If you'd asked me about my mental health a year ago, I would have told you I was fine when really, I was struggling. I had a mental illness and I was hiding it. I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want people to think I was weird, dangerous or "crazy". The stigma has resulted in me feeling excluded and unable to fit in. It has made me feel isolated and like there is something wrong with me.
If you ask me now I will tell you I have anxiety and depression, in some ways that's scary but at the same time I've accepted that I have a mental illness. I'll be open about it because I feel like by talking about my own journey I can help change the way mental illnesses are perceived.
Battling your own mind is one of the hardest things you can do. People with mental illnesses are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Life with depression is like the ocean - it's unpredictable, it can be frightening but there are moments of stillness.
At first it was hard to talk about my illness because I didn't think it would happen to me. I often say that when talking about my mental health, because I didn't. I live in a great city, have a good job, close friends and family and yet it happened to me. I turned into someone I didn't recognise and went from being content myself to being afraid of my own mind. No one ever thinks it will happen to them. They can spend so long fighting alone, living in fear of their own mind. I felt guilty because I thought others had it harder than me. I found it hard to come to terms with that, but I realised mental illnesses do not discriminate, they can happen to anyone at anytime.
When I was diagnosed a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I didn't feel alone anymore. I felt like the bubble that was my mental illness had been popped and it was being addressed. The diagnosis made me realise that my mental health journey had really started six years earlier. When I tried to speak about my panic attacks I was told that it happened to everyone my age and I'd grow out of it. I tried again a few years later to talk about my anxiety and was again dismissed. I was made to believe what was happening to me was normal and I had to simply get on with it.
I don't want anyone to go through or feel what I have. No one should be ignored or turned away like I was. These last nine months after being diagnosed have been full of ups and downs but now I will openly talk about my mental health. If I can help one person or change one person's attitude towards mental health through my actions then that means everything to me.