June 18, 2013

NatalieThe hardest issue I had to face was to tell my parents I was ill. They were worried, understandably, and wondered why I hadn't come to them earlier. They didn't understand what was going on and had no idea what it was that I was facing.

When I left university, I stayed in Cambridge to meet with my treatment team. I thought anti-psychotics were evil when I didn't take them and so was put on injections and sedatives. I could barely do anything, I couldn't work, make a meal, I couldn't sleep at night due to obsessions and so slept during the day.

I was a mess. Only certain friends knew that I was unwell, I felt that I couldn't tell the others something was wrong. I self-stigmatised myself, ashamed at how I could be so stupid and unable to do something. Here was a Cambridge graduate that could no longer cook pasta!

Some friends helped me but some didn't

A core of friends visited and helped me extensively but some didn't. It was like they didn't know how to react, how to help. One of the best things is just to be there for that person - just someone asking if I wanted to watch a film would have helped, making me feel a little more important.

I was encouraged to apply for a job, to get back to normal. Somehow the company found out that I was on medication and I was asked question after question. I was terrified that they were going to rescind their offer. I was finally employed! It took a while to get going but the company supported my every move, making allowances for the days I needed off when I was feeling unwell. They tried to understand and had regular meetings with me to check my progress. Employing someone with a mental health condition can be daunting on both sides but the best thing is to talk to that person and see what changes can be made- some are so small!

My boyfriend was very patient

Alongside this change, another change occurred - I snagged a new boyfriend. It was quite scary as I didn't know how he would react to my bad days and to begin with it was quite hard. Some days I believed I was evil and didn't want to talk to him but he was very patient and understanding and provided me with as much space and support as possible. Even when I put on weight with the anti-psychotics, he gave me encouragement to lose weight. If I had trouble with getting to work, he would talk to me in the mornings to ensure I made it to work.

Dating someone with a mental health issue can be a challenge but it helps if they do their research thoroughly and get information from the health care professionals on how to help.

However, stigma still exists...

It has since been 2 years since I started work and 1 year since my new relationship and both are going great. I want people to realise that even with a mental health problem, you can live life to the full.

Stigma, however, still exists. I was giving a talk on pregnancy and saying how some people on anti-psychotics need to stop their medication during pregnancy. A woman there said, "Well, really, should these mental patients even be having children?" At that moment I told my story and realised that I needed to write this blog.

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