#SPEAKUP Our Experiences With Mental Health

Monday, May 11, 2015

When I started writing this blog, I knew that one of my sole objectives was to do my part to end the stigma towards mental health, but after all I'm just one person trying to do the best I can. I feel that 'Lacylatest' has now become a safe place for people who are suffering to come and hopefully find some comfort in my words but I realise that asking us to come together as a collective won't work if it's only my words and experiences you get to read up on. I have asked a few other fellow bloggers/people of interest to contribute to today's blog post; some who maybe haven't even spoken about their illness before and now have a friendly platform to do so.

Before I introduce my lovely guests for today I'd just like to make an important point. Although I am completely for speaking up about mental illness and helping others on their road to recovery; I never want anybody reading my blog to feel any kind of pressure to feel okay, or failure if they don't. Acceptance, compromise and recovery are all very complicated steps and have different timescales for each person.

Jennifer / 19 / Ireland

People constantly glamorize and romanticize depression, when in reality there is nothing glamorous about this condition. Depression is not a constant feeling of sadness; it is a constant emptiness where feelings and emotions once existed. Depression is the darkest kind of dark. It poisons your brain, convincing you that you’re worthless, causing you to push everyone away so they won’t have to hurt like you do. It is the constant feeling of being suffocated, but you’re not only unable but also unwilling to save yourself.  Depression is not a rainstorm; it is just simply believing that the sun is never again going to shine. And I know because I suffer from depression.

I’m ashamed to admit that before I was ever diagnosed I was one of those people who thought someone who suffered from depression was obvious to point out – they wore black clothes, had scars all over their arms and were admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The reality couldn't be more different.
I was diagnosed with severe depression and mild anxiety disorder about 2 and half years ago, when I was 17. Anyone who looked at me would never have assumed there was anything wrong. I was an A grade student, I had a good group of friends and what seemed to be a happy family, plus I was playing the sport I loved at a competitive level… I appeared to have a picture perfect life. But appearances can be so deceiving.

I had my first serious anxiety attack when I was about 15 during a match. I became so panicked that I literally couldn't breathe. I dropped to the ground clutching my chest as it felt like a herd of elephants where trampling me. I honestly thought I was going to die. I managed to calm down and I was fine after a while. But that feeling of fear never fully went away.
Over the next two years my world just seemed to tumble down around me. I was dealing with serious family issues at home, while also trying to juggle my sport and my school life. I was terrified to talk to anyone about how I felt. I didn't want to ask for help, but I also didn't understand myself what was happening. During those 2 years I had two suicide attempts. I had hit rock bottom – I had no interest in life anymore and felt I had nothing left to live for.

My mam saved me by forcing me to go see a doctor, who referred me on to a psychologist. When I was diagnosed it was like a weight had been lifted only to be replaced by another worry – what were people going to think of me? This was still only a short time ago, but back then there wasn't half as much awareness about mental health as there is now.  For months I was terrified to tell anyone, brushing off my constant disappearances from school to my counselor as dentist appointments so no one would question me. I finally told my group of close friends, who instantly rallied around me offering support. Any fears of them treating me differently instantly disappeared.
I have not told a lot of people about my battle with depression, partly because I do not want people to perceive me as different, but also because I am quite a private person. I have been so lucky in the way people have reacted to me – I have received nothing but love and support. However if a wider circle of people were to know, I believe this would change. There is still such a huge stigma surrounding mental health illnesses…people believe just because it is not physical, like a broken bone, it is not serious. Sure it’s just in your head, why can’t you just stop thinking that way? This couldn't be further from the truth. Thankfully people are becoming more educated and less opinionated, but I feel it is just going to take time before more people like me can talk about their battles with mental health freely.

You can find Jennifer at: Twitter 

Daniel / 24 / Leeds

First things first: I am not a blogger – I’m just another individual with mental health issues trying to promote the open discussion of the horrifically glorious functions of the brain.

Whatever your brain makes you feel, you are not alone, and you are no less able to achieve great things in your lifetime!
I’m going to talk about a part of my life that I've previously kept a little quiet about – ADHD. This isn't because I’m ashamed, in fact, quite the opposite. I've been fortunate enough, in my life, to have a strong support network through my family, friends and workmates (not to mention the fabulous LacyLatest!). The reason I’m not shouting it from the rooftops is due to the perception other people may have. As with the majority of mental health conditions, it can be quite difficult to explain just what happens up there in the brain and how this impacts my daily life, including: relationships, employment and even just going to the shops! I’m going to tell you about the troubles I've experienced, as there’s nothing worse than feeling alone in your thoughts so if anyone can relate to this post and feels even marginally better at the end, I’ll be over the moon...

So let me tell you a little background information, going right back to the start. I remember being quite a shy young ’un at primary school but I never really thought much of this - being shy at a young age is understandable, but there was an underlying feeling of indifference. At secondary school, I was a little intimidated by talking to the more popular kids (something I’m sure any young adult can relate to). I was over-sensitive to criticism and I concentrated so heavily on my actions; being so worried about how others would take my response (one thing that hasn't completely disappeared to date).

Those of you who've had professional help in the past may be familiar with the “Spotlight Effect”. Basically, you’re overly-focused on what people may think of you,  something as simple as making eye contact with someone in the street can send your brain into overdrive; believing they’re analysing every inch of your appearance and feeling vulnerable with your flaws exposed. In reality, they could be just as shy as you, wondering where you purchased your jacket from or even admiring your beauty!

There’s all sorts of other impacts that it’s had on me too. Building and maintaining relationships with partners, friends and family, making careless mistakes at work and, rather embarrassingly, my lack of exercise. I was even close to dropping out of university at the beginning of my final year!
So those are my issues.

I’m far from a professional on mental health but as mentioned, I've had some incredible help from others in the past and I feel the need to at least attempt to help others. It almost feels undeserving to be where I am today when there’s plenty of other people who don’t have access to the help they need or are maybe sitting at home too apprehensive to seek this help.

So, what have I done to get through this? How can you apply this to your own issues?

1. Find a balanced social life. Everybody is different and have different views on life, society and relationships. Personally, I've never been one to cause drama for myself or others, so my first step was to cut out these people from my life that did just that. I now have a small group of about 3-4 close friends that I can truly rely on, who I love spending time with and I can now be genuinely happy in myself. Don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not – you simply won’t live a happy life

2. Identify your problems and attack them! I've thrown myself into the deep end by moving to a different university and gradually saying “yes” to more and more opportunities. I've now given talks to other teams about organisation and motivation (further personal issues!) and although this was truly terrifying and horrific, it all contributes to a higher mental well-being. I learnt that being apprehensive and sitting back from things was not getting me anywhere. I was avoiding the things I wanted to do in life and I’d got myself into a rut.

  3.  Organisation. Hard to explain, but ADHD brings difficulties in attention (obviously). When listening to someone talking, it doesn't matter how important the information is, how hard I’m focusing on the words or eye contact, I can think to myself 5 minutes later and realise the information just hasn't sunk in! I can't see these moments of “Zoning out” disappearing, so I've started writing down everything I do to help me stay on top of things. Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar are absolute godsends. I've got all my tasks, appointments and needs written down so I always know what needs to be done by the end of the week.

  4.  Most important – be happy in yourself! Whatever your mental ailment may be, it can be there to stay so you might as well get used to it. You could try to turn negatives into positives. I genuinely believe that my ADHD has actually benefited my life in some ways. On the flip-side of over thinking and sensitivity, I've achieved a level of approach-ability that has led to others being able to confined in me about their feelings and relieve themselves of the solitude they've been used to. You can also use this to apply critical thinking (a skill highly sought-after by employers!) to your work. I’m a case handler for a large bank, where I decision client’s PPI complaints. I would not have been able to thrive here if it wasn't for my critical thinking.

There you are. I hope I haven’t come across as big-headed or snobby. I’m not a writer, just a simple guy telling you that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s all talk about it! Remove the stigma and have a community where we can share our stories and welcome an open discussion. I was persuaded to be open and honest about my thoughts by my mam when growing up, I know there are plenty of people out there (especially guys) that may have been brought up to believe mental health is a weakness. It’s only a weakness if you let it take control.

If I could ask you to take one thing away from this, just be yourself! Find out what works for you and keep doing it. Don’t pay too much attention to what others think (apart from genuine friends/family/peers) because those that are quick to judge you and bring you down aren’t going to be praising you when you do achieve great things, are they? They’re often the most insecure themselves; and we should remember that we all deserve a helping hand, strong mental well being and a positive future.

You can find Daniel at: Facebook / Email

Tara / 22 / London

Anxiety sucks the big one. For ages I had no idea there was a name for what it was I was experiencing quite frequently. This horrible feeling of sheer uncertainty can hit you at any time out of nowhere. People who do not understand it may dismiss it and it makes you feel completely isolated. The worst part is you know it's stupid. You know it's not a big deal and you should just not think about it but that's when the disorder kick in; suddenly this thing is huge and doesn't stop growing in your head. You know you're being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it. People not having the patience for it only makes everything a million times worse.

I believe contraception made my anxiety worse but the moment I stopped letting it define me it became something over which I had better control. It's now been three months since I decided to ditch birth control (but use condoms of course) and I am calmer and happier than ever. If I ever get anxious, I just practice the best ways I know how to relax.

You can find Tara at: Twitter / Personal Blog / Women's Blog

Share your opinion:

  1. I am a graduate from Southampton, I havent yet seen a doctor but I'm sure I suffer from ADHD or ADD. You may have just picked me up enough to actually visit the doctor!! so thankyou for writing this, well written post showing that you can still achieve greatness with a head full of worries lol

    KISSES, SAMANTHA | twitter.com/samanthaxcummings

    1. Anonymous27 May, 2015

      Hey Samantha! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I think it's really important to get different peoples perspectives on their battles; especially when it's based solely on experience as their not working in the mental health field. I'm impressed that you've decided to get yourself to the doctors and I hope things start getting better for you. Just remember, every step counts.

  2. Anonymous27 May, 2015

    Thanks for sharing your stories. Invisible diseases are hard for others to understand. Just want to say that this piece has made a difference to me. Sometimes I felt like a person panning for gold, trying to find the nuggets of words I need. It's terrifying!!!

    1. Anonymous28 May, 2015

      Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. I'm glad you were positively affected by the post, I think that's what everyone who contributed was aiming for. It's easy to get lost in our thoughts but just remember how many other people there are struggling- just like you. Things will get better, I'm sure of it

  3. This is inspiring & showing writer care for human being thanks.i am from india & in India job problem for unemployed youth as me after read this blog i found i am too get mental stress for not getting job early.due this always get angry on little things mood off always & sometime feel guilty on myself on my ability this making me weak. mental stress so dangerous thanks for telling me & the way you discuss may be so important to get out from this bad mental disease thank you so much.for caring for us god bless you & bright future in writing thanks again

    1. Anonymous28 May, 2015

      I'm so glad that you were so positively affected by this post. We all have bridges to cross and I'm sure you'll get there. Thanks for sharing your troubles :)

  4. Thanks for providing a safe place for discussion. I don't suffer from MHI myself, but my sister does and I hate seeing her belittled or frowned at. We still have a long way to go.

    LindaLibraLoca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    1. Anonymous28 May, 2015

      I can completely understand this. Sometimes we forget about the way it affects the people around us. It's just as difficult for the people around us. It's a long journey but I'm sure she'll get there. All the best.


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