It’s the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week and I feel the best way I can start some blog posts related to this week is to talk about my own experiences.
I’ve battled with a low mood since I was in year 8, so I was about 13. I can’t remember much from these years but I do remember being very unhappy, though no one knew. It was in about year 7 I was also getting very anxious about little things, such as detentions. I would have expected this fear to go after year 7 at most. But it continued right until the end of year 10, which it then went as I was only going in part-time, so they couldn’t actually put me in detention so it was like that fear had been taken away completely.
Bad and anxiety-provoking thoughts would stay with me for the rest of the day. For example, if I had forgotten a piece of homework and was told to bring it in the next day first thing, it would not leave my mind which would make focusing on other lessons very hard.
And it wasn’t all to do with school. I would get anxious about meeting friends in town. As I live in a village, my mum would always drop me into town so I would have to ring her to let her know when to pick me up. I would get paranoid that my phone would run out of charge or that I had forgotten my phone even though I had been checking multiple times in the car. I’d have so many back up plans just to try and keep my mind at rest.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of all this anxiety, I didn’t know what it was. I thought I was a little bit nerdy, perhaps. Or something along those lines at least. But I wish I had known it was something much different.
When I first heard about anxiety disorder, in about year 9, I started to try and bring it up with my mum. She agreed that yes, maybe I do have a little bit of anxiety. Nothing further was really said.
It was in year 10 I was put on to an antidepressant, but at this time, only partially because of the anxiety side. I was having real troubles with sleeping, anxiety thoughts keeping me awake, and with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (diagnosed at this point I believe), I couldn’t risk losing so many nights of decent sleep.
In year 11, I began to see the school counsellor. There was a lot going on. My mood and thoughts were awful and anxiety was high. My parents at this time didn’t know much of why I was actually seeing the school counsellor. I said it was down to stress and anxiety. And yes, part of it was. But there was more too.
The school counsellor was lovely. I was awfully nervous about asking for an appointment, meeting her and all that, but once it was over and done with, I was so happy I had asked for the help.
I continued seeing her for about a term when my doctor referred me over to a service, best known as CAMHS, a Mental Health service for children and teenagers, originally to help sort out medication and the anxiety stuff. Though after the assessment, a lot more came out that my parents didn’t realise.
A little later on, the CAMHS psychiatrist diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and began to sort out my medication, which is a much longer process than I thought. I opened up to my psychiatrist about my eating eventually, which had gone from not good at the beginning on year 11 to bad. He was fairly concerned about my weight and was worried I was developing anorexia. After weighing me a couple of times and remaining about the same weight, I was given the option that I could either try and restore weight myself or get help from the eating disorders team. If I opted for the restoring weight myself but didn’t restore, I was only going to be referred to them and I knew I wasn’t going to do it myself. So, I went with the eating disorders team option.
I was initially diagnosed with disordered eating but we now believe it’s more towards anorexia nervosa. A neighbour, who works for another eating disorders team, did say that what I am dealing with is anorexia and I suppose the hard thing about mental illnesses that are similar is that there are no test to determine that it’s definitely this or that.
This is a very brief overview of my struggles. I am still currently battling all three of these mental illnesses now and yes, they are a pain, yes, they get in the way of school work and yes, sometimes they get in the way of enjoying life. Mental illnesses get in the way of life and are hard to deal with alone.
Ask for help.
Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. Asking for help can be scary. But asking for help can be a huge step. Asking for help may seem harder than attempting to recover alone, but it’s not. Asking for help could take minutes, sometimes seconds. Recovering alone could take years longer than it needs to.
And I’m not going to sit here and make the whole recovery thing sound easy and fun, even with help, because it’s not, but I know it’s going to be a lot easier than just sat at home with no one knowing about it and struggling alone.