So it’s come round again pretty swiftly but we’re slap bang in the middle of MHAW.
The delightful Becca has tagged me to talk about my mental health. You should go check out her post here. First things first, thank you to Becca for sharing her story, answering these questions and helping to make talking about your mental health normal. Now, I’m sure regular readers will know a fair bit about my journey but here goes! (Warning, this is going to be a long one.)
- What mental illness do you have?
I have depression and anxiety.
- When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18 and still in college. The anxiety was when I was around 22.
- Who knows about it?
Almost everyone I know. I try to be as open and honest about it as possible though that doesn’t always happen! The first person who knew was my ex who to this day I’m grateful to for supporting me and getting me the help I needed. We don’t speak anymore but I’ll always be thankful for helping me to get better! The first friend who I told about it was one of my closest friends and my sister from another mister. That was the hardest thing for me, just coming to terms with it all. I was so scared that it would alienate me from other people because I wasn’t normal.
- Do you receive treatment for it?
I’m currently on a pretty decent dosage of Fluoxetine (I think it’s called Prozac in the states). I’ve been on more different tablets than I can count and have gone to counselling multiple times but believe it or not, the idea of talking about it to help me recover is still quite scary.
- Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything?
My anxiety and depression stop me from doing a lot of different things. Though I’m outwardly a very chatty person, I despise meeting new people fearing that they may hate me. It regularly stops me from going out and socialising with friends. So often, I decide to stay at home rather than see people I really want to as I’m so scared of talking to people that I don’t know. My mental illnesses also stop me from doing some really basic things too. It often leaves my body completely exhausted and I sometimes struggle to get out of bed, speak, eat, drink or even breathe sometimes. I’ve also (not for a while, thankfully) once left a restaurant because I couldn’t decide what to eat.
- Is there anything in particular that has helped you?
Music, art, comic books, videogames and volunteering. Oh and food. I love food. Music is my favourite way to unwind and calm myself down. I love to sing and play. There’s something very therapeutic about creating something. Whether it’s a piece of music, a piece of art, a delicious dish. Or just saving the universe from monsters and aliens. Of course the other huge thing that helps me is having good people around me. Friends and family are not to be taken for granted. Whenever I need it, I seem to get a text or call from my best friends. Whenever I go home to see my family, we chat all night, we eat and watch Grand Designs. My work also helps me greatly. It’s a job I love and getting to work with and support other young people to help their communities and themselves gives me endless pleasure.
- Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness?
It feels like a prison of thoughts. Every single interaction I have, whether professional or social is an absolute ball ache. I go through all the possible scenarios that could possibly come out of this interaction. What if I say something that offends them? What if I say something embarrassing? It’s exhausting. It’s a constant feeling of ineptitude and inability to function normally. It’s comparing myself to everyone else in society and to societal norms and trying to fit those molds. It’s like an elephant standing on my chest and daggers poking my brain. It’s more often than not a complete numbness to everything in the world. Pleasure is an uncommon thing and it’s very rare that I feel truly happy to be alive but I want to get back to being happy again.
- What is a common misconception about your mental illness?
That it’s as easy as flipping a switch to turn it off. The number of times that I’ve been told to just get over it and stop being so miserable is impossible to count. It’s also the least helpful thing in the world. If I could do that I would do that in an instant. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who would want to suffer with depression and anxiety. I know so many people who I’ve worked with, volunteered with, spoken to online who are fighting the same fight as me and it’s probably the most common thing that is said to us.
- What do you find the most difficult to deal with?
The guilt. It’s unfounded, unfortunate and irrational. I would never feel guilty for breaking my leg and not being able to do something yet for some reason, not being able to bring myself to go out and see people because of my mental illnesses fills me with so much guilt. I feel guilty that I miss birthdays, gatherings, parties, dinners. I struggle to do any of that stuff unless I’m in control and I’ve planned every detail and know exactly who is and isn’t going to be there. I feel so guilty for letting people down and disappointing people but if it was the other way round, I wouldn’t ever feel like they were letting me down. They’re just looking after themselves.
- Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
First, thanks for reading this far! It’s always a struggle to talk about these things so openly but it’s important that I do. I would love for more people to do the same so that I can make sure that we’re not going to be stuck feeling bad about our illnesses. As always, just make sure that you ask your friends how they are. Offer to support each other, look after each other, be kind to one another and make sure that there’s always love and compassion at the forefront of your mind.
Also, just generally don’t be a dick.
As this is mental illness tag, I’m tagging everyone who’s reading this. Drop it in the comments below if you’re comfortable doing it or write a blog post of your own. Otherwise, please feel free to like, comment and follow me for more mental health posts. 🙂