December 12, 2013

BexWarning, some readers may find this post triggering.

Over the past four years I have been living with a wide range of mental health problems, this is my journey so far.

After a serious feud with a close family member, many difficult emotions and consequences followed these events, I began to feel lost, angry and isolated, constantly overcome by these emotions I attempted to end my life.

My doctor diagnosed me with depression

Soon after that suicide attempt, my doctor diagnosed me with depression. My first response was shock: crikey, okay? How do I deal with this? What is going to happen? How will I tell my family? What do I even do?

An invisible brick wall of despair would hit me on my path each and every day, affecting my confidence and attitude in life. I became completely detached from pals and relatives. I was in denial. I would not speak about my depression instead I would hide it and wear an invisible mask; pretending I was okay when in fact I was ready to explode like a rocket of emotion.

I chose not to tell my family including my mum. I simply didn’t want to worry them. They knew something wasn’t quite right and yes, they did know about that suicide attempt and about my panic attacks. However, after time I learnt to pretend I was okay. Hiding my depression away from my mum was incredibly tough, I just wanted them not to worry. People say I’m funny and kind, I just wanted to stay like that, so putting on that act was my only coping strategy.

Overtime I was able to talk to youth workers about simply how I was

Overtime I was able to talk to youth workers about simply how I was. I spoke to them about my thoughts and feelings, having weekly chats with someone who listens and talking about my depression. Having a youth worker was brilliant!

As I grew up, and my 18th birthday arrived, I officially became a real grown up and moved from child mental health services and into adult mental health services, back on the waiting list to be seen by the team.

I had an assessment with a cognitive behavioural therapist and spoke to her about my anxieties and nervousness about going out with pals, busy environments, and loud noises. Due to that sickening feeling of unease I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. I suppose this did make sense, I was quite relieved to have that diagnosis and, after a few sessions, I applied to University and to live away from home, leaving CBT behind.

At university I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone about my mental health

When I was moving to University for my first year, I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone about my mental health. I felt that keeping it a secret was the only option. With no professional support in place, it was a real struggle but I passed my first year and headed home.

Due to a distressing situation in the middle of the summer break I had to finally tell my mum, with the help of my auntie (she’s like a big sister), and I have to say, it was the best decision I have ever made. I felt I could be honest about my experiences, my scars, thoughts and all the support I had accessed. My mum is great so I didn’t have a clue why I was so scared but I told her and it was a fantastic decision.

I was later referred for psychological counselling through talking therapy, speaking about the root of my depression and anxiety. I realised this came from my extremely difficult childhood and teenage experiences with a close relative. My therapist diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was in total disbelief. However, my therapist explained how we would address this – through exposure therapy. The therapist was lovely too, which made the support enjoyable, there was no pressure, it was just my time to kind of help myself.

I decided this time to be open with my friends and tutors at University

After just eight sessions over the summer just gone, it was time to head back to University for my second year and to leave home for the second time. This was extremely daunting. I was determined to make this work though and all I wanted was to carry on with my passion, to make art, which is one thing that keeps me positive and in control. I am currently on the waiting list with Mental Health Community Team, with an assessment booked.

I decided this time to be open with my friends and tutors at University; everyone has been so supportive and helpful. Telling my mum, friends and tutors about my mental health has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I would really suggest being open and honest is the best way. It may be scary but being truthful is the best way to become comfortable. I no longer feel ashamed about my mental health, I would just like to help others!

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