May 29, 2013

Laura and FranHey :) my name is Laura and I am 16. I suffer from anxiety, mild OCD and am recovering from panic disorder :)

Hello :D I am Fran, I am also 16 and I suffer from severe depression, anxiety and OCD.

Although we suffer from different mental illnesses, thanks to them over the past few years we have formed a very strong friendship.

The saying "a problem shared is a problem halved" really does fit for us.

We are kind of like each other’s rocks. When one of us has a relapse or a particularly bad day, the other is always there. And on the days where neither of us is well enough to go to class, the others company really does make it easier to get through.

Our mentors give us advice and encouragement at school

On these bad days we go to the room our school has to cater for people with issues they may have. We have mentors there who are trained to help us through our problems. They give us advice and encouragement and make sure that our education doesn’t completely go down the drain.

Sometimes when we are losing hope about our futures we make plans for what we will do, like starting up our own online business, even if we can't manage university or even leaving the house. We both go to the same mental health service, and quite often our appointments are at the same time so we wait together and chat. It’s funny how the techniques we learn in cognitive behavioural therapy sessions can be turned into something fun. We practise the techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation, and colour therapy together, though sometimes we find it hard to keep a straight face.

We've both had to deal with discrimination

Like most people with mental health problems, we have both had to deal with more than our fair share of discrimination. You would think at a school where they have a room for people with these issues to study in if they aren't well enough to go to class, the other teachers would be sufficiently trained to assist with these problems too. However in our school, this is not always the case.

We both have cards explaining that we have full permission to leave classes and sit outside when necessary. Sometimes the teachers don’t seem to understand the complexity of our problems.

Why should we be punished for having an illness?

Why should we be punished for having an illness? All of our teachers have been sent emails explaining the safety behaviours that should be allowed. We can wear headphones in class to avoid silence which is a trigger for both of us and Laura must always be allowed a water bottle as she panics without one. But still, every now and again a teacher decides this shouldn’t be permitted.

Fran was once shouted at and told that it shouldn’t be allowed because in the real world special treatment wouldn’t be given. Thankfully we have our mentors who do care a lot and one or two of our other teachers do too.

When people hear ‘mental illness’, they think it’s just in our heads

Some of the other students aren’t very kind either; they either make jokes or tell us we’re making it up. A group of lads once started a rumour saying Laura was possessed by the devil because of a panic attack she had. When people hear ‘mental illness’, they think it’s just in our heads.

They don’t realise how much physical pain they actually cause; how you have a constant headache, how you’re dizzy most of the time or how your sleep pattern is non-existent due to horrible nightmares. They tell you that you’re just making a fuss and that you should get over yourself. But we always stick up for each other and have learnt to not take these things to heart. Thanks to each other, our horrible experiences haven’t always been so bad and it’s always nice to know that we will always have each other.

It is time for people’s views on mental health to change

A few months ago, we contacted our head of year asking if he could do an assembly on mental health awareness, but there just wasn’t enough time. There never seems to be when it comes to mental health. But we haven’t given up yet. That is why we have written this blog. We are sick of discrimination and believe it is time to talk and it is time for people’s views on mental health to change.

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