Monday, 10 October 2016

#WorldMentalHealthDay


The topic of mental health is something close to my heart, and to many others. Mental health affects everyone so differently, it's hard to generalize, and even if you have anxiety or depression for example, it affects people in different ways.

This is my story. 

I started to struggle with my mental health the summer before I went to university. I was spending most of my days alone, trying to pack, worrying about what was going to happen when I moved out of my home into halls. It was in this time I started to obsess about little things. I was convinced my teeth were falling out, that I was loosing lots of hair and I would wake up with a headache most mornings, which worried me more. 

Some of the worries went when I went to university, but some stayed. I was too scared to drink alcohol and go out, because I wasn't sure I trusted the people I was with. I then started to get chest pain and palpitations. I would sleep for 2-3 hours because I was too scared to fall asleep, I would be in the doctors multiple times and cry on the phone to my mum most nights. I didn't tell anyone I lived with, until I opened up to a girl who lived a few doors down. And that's when I knew that I needed help.

I finished a course of CBT at university, but it consisted of about 5 sessions and I came out not feeling much different. Things in my social life changed though. I had a group of friends I trusted, and I eased myself back into social events and I remember the first week that I slept 7 hours each night, and it was total bliss. 

My second year was much better. I realized that keeping busy kept me from feeling anxious and obsessing over little things. And this worked for the majority of the time. Those feelings don't go away, but they were kept at bay, and this was probably the best year of university. 

The bliss was short lived. In the summer going back to university for my final year, things turned again, more concentrated of obsessing over my health. I checked, prodded and scratched my body until it hurt. I was feeling my neck every 2 minutes, checking for lumps, I then moved to my breasts, convinced myself that I had breast cancer and spent most of the time googling. I opened up to a friend, who would often find me crying in the evening, and I couldn't lie any more. 

Talking to my GP about it was the best, and bravest thing I think I have ever done. I then started another course of CBT, this time, I learnt techniques and tried to understand why I felt these feelings. 

Things are better. There was a time in the last end of final year where the worry of grades, a job and the end of an era threw me off balance. What I did was made sure that I talked about it. Talking through things with friends or family is okay. Admitting you are not okay is okay. People will be there for you, people will listen. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't take it for granted though. I know one thought can spiral it all off again. But for now, things are under control. I'm busy, but not too busy. I meet up with friends, but I also take weekends to myself. You will get to know your own body and mind. You'll know what works and what doesn't. And if you're still figuring it out, keep going. 

The internet is such an amazing place to realise you are not alone. Whilst I am totally against googling symptoms for example, realizing that life isn't all peaches and cream, that people experience hardships that are beyond physical and that there are other people like you out there, shows how important breaking the stigma of mental health problems are. 

So I urge you, listen to someone who is experiencing problems, talk to someone if you are worried about anything, because there are people who will listen.




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