I recently uploaded a video about my mental health story on to YouTube. It was a spur of the moment recording, knowing that if I had too much time to think about it, I would never have made the video at all. Never could I have realised the impact it created for others.
My journey with mental illness is pretty typical in many ways, but of course it feels unique to me. Long term worry and anxiety from childhood into my teens. My first bout of depressive symptoms becoming prominent in my late teens. A breakdown after my marriage, in which I suffered violence, broke down. Divorce followed soon after.
My biggest breakdown (severe depression and anxiety, with panic attacks) happened out of the blue, or at least it seemed that way to me. A bad bout of flu, triggered laryngitis, which in turn triggered post viral syndrome (which is similar to ME but short-lived) and in turn this triggered severe crippling depression and anxiety. My bedroom became my save haven and my prison. My perfectionism continued to jab at me. I ached from head to toe and felt exhaustion like I’ve never experienced before or since. Even going to the toilet took every ounce of energy I had. And going to the garden, the outside world, could trigger a panic attack. Medication followed and I suffered anaphylaxis, resulting in me refusing medication and struggling for 18 months with nothing. I worked slowly at trying to understand my illness, baby steps and a lot of courage all the way. I eventually managed to attend courses run by Mind (a mental health charity) and I learnt how to control my thoughts, fears and symptoms. This was coupled with counselling. I was blessed to have an Italian lady whose path had crossed with mine in the past and who took a no nonsense approach with me, something I needed. Quite simply she saved my life.
After counselling ended I was left with no support and I really struggled. Suicidal thoughts plagued me all day every day and my mood was deteriorating. I went to see the doctor and was very frank with him “refer me to the Mental Health Team or I won’t be here in a week’s time”. Thankfully he took me seriously and I got the referral. This led to time on the Wedgwood Unit (the mental health ward at my local hospital) as an outpatient; medication and a bereavement happened in that time, along with unpleasant side effects. It was a difficult time. Time, that in reflection, most definitely saved me.
Would I choose to have depression? No. Would I change what I’ve learnt? Absolutely not. I think I am a more understanding compassionate person now, than I was before. The only thing I wish was different, was my ability to go out with anxiety, but it’s a small price to pay in comparison to full-blown depression.
Since uploading my story to YouTube I have been astonished and humbled by everyone’s response. Everybody had either been through it themselves or knew someone who had. Some even recognised symptoms they were having and are now seeking help. I never really thought about how much my story could help others. I had always been ashamed of my illness, but now I see it as a badge of honour. I survived! Not only survived but I’ve grown. I’ve seen many people who did not survive the battle and that will always break my heart. In short, I’m lucky! I am the 1 in 4 who suffers from a mental illness and I can function; I can live and enjoy the things that life has to offer!
So if you are a sufferer, please know this; you are not alone. There is an army of us throughout the world who share our stories and fight the daily battle you are also fighting. Don’t give up! Even when it feels like you can’t go on one second more, trust me, things can get better; seek help, don’t give up, “reach out”; I promise it will be worth it!