Now, this is going to be a loooooong, emotional and personal post. Today I’m going to share with you my experiences in dealing with mental health issues in order to raise awareness and support those suffering in silence. You are not alone.
‘Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.’
Recognising mental illness, especially at a young age, is difficult. I didn’t recognise that I was suffering because it started when I was thirteen and I had no idea what was happening, I thought I was just going through puberty and that the way I was feeling was normal! Social media wasn’t big, there was no accessible platform for people to openly talk about mental health but thankfully now there is.
Luckily my amazing mother had an inkling and made an appointment for me to see my GP. My erratic behaviour had been going on for around two or three years before I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and my GP referred me to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for counselling sessions which I attended weekly until I turned 18, it didn’t ‘fix’ me but it really helped me make sense of my situation and aided me in rationalising my thoughts and feelings.
Being diagnosed was terrifying and I can’t imagine having to deal with that as a young/adult, I had my parents with me every step of the way and had them to fall back on. However, if I was going through a diagnosis now at 22 living in a different city, I’d have to do it alone.
Doing anything without encouragement is a task for me, I hold such a high regard for anybody brave enough to reach out for help and support with their mental health. Saying ‘I have depression’ or ‘I have anxiety’ or ‘I’m bipolar’ out loud is a hard thing to do. It’s a particularly hard thing to do at school. To try and get your 20 different teachers to understand, your group of superficial friends that won’t get why you don’t want to hang out with them every night so they start to exclude you. Your entire life until you turn 16 is school. Six hours a day, five days a week in classes. Four hours of homework every night. Spending time with the same people over and over and over.
Going through education with mental health issues started out horribly, high schools don’t offer nearly enough support. Or at least they didn’t when I was there. I’d get punished for sick days and it broke my mum’s heart seeing me bawl my eyes out every morning about having to get up at 7:30am five days a week to go to school even though I hadn’t slept more than five hours the whole week. She had to force me to attend even when she didn’t want me to go, otherwise we’d both get in trouble with the school. Thankfully I managed to get really good GCSEs and I made the (bad) decision to stay on at my school for two years of sixth form. I lasted there about two months before realising how much I hated it and that I had to leave. I spent the next academic year wallowing in self pity, trashing my parents’ house in a blackout rage and not remembering doing it, sleeping during the day and staying awake until 9am just being ridiculously unproductive and wasting my life away.
University wasn’t something I considered until I became a photography student at Park Street, Hull College. That place nurtured me, educated me and pushed me to become passionate and driven. My tutors understood what I was going through and that was the most important factor in my college education, I felt like I was being listened to rather than feeling like a silly kid overreacting and being dramatic. I didn’t get punished for taking mental health days, I wasn’t reprimanded for putting my health before my work. Which nurtured me into getting fantastic grades which got me an unconditional offer for Sunderland University.
Moving away whether it be for university, a job or if you just fancy a change is so exciting, getting a fresh start in a new place. Accepting my uni place was a very last minute decision, I’d had enough of my current living situation, relationships with family, friends and my ex boyfriend and I just wanted to move. And the only sane way a 19 year old can run away and start again is by going to university! I was terrified to be living with five other people I’d never met and I was horrified about having to share a bathroom with them considering I suffer with IBS and I go to the bathroom A LOT and I was embarrassed as fuuuck about it back then. I don’t give a shit now, pardon the pun!
Luckily I was housed with a wonderful bunch of people including my now best friend! I had the best year of ‘fuck everything, let’s get drunk all the time, sleep all day, go to Tesco at 4am’ and I loved it.
The next year got harder. I’d fucked up my grades, my attendance was terrible, I started to really despise the criminology half of my studying and the once promising and beautiful house we’d moved into started to deteriorate. Friendships started to strain, I resented my friends from home for not visiting me, our landlord was majorly fucking us over and I was badly struggling with money.
I made the decision to leave the criminology part of my course to focus on single honours photography, stayed back a year to do the modules I’d missed and my grades improved dramatically, along with my mind set and general outlook on life. My sleeping pattern improved, my eating habits improved, I became less angry, less argumentative and everything slowly (still slowly now) is starting to get better.
Being in a relationship with mental health issues isn’t easy, especially when both of us suffer with anxiety and depression. To add even more pressure, we live 113 miles apart. Stephen (my other half) and myself have been in a long distance relationship since 2014 (the day before I moved, how daft, right?) whilst I’ve been studying at Sunderland University and he’s stayed in Hull. I’ve written a more thorough post about being in a LDR which you can read here.
He’s saved my life. And I don’t mean in a ‘I was suicidal until I met him’ way, I mean he’s made me want to live my life to the fullest potential, I realised my self worth with his help, I’m genuinely happy and I can honestly say I love myself.
I’m considering writing a series of posts about mental health and how it affects different aspects of my life, including being in toxic relationships, romantically and otherwise. So if that’s something you’d be interested in reading, give this blog or my twitter a follow to keep updated.
Unfortunately for me I am affected by ALL of the things listed in the image above! I’m adjusted to dealing with the majority however I still struggle immensely with insomnia and stomach upsets, I have IBS which isn’t triggered by any foods at all, it’s triggered purely by stress. And considering I have anxiety, it’s the worst.
There are forms of medication that can be prescribed to help you deal with the affects of anxiety however I have never and will never accept a prescription. I have an addictive personality and would find it hard to come off any medication. This does not mean I don’t condone taking medication, I completely understand when people choose to, it’s just not for me.
Spink Health recommend Kalms Lavender to temporarily relieve symptoms of anxiety, it’s a traditional herbal medicinal product that makes no promises to change your life, your mind or magically cure you. It’s aim is to gently alleviate stress and nervousness with once a day long standing use, you can’t just take one and expect it to work, bodies don’t work that way!
If you think you have anxiety, depression or any mental health issue, I urge you to contact a support group or your GP. I know it’s daunting but your bravery will pay off in the long run and you can begin to learn how to cope in a way that suits you.