I first got diagnosed with anxiety and depression in November 2011. I was working in Cambridge as a live in carer. I was very isolated and unhappy in my job which led to a breakdown resulting in running home to my mum and stepdad.
Thing is though my anxiety and depression didn’t start there as I believed for a lot of years. I met my psychotherapist Mary a year and a half ago(more on her later) and she taught me that the origins of my anxiety and depression came from childhood. Mary told me that I’d probably been suffering for some years with anxiety and depression but my breakdown was when (in my words) ‘I cracked’.
Now please don’t think I had a horrendous childhood. I wasn’t abused or anything really bad. Just the usual absent father, struggling single mother, bullying and a whole lot of racism in my predominantly white hometown called Hartlepool. Yes, it doesn’t sound nice but sadly these experiences are very common in a lot of peoples childhoods and I know there’s way more people who’ve had it worse than me.
Anyways, back to my point.
When I went running home to my mum and stepdad, my mum took me to the doctors who referred me to the mental health team. My goodness I remember so vividly the first time a mental health nurse and mental health support worker visited me at home. I was in the kitchen with my mum and I was so anxious that as soon as they walked through the door I burst in to tears. This whole mental health thing was new to me and I was convinced that they were going to take me away and lock me in some sort of asylum. Of course I now know that for starters they aren’t called asylums anymore. And due to the major cuts to mental health services (cough, Theresa May) then people are only placed in mental health units if they are a danger to themselves or to others. The likes of me, get medicated and referred to CBT(cognitive behavioural therapy) twice and a mood management course(which is basically group CBT). I did these courses whilst I lived in Bristol between 2012 and 2015.
For the years that followed up until now my mental health became a rollercoaster journey, literally. I’d go months where I felt awesome and invincible, like I could take on anything the world threw at me but then I’d be met with a crash and I’d be on my arse with either the anxiety monster or the depression monster, or even sometimes both(coz the twats like to do that to me) attacking me which most times led to me having to take a few weeks off work.
CBT didn’t work for me in the slightest. I understand that it works for some people but when the big old anxiety monster hits any hope of rational thinking goes straight out the window for me. I begged various different doctors for counselling the first couple of years prior to being diagnosed but they kept refusing and after a while I gave up.
Whilst living in Bristol I found a mental health support group which was charity run. The people who attended were so lovely and friendly. It was a very diverse group and it really opened my eyes to the fact that mental health really doesn’t discriminate.
I moved to Sheffield in November 2015. In Sheffield I once again tried asking my doctor for counselling but had no joy and was once again offered CBT. I found that Mind provide free counselling and I got added to the 6 month waiting list. I started having counselling but I sadly wasted it by talking about men and my tinder traumas. My counsellor was amazing but I just didn’t utilise it properly. I am still very ashamed of this still to this day.
Then the magic happened in the form of my psychotherapist Mary coming in to my life. For months, my two very good friends and landlords Clara and James had been offering to pay for me to see a therapist privately. I politely declined because I knew it wouldn’t be cheap and it’s a pretty huge act of kindness to accept from someone. However, the day came when I finally accepted. This day was following having a massive panic attack leaving work and James having to come and pick me up off the pavement on the main road round the corner from work. Yes I know it doesn’t sound pretty and you’re probably wondering why I’m even admitting things like this to you but this is the stark reality of what the mental health monsters can do to you.
Anyways, once again I digress. So in walks Mary in to my life and that’s the point when my journey to recovery really began. Mary is a trained psychotherapist and works with patients using talking therapies. I started seeing Mary in January 2017 and the change in myself has been huge. I haven’t been miraculously cured of my mental health problems, I don’t think I ever will, but Mary has helped me(and continues to help me) unpick all my baggage and work on my self esteem which was literally at 0% when I first came to her. I still have a long way to go and I imagine I’ll be in therapy for many years to come but in my experience therapy is where the real changes happen.
Now please don’t get me wrong. Mental health is unique for every individual and everyone deals with it in their own way. There’s lots of ways to tackle mental health and different things work for different people. For example, exercise is proven to be good at combating mental health issues and I know lots of people who it’s worked for. Me personally, couldn’t think of anything worse than going for a run. A good friend of mine loved CBT but for me it didn’t work.
In my blogs about mental health I want to make a disclaimer that I am fully aware that what I say isn’t the gospel truth. Mental health is very subjective and there aren’t many black and white answers when it comes to mental health. I am just writing about my experiences in the hope that someone somewhere reads this and thinks ‘I’m so glad I’m not alone in this’. Mental health can feel very lonely and scary and despite all the leaps society is taking in tackling the stigma of mental health it is still very much prevalent within our society which can make it hard for people to talk about.
I’m here to talk about it in a very open and real way. I’m not one for holding back or sugar coating the truth so you really will get the nitty gritty of the major lows and also major highs of my life living with chronic anxiety and depression. Please keep coming back to my blog if you like what you read.