Mental health – everyone has it.
However, not everyone will experience mental illness. Mental illness is pretty prevalent in this day in age and statistics reveal that in the UK at least 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Some people will only experience one bout, others it is a continuous battle over a number of years.
The most common mental health problems reported to GP’s is generalised anxiety disorder and depression. A GP’s working week is mostly made up of people attending appointments about their mental health and wellbeing.
So, if it is so common within the population, why is it still so severely stigmatised and shamed upon?
Lack of education, awareness and understanding.
Historically, those living with a mental health problem were largely isolated through being locked away in mental institutions due to being seen as dysfunctional to society. We have come a long way since then but yet mental illness is still seen as a “problem”. Specifically, those suffering with depression and anxiety disorders are quite often blamed or stigmatised as being over dramatic, lazy and hard to talk to.
PEOPLE DO NOT BRING MENTAL ILLNESS ON THEMSELVES.
Why would anyone wish to feel like they can’t function properly day to day or make positive contributions to their community?
Mental illness can happen to anyone.
What defines mental illness? Everyone will experience stress, unhappiness, grief, unfortunate events and generally people are able to be resilient enough to get passed this fairly quickly and return to some normal order. Someone who experiences anxiety and depression struggle with this and become stuck in a vicious cycle of negative energy through harmful thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
I have experienced depression throughout my life. I was bullied throughout school which led to me self harming and causing trouble in school.
Lucky for me I went to see a child psychologist, attended anger management and a CBT programme which enabled me to carry on through school with little disruption and to pass my exams. I didn’t experience depression again until a few years later when I thought I was going to lose my job and then a couple of years after that when I was stuck in a rut. Each time I was able to get through fairly easy, well so it appears now.
February of last year, I went to my doctor as I started to have panic attacks and have constant butterflies in my stomach. I would worry about the smallest of thing and even jump to the worst conclusions. It progressively got worse without me realising and before I knew it I was in a situation where I didn’t even want to be alive anymore.
The depression crept up on me so sneakily.
I have made 3 attempts in the past year to take my own life which subsequently led to me spending 4 weeks in a psychiatric ward. All because I just couldn’t cope anymore. I couldn’t see any way out from what I was feeling.
Looking back now, it’s no wonder I felt the way I did. I never realised until now how bad it got.
What could I possibly be so anxious and depressed about you may ask? At that moment in time I was living in Edinburgh, somewhere I wanted to live for a while, in a good job, working on my career, finishing my degree, getting myself to the gym, supportive friends, boyfriend, family… remember when I said it can happen to anyone?
Thinking back, there may be a few catalysts that I could identify that may have triggered it but in all honesty it’s not completely clear why it happened, it just did. It took me a long time to accept I was mentally ill and needed support to recover.
The anxiety makes me feel as if my whole world is falling apart, panicking at the smallest of things, worrying that I am a nuisance or a burden to others, worry that I am pushing people away, worry that my life isn’t going anywhere, fear of the unknown. I have isolated myself on many an occasion because I was too anxious.
Meeting new people was never something that bothered me, I loved it. Now, it fills me with dread. I worry that I am always doing something wrong, I worry that I am not good enough for anyone or anything. Having to leave a situation because it’s too overwhelmingly difficult. I worry that people are going to leave me. ALL THE TIME.
Depression for me feels like living in a mind which is willing you to die. It’s complete and utter despair, it feels like being stuck at the bottom of a dry, pitch black well with no way of getting out and no light at the top. Waking up and wishing you hadn’t. Physically feeling sore and heavy that you can’t get out of bed. Lying there for hours staring at the wall not really feeling anything. Heart wrenching cries and sobs which can happen at any moment, no matter where or what you are doing. A complete sense of hopelessness at ever feeling yourself again. Feeling like a failure and weak. Frustration and anger. Why has this happened to me? Feeling like the best thing is to just end it all. It’s more than just feeling sad.
It’s so much more.
So much self hatred, low self-esteem and worthlessness. What do I really have to offer the world, my family and friends?
I am now thankfully on that road to recovery (still) even a year on. And I do still have my “bad” days but they are getting less and less due to being able to manage the illness better. I don’t know what my future holds and if this is something I’ll need to deal with for the rest of my life but for now, I’m in a good place and I am grateful for that.