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Mental Health Awareness
Posted by kvb18
4th May 2014

It is time to talk…

After reading numerous blogs recently surrounding similar kinds of issues and hearing about the amazing work of the charity, Time to Change and their hope to get everyone talking openly about mental health through their recent campaign Time to talk, I suddenly found the inspiration to write something about it myself. As well as it being an issue which has affected me personally and others who are very close to me, I wanted to try and start my own conversation about mental health, and I feel if everyone does start talking about it more openly, it is already a step in the right direction.
About a year and a half ago when I started to feel strange, I didn’t even know what was wrong myself, never mind anyone else being able to guess. It was difficult to explain how I actually did feel I just knew it wasn’t right. I then read a blog post and watched a YouTube video about a girl a similar age to me had made who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and was sharing her own personal experience about it. I realised that sounded exactly like I felt myself. I have always been a worrier and every single person who knows me could tell you that themselves in some shape or form. So I knew I worried a lot, but sometimes I would even sit and think, why do I feel so anxious about things which aren’t a big deal and seem so small to other people when I say them out loud.

Shortly after an incident which took place in my old job in 2012, I started to have extreme bouts of anxiety and felt awful. After watching the video on YouTube I mentioned earlier, and reading up about panic attacks, I decided to pay a visit to the doctors. I described how I felt and he said that it sounded like I was having panic attacks and he gave me some further information and advice about anxiety and panic attacks and ways to try and keep calm etc. After a couple of months trying to explain how I felt to other people, family and my boyfriend it actually made me feel a tiny bit better to speak to someone who actually knew what I was talking about and didn’t make me feel like I was going stir crazy. It is extremely difficult when the people you are closest to can’t seem to understand how you feel and you slowly start to feel like giving up.
It was shocking how quickly I started to become truly scared of doing normal everyday things like catching trains, going to University, going to Meadowhall, going to the cinema, going out for tea, basically everything, because I was genuinely petrified of having a panic attack. I am very close to my mum and sister and I felt guilty that they had to see someone they care about acting like a completely different person.
On top of this suddenly increased anxiety I was suffering from a phobia of sick which I have had for as long as I can remember. This lead to me not wanting to drink alcohol, being afraid to be around drunk people. I avoided going to night clubs as they were completely not my thing because I would be terrified if I saw someone being sick. So I was stuck in a vicious circle, my bad panic attacks and anxiety made my phobia 100 times worse because anxiety makes you feel sick and sick made me feel anxious. Very few people actually know about this phobia. It is extremely difficult for me even to write this down never mind say it out loud. Due to how I have felt sometimes, I have probably come across as being an unsociable weird person. I had tried my best to forget about it so many times and tell myself it wasn’t so bad but because of the pure fear I felt it started to become easier just to not bother going out at all. Around the time where everyone starts going to town and going to university the one thing on my mind was what will I do, because I don’t drink. In fact it was the first thing I mentioned to one of my flat mates the first time I met them in University halls, ‘Hi I am Katie, I don’t drink’.
After a while, it got to the point of me saying ‘no’ every time I was asked to go out which resulted into me no longer being invited to things. This really upset me, and I began to really, really hate myself, it seemed like I didn’t want to spend time with people and I felt like they wouldn’t want to spend time with me, who would want the burden of me having a panic attack whilst being out anywhere.
People don’t seem to realise that every single time someone has a panic attack it makes another dent in their self-esteem. Unless you have experienced anxiety or panic attacks yourself it is very difficult not to judge people and not think those people are weird who do (I am even guilty of doing this myself).
One thing which I personally found difficult is that people really don’t understand and because sometimes you can come across as just being ‘normal’ (whatever normal is) a lot of the time, that when you do have a panic attack, or feel anxious, you are making it up. Some of my family and boyfriend especially would say ‘how can you be fine one minute and not the next ’, but think about how confusing and frustrating it is for the person suffering from them, one minute they do feel fine and the next they are completely terrified of the tiniest little thing.
Anyway, after suffering on and off for about a year, I started to think it was something I just had to live with and this is how I would feel for the rest of my life. I was taking every method of calming tablet from boots I had every ‘calming’ essential oil to sprinkle on my pillow at night.
Then I had my worst spell of anxiety in October 2013 when I felt like I was no longer in control of myself, my thoughts were just all over the place, I honestly thought I was actually going insane. After hearing and reading about mental illness being something you have to live with and it being a part of you forever, I just felt hopeless. I thought there is no way I can ever stop feeling this bad. I went back to the doctors and told him again and he said he thought I would benefit from seeing a therapist. Straight away I was thinking negatively, ‘I am insane, I need therapy, only crazy people have therapy, omg I don’t want to tell anyone, I am officially a freak of nature’
I felt very cynical about the whole ‘therapy’ thing, I felt that bad ,I didn’t see how anyone could possibly fix the problem, it wasn’t anything physical which people could see so how could she get inside my brain and stop me feeling the way I did. Going to the first session I was extremely nervous, I had to tell a stranger things about myself which barely anyone in my family or anyone else knew about. It soon became clear that she knew exactly how I felt and straight away she made me feel very comfortable. I wanted to be reassured more than anything that I wasn’t crazy and kept asking her if I was ‘normal’ and I just remember her saying ‘what even is normal anyway, who decides what the definition of normal actually is’. I immediately felt better than I did two weeks before and I had actually had faith that this lady who I didn’t even know, could help me.

Apart from all the different techniques she gave me to use to help deal with my anxiety and panic attacks, one thing I have taken away from it was her empathetic attitude to the whole thing. She said that there are a lot more people with mental illnesses than everyone thinks and people you know personally could be suffering every single day.
It made me think that if this is the case than why aren’t people aloud to speak about it openly, why people are thought to be strange and weird if they suffer from a mental illness. If someone has a broken leg, everyone can see that it is broken because they have a pot on it to help it get better, and people help the person with the broken leg by offering to do things which they can’t do whilst their leg is broken. So what is so wrong with someone’s brain being a little broken from time to time and it needing fixing?
Why should I and any other person who has suffered or are suffering, from any sort of mental illness not be able to talk about it openly? I feel more needs to be done to raise the awareness of mental illness and more people should be encouraged to understand about for a time when they or others may need help.
I am by no means completely cured; it is something which I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. Admittedly, the hardest thing to do was to try and explain myself to my family and friends. My auntie was the first person who gave me the encouragement to start telling people and reassured me I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Talking openly about it has now allowed me to get the help I need, and knowing that there will always be someone there is helpful in itself.
So, anyone who does suffer, you need to remember you are not alone, 1 in 4 people have from some kind of mental illness each year, it does honestly get better I promise, and if nothing helps but this, there is no such thing as normal.

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