As a lot of you know, I’m a huge advocate for openly discussing mental health. I wanted to share some of my experiences, positive and negative. My experiences are based on suffering from depression, OCD and anxiety. I must emphasise that my experiences are unique to myself. Not everybody with the same mental disorders as me will have gone through the same as what I have. I am simply sharing some of my own stories. I am letting myself be incredibly vulnerable and telling you a lot. So then, what they didn’t tell me…
That OCD has many forms and I have had it for years. I suffer from intrusive thoughts which are a part of OCD. I plan every single aspect of my life – I cannot be spontaneous. I organise my room every night. I check I’ve locked my car door 3 times before walking away from it. I also tap the top of my window and check the boot. I panic when I don’t know where things are. I have developed compulsions for all of these behaviours and more. I have been treated awfully for these behaviours. I have been called a slut for openly discussing an intrusive thought that I had. This led me to believe that I was not normal, that I wasn’t a good person. OCD is starting to take over my life and I am trying incredibly hard not to let it. I would love to be able to lock my doors and just walk away. I would love to not analyse everything. I would love to be spontaneous. I would love to stay calm when things are out of place. I’m just not there yet.
That people will say they are ‘always going to be there’ but the reality is that they won’t. Some people like to be a part of the result but are unwilling to be involved in the process. I’ve trusted too many people when reaching out for help and support. I’ve relied on people that have let me down… massively. People have let me suffer. People have stood by and watched me struggle, knowing they have offered to help me before. I have learnt to really think about who I am reaching out to and I am confident that I have developed an incredible support network.
That depression can come and go, even in the happiest of people. I’ve always been told how bubbly, cheery and excitable I am. People probably wouldn’t associate me with having depression. Some days are great and I’m fine. I’m lively, I’m focused, I’m motivated. Other days are worse. I can’t make a decision. I can barely muster up the strength to get out of bed. I feel the weight of the world pushing my shoulders down. I feel a fog of grey completely covering my mind. I see no happiness. No positives. Endless streams of self-doubt and worry. No energy. Constant blame upon myself. Low mood and upsetting thoughts. That is my reality.
The side effects of anti-depressants. The first anti-depressants I was given were called Sertraline 20mg. They did not suit me at all. I had nausea that didn’t ever go away. I became incredibly irritable. My sleep was affected. So, I told my doctor and I was given Citalopram 20mg. They took away the nausea and the irritability. But they just weren’t strong enough. So, they upped the dosage to 40mg. They’re starting to work but my hormones are just all over the place. With also being on the pill, my emotions can go from being sky high to rock bottom. They are also not short term. I’ve been taking them for 7 months now and I’m nowhere near finished.
Sleep will become frustrating and difficult. I have had sleepless nights. I have had nights where I’ve thumped at the bed and at myself through frustration of not being able to sleep. I’ve also had hours and hours of sleep and woken up feeling like I’ve not slept a wink. Sleep for me has been hugely affected.
You will develop new behaviours that are dangerous and upsetting. The most obvious one for me is my history with self-harm. However, I also have a compulsion which leads to me physically pulling clumps of my hair out. At the time, I feel it is completely necessary. Afterwards, I look at the hair in my hand and want to cry. I have developed an addictive personality where it’s all or nothing. I can become very easily obsessed with an idea, thought or action. I have moments where I completely space out and do not respond. I have developed a habit of scratching my arms and curling up as small as possible when I feel uneasy. My mood can change so quick it’s like flicking a switch. These are all characteristics of my own mental health disorders which I am trying to overcome.
People will continue to stigmatize anxiety as being ‘cute’ or something that ‘everyone has’. My anxiety has spoilt a lot of situations for me. Unfortunately, I have been in situations where my anxiety has been made worse by toxic people. Anxiety is not feeling teary and just being cuddled by someone. It is not a case of just being quiet and shy. It is not the ‘artistic trend’ that many make it out to be. It’s feeling your chest tighten to the point you can’t move. It’s feeling like you can’t breathe and gasping for air. It’s been physically paralysed and rigid. It’s not being able to respond to anyone. It’s something I wish I didn’t have to live with.
It’s not all bad. Whilst suffering with mental health illnesses, there are so many positives that are still there. You will still be successful. You will find support links and help; it might take some time but it will happen. You will learn so much about yourself, about how your brain works. You will discover what your passions are; you will be encouraged to find something that triggers a spark in your mind. You will develop strength, courage and resilience. You will be able to tell your story with pride and power. You will come out of your struggles tough and ready to take on anything.
This is your journey. It has it’s ups and downs, more downs and more ups, but I am confident that we all have the strength inside us to beat mental illness and realise our self-worth. I am here for each and every one of you. Love, support and wishes to all of you. x