It’s the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week (8th – 14th May) and I want to do my best to get people talking, sharing their experiences and educating each other about mental health. I know from experience that talking about any type of mental health is an absolute minefield – you don’t want to upset anyone that’s struggling or you want to support them but have no idea what to say or do when they are mid-panic attack!
Along with questions I’ve been asked many times – I asked my friends, family and colleagues what they wanted to know about Mental health, below are my responses.
*Please note I do not suffer from all types of mental health so these responses are my opinions and experiences of Anxiety, Depression, Agoraphobia & OCD.
When and how did you realise you where suffering with your mental health? When I was about 16 after being diagnosed with epilepsy I think I started to become aware of anxiety that I was feeling, but I just thought it was just part of my personality. Reflecting on things now I believe I have always had anxiety just not to this degree. I only started experiencing panic attacks and more severe anxiety over the past few years.
What does it feel like? I have spoken more about this in my previous posts; Anxiety and The two sides of anxiety but its a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, it paralyzes me and usually lasts the whole day sometimes longer. I can’t concentrate or function like usual – it consumes me.
Why can’t you just be happy? This is such a frustrating thing to be asked. That’s like asking why can’t you just stop having a headache?! You can help yourself to a certain extent but its an invisible illness – if I could just feel happy do you not think I would?
Was it difficult being diagnosed? I think my family found it more difficult – I was just relieved to be getting help.
How do you speak about it to your friends and family? I make a conscious effort when im with friends to try and not talk about it too much – I want to feel normal and talking about my anxiety can sometimes make me more anxious! But there are occasions when I will open up and get into deep conversations with people I trust. They usually just listen to me and im pretty good at telling them how they can support me now. Its like free therapy!
What triggers your anxiety? Everyone is different, my anxiety is heightened when im out of my house. I have suffered quite painfully with agoraphobia so being in supermarkets, socialising, being on public transport, shopping, eating out – all these things can cause me to have anxiety attacks.
How do you explain to people your having a bad day? What could they do to help you? If im honest im surrounded by people who know me well, and my face isn’t short of expressions! So it’s usually clear when im suffering, I tend to be extremely quiet and I will let the people know that im having “a blue day” – in regards to how they can help, they can’t really other than be patient with me and don’t expect too much conversation from me while im in that head space. A cwtch from my mam or fiancé always helps too.
I have recently realised I am suffering with anxiety, what can I do for myself? I’ve realised that you have to help yourself before others can help you – the mental health support that’s available will not come to you – you HAVE to go to it! Medication is an option or you have group therapy’s that are available through MIND charity, there are courses for Mindfulness that are highly effective – but you have to see it through, it’s not a quick fix. I have apps on my phone – SAM & Headspace that are sometimes good to use if you’re in an uncomfortable environment and want to subtly try to calm yourself down. The most important thing is to talk to someone – you don’t have to go through it on your own.
If someone is struggling with their mental health what could you suggest to help them open up? I would share your experiences, 1 in 4 people in the UK have experienced some form of mental health issues – either you or someone you know would most likely have experience with mental health. Remind them that although they feel it – they aren’t alone, there is always someone who can listen to them.
Do you feel more comfortable talking about it now? I feel extremely uncomfortable and very emotional being so open about it – but im lucky that I have some incredibly supportive people around me – so I feel strong enough (some days!) to speak up in the hope that it helps others that are suffering or it helps people who don’t understand become a little bit more educated on the topic.
How easy was it to get professional support? Like I mentioned the help doesn’t come to you – you have to find the help, and its a very long and frustrating process that can make you feel really low at times. But there is help out there – you might just have to spend a little while on a waiting list!
Do you worry about people seeing you when your anxious? 100% – its knocked my confidence massively and I can get really paranoid. Being honest I haven’t quite worked out how to overcome this just yet. When im really struggling I still lock myself away. I just take it day by day. I keep a journal and sometimes writing in that or reading back through it can help.
What support do you require from friends and family that you find most helpful? Patience – I can not tell you how much I value my nearest and dearest’s patience over the last few years. I really have discovered who my true friends are while going through this stage in my life. The friends who don’t get frustrated at me for not texting back – but they still text me all the time and the friends who make me feel normal – even though I can always see the concern they have for me in their eyes. I am so grateful to have a partner who adores me, and who has the ability to make the darkest days bearable. My Mam and Dad who would give anything to take the pain away from me. My family who love me unconditionally – all of your patience I am so grateful for. Just knowing they are all there is what helps me be happy.
Please leave any questions in the comments – we should all be talking more about mental health.