My experience with mental health
My first experience with mental health goes back to when I was 14, my gran had died suddenly, and I wasn’t coping very well with it. It seemed to trigger something in me, something I hadn’t really experienced before.
I have always been anxious, as a child, I would cling to my mum. I was shy and avoided most social situations if I was having to face them alone. I was, still am and have always been a worrier.
With my Gran passing, I began to worry about losing other family members. Of course, I had no control over this. Still, I thought I could maybe help by being overly observant of their behaviours and try my best to prevent anything wrong happening. Like making sure they ate, looked after themselves and general things like that.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH MENTAL HEALTH
I started showering twice a day, I wasn’t really a shower in the morning type of person till this time, but I had to be clean. Germ-free, I guess. My clothes always new and fresh on, and I would wash my hair. Slowly over time, unnoticed by me, I had created a “routine” that I would carry out in the mornings to help my day go well. I was doing my bit at keeping my family safe and healthy.
It didn’t take long before the little “routines” started taking over my life.
I was deep cleaning my room every day, wiping everything down with bleach, getting rid of clutter and every few days. I would move my bedroom around hoping that now the furniture was in a different place, maybe this would create a better energy, and I would feel better. Rearranging the posters on my wall, so they were perfectly fitted together like a boyband medley jigsaw. It didn’t though.
I would come home some days and could tell someone had been in my room, contaminating it. I would get so upset that the balance had been ruined, I would have to throw everything into the middle of the room and start the whole cleansing process again. I didn’t want my things, my space to be the reason that something went wrong.
On the days when I felt everything had gone to shit, I would panic. Why did I panic? Well, I was sure that I had broken the excellent run of good luck and something awful was about to happen.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH MENTAL HEALTH
It’s hard to describe the feelings that would come over me, it started with a tingle running through my whole body. Almost like having the blood drained out of you. This would intensify to a feeling of ants or something similar, crawling all over my skin. In essence, I wanted to pull my skin off. I needed them off. My chest tightened, I couldn’t breathe, and then the tears would come. Tears of pure frustration that I had failed and that I would be the cause of the bad things that were going to happen. My mind a buzz with flashing images of what could be – reaching this point, there was no going back. I was in full “meltdown”, as I called them and there was usually only one way of breaking out of it, and that was to hurt myself. I needed a quick shock back into reality.
I was a headbanger; I would find something to smack my head with. Usually the flat back of a hairbrush, I could hide any marks with my hair – it was sore enough to snap me out of it but not so bad that I would do any real damage.
I hid the brush and tissues in a washbag with the diary that I would use to write down how I felt during these meltdowns, not easy reading. Still, it was an extra outlet for my fear and frustration.
I was really good at hiding this all, though my family had noticed some differences in my behaviour. I was able to protect the scary stuff that would have caused them any concern. Then my mum found the washbag…
She was upset and didn’t know how to handle it, she hauled me straight up to the doctors, and I burst into tears as I released months of fears that my family were going to die because of me. I was diagnosed with OCD and given little pills to “balance me” but was also told I wouldn’t be able to overdoseon these pills if I took them all. This kind of surprised me, I haven’t wanted to kill myself – I was trying to save it.
The pills kicked in, and I started some CBT which really helped and it all sort of settle down. I was still not healed, I still had those meltdowns, but they were less frequent, and I relaxed, just a little bit I started to smile, laugh and enjoy life a bit more. I was classed as high functioning, that I was excellent at putting on a face to the outside world. Still, as soon as I closed the door and was in a place of comfort, I was exhausted and irritable from acting, pretending. I would take it out on those I loved and was frustrated at them for not knowing what was going on in my head, but I never spoke about it, how would they.
I pushed it down, got on with it and tried my best to keep the thoughts under control. I was 19 when I stopped taking those pills, my choice and no doctor questioned it. I didn’t notice any difference, actually.
Years past, still experiencing the ups and downs with a few meltdowns thrown in.
I had lived with these feeling so long that I had come to believe that’s who I was. A bit of a hot mess- all over the place. Irrational and jittery.
It was my husband that convinced me that my demons were telling me that this was me, he was right. It wasn’t me.
We went to the doctors; I was prescribed Fluoxetine, and I started the journey to find out who was underneath all this dread and fear.
I tried therapy, one of one counselling, I found this so hard, and anxiety-inducing, the pressure to go in and talk was too much. I often ended up cancelling an hour before because I couldn’t bring myself to go. I tried group therapy but talking in a group was no good, and the lovely ladies in there all seemed to have it so much worse than me, I felt my place should go to someone else in need. I tried art therapy, I would end up bored and doodling, then Yoga therapy, but I was as flexible as a ruler. I didn’t seem to fit in, story of my life…
I continue taking my meds, they really do stop my mind from those intrusive thoughts that trigger my “routines”, and I have been much more laidback than I have ever been before.
I run a lot and have exercise in my life. It turns out that science isn’t wrong, and exercising can really boost your mood and help clear your mind. Since I have started, I notice the days I’m struggling tend to be the days I haven’t gotten out and pounded the pavement.
I use hypnotism, and meditation soundtracks daily to help with sleeping, and I write. I write non-stop, and I get my mind/thoughts out of my overactive brain on to paper. Pages of gibberish that no one gets to see or articles like this that share a story, so others know they aren’t alone.
The thing with mental health, though, it’s an individual thing. One size doesn’t fit all, what works for someone may not work other. I never stopped trying though – I’m in a place I have never been before, indeed, entirely and unashamedly happy.
How to access mental health services
Mental health services are free on the NHS, but in some cases you’ll need a referral from your GP to access them.
There are some mental health services that allow people to refer themselves.
If your mental health difficulty is related to stress at work, you can ask your employer what occupational health services are available to you.
Check out the Time to Change website, which has a section dedicated to employers.
If you’re at school or college, mental health care may be arranged for you.
Some mental health problems can be managed without the help of a GP. There are a variety of materials available and local organisations offering help.
You can also try the mood assessment quiz, which is designed to recommend resources to help you better understand how you feel.
For local support and information services near you, you can search:
If you want to talk to someone right away, the mental health helpline page has a list of organisations you can call for immediate assistance.
These are helplines with specially trained volunteers who’ll listen to you, understand what you’re going through, and help you through the immediate crisis.
Samaritans operates a free service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for people who want to talk in confidence. Call them on 116 123 or visit the Samaritans website.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH MENTAL HEALTH