Over the course of my 26 years I have been diagnosed with various mental illnesses including, OCD, eating disorders, emetophobia, PND, self harm, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and I’ve struggled in the past with suicidal thoughts (and attempts during my childhood). I think the first time I was diagnosed with anxiety I was 2 years old (separation anxiety), but I struggle mostly with anxiety and panic disorder. I feel that everything else is a result of those illnesses. I don’t think there has been a time since I was about 8 that I haven’t been in or waiting for some kind of assessment or therapy. I was with CAMHS who passed me onto the adult services when I turned 18 and I’m pretty much constantly being passed from pillar to post.
I was always an anxious child, one of my first memories is being absolutely terrified of being left at nursery. I was equally terrified of school, it wasn’t that I just couldn’t be arsed or found it boring, I was literally terrified. The thought of going made me feel sick. I stopped eating when I was 8 which gradually grew into OCD and various eating disorders in the years that followed. I was eventually taken out of school at 14 and home schooled because my Mum was worried I’d have ended up dying if I had stayed. I lived off a couple of pieces of toast a day for well over a year. I remember one time when I ate a bite of sandwich after my Mum had begged me for ages. She cried when I took that bite.
I still find it hard to eat in front of anyone, I don’t remember the last time I ate in public but it’s got to be at least 12 years ago. I have been with partners before for years and never properly eaten in front of them, I’d wait until they left or hid in a different room. I still have wobbly days now although my fiancé is the only one I have ever been able to be comfortable eating around and that’s only because I’ve known him before this all went wrong.
I constantly feel like a terrible mum because I feel like my kids are missing out because of my anxiety. I can’t be like a normal Mum and pop down to the park with them or take them to school on my own. I can’t have Mummy and daughter days where we go out and have hot chocolates together or go on shopping trips. I can’t even leave the house on my own without having a panic attack. Before I moved in with my fiancé, there had been so many periods where months and months had passed where I hadn’t so much as stepped outside my front door. I have to pass up so many amazing opportunities or fun days out because of my illnesses.
I was recently discharged from mental health care for the first time since I was with CAMHS. It was a strange feeling and I was not ready to be left on my own at all but I had missed an appointment and had rearrange too many times due to various reasons which is fair enough in terms of costs but there needs to be a service for people who can’t get to appointments because of their illnesses. I hear “you have to be willing to commit to this for it to work” and it’s not that I don’t want to commit or that I’m not ready it’s because my mental health is so bad and I DO need the help but I can’t. I just can’t. I have panic attacks about having panic attacks and I just can’t.
I’ve been re-refereed to a different service so I’m hoping I can get back on my feet soon although I’m not holding my breath because for the past year I’ve had at least 4 assessments and people referring me backwards and forwards because my illnesses are “too complex” for them to deal with or they “don’t know what to suggest”. I think the worst things that have been said to me by professionals are:
“I won’t numb it because you obviously like the pain” (whilst having stitches)
“If you’re not willing to stop breastfeeding to go on medication again then go and get a self help book from WHSmiths”
“I don’t know what to do, your problems are too complex”
“I’m just going to have to refer you back to ____, I can’t help you”
Those words echo in my mind and some were said to me nearly 10 years ago.
There have been times where I have felt like online communities are far more supportive and understand more than the professionals do and other times where people have used my mental health as a way to judge me which has made me question if blogging or social media is still helping me.
The first 5 years it was a crutch for sanity but this year I’ve had that crutch smashed and thrown at my face, which has set me miles and miles back in my recovery which is massively frustrating because I had worked so damn hard to get this far; to get to the stage where I can leave my house, although it be with someone at all times but I could do that and for the most part I would experience a simple shopping trip with only mild anxiety and now I’m back to square one. I could eat almost anything I wanted and not really care but I’m finding myself listening to the voices telling me I can’t have that or I shouldn’t be buying that etc etc again. I’ve had to fight self harm urges for the first time in years because those were the ways my mind learnt to cope with these thoughts. I’m so angry at myself for letting someone do that to me. But I’m more angry that there are people out there who think it’s okay to make people feel like that and not care, or even worse, get joy out of it.
I’ve found that some people just don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. Which for the most part, okay, it’s difficult to really, truly relate if you haven’t been there but there is a difference between not understanding and just plain being a dick.
Those who haven’t been diagnosed with mental health issues or who haven’t had any experience with them before just don’t get it. I’ve had relationships break down because they just didn’t know how to deal with the level of anxiety I suffer with on a daily basis. Suffering from anxiety or depression isn’t feeling a little worried about an upcoming appointment, or an interview, or feeling a bit down because Love Island has finished. It ruins your life and sucks out the colour in everything. It makes you feel like a burden to everyone who loves you. If they love you at all because most of the time you are convinced everyone hates you as much as you hate yourself. It’s having panic attacks just because the phone rings or you need to leave the house today. It’s hyperventilating to the extent you nearly choke on your own vomit. It’s not changing your pants in weeks or not caring when you last washed or brushed your hair. It’s not caring about anything but caring about everything.
I think the main issue with poor mental health care stems down to lack of funding. We complain about how crap the service is but there is very little they can do when the cost is so high and the government invest so little into something so important. Because it is important! More important than just chucking pills out left right and centre. Mental illnesses left untreated can and do, kill.
You know, I read a tweet the other month about how people with mental illnesses are weak. Easy targets. But you do know what? We are the strongest of people because we have to be. Mental illnesses don’t make you weaker, they make you have to learn to be stronger.
Brave isn’t jumping from tens of thousands of feet out of an aeroplane; brave is having to constantly fight with the very thing that keeps you alive. Every. Single. Day. It’s getting out of bed despite still being in the dark and walking out that door and carrying on with your day. Brave is staying in bed because your body and mind need that rest. It’s admitting you need help. It’s taking that bite of sandwich despite that voice in your head screaming so hard at you that your head feels like it could burst. It’s walking out that door or picking up that phone even though your heart is beating so hard you’re sure it’s going to fly out of your chest at any given moment. Brave is putting down that blade, putting down those pills or stepping down from that ledge because you are worth everything you think you aren’t.
If you are reading this and you are struggling let me tell you on behalf of me, of the people that matter to you, on behalf of everyone; you matter. You are important, you are loved and even if you can’t see that now just know that it is true and the world needs you. You are enough. Even as you are now, and every version of you in the past and the future. You have always been worth it; worth life, worth time, worth love. I am so, so glad that you are still here, still fighting, still you. There is a light and you are strong enough to make it to the shore.”
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