Today, I am deciding to share my mental health journey. I’m doing this because I know myself, reading other people’s stories and knowing I wasn’t alone was incredibly beneficial.
Writing for Bath Mind has enabled me to do what I’ve wanted to do for a good year and a half – help people with their mental health problems. It’s charities like them that have helped me immensely during times of need.
To place a start date on my mental health journey would simply be impossible. The truth is we all have a mental health that needs looking after, whether we have a mental health problem or not. My biggest struggle has always been anxiety, mainly social anxiety.
Ever since I can remember I’ve always had anxious traits. I was the child who was too scared to go to the local park because of the “older kids” and would leg it inside each time an aeroplane flew too low. I was the teenager whose knees would struggle to hold me up as I read my one liner in an assembly, and I would forget to breathe as I read a page of a book to the class in English lessons. And, I am now the adult who, from time to time, still gets overwhelmed at social interactions!
Life events can of course have an impact on one’s mental health and one in particular affected mine hugely. I was 16 years old (September 2015) when I lost a very close, father figure in my life, unexpectedly. He provided a safe haven for me and I’ll never forget believing that the world was no longer safe now that he was gone (which sounds ridiculous now that I look back on it, but that’s exactly how anxiety can make you feel).
It’s safe to say my anxiety spiralled after that and I found myself unmotivated and in a state of low moods for a while. In April 2017, I ended up back at a retail store I previously worked at, but the anxiety only seemed to worsen. One Sunday morning, right before I was due to start, I found myself folded over on the floor of the toilets hyperventilating down the phone to my mum.
From that point on, with the support of my mum, we decided it would be an idea to seek help from a doctor. After an emotional, lengthy, but helpful appointment, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and prescribed anti-depressants. The biggest struggle for me was placing what was going on mentally in to words. Bath Mind have a short video on this issue that helps you plan what to say beforehand, it’s definitely worth checking out.
My doctor also referred me to a 4-week CBT course and put me on the waiting list for counselling. The CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) course, consisted of 2-hour sessions once a week over a 4 week period. I found this worked for me as it was a group session where you sat and were taught about CBT by a trained professional.
Counselling does work for many, but not for all. For me personally I had greater benefit from seeing a hypnotherapist, which is more solution-based, for a few months (February 2018). But, of course the hypnotherapy didn’t come free or even cheap and I was lucky enough to have someone pay for my sessions.
Amazingly, the hypnotherapy enabled me to take charge of my life and make the decision to go to university. As it does with most people, embarking on that journey was incredible but also terrifying. Naturally, in October 2018, my anxiety wormed it’s way back as it struggled to adapt to new changes.
Due to this, I had to increase my dose of anti-depressants to what it had been during hypnotherapy. At the time I really felt ashamed and disappointed. I saw myself as pathetic for struggling to cope on a lower dose. But, the truth is I had no reason to be ashamed. I have anxiety, anxiety doesn’t define my life but I have anxiety. Being on medication doesn’t lessen my worth, or anybody else’s for that matter.
The biggest issue with mental health problems is the fact that we see ourselves as broken or damaged for seeking help. Or for not being able to cope. But we all struggle, and that is okay. If you had a physical ache, you’d seek help for it without thinking twice.
I luckily discovered Bath Mind through my university, when the charity set up a stall in one of our main buildings sometime in October. I got talking to a member of staff and picked up information leaflets on various topics. Some of these included coping with anxiety, planning what to say when you go to the doctors regarding a mental health problem, and posters on sleep and panic attacks.
I found these simple reminders really useful for when I got myself into a bit of a panic especially, I put them up around my room in uni to remind me on days where my mind felt a little frazzled!
Bath Mind also provide self-help tips and resources on their website. Examples of these are videos where topics such as self-harm, supporting somebody with their mental health and tips on relaxation are discussed.
Taking part in group sessions Bath Mind hold such as Friends in Need and Open Opportunities, although with the purpose of writing about them, has helped me realise that I’m not at all alone with the struggles I face mentally. At both groups I was welcomed warmly and made to feel a part of the group instantly, whether through being let in on inside jokes or speaking one to one. As daunting as it may seem, sometimes participating in group sessions can give you a sense of belonging and a place to go.
The main thing to remember is that no matter how dark times get, you will get through it. And there is no shame whatsoever in reaching out for help. You’re never alone, I promise.
For more details on Bath Mind please see https://www.bathmind.org.uk/
Ciao for now x