Ok, *deep breath* – I know I’m late to the party but this is really important for me to document. I need to put my big girl blogging pants back on and reflect on last year, I’ve done this the past two years and I find it helps me remember all the things I’ve achieved or overcome. As well as acknowledging the bad bits too. I want to take this chance to update you guys on where I am with regards to my mental health too. I know I’ve not been the best when it comes to keeping my nearest and dearest in the know. So here goes.
I’ll be really honest, 2018 has been fricking hard – I feel obliged to include a trigger warning here as I don’t want to upset anyone that’s sensitive to mental health issues including suicidal and dark thoughts.
Starting at the beginning of last year, things were looking pretty good. I felt in control of my anxiety and had lots to look forward too. I went to Dublin, Ireland for one of my favourite human beings hen weekend, I was suuuuper anxious about it as I didn’t know some of the girls in the hen party, and being bridesmaid I put extra pressure on myself to be sociable which doesn’t always come naturally to me. But I did it and came home with lots of new friends and amazing memories – I did have a couple of panic attacks but looking back now, they really didn’t ruin anyones fun and I got through them. Shout out to Robyn for being an angel and holding my hand through them all ❤️
Moving into March and the big day was here – It was an incredible wedding and although I was internally freaking the f**k out it was an amazing day and it all ran smoothly. Ashleigh, the rest of the bridal party and all the boys all looked amazing.
In March I also received news that I had been chosen from over 630 colleagues that had applied to walk The Great Wall of China over a period of 5 days to raise money for Mental Health UK. I never in a million years thought little old me would get selected, I cried happy tears for at least a week! I’ve talked in detail about the opportunity I had in a previous blog so won’t go into it again here but it was at this point I knew I had a lot of fundraising to plan and a lot of training to crack on with. I was so excited, very anxious about certain elements of the trip but mostly excited.
I talked on film and had an interview about my mental health that went up on Wales online. It received some horrible comments as well as some encouraging ones, but it upset me to the core and really knocked my confidence as it’s not something I was comfortable doing to begin with – and these spiteful comments where from people that didn’t know me or my life.
May consisted of pretty much a lot of walking in readiness for the training weekend in June when I would meet the other 34 people that made up what is now my China Family. I roped Rhys into trekking with me mostly around where we live (a perk of living in the Valleys) but we did venture out of Abertillery and walked Sugar loaf Mountain, I had a mate date with Ashleigh that saw us reach the top of Twmbarlwm too – so I was feeling good about myself, I was raising funds through a raffle and selling tickets to a party I was planning – even paraded around the department in my office selling cakes and sharing my exciting news that I was going to be seeing one of the wonders of the world all whilst raising money and awareness for Mental Health UK.
So June arrives in no time, and I have all my kit ready and packed for my training weekend in The Peak District, I was a wreck but so excited. I don’t want to break the weekend down too much because its triggering for me, but I’ll just sum it up for you – Lots of walking and panic attacks on the Saturday, a midnight taxi ride home costing a bomb. I failed.
It took me a few weeks after that weekend before making the decision that I wasn’t well enough to go ahead with the trip, this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, I felt like an idiot, a failure. It was out of my hands – I was doing everything I could to keep my mental illnesses in check, and its just so ironic that I had to pull out of a mental health trip BECAUSE OF my mental health. It felt unfair, this challenge was meant to be changing my life – proving that I had the control.
July I tried to not even think about China, it was my birthday month so it involved some quality time away with Rhys we went down to Devon for my birthday – we ate ice cream and went in the sea, it was a much needed trip for both of us. Rhys is a rock and its easy to forget that he goes through all of my episodes with me. So it felt nice to recharge and enjoy each others company without any of the normal daily worries.
August bank holiday was fast approaching and I had to make a decision in regards to the party I had planned for Mental Health UK. I’d already paid for a venue and catering, gotten all the decorations and printed tickets for the party – so I went ahead with the evening and it was great. I felt like it was a good way to close that chapter, I couldn’t have got through that night without my best friend Hayley who helped dress the room, keep me calm and remind me to enjoy it all. With the money that I helped raise MHUK got information broachers printed and put into GP surgeries across the UK, this is something I feel really proud to have been a part of.
In September I walked 22 miles with my team and my two best friends as part of the “Walk the Talk” event for Mental Health U.K. the idea was whilst the guys were out in China we would be showing support at home by doing our own “Walk the Talk’ walks – I figured if I wasn’t going to be out there with them, then this would be the next best thing. I found these few weeks really hard, I should have been bouncing off the walls excited to be going to a new country with new friends and making Rhys & my family so proud. But instead I was home and I relapsed – along side anxiety I was experiencing a lot of depression and really up & down mood levels. It got really dark for a while, I struggled and still do now to a degree, with dark thoughts about hurting myself and feelings that everyone would be better off without me being here.
I remember ringing my Mam while she was in work, I felt like I was having a breakdown, I didn’t know how to function or move past the unbearable feeling, the thoughts in my head were like there was someone else in there telling me its never going to get better. I wanted to tear the skin on my face off. My Mam and sister drove straight up to me, we decided then that it couldn’t go on, I wasn’t getting anywhere with my GP or with the mental health department. The best thing for me now was to go private. Within a week of them receiving my referral I had an appointment with a private psychologist, who suggested a mood stabiliser medication to take along side my current antidepressants, he also referred me to a therapist to start CBT sessions.
December was a really comforting month for me, I made the most of my “Good days” we celebrated my Pops’ 65th birthday and took him for a festive afternoon tea at The Celtic Manor, it felt good to be out of the house and spending some quality time with my parents and Rhys. I went back down to Devon with Rhys, we visited the Donkey sanctuary and a couple of Christmas markets. During December I took a trip to Vienna, Austria with my Mam and Jane visiting the Christmas markets – Vienna is beautiful they absolutely nail Christmas time. (A post talking all things Vienna will be coming to the website soon.)
I’ve been seeing a therapist now since the New Year, he’s great at what he does, I leave feeling lighter and I truly believe he’s helping me. Im starting to really understand my illness, and thats helping me accept it – which in turn I hope will help me manage it. I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness daily and really research what self help methods benefit me, as well as going to my GP to find the right dose of medication that helps. With help from my therapist, the support from my manager, Rhys and my family I went back to work this March, its baby steps but I at least feel like I’m getting the right help, taking the right medication and on the right path. I’ve been mostly offline since the beginning of this year and I’ve needed that time away but I hope to start uploading again more regularly, soo if there’s anything you’d like to see me cover on Approach with Coffee let me know.
Thank you for your patience while I’ve been absent and thank you to everyone in my real world that love me.