Attention All: This’ll be a long read, so I suggest going to get a cuppa before you start. I’ve tried to provide trigger warnings where I can, but if there are any you think I need to add let me know and I’ll do it quicker than The Flash!
[Trigger Warning: the first paragraph in quotes contains thoughts you may have when struggling with your mental health]
Something’s not right. I feel… I’m scared. . I don’t know what to do. What’s happening to me?. What’s going on? Am I having a breakdown? Is this it? I can’t stop it. Am I loosing my mind? I’m… I don’t know what… I don’t know what I’m feeling. I’m lost, confused… Somebody please help me. Please. I don’t know what to do.
These are some of the thoughts I’ve had in the past. I have mental health problems. I am mentally ill. My mind doesn’t work the way it should. It sucks, but it’s the reality for 1 in 4 people in the UK. And that is ok, not great, not bad, just ok. I would much rather your mind was well, but you are no less of a person if it isn’t. There is nothing wrong with struggling with simple tasks, with finding life hard. It is not something that makes you weak, and you should never feel guilty. You are sick, you are ill. You can’t help it. Some people won’t understand that you are ill, and that you can’t magic it all away. Screw them. Simply put, your brain is an organ. Just like every other organ in your body, it can get sick. You can’t think away mental illness, just like you can’t will away Diabetes or Cancer.
Today is Time To Talk Day, and it’s time to start conversations about illnesses that affect so many of us. 1 in 4 people is a shocking statistic, even more troubling by the fact we just don’t talk about it. The British stereotype really doesn’t help things, but we have to fight to get our voices hear. Just because we are mental ill it does not mean that evaporate from society, and now is the time to reach out to everyone you care about and ask them if they are really doing ok. Opening up is hard, really hard. As soon as you say anything about your mental health, doors close. Conversations stop. Everyone acts weird, and they avoid you. It’s not ok, but there are people fighting every minute of everyday to change things. People are speaking up, and standing out. I’m trying my best to be one of them. Things can’t stay the same, it’s dangerous. Life’s are on the line.
Don’t loose hope, you are not alone. Reach out, seek help. I know it’s a horrific thing to admit to yourself, that you are struggling. It took me… well… years. But having mental health problems isn’t the end, it doesn’t have to be the end. It may take a while, but you’ll find a doctor who recognises something is wrong. There’s medication, counselling, CBT and other kind of treatment. You have options. And if all else fails, I will always be here for you. Anywhere, anytime. Please don’t give up.
Right, now it’s time to practice what I preach. Me and my mental health go way back, and it hasn’t been plain sailing along our 10 year journey together. But each day I keep fighting, even if sometimes it’s only minute by minute. I have a history of Depression, Misophonia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depersonalisation-Derealisation Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Dermatillomania. Wow, I’ve never listed them before. That’s heck of a list.
As most of you are aware, I am very loud about my physical health problems. But mental health wise, I tell people bits and pieces, and to be honest I’ve lost track of who knows what these days. I guess I started opening up about it exactly one year ago, when I finally sought help for my anxiety. It was the lowest point in my life for quite some time, but with the support of my wonderful Twitter family I finally went to my GP. Lots of time playing medication roulette, and a year on I am far more stable.
I’ve written about anxiety before, but I have never really publically spoken about 3 other illness that I have really struggled with for the last year or so Here goes…
[Trigger Warning: food and eating] ]As I am a colourful rainbow of different physical and mental illnesses, it’s pretty complicated for me to explain my issues with food. They pre-existed both my physical illnesses, but getting sick with ME/CFS seems to have made things a lot harder for me. Misophonia is the hatred of sound, and I struggle tremendously with the noises people make when eating – including my own. All the chewing, lip smacking and swallowing is very overwhelming to me, and it feels like someone has turned up the TV full blast. It triggers me to feel physically nauseous, have anxiety attacks, blurred vision, headaches and ultimately cry. I’ve learnt to live with it, and I have a couple of go-to coping mechanisms. The first is background noise, you will never see me eat without something blaring in the background. When I’m home it’s normally the TV, when I’m out I always have my ipod at the ready and hope that restaurants have background music going. I concentrate all my will on listening to the beat of the music or the rhythm of people speaking. That also means I hear a lot of information when people don’t think I’m paying attention, so watch out people! I also try to avoid sitting directly opposite a person who is eating, so that I can focus on something else within my eye line like a clock on the wall or a painting. Please don’t be offended if I don’t look you in the eye when you are talking, as anything that draws me to your gorgeous face will mean me looking at your lips. If you’ve ever seen me eat, you know that I take a very long time. This is because I tear or cut the food in question into tiny bite-sized pieces to reduce the time I spend chewing.
[Trigger Warning: skin-picking, obsessive behaviour] Right, one down, another two to go. The next mental illness under the spotlight is Dermatillomania, which is also known as Excoriation Disorder or Skin Picking Disorder. As you can tell, it is the obsession and compulsion to pick your own skin. I know it sounds weird, and to some it will probably sound gross. I have bad breakouts on my face as it is, and I physically find it hard to not pick at the scabs. With the added complication of EDS, my skin scars far more easily than most, and I’m often see with at least foundation on to tone it down. I am drawn to Even the smallest imperfection on my skin, and cannot rest until I remove it, even if that means having open weeping sores. If you were to look on my arms and various other body parts you will see circular scars, often grouped together in three’s. Without going into too much graphic detail, that’s why I normally cover it up with hoodies or cardigans. On the one hand, it’s because I hate to be reminded that I ever did such harm to my own body, and on the other I use the clothing as a barrier so I can’t be tempted to do it again.
[Trigger Warning: ptsd, depersonalisation, derealisation, detachment from reality] I’ve left Depersonalisation-Derealisation Disorder until last because it is a lot harder to explain. The illness is part of a wider group called Dissociative disorders, with the other two subsets being Dissociative Amnesia and Dissociative Identify Disorder. Simply put, depersonalisation means feeling detached from yourself, like you’re watching what is going on rather than participating in it. See, I told you it’s complicated. It’ll probably help to put it in context, so here’s how it effects me personally. When I am stressed, it’s like a switch suddenly flicks in my noggin. I can feel it coming on, and then that’s it. I feel like I’m watching… someone… on TV, and like nothing is real. Somehow, it’s like my brain overcompensates for feeling too much emotion to feeling nothing at all, one extreme to another. Derealisation focus on not the person, but the environment. I feel like the world is foggy, unreal, and I don’t feel a connection to people I know well. Overall, my episodes typically last from a couple of hours to a couple of days. For me, alcohol also seems to be a trigger, which is why I avoid drinking to excess these days.
So… That’s it… It’s taken a long of time to be ready to bare all, but I decide that it’s time to talk. I’m no mental health professional but I’ve decided to share things I’ve never really told people before. And if you feel comfortable, please share this far and wide on your social media, to show others that they are not alone in their struggles. We will fight together.
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