Sunday, 24 May 2020 Bath, UK

My (Partial) Mental Health Story

A bit of a different post from me today. It's the last day of Mental Health Awareness week, and seeing other people share their mental health stories have really inspired me to be brave and share mine. I wrote this last year, but haven’t had the balls to post it until now. I hate the idea of being thought of as weak or struggling, but then I realised that sharing my story could actually help somebody else know that they’re not alone and that, actually, it doesn’t make me weak at all - so here goes. Here’s my mental health story, from beginning to somewhere in the middle. Please be aware I describe how I feel when I’m anxious, so if that’s triggering for you then please feel free to click off this post.

Anxiety has stopped me from doing a lot in life that I love. It has lied to me, held me captive and controlled me from my early teens. 

If you have never experienced anxiety then it can be hard to understand how much it can affect someone's everyday life. It can be hard to understand how the illness (because yes, it is an illness) could possibly stop someone from leaving their house, making simple phone calls or being the independent adult they ‘really should be’. But all this and more is sometimes true for me.

I do not experience anxiety all of the time. Most of my life I am calm, confident and able to operate as a ‘normal’ 25 year old should do. But… from time to time it rears its head, and I am frozen in my tracks; unable to do anything that I normally do without question. 

Anxiety lies to me. 

It tells me that if I leave the house I’ll probably cause a terrible road accident. When my husband leaves for work in the morning, a little voice in the back of my mind tells me he’ll never come back. When I found out I was pregnant, everytime I went to the toilet I felt sick to death that I would see the bright red blood of a miscarriage.

None of these things have actually happened. And yet, I can’t seem to shake that little voice off for good. 

Anxiety tells me: ‘people don’t like you’, or ‘you’re annoying’ or ‘they don’t actually want you there’. Sometimes this makes my fight for approval a deterrent for people, and thus having the opposite effect. 

Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, I struggle to make a simple phone call, get into the car and drive to the supermarket or attend a social gathering I usually would love.

Anxiety doesn’t give me any warning. Sometimes it can be months in between its little visits, and there is no clear reason for it leaving me. No magic pill, no magic word - it just arrives, and it just goes.

I am not writing this down to just have a little moan. Nor am I writing this for pity nor advice. 

Firstly, I am writing this to help my mind understand how I feel. I’ve very rarely spoken out about my battle with anxiety - mostly because for the majority of my life -  I didn’t know I had it. I thought anxiety looked like panic attacks and blacking out and a general nervous disposition, and my experience just doesn’t fit in with this picture. I felt ashamed of how fear would grip me at the thought of having to make a phone call and so instead of addressing the issue I hid from it, often cancelling plans I’d looked forward to in order to hide. When I am really struggling with anxiety, I don’t seem all that different to when I’m not, it’s an easy mask to hide under.

Which brings me onto my second reason for writing this down. I want people that have experienced the same thing as me to realise: You are not alone. You are not abnormal. There is hope. I want to share my experience so others don’t have to experience it alone for as long as I did. 

I wish I could end this post by saying “I then followed this 3 step programme and tah-dah! I’m all better now” but sadly it hasn’t worked like this for me. I’m still on a journey of inner healing and self discovery and I do believe that one day I will be 100% free of the effects of anxiety. But stepping out of my comfort zone, telling Peter I was struggling, asking for help and declaring what I know to be the truth even when they feel like lies are the things that have helped me feel 10x better. 

And it was reading other people’s journeys, just like this post, that helped me realise that I wasn’t abnormal or ‘pathetic’ as I once thought about myself - but completely normal and completely surrounded by others who would lift me up and not look down on me.

For now, I know these truths:

Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of.

Anxiety is not forever.

Anxiety is not who I am.

I am not alone. 

If you relate to anything I’ve mentioned then these truths go for you too. So reach out, talk to someone. Your GP, your best friend, your teacher, your parent - whoever feels like the safest place. Anxiety has told you enough lies, maybe it’s time you try fighting it, surrounded.

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