Mental Health is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all have it, yet so many of us are unaware of how to keep it in check, or even aware that we need to.
The neglect of my own mental health is something that became glaringly obvious a few years back. Broken by several life changing events that all happened within 6 weeks of each other, I, like many others, brushed my mental health issues under the carpet. My thinking was ‘if I can’t see it, and no-one else can, then it isn’t real’. How wrong I was! I’d moved far away from my family and friends to start afresh, following a break up, the death of my grandma and the loss of a job I loved.
At the time, I didn’t understand or comprehend just how much each one of those events would affect my mental wellbeing. The fallout of them, my marriage breakdown in particular, left me a sad, fragile shell of a person. The only way to describe it is feeling like someone had smashed me to smithereens, the leftover fragments pieced together, barely functioning as a human being.
Sure, a quick Google will tell you a small piece of the events that followed the break up, but my side has never been heard and never will. I’m still traumatised by it. To be honest, I don’t want to say any more, because to this day, I remain scared of any backlash that might follow. That, combined with everything else going on, led to a long lasting period of self hatred, and massive loss of confidence and self worth.
I still got up every morning for work (it felt like escapism and forced me to be happy for a few hours!), put on my best face and voice for my job, acted like nothing had really happened and in typically British fashion, just ‘got on with it’. Behind closed doors, I drank far too much red wine, cried a lot, pretty much became a recluse, burned my wedding photo album in the fireplace (that was hugely satisfying), and baked A LOT of cakes.
This continued until I moved to London a year later. It was only then, when still retreating from socializing, hiding away in my flat (or the ‘sanctuary’ as I call it) and comfort eating even more than usual, that I had a reality check. It became apparent to me that my mental health was suffering. I was always anxious that someone would screw me over, whether it was work related or relationship wise. I didn’t trust anyone, and was suspicious of everything and everyone. I’d ignore texts and calls. I wouldn’t answer the door (that one has stuck with me unfortunately!), and the blinds were always closed. My flat became my safe place.
I had several panic attacks, which are AWFUL. Imagine feeling like you’re literally stuck wherever you are, and if you move, you think you’ll die. Your heart races, you sweat, you feel like you’re literally going to defecate everywhere, then spontaneously combust. That’s how a panic attack feels. I’d be frozen to the spot, eyes closed, praying for it to be over. Usually, within 30 minutes, it was.
It was a miserable existence. I hated it. So, I did something about it. I found a qualified therapist. Right from the first session where I cried the whole way through, then had an immediate sense of relief afterwards, I knew she could help.
She listens, reasons and reassures. We talk about EVERYTHING. We go way back into my childhood too, and talk about things that you wouldn’t even imagine could affect how one behaves as an adult. It all makes perfect sense though. Through talking with her, I’ve regained some confidence (there’s still a way to go, but we’re getting there!), feel more relaxed, and think a lot more logically than I used to. She’s given me back my self worth. I’ve been seeing her for over 2 years now. I don’t even want to think about the state my mental health would be in now if I hadn’t met her. I’m a stronger, better person for it. If you feel you would benefit from seeing a counsellor, it is also available on the NHS. You can find out more here.
So, to sum up, your mental health is SO important. As humans, we should not be afraid to talk if we have problems. Everyone has stress in their life at times. Some types may be categorized as more harmful to the mind than others, but all forms of stress can take a toll on ones mental health. Don’t ever feel that your problems aren’t worth solving or exploring. Everyone has their ‘annus horribilis’ and it’s vital that whatever the reasoning is, we deal with it. Free your mind from the clutter. Mental Health Awareness Week is super important. FINALLY, it’s ok to talk about it. There shouldn’t be a stigma, and now, there isn’t!
Even if you’re not comfortable paying a stranger to talk about your issues, maybe try talking to a friend or a family member. Just be willing to open up your mouth and mind.
Lots of love,
PS – Here’s a few links to places that can help you if you’re struggling to cope.