Everyone grab a cup of tea and Let’s talk mental health for a minute.

This isn’t something I’ve discussed on my blog before but as the days are getting shorter and s.a.d (seasonal affective disorder) is creeping in I feel like it’s really important to talk about.

**Warning: I will be discussing details of my mental health history and there will be notes to eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and self harm. So please if you are triggered by this then please do not read.**

So even as I’m typing this I’m feeling a surge of anxiety coming over me, I’ve never really bared all and exposed myself the way i’m prepared to now, but it seems like now is the time to discuss this and recent events that have happened have triggered a domino effect in my life that have given me a sense of urgency to speak up.

When I was growing up mental health was never discussed. It was a silent topic. When I was a young child I didn’t understand how I felt and couldn’t at all process what was going on so my way of coping was to sleep as much as possible and I developed a safe space in my mind that I would go to when I felt threatened. I would Hallucinate and disassociate to a happy place. When my body couldn’t cope I would have panic and anxiety attacks but I was always told they were asthma attacks and always had a blue inhaler to try and help but of course it didn’t. Through out my early childhood and my teenage years I was exposed to a lot of traumatic events, but I had always been taught from a very young age that we didn’t talk about what happened and that we just pretended like they hadn’t happened so this was the mentality I kept all whilst growing up and that unfortunately caused me a great deal of pain.

I tried a couple of times to reach out to a family member, but I was made to feel that I was being a drama queen and the way I felt was irrelevant. I knew something was wrong with me but talking about depression and anxiety was taboo and so I tried to hide it from everyone as I believed that I was wrong for the way I felt. Feeling quite out of control of my life and not understanding what was happening to me I tried to comfort myself in any way possible. In my teens I turned to binge eating until I was sick, drinking very heavily until I was blacking out and then in my early 20’s I started taking drugs. I later started experiencing episodes of Psychosis and disassociation and very violently hurting myself.

**Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. It’s a symptom of serious mental disorders. People who are experiencing psychosis may have either hallucinations or delusions. Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur within the absence of an actual stimulus.**

**What Is Disassociation? Dissociation is a psychological process whereby someone disconnects from reality, their thoughts and feelings, or loses memories and their sense of identity**

When I hit the age of 20  I tried many times to end my own life and I was very nearly successful. I over dosed and didn’t wake up for a few days but when I woke I decided it was time that I went to my doctor to try and seek out help, my Dr prescribed me medication and diagnosed me with depression and sent me away. I felt like a lost cause and I didn’t know how to bring myself out of it, I couldn’t talk to my doctor openly about everything I was experiencing because I was terrified that they would tell me that I just needed to get over it or I was a drama queen, something which I had been told repetitively my whole life.

After another traumatic incident before Christmas 2008 I started experiencing extreme vivid flashbacks and with this came sleep paralysis, insomnia and a complete change in my behavior. I was misdiagnosed with bi-polar disorder and I tried to seek out therapy but believing the threat was still very real I pulled away and pretended nothing was wrong. Then in autumn  2011 when I was 23 I over dosed again and severely hurt myself in an episode of psychosis. It was at this point I decided to moved to Brighton in the bid to start a new life and find some stability. A year later at the age of 24 I hit breaking point and had a mental break down. My doctor wanted to hospitalize me but I was terrified and I ran instead and spent a month with my dad who wasn’t completely aware of my situation but knew enough and that I needed help. I later lost my job because I developed agoraphobia and couldn’t leave the house alone at all.

**Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed**

I had vivid flashbacks to traumatic things that had happened throughout my up bringing, intense feelings like I was reliving things over and over again, I was jumpy, scared and nervous and it constantly felt like I was being watched. It felt like my past was coming back to haunt me all over again and there was no escape.

“PTSD nightmares aren’t always exact replays of the event. Sometimes they replay the emotions you felt during the event, such as fear, helplessness, and sadness.”

Not understanding or able to articulate how I felt I started loosing friends. I’d disassociate and often would loose weeks at a time having no idea where they had gone. Friends told me I would drift off mid conversation and I couldn’t hold my attention.
Almost a year later I was diagnosed with cptsd (complex post traumatic stress disorder) with anxiety, depression and dis-associative behavior. I started seeing a specialist through the NHS who started trying to help me. It finally felt like everything made sense. That everything that I had experienced growing up was actually a real thing. I wasn’t being overly dramatic and I wasn’t wrong for feeling the way that I was feeling. It was finally the acknowledgement that I had needed throughout the years for me to be able to start moving forwards.

**Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental condition that some people develop after a shocking, terrifying, or dangerous event. These events are called traumas. After a trauma, it’s common to struggle with fear, anxiety, and sadness. … But if you have PTSD, these thoughts and feelings don’t fade away.**
**Complex PTSD and emotional flashbacks
If you have complex PTSD you may be particularly likely to experience what some people call an ’emotional flashback’, in which you have intense feelings that you originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame, sadness or despair. You might react to events in the present as if they are causing these feelings, without realizing that you are having a flashback.**

So where am I today? I have been in continuous therapy for just over a year with a wonderful trauma specialist. I have a lot of struggles and self doubt and I constantly question myself. I have massive chunks of my life completely blocked out from my memories, because my brain isn’t ready to process my trauma. I still hallucinate daily, sometimes it’s hard to understand what is real and what isn’t. I still experience intense flashbacks and disassociation but it’s becoming easier to cope with as i’m learning new ways of grounding myself and self care. I’m not 100% over my agoraphobia but I’m pushing my boundaries and learning to trust the outside world again and discovering the world doesn’t have to be a scary place. I’m starting to become a whole different stronger person who finally understands herself and I’m learning to accept myself. It’s been 7 years since my last over dose, 6 years since I last self harmed and I’ve changed my relationship towards food so I no longer binge. I don’t drink alcohol and I’ve chosen to live the healthiest life I possibly can. Don’t get me wrong I still have to fight the urge on bad days/weeks but i’m stronger than my impulses and I’ve learned healthier coping mechanisms. For a long time it felt like my mental illness was all consuming because I didn’t understand what was wrong with me and now day by day I refuse to be defined by it and i’m learning who I truly am. I finally feel like I have a bright and positive future ahead of me and i’m excited to see where my life goes.

The ugly truth- Due to being un-diagnosed for so long I now suffer intense stomach and gut issues through both IBS and food sensitivities. My body releases trauma and stress through my gut and I struggle with eating lots of different foods. My symptoms can go from being very mild to very aggressive depending on how i’m feeling.

It’s so important to talk about mental health. Even recently I’ve hit heads with people who have told me;

“you have panic attacks so often you should just be used to them”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, just get over it.”

“You look fine to me.”

“people have it worse than you do”

Being silent isolated me and being silenced nearly killed me. I refuse to keep quiet and I refuse to be ashamed. 

Mental health is as debilitating as a physical illness and people need to acknowledge that it’s a real issue. In 2017 in the UK alone there were nearly 6000 deaths from suicide. Many people go through a good chunk of their lives not being diagnosed because society has had a stigma that you have to be completely crazy to have a mental illness this couldn’t be further from the truth with 1 in 4 people suffering from depression and anxiety. If you’re struggling or suspect that you’re suffering with mental health issues no matter how minor or severe go to your Dr and speak up. It’s okay to accept you’re struggling and it’s okay to need help. If you have the flu you take medication to help you feel better and you take time to rest so It’s okay to talk up and accept you need a helping hand.

If I could go back and do things over I would of spoken to a Doctor sooner and reached out more. Remember you aren’t alone despite how scary and isolating it can make you feel.

If you do not suffer with a mental illness it’s okay to not understand it but be accepting and reach out to those that you can see suffering. Refrain from using sentences like “cheer up” or “just don’t think about it” and instead find out what support you can offer them. Even if it’s just being there with a cup of a tea, a nice biscuit and a cheesy film we don’t expect you to have the answers but sometimes all we need is a cuddle.

 

 

If you think you are being affected by any of the things I have mentioned above and do not wish to speak to your doctor or you are suicidal please contact Samaritans on:

If you’d like to read up more about CPTSD you can check out the mind website here:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/complex-ptsd/#.W6qQh2hKiM8