.

I have had treatment and continue to take medication for an anxiety and depression disorder and OCD behaviour. I always knew that the way my brain functioned was not healthy and felt a difference compared to my peers. Since my early teenage years I would find it difficult to relax my mind, understand the difference between rational and irrational thinking and i found it impossible to stray away for routines and coping mechanism. It’s only with growth and age that I understand why my mind works fairly differently but from the age thirteen to eighteen, I generally just thought I was broken.

Despite constant worries and fears, and with an enormous help from my ridiculously patient parents, I stumbled my way through school and college; missing out of a number of important rights of passage and experiences due to my terror of straying from my comfort zone. For years I would dodge the cinema (quite ridiculous for a future Film Journalist), avoid staying at friends house and refuse to travel abroad.

While I wasn’t unhappy, I was awfully constrained and spent the majority of my time lying to friends and family in order to avoid explaining my actions and avoidances.

My life and relationship with mental health completely changed however, when my friends and I decided to take a trip to Newquay to enjoy a week of sun before they received their A-Level results. Despite that screaming voice in my head that I wouldn’t cope, I feigned enthusiasm and agreed to go. Ignorance really is bliss and when those creeping anxious thoughts filled my brain I swatted them away and pretending everything was fine, and to my surprise; it actually was.

I left that morning with worrying glances to my parents but once out the door I was fine, the six hour train journey was a breeze and when we rocked up to our cute little beach house, it was all gravy. Until the next morning when I woke up in the early hours, with the desperate and feverish need to run. My friend slept beside me and without waking her, I crept to the bathroom and violently vomited. When my throat was raw, I crawled down the stairs and curled up by the front door, hysterically crying, frantically calling my poor mum, begging her to come and pick me up.

This morning ritual continued throughout the week, unknown to my sweet friends. My brain literally couldn’t handle the difference in my surroundings, the change in my routine and having no understanding of my condition at the time, I literally thought I was going insane. I barely slept, I refused to eat and couldn’t face leaving the house at night. Somehow, despite the dangerous and terrifying thoughts running through my fragile mind, I made it to the end of the week and can now look back at some fond memories of spending time at the beach with wonderful people.

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Life had changed though and when returning home, both my parents and I knew that something had to change. I went to the doctors and was given antidepressants and put on a waiting list for a therapy consultation. Something inside me had broken and I couldn’t understand why, I was completely overcome by the darkest of thoughts and when thinking about my future; I simply couldn’t imagine one. I had reached a point of completely misunderstanding my own mental health and couldn’t imagine my life without constant irrational fear and crumbling dread.

I decided to plan my own suicide. I wrote a letter to my family and I collected the medication I was given. After a few days of turmoil and barricading myself in my room, I am fiercely grateful that I found the strength to change my mind and stop. It is the best decision I have ever made. My entire life completely changed from that moment as I threw myself into understanding my own brain and the way it worked.

I’ve just turned twenty four and in the six years since there have been plenty of successes, downfalls and setbacks. I moved away from home, started university, moved back home, graduated and worked. I have had two lots of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which had without a doubt saved my life numerous times, teaching my how to cope and understand my anxiety and compulsions. I still continue to struggle with my anxiety and while I have achieved more than I thought possible, there is so much I need to work on.

There are so many charities that want to help and support those with mental health difficulties, specifically Mind who have supported me throughout my experience. The best way to end the stigma behind mental health is to normalise it and be open.

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