I just wanted to share an experience I had with how someone reacted to my mental health and the impact that reaction had on me.
Looking back it’s easier to see that I displayed symptoms of an anxiety disorder from a very early age. It wasn’t until I was 15 that it was officially diagnosed. It was when I was 15 that everything changed. I changed. I went from an outgoing, funny, happy girl to someone who could barely speak, or leave the house. This transformation seemed to happen overnight. It was as if I went to bed one night and the sun never came up for me the following morning. I was surrounded by darkness, a shadow of my former self.
I found it very difficult to participate at school, that’s if I went in at all. My friends were not sure how to handle how much I had changed, so they said nothing and did nothing. I was different to the girl I previously was; I tried to explain what I was feeling to them, even though I didn’t quite understand it myself. Also we were only 15; it’s not something we had ever spoken of before. But I thought if I could explain where their friend had gone, it would make it easier. So I told them that I had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and just wasn’t feeling my usual self.
I was hoping they would be supportive, but they weren’t, they didn’t seem to understand – and this exchange saw me slip further into depression, I felt so isolated.
I internalised all my feelings and my suffering, pulling myself further away from them and the world. The reaction I will never forget, is one friend looking at me with disgust and saying, “think about what Lisa’s going through. Her Mum just DIED. Just think about how she feels.” I have never felt more ashamed than I did in that moment. Here I was complaining about anxiety, when people had real problems.
My battle with depression was a constant struggle. I also suffered from OCD and panic attacks. My mind felt like it was being tortured continuously; my body not able to cope with the physical sensations that my anxiety provoked, was getting weaker and shutting down. It felt like there was a battle raging inside of me, the girl I used to be trying to claw her way back out, but never managing to get through the black swamp of despair that surrounded her.
Due to me internalising my anxiety, my health really began to suffer, I had a nervous breakdown. Picking myself up from that and moving forward was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It took so long, I thought I would never make it through that dark tunnel. Over the years, I have sought help from different professionals and have learnt how to cope with my anxiety better. I now have a supportive network of friends that know my struggles and who I can turn to when things get rough, one of those being my mum, who has witnessed every single aspect of my mental illness.
Those that know me today, excluding my group of close friends, think I just suffer from the ‘odd anxious moment.’ Some also think I am “chilled out” and find it improbable that I suffer with anxiety. They don’t even suspect me to be struggling with my mental health, almost on a daily basis. After all the show must go on, so I put on my face and carry on the best I can. Over the years I have become an expert at putting my best persona forward.
Life hasn’t all been doom and gloom. I have an amazing family of my own now; I have had some truly wonderful moments and have created some memories that I will cherish forever. Over the last 16years I have learnt to build up my confidence which in turn has increased my happiness. Anxiety is a part of me. I have just had to accept that and that acceptance has been a huge step forward in my recovery. I try to concentrate on the light at the end of the tunnel when I experience difficult times. I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and I do not stop until I have reached it.
It has only been in the past few years where I have felt comfortable talking about my mental health, I no longer feel ashamed by it. I want to see mental health being treated with and receive the same resources as physical health. I want to help remove the stigma that surrounds mental health, no one should feel ashamed of how they are feeling. I also want to support those that are suffering by letting them know they don’t have to suffer in silence and that there is help out there. We all have mental health so please be kind to those who need a bit of extra help with looking after theirs – in the same way that you would be kind to someone who has broken their leg.
If you want to talk to someone regarding the issues raised in this blog, please contact us. We are offering a free two week trial for online counselling.