I remember when someone first spoke to me about my mental health. I'd had a panic attack in college, something that happened quite frequently despite me not realising what a panic attack was at the time, but this time a tutor noticed and advised me to visit a doctor. At this point I thought nothing of it since I'd put my anxiety symptoms down to a physical issue rather than a mental issue, despite struggling with it for two years already, and so I agreed to book a doctor's appointment the following day. It turned out this would be the first visit of many and that a lot of my mental health I had been in denial about was about to come to light.
This blog is the first time I've opened up about this on such a large scale and I was very hesitant about doing it, until I realised that being hesitant is the reason mental health has been such a stigmatised topic for so long. If talking about my story helps just one person to start a conversation then I guess it's worth it.
In February 2018, at the age of 18, I was admitted to a psychiatric unit for the first time. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Along with weight, I lost all hope of ever getting better. The next two months that followed in my first hospital admissions were the most difficult and scary months of my life and led to me being sectioned under the Mental Health Act for my own safety.
Over the past year I was admitted three times in total to two different psychiatric units, kept overnight for observation on two other occasions, received home treatment on three occasions, and attended A&E a further three times for assessment following crisis. All of this led to me making the decision to defer my entry to university to focus on getting better.
During this time, talking to the people close to me about my mental health has kept me going. My friends have been my rocks from visiting me in hospital to supporting me in my return to college. My tutors were amazing during this too: if they hadn’t taken me to hospital I may not have been able to sit my A levels and get the grades I did. I now have an even bigger support network helping me from people in work, the support workers at the hostel where I live, and the mental health professionals in charge of my care.
Through my experience I learned that discussions about mental health are so important, and my situation could have been so different if people hadn't stepped in to talk about my mental health. I'm still struggling a lot and have lots of appointments and a care and treatment plan in place to try and avoid hospital admissions, but I've got a large support network around me that are there to look out for me when I'm too ill to look out for myself.
There's so much stigma and misconceptions about mental illness when you compare it, for example, to physical illness. That needs to change. Talking can make such a difference, it's so important that people are able to open up about how they’re feeling.