I have taken a bit of a break from the pink polish today to support a different cause, one which is very close to my heart. Today my manicure is green, green in recognition of Depression Awareness.
There is a social stigma related to mental illness unlike anything else. Social stigma which means it is almost impossible to discuss with the people around you what you are going through. People have compassion if you have a broken leg, toothache even ingrowing toenails, but mental problems are the unmentioned. So, today I am standing here loud and proud in front of you all and admitting what I have never really admitted before. I am an anxiety survivor.
I have no idea when I started experiencing problems with anxiety. I had a normal childhood, no upheaval, nothing untoward. But, I remember being young, probably 8 or 9 and being so worried at what my dad would say at some minor misdemeanour that I felt like I was going to pass out and dug my nails so deep into the palm of my hand they bled. I know to this day I can obsess over things that have happened in my past like they are happening now. Drawing on my bedroom wall and having my crayons taken off me, Not being trusted to have slip on shoes, directing my Nan a different way to get to our new house, going to my friends after school instead of going to watch my sister at swimming class. All these things can be as real and as frightening to me as the day they happened. But now I am 30 years older, but not 30 years more wise.
Since being an adult I have had irregular flare ups of varying degree’s of severity. The first time it was out of control was when I was 23. I had a special friend. She was amazing, I had known her since I was 11 and we just clicked. We managed to get through the awkward teenage years of friendship when things can be very up and down and got through to our twenties. My friend then got her first boyfriend and I was surplus to requirements. No longer needed or necessary, and all of a sudden I was all alone. This time alone gave me too much time to think about things and made me panic.
I broke down at work one day, for no particular reason and cried all day long. I had no reason for the way I felt, and couldn’t put it into words. I went to the doctor and he prescribed with me Prozac. I didn’t want tablets, I was ashamed of the stigma. Ashamed of needing tablets to be happy. I was 23, the world was my oyster, I should be happy anyway. I took my tablets for the first few weeks, I even saw my friend once. We had a night out and this was the first time I realised you shouldn’t drink while taking tablets like that. Whoops.
I didn’t want to take the tablets and just ‘forgot’ to follow this up with the doctor and forgot to order more tablets.
More bouts of severe anxiety have followed, all related to big events in my life. The loss of my dad, excessive pressure at work, breaking up from various different boyfriends in time and my on and off friendship with this friend. It doesn’t have to be the bad times which cause this though, the good times are just as likely to make the fear come back. Getting married was a big one, that sent me properly into a spiral, but before that it was moving in and even finding the love of my life.
In between these bouts different insecurities would rise. I remember being scared of the dark from a young age, I don’t know why, I just was. But it got to the stage where I couldn’t go out of the house in the dark alone. I couldn’t walk from my house to the car to get out. Whilst at points in the year it isn’t very limiting, imagine not being able to get from the house to the car when you desperately need to get food in, but its 4pm in December and pitch outside. Words can’t really describe how scary the world can be when your immediate thought is panic.
So add to the fact I couldn’t go outside after dark, I started to sleep with the light on. Then it morphed again and I started to be limited in where I could go and when. Whilst happy and friendly on the outside, inside I was crumbling. I never went on work nights out after something mean was said to me once at one. I wouldn’t go to the shops in December as it was ‘too busy’ – I have no idea how I rationalised this one to this day. Even to the fact I would only wear Clarks shoes or Crocs as anything else was ‘unsafe’ and I would slip and hurt myself.
The year I married came and went in a blur. I was happy to be married, but was terrified about what it mean’t. I don’t know why, but at this time my husband to be rebelled a bit and went off the rails. He stopped being the loving devoted person I was so happy to be with and became so insular and deceptive we almost fell apart as a couple. Inside I fell apart as a person. I was off work for three months after another day of tears for no particular reason. My doctor was supportive and I managed to stay on the pills this time. Long enough to get married anyhow. I had a period of counselling, which was good, but for me it didn’t combat the way I felt. I didn’t need sympathy for how I was feeling, I needed to stop his vicious cycle. In its defence the counselling did make me realise I was allowed to stand up for myself. Entitled to be treated well by those around me, something I never really understood before.
Three days before we wed, for reasons I don’t even understand myself I stopped taking my pills. I decided I didn’t want to go down the aisle a zombie bride. This is the problem with mental health, it stops you helping yourself. I can stigmatise the situation myself without any help from anyone else. Such an abrupt change to my system mean’t I slept nearly an entire 24 hour period on honeymoon. Unable to move from my slumber and the silent solace of the apartment.
I ease myself back into work, I struggle to get back to normal. The same old habits are there. Got to lock the car doors, got to check the hair straightener's are off, must check the doors are locked in the house, can’t go out after dark. The list of ‘rules’ could fill a blog post alone.
Fast forward to 2012, life is very different. I have two step children, a husband, a life, my best friend of previous years has been out of my life for 5 years and although its not what I want, its the right thing for both of us I think. I have a very near brush with cervical cancer. Nearer than i care to admit to anyone. I love my life, I have started to travel, but you don’t even want to know the routine I have to go on to even get on a plane. I am surprised at times they have let me board.
At this time my life falls apart. So bad I can’t even speak to my doctor. I go to my doctor with another problem entirely, but I am encouraged by everyone who cares about me to speak up about the way I am feeling. I can’t, I don’t know how to put it into words. So I say I have been feeling a bit unwell like before and ask for help if I need it. He looks bemused, probably completely unaware that I am talking about my breakdown from before.
When I leave I can’t speak. My throat is closed and I am completely beside myself. Mum speaks to the surgery and they will help if I go back inside. I can’t even do this and ring from outside and tell them I can’t, I have to go to work. Really this call is a cry for help, but they don’t know and I can’t say. I end up making another appointment for later that day. My mum goes with me this time to make sure I open my mouth and I fall apart. This time something is different. I am determined to get better. I don’t shy away from medication and I ask for proper help to help me sort this.
Despite the stigma I make an appointment with the Mental Health Nurse and even more shockingly I keep the appointment. I instantly like the lady I see, the only thing I can tell you is she is wearing an owl necklace. For some reason it makes me warm to her and she refers me for therapy.
The therapy wasn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. It teaches me to fight my demons and be proud of who I am. I am no longer the woman terrified to open my mouth about my situation, but I am proud. I am proud I have got to the stage where I can go outside and not worry about ‘bad’ things happening. I even venture outside in the dark. I am brave enough to do something I have always wanted to do. I have a beautiful puppy, and I am brave enough to write this blog and wear my green nails with pride.
To anyone listening who is suffering in silence, be brave, be honest and tell someone you love. They already will know things are not right and they will want to be your wing man to help you get better. Don’t be ashamed to admit your not well, it isn’t a choice, it isn’t a case of pulling yourself together, you need help and your proudest day will be the one you stand up and make yourself counted. Likewise if you are reading this and recognise anything that I have said in others be kind to them, and be glad you don’t have to walk a mile in their shoes.
I would like to say thank you to Debbie Crumpet for being the inspiration for this post..
Edited to add inlinkz to similar posts by other people
Edited to add inlinkz to similar posts by other people