Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story.

Mental Health Awareness Week LogoHello, everyone! You may not be aware, but this week is mental health awareness week run by the Mental Health Foundation. As this is an area I’m really passionate about both personally and as a psychology student, to do my bit I’ve decided to run a blog feature where I and guest bloggers talk about mental health related topics paired with books and/or blogging to help raise awareness. 🙂

So, it seems like a fitting place to start by sharing my mental health journey with you. This is something that previously, I have decided to gloss over on this blog. Until now, I haven’t felt comfortable discussing it. I felt embarrassed by it, ashamed even and didn’t want anyone to know except a very small select few. Mental health has a sneaky way of doing that to you, backing you into a corner, isolating you from others and blocking out any light or positivity. Something about putting it into writing has always made it feel so… final. It’s not something you can take back. It’s a scary thing to put out there, but I’m finally ready and I’m happy with who I am now.

True story: I suffer with anxiety.

There. It’s out. I don’t think I’ve ever even written it down. However, those of you who have followed me for a long time may have suspected or picked up on small things over the years.

For as long as I can remember I have been an anxious person, unusually so, but I never really understood it. When I reached 18, it started to spiral out of control. Moving to university is scary for anyone, it’s a time of change and uncertainty. However, while others got over this quickly with their first few drunken fresher nights, my fear only got worse until I was in a state of pure terror. Every little thing would scare me, going to lectures, socialising in the communal kitchen, having to eat in the public dining hall, going to pay for something at a till, and most of all public transport. What was I scared of? A million what ifs, each more unrealistic than the last.

anxietyAmazing drawing attributed to boggletheowl.tumblr.com.

I tried to explain to my housemates and school friends why I was acting like such a petrified mouse, and apart from one or two exceptions nobody got it and just told me to quit university. I was lost. I felt like quitting would make me a complete failure and I would never be employed by anyone which meant I would never be able to get a car or a house or adult in any capacity, but staying was also unbearable. Everyone was worried about me; I was unhappy crying every day, I was losing weight, I looked tired and distressed. My body was in a constant state of hyperarousal where my vision was blurry, sounds would seem slow and disjointed, my body would shake uncontrollably and I’d feel dizzy and hyperventilate. It got the point where I didn’t even want to leave my room and I became mildly depressed. When you’re in that mindset, logic goes out the window and you can’t see how much of a cycle you’re in. It’s a difficult thing to explain. I think back to it now and realise that I really wasn’t myself, and I can’t believe how I ever got to that place. It feels like it all happened to someone else.

I can honestly say those two years transitioning to university were the worst of my life, and I’ve had a slow uphill battle to rebuild myself ever since. Most people say university are the best years of your life, for me, they were the worst.

While all my friends were telling me to quit and some of my family, I was stubborn and absolutely adamant that I wouldn’t, all the while desperately feeling like I couldn’t make it through another day. I felt trapped. Eventually, my mum convinced me to go the student counseling service. I didn’t think it would work but slowly the weeks started to slip by. I was still in a horrible mindset, but counseling gave me an outlet to address issues I had buried and helped point out irrational and unhelpful thought patterns that I wasn’t aware of.

Slowly, I started seeing through the fog, and with the help of a few new friendships, a lot of hard work, some bookish escapism and reading the lovely comments from people on this blog telling me how awesome I was (hehehe) things started to look up. I recently also started on some medication which I had always been adverse to trying, but actually turns out to really help.

1800317_10154439645713504_5642797256712876597_n11168387_782621878533500_792772841822769507_nedsFullSizeRender (14)eds

in a relationship                        employed

Some of the things my mind told me I would never achieve: Graduating. Feeling comfortable eating out. Learning to Drive. Being Employed. Having a relationship. Well, take that anxiety!

I’m not cured, of course. There’s no such thing as a cure for mental health problems yet. It’s a part of me, and it always will be. I have my bad days and my downright awful days where I crumple into a ball and nothing in the world seems like it will ever be good again. Simple things that others wouldn’t think twice about often terrify me, and the things that most people worry about are heightened. But through professional help, understanding family and friends, and personal experience, I’ve learnt to cope with it a lot better.

I wanted to share this because although it’s scary, the more we talk about it, the more people will understand mental health, and if I can help even one person or make them feel slightly more normal by speaking up, I want to do it. Mental health issues hit everyone, and don’t discriminate by gender, age or culture. Whatever you do, if you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence. There are SO many people out there ready to help you, if you’ll let them.

And on that note, let the posts on mental health and books begin!

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37 thoughts on “Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story.

  1. I suffer from anxiety as well, although not as severely as yours sounds. I just completed my first year of college and it was a big struggle, but reading your story is such an inspiration. I’m so glad that you’re feeling better and more sure of yourself, even if it’s not perfect. It’s something that we’ll all have to deal with for a long time, but at least we all have each other! 🙂

    • Ah, I am sorry to hear that. It can be sucky. Congratulations on completing your first year of college though, that’s an amazing achievement! You should be really proud. Lots of new people and experiences which is always tricky.

      Thank you, I’m so glad you feel that way. Time and experience is definitely a great help, and my advice to anyone would be to hang in there and take things one day at a time. 🙂

      Yes, absolutely. 🙂 Good luck with college episode 2!

  2. {big virtual hug}. I suffer from anxiety too – although not as bad as the panic attacks you experience – and it’s not something you can explain to people who have never had it. My wife gets panic attacks at random intervals, despite her meds.

    Anxiety is something I’ve lived with for all my life. All you can do is try and keep going, and lean on the people who are there to support you. The nice ones will always be there for you, as will all the people who follow your bookish and other ramblings on here. Even virtually, we care.

    • {Virtual bear hugs back} Thanks! 🙂

      I actually don’t experience panic attacks, thank goodness. However, I have felt the beginnings of ones and have managed to sort of slow my body down before it’s gotten out of hand. A lot of the symptoms I experience are very similar though, precursors as it were. It’s pretty sucky!

      Yes, Anxiety is a difficult thing to explain to others because it sounds so silly when you say out loud what is going through your head. Unless you’re in that mindset or have experienced it, it can be difficult to understand. I’m sorry to hear that both you and your wife suffer from anxiety, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but at least you have each other! 🙂

      I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. Oddly, mental health does make you realise who the people are that are worth having in your life. And my virtual book buddies have boosted my mood so often without even realising it. I love this little community. It’s the little things, right? 🙂

      P.S. I LOVE that post!

    • No problem! Thank you, for reading and listening, Amanda. 🙂

      It really does help so much when people around you have some understanding, it can make things so much easier. That’s why I think mental health awareness week is so important!

    • Thank you for listening, Jessica. I’m so sorry to hear that you experienced something similar. I guess university is a pretty common time in your life for these kinds of things to surface because there are so many new stressors!

      Thanks, back at you. 🙂

  3. No wonder I always felt this connection with you. We are not only book buddies but also share anxiety issues, and I am even more proud of you for everything you have accomplished than I was before. I, unfortunately, dropped out of uni after two years because I was crying over my books every night, but through the years since then I have learned how to deal with things better, and I am constantly trying to reduce the stress in my life so that anxiety won’t take over. That’s one of the reasons why I read so much – it helps me stay calm :).

    • No way, what a coincidence. 🙂 Awh, thank you so much book buddy!
      I do vaguely remember you saying about how you left uni because you found it stressful and weren’t enjoying it, and your experience does sound VERY similar to mine. Luckily, in the second year I formed a couple of really good friendships that just about helped me keep going, and also the positive results I was getting helped to push through.
      I’m glad to hear that with time you’ve learned to deal with situations better. It definitely works like that, doesn’t it? I’m already better at handling things than I was 3 years ago. Time makes all the difference. 🙂
      Yes, reading is a great de-stressor!

      How is your son doing with his Psychology degree by the way? Hope he’s enjoying it!

      • Thanks for asking :). Daniel successfully completed first year in his psychology program and really enjoyed it. I was even surprised to hear that he has already thought ahead to what he might want to do with his future degree. He thinks he would like to work with people suffering from PTSD. I think that would be fabulous!

      • That’s awesome news! And it’s so impressive that he’s thinking about possible careers already – I had no idea.
        PTSD would be a really interesting area. I’ve never had the opportunity to study it myself but I imagine as a job it would be complex but very rewarding. 🙂

  4. A bit aside from the point, but… that graduation picture looks awfully similar to mine. Did you go to …?

    • Hey there, thanks for reading and commenting!

      I personally don’t like to put information as detailed as the university I went to on my blog so I’ve removed the name and put a ‘…’. But in answer to your question, yes! 🙂 What a weird coincidence!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! (Do you follow Jen at Epbot? She blogs periodically about her anxiety. Not sure if that would help or be a trigger, but she and her community are really supportive and positive.)

    Reading this made me want to talk about my own experience (with depression). I don’t want to steal your idea though–do you have any openings for posts about it? Or are you comfortable with me writing about it on my blog and crediting you with the inspiration?

    • No problem, thank you for listening!
      No, I don’t, I haven’t heard of her. I’ll have to check her out, thanks for the recommendation. I get what you mean, sometimes reading about someone’s experiences can be a trigger if you’re feeling sensitive about certain issues, I’ve experienced that with a few novels before now.

      I’m so glad this post has inspired you to speak out about your own mental health, that makes me feel really happy. 🙂 Unfortunately, all my spots for the week are now taken up, but you can absolutely talk about it on your own blog! Crediting me would be an awesome bonus. 🙂 Send me the link when you’ve done it and I’ll check it out!

      I’m hoping that if this week gets a positive response, I might do it again next year. If I do, I’ll remember to get in touch with you and see if you’re up for guest posting. 🙂

  6. Good for you on dealing with it- it sounds like you are doing really well, even with the anxiety on your back, which is really great to see. Thank you for sharing it, and major kudos to you for making it through it all and still going.

    • Thanks, Maggie. 🙂 To say it has been a struggle would be an understatement, but the work has really paid off. In a way, despite everything, I feel lucky because I know there are people out there that suffer from this way worse than me who don’t have as much support behind them, and experiencing it has given me the passion for trying to help others, possibly as a career, in the future.

      Thanks, Maggie!

  7. Kudos to you for sharing your experiences! I reckon that reading stories like yours has really helped me to empathise with my friends who experience anxiety or other mental health problems, and also to not feel quite so alone in my own negative thoughts.
    Definitely agree that seeking professional help is the way to go, but it can be so hard to take that first step. Might also take a few tries to find the right counsellor or the right medication!
    And I suppose the other thing this shows is that you can be successful despite having anxiety, but you can also have anxiety despite being successful.

    • Thank you! It was something that I mulled over for a long time about whether to share or not, but it felt right.
      I’m so glad you feel that way, that makes me really happy because that’s exactly what mental health awareness week is all about. 🙂

      Yes, I definitely think things could have spiralled to a place that would have been much harder to come back from if I hadn’t spoken up, but it is SUCH a difficult thing to do. And your absolutely right, not all counsellors are right for everyone and there are many different styles, so if you don’t get on with one, you shouldn’t give up!

      I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Becky! It takes a lot to do something like that. Personally, I had a bad period in my childhood where I was very insecure (which I haven’t really shared with the blogosphere) so I can certainly relate to some of this. Anyway, I’m so relieved to hear that you’ve found a better way with coping with your anxiety. And I’ve said it before in your other posts, but congratulations on your success and finding happiness! 🙂

    • Thank you, Summer. 🙂 I must admit it did feel weird writing it all down, it’s hard to explain something like that. You want to hit the right balance of explaining how bad it is but also having positivity.
      Awh, I’m sorry to hear that, I went through a very insecure stage when I was younger as well, which was partly to do with the school I was attending. I’m glad to hear things are better now!

      Thank you so much. 🙂 Wishing you success and happiness as well!

  9. I’m so proud! I feel like writing all of this down was a massive step for you but you’ve done it and owned anxiety’s ass!

    Life with anxiety won’t ever be easy or perfect but you’ve already adapted and changed so much. Learning to cope/manage is often the hardest and bravest part of mental health issues 🙂

    Loved reading this!

    • Thanks, C! I think it was. The fact that it’s something I’m happy discussing now definitely says a lot. Reading your original post about depression really helped me I have to say!

      Unfortunately not, but when is life ever perfect? 🙂 I hope I can continue kicking anxieties ass. 🙂

      Yay, thanks!

  10. Really happy for you Becky and I hope things continue to get better and go well. Much as I like reading articles based on psychology and mental health, I really don’t know much so I’ll follow along to see which books you suggest. Well, I’ll continue reading the posts since you have a few up now. I think anxiety is an interesting one because until recently, I’ve never viewed it as a mental illness though I know it can be debilitating.

    • Thanks, Zezee, I hope so too. 🙂
      Well, that’s what this week is all about, so I hope you find it interesting/useful! Anxiety is definitely a mental illness, and forms an underlying basis for many others like OCD and eating disorders. It’s pretty key. I can understand why you’d think that though because until recently, it’s never been discussed much. Also, like depression, it comes in varying seriousness from the every day occasional anxiety to the debilitating type, which can mislead people into thinking it’s ‘no big deal’, just as depression 10 years ago was seen as being ‘a bit unhappy’. I hope that soon, awareness about anxiety will become as well known as awareness about depression. 🙂

  11. Becky, you are so strong and inspiring for sharing your story here on your blog. I think that so many people underestimate how difficult transitioning to college or university life is, and the myraid of other responsibilities and life changes that come along with it (my first two years of school were much less happy than my last two, so I understand the frustration of people thinking there’s something off with you when you don’t automatically describe it as “the best time of your life). Thank you so much for promoting Mental Health Awareness week on your blog, and creating a space for others to speak about it in the book blogging community. I am truly happy that you’ve encountered so many positive changes and steps forward in your life the past year ❤

    • Thanks, Cristina, I appreciate the support! I agree, everyone these days is pretty much EXPECTED to go to university and get on with it, and that’s a lot of pressure. It involves a lot of new experiences, social situations, and tribulations, so it’s no surprise that it’s a change that can trigger mental health problems. Like you, I really enjoyed my final year and a bit when I had solidified some friendships and got more of a hold on what was going on. I definitely get the ‘your weird’ for not having college be the best time of your life look!

      Thank you. 🙂 I hope it will allow others to open up about their own struggles, there are a lot more of us out there than we think! Fingers crossed that the positive things keep on coming. 🙂

  12. Good for you for writing this post Becky, I’m sorry that things got so bad for you but I’m glad that things are looking up and you’re in a better frame of mind now. As I was reading this post I found myself nodding a lot; there are so many similarities to my own issues with anxiety, and I agree with so many things you’ve said! I had a bad period of it during university, for a number of reasons, and a friend of mine who had the same issues actually helped me take steps to sorting it out; I was lucky that I had really understanding flatmates too. I’m pretty sure it flairs up mostly when I’m stressed and, like you, I’ve learned to deal with it a lot better. I really admire you for sharing your story with the view to helping people, and it’s really inspired me to want to share my own experience 🙂

    • Thanks, Sophie, it’s one I wasn’t sure I would ever write to be honest. I guess we all have to go through hard times to come out stronger, right? Plus, it gives us much more empathy for others – which the world always needs more of!
      I’m glad that you could relate and I’m sorry you’ve had to go through similar issues, it’s sucky. I think a lot more people struggle at university than we realize, and because those people think they’re the only ones struggling they don’t turn to others for help because they feel embarrassed. I really think universities should take more steps to help prevent these sorts of situations because it’s so easy to get isolated there – although I’m not sure what form that would take. I’m glad to hear your flatmates were understanding (unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky)!

      Awh, thank you so much, Sophie, that means a lot. I would love to hear about your own personal experiences. Best wishes. 🙂

      • No problem, yeah I totally understand; I felt the same posting my article about my disability! I agree I feel like there’s not a lot of understanding towards anxiety unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard for people who haven’t to understand, but you’ve put it so well :). It is sucky, but I do feel that once you learn to manage it, it can get sooo much better. Oh definitely, I used to sometimes think ‘how can I explain it to someone else when I can’t even explain it to myself?’ I know my uni had a counselling service, but it’s whether or not you bite the bullet and ask, I guess. I know for me I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well when I probably could’ve been a lot kinder to myself. Aww I’m sorry that you had to deal with your flatmates not being understanding, that must’ve been even more isolating! If I were in their shoes I would’ve at leas tried to understand, but then I’m very empathetic.
        No worries, I hope that you continue to be positive and that it doesn’t get you down :). I’m thinking of writing something either over ‘National blog posting month’ or in the New Year so I’ll keep you posted.

      • Yes, I loved that article!

        I’m glad you think so because to be honest, I still find it difficult to describe myself and I’ve lived through it! it’s such a complex thing the mysteries of our brain. Yes, that’s exactly it. 🙂

        I think all universities have a student counselling service – but there’s still so much stigma around counselling that i don’t think half the people that need it will seek it out – I certainly didn’t want to, it was an absolute last resort! I think there needs to be a system put in place somewhere in between being fine and going to counselling that will seem more accessible to people.

        That sounds exactly what I did, I think it’s so common! It sure was and made me feel even more crazy, but luckily by the end of my time at university I managed to find the right flatmates. 🙂

        Me too, and back at cha!

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