Know your illness

For me, the most important thing I could do was know my illness. I hate not being in control, the thought of no control sends me into a crazy spiral of mixed emotions and it never ends well. The only way I could help myself understand what was going on inside my head was to do my research.

During high school, I completely went about this the wrong way. I’d set up a private Tumblr account which my friends had access to and I used that as a blog. I would sit for hours and hours on end reading through other people’s blogs, however I never went through anything positive. I never looked at people who were seeking help, I would continuously look for justification that I could feel the way I did without having to seek any help from anyone. This was so unhealthy, and in fact I think it made me worse. Im not saying that this is bad for everyone, but there were so many triggers that I couldn’t help but read and get caught up in. This was my way of coping at the time and now it just angers and embarrasses me that I ever went down that path.

I studied Health and Social Care at a-level and i’ve never been more appreciative of a subject in my whole life. The course was 50/50, half coursework and half exam, and luckily for me one of the main coursework topics was mental health. I never picked this subject thinking that it would help me mentally, I picked it because it really interested me and I loved the amount of coursework involved. In order to achieve the grades I wanted, I had to put as much effort that was humanly possible into my coursework as I tend to flop when it comes to exams. This was a god send when it came to the mental health topic. I knew about mental health and I thought I was quite educated in the area, however this course taught me that there is ALWAYS something new to learn. I done hours upon hours of research into different mental illnesses, the way mental health is portrayed in the media, the nature vs nurture debate and it really helped me admit that I may have a mental illness. I’d written essays about anxiety, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, bulimia and I felt like my brain was going to explode. I’d obtained all this new information and some if it just felt so familiar, some of it just really hit home. I educated myself on all of the charities that were available and what their services could provide, which was very useful information a couple of years later. I got my coursework handed in and I didn’t really think twice about it, but it’s all still up in that little brain of mine. One statistic that will never leave me is that an average of 6 million people living in the UK have an anxiety disorder, 6 million! It just goes to show that you are never alone, and there are always people out there that have felt the way you feel and they are more than happy to help.

The information I learnt enabled me to be more open minded towards others and mainly helped me understand that it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to have bad days and its ok to get anxious. What’s not ok is when you deal with it in unhealthy ways and keep it hidden until you break. Get as much help as early on as you can! It wont fix you, it will never go away, but it sure as hell provides you with much better ways of coping. 

The two websites that really helped me when I was getting to know my illness were both mind and the NHS. I understand that these are both UK based charities, however i’m sure other countries offer a similar equivalent. If not, there are plenty of useful sites on google that are full of helpful information, don’t be afraid to look around!

Know your illness and take back control!

Em x

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The Beginning

I’ve always been the type of person that is far better at explaining themselves through words on a screen rather than face to face, which is why i’ve decided to start writing a blog. This blog is nothing serious and the decision to set it up is solely based on the fact that I feel as though it will be beneficial for my mental health. I’ve never done anything like this before so it’s a big step and I have absolutely no idea where to start! I should probably start with my name, which is Emma, I grew up in Norfolk and i’ve been battling with my mental health for several years now.

My earliest memory of myself struggling with anything regarding mental health was when I was 11 years old. I was being prepared for High School and something about that just didn’t feel right for me. The thought of going to a bigger school with a much larger group of people and not knowing where I would fit in absolutely terrified me. The butterflies that I was feeling in my stomach weren’t the average butterflies and I just could not understand what was going on. My sleeping pattern changed, as did my eating habits and I didn’t know how to explain this feeling to anyone, so I didn’t. That was the first of many, many mistakes i’ve made in regards to my mental health. I was 11 and not realising that all these feelings weren’t just your usual ‘starting a new school’ nerves, it was anxiety and I had no clue how much this mental illness would impact the years to come.

Throughout my years at high school, I tried to brush it off but there was always something there in the back of my mind that I just could not put my finger on. As my years at high school went by I became so incredibly self conscious. I hated the way I looked, from the way my hair would never sit right to how big and broad my shoulders were. I began to criticise every little thing about me to a point where I would make notes of things each day when I got home. “Today you wore a jumper that was too big and it made you look huge” “Your hair doesn’t look right like that, you should dye it” “You stumbled on your words when talking and you made yourself look stupid” “You went red when the teacher asked you to read, wear make up to cover it next time”. This then just became a habit, which I didn’t think twice about. I never thought it was unhealthy and I never thought I had a mental illness. I had completely managed to convince myself that this was a normal way to act and that I don’t need to change this. Things started to change when close friends started to notice all these things happening. They would try and help but I would continuously push them away. Like I said, I was convinced that nothing was wrong and that everyone feels like that at times, and so I continuously rejected help. When I slowly started to realise that there might actually be a problem, it was one of the hardest things i’ve ever had to admit. The worst part of it was that I didn’t just have to admit it to myself, but I had to admit it to those that i’d pushed away.

Even though I finally admitted to myself that nothing I was feeling was right and that it couldn’t be brushed aside, I still really struggled telling anyone. I just became withdrawn and stopped talking about how I was feeling. I’d self harmed before in High School, but now i’d gone to sixth form and things escalated very quickly. The self harming was worse than it had ever been, i’d stopped eating proper meals and I would not talk to anyone about it. I felt so much pressure to look good, to be smart and to be loved that I didn’t look after myself and it soon became obvious to those around me that I just was not coping. I look back on my time at sixth form now and I absolutely hate how I acted. I would take off mid lesson, shout at people that cared, get drunk at lunch, disappear for hours and it was all because I felt like nobody cared or because I felt like I was going to fail and therefore shouldn’t waste my time on trying. I would be hysterically crying and begging my college not to go to my parents regularly. I can tell you now that people did care, and I didn’t fail, I done very well considering what was going on in my mind.

Once i’d achieved my a-levels, I started to feel slightly better about myself. I still hated the way I looked and was still conscious of how others viewed me, but I no longer felt any pressure. I wasn’t going to uni and I was loving the job that I was in, and therefore I decided that I didn’t ever need to see a health care professional. I told myself that things were better, it must’ve just been something I was going through and that other people need the help way more than I do. I had no idea that all the feelings i’d previously had could come flooding back at any time because i’d pushed them so far back that I forgot they were even there.

I left sixth form in 2015, and finally went to my GP about my health in 2017. Since leaving sixth form many things had happened. I was still working at Bewilderwood (my first ever job) and had become supervisor, I had passed my driving test, I’d also had my first ever car crash, and I met one of my best friends who very quickly became my boyfriend. We got on like a house on fire and he could make me laugh for hours. Our relationship was full on from the start, we spent all of our free time together, and I couldn’t of been happier to do so. He was the first person that got to properly know me and i’d never been that close to anyone before. He cared for me and loved me like no one else has and it’s him that helped me realise that I couldn’t fight this battle alone. He was the best thing that had ever happened to me, so when my mental health started to impact our relationship I only had one option. In the beginning, it felt like I was being forced to seek help and I hated that. I wanted to be in control, I wanted to fix things by myself, so to have someone so close to me tell me that they thought I should seek professional help, it was a very hard pill to swallow. I swallowed that pill and my pride and took myself to the GP, in which I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was prescribed anti-depressants for the mean time whilst I waited for a CBT referral. I was lucky enough to receive my CBT very quickly, but was told by my therapist that he believed CBT wasn’t what I needed. I was then put on the waiting list for counselling, which I personally much preferred and felt much more comfortable with. My counsellor was lovely and I didn’t realise how much easier it would be to speak to someone completely neutral, it upset me that I hadn’t done it sooner.

I had finally taken that step of seeking professional help, a step that I should’ve taken many years ago. It has helped me massively and I really want to encourage everyone to go get that help. I know how hard it is but it is beyond worth it. No, it doesn’t go away. It’s a year later and I still have my bad days, but there are a hell of a lot less of them and they are much easier to manage.

So i’ve rambled as per usual but that’s me up to speed with everything! I can’t put any more emphasis on the fact that mental health is serious, and should be treated like any other illness. Never be afraid to speak out and get the help that you well and truly deserve!

Em x