August 16, 2012

Photo of Aline, a Time to Change bloggerI have experienced problems with my mental health, on and off, since early childhood. However, it is only recently that I have felt truly able to discuss these experiences with those closest to me.

In the past, others’ perceptions of me as happy-go-lucky and my own misconceptions about mental illness made me feel uncomfortable about opening up to people.

Somewhere between the ages of 5-10 years old, after a series of stressful events, I started to struggle with anxiety and depression. Convinced I was suffering from an incurable illness, I would spend hours reading the family medical dictionary.

I developed a fear of vomiting which escalated and started to take over my life. As darkness fell in the evenings, my fear would increase. I was unable to sleep properly, scared of being alone with my thoughts.

I reached the conclusion that hiding negative emotion was the key to maintaining good relationships

As a child, I did not know how to explain what I was going through to my parents. I found it difficult to control my anxiety which led to outbursts of rage. This caused conflict within my family and I reached the conclusion that hiding negative emotion was the key to maintaining good relationships and to being “normal” and likeable.

I was bullied at school during my teenage years and this led me to a greater desire to be liked. I hid my mental health problems from my friends and developed a happy-go-lucky persona. If I did mention anything, it would usually be within the context of a joke.

I truly believed I had thrown it off forever

By the time I reached 19 years old, I felt terrible. I struggled to eat and sleep. I went off to university worried that I would not be able to cope. However, being constantly surrounded by people in a new environment, I started to feel a lot better. After a couple of short bouts of depression in my early 20s for which I finally sort help and was treated with antidepressants, I truly believed I had thrown it off forever. I got a job I loved, moved to London and threw myself into a hectic social life.

Unfortunately in my late 20s, once again following some stressful life events, my mood began to drop significantly. However, I continued to maintain my loud, outgoing persona, making regular visits to the pub next door to my office where my colleagues would make comments such as, “you seem so happy, what’s your secret?” and “I’ve never seen you without a smile on your face”.

my boss at the time noticed there was something wrong

Statements like these were meant as compliments but I let others’ perceptions of me prevent me from opening up to them. Despite my history, I decided that I wasn’t the “type” of person to suffer from depression. Surprisingly, my boss at the time noticed there was something wrong, took me aside and asked me whether I was depressed. Scared that admitting to my problems would damage my career prospects, I lied and told him I was fine, just a little concerned about my finances.

Ashamed of my behaviour at work which I felt was erratic and unprofessional I jumped at the chance to move to a new job which I was not capable of carrying out. I left a few months later under the threat of disciplinary action, escaping a bullying boss. Following this, I decided to go to my GP to ask for help.

I now take antidepressants and I am feeling a lot more positive.

I benefited greatly from receiving two years of psychotherapy on the NHS. I had a fantastic therapist who helped me on my way towards trusting my own emotions and judgements. However, 6 months on from the end of my therapy, I was still struggling with chronic low mood, to the point where I regularly contemplated suicide. With encouragement from a close friend, I made the decision to go back to see my GP. I now take antidepressants and I am feeling a lot more positive.

I was open with my current employers about needing time away from work to attend psychotherapy sessions and they supported me. I regret not talking to my previous boss when he approached me, with good intentions, to check that I was okay. I now know that it would have been beneficial to ask for help.

I have learnt that mental health problems can affect anyone

In recent years and partly thanks to Time to Change, I have learnt that mental health problems can affect anyone – there is not a “type”! Education is important – if I had been informed about mental health issues at school, I might have got help a lot earlier. Although I still find it difficult, I hope that if I start to open up to others it will not only help me but it might also enable them to discuss their own experiences and encourage them to ask for help if they need it.

Finally, I am beginning to feel proud of the person I am today; my experiences of mental illness are part of the package!

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Comments

Therapy...

I've been scared to go to my booked sessions purely because I think I'm going to be too resistant to them...have you ever felt like that?

When I started my therapy

When I started my therapy sessions, I was s**t scared and very nearly didn't go. The first step is the hardest, but in time it will become easier. Please go. You will be glad you did, even though it's not easy.

...worrying about being resistant to therapy

Hi, I felt exactly the same about therapy when I started it. In fact, it took me about a year before I finally felt it was having any sort of an effect and it was only after 18 months - 6 months before I was discharged from treatment - that I stopped feeling really anxious during the sessions. I believed that I was very 'stuck in my ways' and there was a big part of me that did not want my negative viewpoints challenged because I could not deal with feeling any more uncertain about myself than I already did. Eventually, I started to trust my therapist and the fact that I felt she understood me chipped away at my feelings of resistance. I really recommend that you attend your sessions and give it a few weeks; if you don't feel a connection to your therapist after that time, perhaps try something else. It might be worth mentioning your feelings of resistance to your therapist too as this might help you and could bring up other important issues. Although I still had problems with low mood and made the decision to take antidepressants following the end of my therapy, it did make a massive difference to my life; I gained a stronger sense of identity and my emotional experiences were validated. I hope it all goes well for you but please don't feel bad about yourself if it doesn't! Therapy is not for everyone and different therapies suit different personalities. Best wishes to you and good luck with whatever you decide to do, Aline

I have been recently

I have been recently diagnosed with cyclothymia, although I have struggled with depression since I was 14. Hardly anyone around me ever thought anything was up (although I have been called crazy, and "are you mental?" is possibly the most asked question). I, myself am seen as a happy-go-lucky kind of person and so as I have started to open up to those closest to me (which has helped tremendously) most of them never thought I was depressed "you're always happy" "nothing ever seems to get you down", when you have dealt with it for so many years unaided, you build up a new persona, a fake smile, an act to fool those around you. Some people don't even believe me when I say I have a mental health problem, but I've pushed those aside. Since facing my problems I feel a lot better and reading the blogs on time to change makes me realise that I really am not alone...

Thank you for this blog. The

Thank you for this blog. The part I found most thought-provoking was you describing erratic and unprofessional behaviour as stemming from your depression. I too can describe some periods of behaviour which could be described this way and I've never really thought of that ad being part of my depression: I thought it was part of the reasons for me developing depression rather than being as a result of it. Your insight has made view certain situations in a different light and maybe will encourage me to judge myself less where these behaviours have been concerned. Thanks again x

Depression types

Oh how we lie to those around us to spare them and us any uncomfortable situation. Just yesterday I popped in to visit my former workplace (within one large organisation which I still work for) and got told by several people 'you always bring happiness and laughter with you- you cheer everyone up' If they looked closer or saw me in my underwear they would see the scars that are testament to my deep misery. My liver could testify to the abuse my mind has inflicted upon it and my kids can tell tales of mummy laying in bed sobbing and instructing them to go see the grandparents for their dinner. If only they knew that my hyper activity worries me and that I struggle with taking medication that makes me feel like a zombie one minute yet appears in affective when I suffer from chronic insomnia. If only they knew.......

The 'happy go lucky' social persona often hides depression

Great post on how the necessity to wear a social mask can lead to almost lying to oneself about one's mental health. I can relate to your situation. I am also known for being the officially 'strong' person, the one with no problems, etc, when in fact, the deep complexities of mental illness lie beneath the surface. A friend of mine was also the typical 'happy go lucky' soul of the party type who was in truth hiding a depression. Always ready to help others and offer advice, he was also known for regularly spending hours chatting with the homeless, entertaining strangers with hilarious jokes and setting up a swimming club. Nobody knew how lonely and hurt he truly felt until he committed suicide. Wearing the 'happy go lucky' mask can go ways too far. Thank you for reminding all of us of that simple fact. Today I remember my friend. And I wish you all the best.

anxiety

my expirience was much the same. and is still much the same. one week is never like the next but i stay positive, aware that if i push myself too hard it will worsen, but if i give myself little hurdles i will be fine. today i challenged myself to get on the bus to the nearest town with my two little boys and take them to family holiday group. i did it. its not `just` doing it, it was leaving the house with ocd `tendencies` it was getting on the bus with a fear of being stranded and finally arriving at my destination confronted by entering a room full of people, some strangers. i did it, nauseous and anxious as i was, but i did it.

Wow, your story is so similar

Wow, your story is so similar to mine. Reading the first few paragraphs especially, I could have sworn this was written about me! Thank you for sharing your story and making me feel a little less strange! I still struggle with depression, but I'm learning to understand it more and more. Now I know the warning signs and I also know when it's time to go back to the doctor. Really inspiring story :-)

Ailine, well done for all the

Ailine, well done for all the hard work you have clearly put into managing depression and anxiety you experience. Reading your story was like reading my own. It goes to show that self acceptance and the right support are key to recovery and avoiding relapse. We are lucky but I also know how much work has to be put in to achieve this by ourselves, albeit some days less than others. Thank you for sharing your experience. And thank you Time to Change, not only from a personal and professional point of view, as I also work in mental health and know how important raising awareness of mental health issues is to help break down the unbearable isolation that sadly comes with them.

rings bells

reading your story rang so many bells with me 'happy go lucky' 'always got a smile' nothing bothers you' i have all these comment now i'm not embarresed about my illness i can tell people just how i feel. to all those out there be proud of who you are

Oh wow... this whole history

Oh wow... this whole history was like reading my life story - the anxious childhood, the phobia of vomiting, the stressful events in childhood triggering everything, the hiding it from everyone and becoming SUPER FUN AND HAPPY on the surface, then it getting much worse in your 20s... That's exactly how my life has gone up until now. I have actually learned this year that putting on that "I'm OK" face is actually partly why I became so ill recently, I wasn't accepting my illness and I wasn't dealing with it properly. I also ended up in a job I wasn't capable of and actually did get sacked. It's all too familiar. I've just started having psychotherapy, privately as it's not available on the NHS near me, but I can only hope I'll feel positive like you did after a couple of years. Well done for being so brave and writing this.

Be strong :)

Hello... well done for having the strength to speak out and express your feelings - it is a fantastic step forward. I did exactly the same a few months ago on this very site - I felt that folks actually wanted to listen :) Keep up with the medication... I have been on a variety of anti depressants over the past 5 years, but with the help of my Doctor and Mental Health team I have finally found one that works for me. Keep focused on you All the best Marc

Thank you

Hello Marc, Thank you so much for your comment :-) I'm so glad that I wrote my blog - it has already made a big difference to my life and it feels much better now that I have been open about my experiences to many of my friends who until just a few days ago I had kept all this from. I'm glad that sharing your story helped you too! I read your blog (at least I hope it was yours!) and I hope things worked out okay with work, one way or the other. I commend your wife for the support that she provided you, and you for the strength you have demonstrated in dealing with your depression. It's great to hear that you have found an antidepressant that has helped you. I'll definitely keep up with the medication as it has already helped me a lot - I finally feel like 'myself' again! Best wishes back to you :-) Aline

Enjoyed reading this. Goo luck with everything

Thanks alot for sharing your story. I am someone who has also suffered from mental health problems, Namely a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression suffered in the winter which has affected my life to a large degree in the past before it was properly treated. I also feel that I'm one of those people who dont seem to be a typical sufferer of a mental health problem, I appear confident, attractive and happy which I am alot of the time nowadays but I still have a condition that I manage that makes life in general more challenging for me than it would appear from the outside. Sometimes I think its harder having a condition that you cant see than having a physical condition that is obvious, as sometimes people just cant get their head around the fact that an individual who looks like they have alot going for them could still experience periods when they feel like they cant get out of bed, that they are so tired they cant concentrate even though they've slept for 16 hours, that they don't want to socialise but just want to be on their own for periods of weeks on end. I feel really lucky that I've found ways to keep my SAD under control to a large extent now-days and I also think in some ways its made my life and my experiences deeper and me more appreciative. However, I also believe that I wouldn't have needed to go through so much pain at some points in my life if mental illness was more widely understood by G.Ps and society as a whole.

just to add...

Mental illness Is something that can be treated well in alot of cases, there are so many things available nowdays that can help to a massive degree and life is too short to spend it struggling with these conditions because people are afraid to talk about whats happening.

mental health

I am grateful to Aline for sharing about her difficulties with depression. She is right: it can happen to anyone. One of the worst things about it is the feeling that one is stigmatised or will be if one talks about it. It seems strange that such inhibitions or prohibitions still obtain at all in our society, but they do. Looking back on my own experience of psychiatric disorder, it seems to me that one of the best things is to engage in creative activity, no matter how simple (such as making an ashtray out of tiles, or writing a poem, or making something out of clay). Another - or perhaps the most important thing - is to follow one's spiritual journey. It may be that one is not "mad" but on a spiritual journey, that not everyone can understand. It's vital to pursue it, if so! I came to realise that Jesus loves each one of us personally and individually, enough to endure the inconceivable pain and humiliation of the Cross, enough to go through death itself and come out the other side, victorious over it (i.e. over man's worst enemy). God bless you, Aline!

Bravo! Excellently written,

Bravo! Excellently written, moving, honest and courageous.It's vital that more people open up about their experiences with depression and other facets of mental illness as Aline has done. There is still a long, long way to go, but the more people who tell it how it is, the better for everyone. xxxxxx

Great post

<p>your first paragraph sums up my experiance up too</p><p>though my first close up encounter was my wife, after the death of her gran and 19 yr old nephew a few a few months apart.2 yrs of supporting my wife my wife and some day job issues, then broke me,&nbsp;</p><p>That was 22 months ago, my wfe is now off the tablets, abdi am on a lowered dose,&nbsp;</p><p>but the whole journey was extremely enlighening&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Thank you for your honesty

Thank you so much for sharing your experience so openly, I found your story moving, as there are quite a few aspects that I can relate to personally (although obviously every person/situation is different). I hope you're honesty inspires others to open up too and I hope it helps people to understand that just because someone looks cheerful and chirpy, there can be a very different picture under the surface. Sadly, quite a few employers still don't know how to cope with a worker with a mental health diagnosis, hopefully this will change in time, but it will be a slow process. Hopefully, your article will help people realise that mental healths problems are something that can happen to anyone, even the most determined, "cheerful" people and it is certainly not a choice or something that can be cured merely by "thinking positively" or "keeping ones chin up" (well-meaning but unhelpful advice I have received from people in the past). I hope your family and friends have been more understanding and supportive. I wish you all the best for your future.

We can't help if you don't tell us

Aline - thanks for sharing your experience. I work in HR, and I have a lot of experience supporting people at work with various long-term illnesses and injuries - including mental health conditions. When we are aware of a mental health problem or other underlying condition, there are lots of things we can do to help - but we can't help people unless a) they tell us and b) they let us! I hope your post will encourage others to seek help and allow them to stay in jobs they enjoy, too. K

I was wondering what type of

I was wondering what type of antidepressent worked for you? I am not takng any, because of bad reactions to a few before. Also, are you able to maintain employment? I cannot.

Antidepressants and work

Hi, I’m really sorry to hear that you have had bad reactions to antidepressants. I currently take Citalopram. For the first few weeks I took it I had horrible side effects – I was sick, felt totally spaced out and had great difficulty urinating (!) which was really scary! 5 months on, these problems have now subsided and it has helped me a lot. However, you may well have already tried this antidepressant… I’m sorry to hear that you are unable to work at the moment. I can work, although it has been very difficult at times. I have been lucky to have had two or three years here and there where I have felt better, which has helped me to stay in employment. In the past, I have had jobs that I can cope with during tough times. When I had a lot of trouble at work 5 years ago, I quit my job and managed to get a very simple temporary admin job where I didn’t have to be 100% on the ball. The office was based quite close to where I lived so I could get home quickly which helped a lot. Before I got referred for long-term psychotherapy, I went to my GP with a copy of a letter that I had written to a mental health charity asking for advice in which I had listed all the problems that I had been experiencing. It really helped me explain what I had been going through and I strongly recommend this as a good way to get the help that you need. I hope that things improve for you soon – don’t be afraid to ask for the help that you deserve. x

Well-written and courageous piece

<p>(I posted a response a &nbsp;few days ago but my post seems to have vanished into the ether!)</p><p>I can only echo much of what has been said here. Things are very slowly changing, but we need more people prepared to tell it as it is rather than continue the horrendously painful deception that many of us engage in, in order to make it easier for colleagues, friends or family, or for fear or being judged and censured. Depression is an <em>illness</em>, and sufferers often risk prolonging or intensifying the painful symptoms by keeping up this false front. It's also harsh and judgemental; totally undeserved - we wouldn't treat a beloved friend or family member as harshly as we often do ourselves. To break the cycle, we need to learn - &nbsp;and practise - &nbsp;self-compassion; this piece, and many more like it, will go a long way towards realising that. Thank you, Aline, and well done.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Thank you, Wise...

...attitudes are changing and I hope they continue to do so. I still find it very difficult to discuss my experiences of mental ill-health with others but I hope that by posting this blog I have made another step towards greater self-acceptance and openness. Thank you for your kind words, Aline xxxx

Thank you!

Thank you all so much for reading my blog and for commenting - it has meant so much to me! :-) Best wishes to you all, Aline x

Thank you Aline, I really

Thank you Aline, I really respect you for writing this blog. I wish I was brave enough to do the same

wow

you are a strong courageous woman_ I gain so much from hearing similar experiences to myself< i am 12 months into psychotheraphy though i am blessed to recieve this from a charity due to several unsuccessful and looooooong nhs referals, it taken me a long time to unpick the brave faces and i know I'm no where near done yet....... thank you for sharing your story with me.

Well..

I understand this is years old, though as I was reading it I couldn't help but feel I am the same. I am 20 and I have suffered from anxiety and depression since a very young age. Everything you had described has been my life. I haven't ever actually been able to get a "proper" job. I also haven't gone to my GP in years as I have time where I feel okay enough not to worry and then the depression hits me once again. I barely sleep at night, not until early morning which I then sleep through the entire day. I barely eat anything and it is effecting my health in a bad way.. I feel as if I'm getting worse but I don't know how to even begin doing what you did. I think if I don't do something about it soon, it will never leave.

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