Most people start adulthood, looking to the future, at a world of possibility. The transition from teenage life to adulthood was marked by when I diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder type II at 20.
Many people know me as the person who laughs, smiles and jokes. But not many people know me as the person with a mental health condition. The reason for that is that there is no way of telling if somebody has a mental health condition.
When I think back to my first year of secondary school, I didn’t really know much about mental health. I could maybe have named a couple of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, but there were so many things I didn’t understand. I definitely didn’t realise that anyone, including myself, could develop a mental health problem.
When I was 14 years old, I was suspended two weeks before the official start of the Christmas holidays. I’d been self-harming for months at my boarding school, while firmly believing that I’d been exceptionally secretive.
Fortunately, I was surrounded by a group of people who pulled away every lie and excuse until I had no choice left but to accept help. At the time, I hated them all. Despite the hours that these people had spent trying to understand and support me, I felt deeply betrayed.
Here’s the thing. People with anxiety are not paper dolls. They won’t snap in half if you even so much as breathe in their direction – so why are people with anxiety still treated as though there’s something wrong with them?
When I was in my first year of university I wrote a blog, like this one here, for Time to Change. It was about going to university knowing you have a mental illness and the decision I made to tell my flatmates.
It’s so important to surround yourself with loved ones who care about you and acknowledge your mental health difficulties. You need a stable support network around you, even if it is just one or two people you can really count on.
We as people are social beings; we require and need human contact as part of our survival. I have suffered with severe depression and anxiety for seven years and often when you are in the most need for help, love and support, you isolate yourself from the world and avoid human contact. You can push the ones you love away, either by not speaking to them at all, or by taking your emotions out on them.
As a man with mental health problems myself, when the topic of men’s mental health comes up I often feel guilty. There are so many women suffering not just from mental health problems but also from a wide range of societal problems that can make it harder to cope with them. Who are we as men to complain about the stigma we face? But the more I think about it the more I realise that the guilt I feel is only a reflection of the problem as a whole - that we struggle to face up to the reality of our so called “weaknesses”.
I’m James, I’m 25 years old, and I live in a small town just outside of Chester. I’m a Time to Change Young Champion, and that means I spend my spare time campaigning to stamp out stigma and discrimination around mental health in the UK.
I first properly experienced mental health issues at the age of 15 was when, and with this came a lot of damaging attitudes and actions. When I started going to therapy for treatment of depression and anxiety, I was still at school and my peers told me that ‘I didn’t look like a psycho’, which is kind of a backwards compliment that made me feel I had to be sicker.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 16 years old and started counselling sessions. I was so ashamed of it, that I would lie about where I was going. I didn’t want people to know I was having counselling, in case they labelled me “crazy” or “insane”.
Dealing with depression and anxiety can cause a multitude of different side effects. It can turn you into a completely different person; one that your friends and family wouldn’t even recognise. My issue seemed to be my short temper and snappy outbursts.
We were on a family holiday in Devon when I had my first panic attack. I was only seven years old and we’d had a car crash - nothing serious but I felt like I was trapped, like everything was closing in on me. It was suffocating and horrible. My Dad had experienced panic attacks before, so thankfully he knew what I was going through.
The first time I started experiencing severe mental health problems was when I was in Year 10. I turned round to my teacher, A, and said; “what is the point?” - that’s when I first started opening up about my problems.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is an illness that I have struggled with for around eight years. Throughout my school days, I began to carry out compulsive hand-washing, checking and routine rituals - this was to manage my anxiety about the strict exam culture, bullying and social pressures.
As a young man with everything going for him, I never thought that depression would happen to me. By just age 26 I had achieved a bunch of my dreams. Director of my own record label, touring with my band all over the world to thousands of people, seeing my records on the shelves of HMV and voted Best Male Vocalist in Prog Magazine for the second year running. There was so much to live for.
A lesson that I have recently learnt and am finally starting to embrace is that there is no shame in doing things at your own pace in order to get by. It is not ‘lazy’ when you can’t peel yourself from your bed because your busy mind has kept you awake all night and you are too exhausted to face the day. It is not ‘antisocial’ when, at the last minute, you can’t attend that event that’s been planned for months because your heart is racing and the walls are closing in.
“I’ve always known Chloe was a bit ‘different’. Even when she was a toddler I could see she was different to other kids her age.”
I will never forget hearing those words from my mum. Not for any negative reasons, but because it affirms OCD is something I was born with, it is a part of me as much as my blonde hair, blue eyes, my laugh.
I have experienced mental health problems since I was 15 and, for a while, I thought I would never be able to achieve anything. Even now there are times when I feel so alone, I sit in the dark crying whilst the voices inside my head scream at me and make me doubt everything. They even make me doubt that I have friends, that I have anyone who cares about me. Today though, I took a step back and realised that, though in my darkest moments when I don’t think anybody cares, they really do. I want to talk about six people in particular.
You hear stories of how exciting, liberating and hard-working life at university is. You get told that the many parties and mingling with like-minded people will be ‘the best time of your life’.
When I think back to the start of 2009, when I started a web development course at Manchester Metropolitan University, I remember the good times, the parties, sharing a pizza with my friend who I moved to Manchester with. I had a great time at university.
People tend to ask me: why are you depressed, you have such a nice life? My simple response is… I don’t know. Depression wasn’t something I could control; neither was my anxiety. Back in 2013 I was sitting my art exams and self-doubt got a hold of me. I was constantly criticizing myself to the others around me. I felt that I wasn’t doing well and it was something I was doing. I got into this spiral where every lesson I was whirling downwards and I couldn’t control my emotions. This mood started to spread.
If I didn't have my friends I wouldn't be as happy as I am now. In my darkest moments, they support me. When I feel like there is no light, they switch it on. When my thoughts are drowning me, they give me a new perspective. When I feel like a failure, they remind me of my worth. At every single point of my journey through life, they celebrate my achievements and my happiness, and they support me through despair. They make sure I never feel alone. They never pretended to know the answers.
When I was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at the tender age of 15, I recall feeling an overwhelming sense of isolation. I felt embarrassed and anxious about what people would think of me if they found out I was ‘crazy’. I had struggled to be taken seriously before my diagnosis. “You’ll grow out of it” and “it’s just teenage hormones” were phrases I received regularly, even by health ‘professionals’.
Reducing stigma comes from the frontline, from education and most of all from being brave enough to admit when you’re not feeling well. In short, it’s about talking. But a lot of people still don’t feel able to talk about their mental health, so it’s up to all of us to break the silence and start those conversations.
I never realised what living with a mental illness entailed before I was diagnosed myself. I always believed that anxiety was just worrying, depression was just sadness and I never fully appreciated how hard it actually is waking up every single day, fighting a battle which nobody can see. Well, I never realised it until I was living it.
I have a personality disorder. I have had it my entire life, but I was only diagnosed two years ago. Since then, and especially in the past six months, I have noticed a difference in how other people react if I choose to disclose that I happen to have a personality disorder and it has cost me to the point that I now feel at a detriment if I access support even if I really need it.
It’s amazing what lengths men will go to in order to cover up their psychological unwellness. It’s a taboo topic in the pub. You can’t just openly admit that your anxiety has ravaged your insides till the point where you’ve questioned reality. They don’t want to know, it might lead them to question their own minds, but they’d never tell you anyway.
The confident and vibrant girl that I once was became no more. I fell into the trap of depression that seemed to have hit me overnight. I would usually be the one that always hid in the bathroom crying my eyes out and then wipe my own tears away only to walk out those doors like I have it all together. The young fifteen year old girl that I was at the time was drowned with anxiety, fear and a lack of something unknown. I was overwhelmed with the world and fell into exhaustion trying to act like I have it all together. The truth was that I was tired.
I was 18 the first time I was completely and utterly whacked round the face by anxiety. It was the summer before I was due to go to university. I remember being at work and suddenly feeling like the world looked different, people became blurry and I felt disorientated- it was terrifying. I left the shop I was working in and my Dad came to meet me, where he took me home to my Mum.
So I’m 21 studying Geography and living between Cardiff and Gloucestershire. I have a number of great friends and love spending time with them and going out but also enjoy peaceful times on my own. I love my course and I really enjoy being active.
Sounds like a dating profile, I know. But that is the point of this blog – there is so much underneath that people do not know just because it is not visible.
There’s a lot of stigma around mental health and people who suffer with mental health, over years it's become this stigma that no one talked about it - people brush it under the carpet resulting in people like myself feeling isolated and alone. My names Laura and I've suffered from anxiety and depression on and off my adult life.
For some inexplicable reason, I decided one day to withdraw from everything in my life. At the time, I was studying abroad at university in Bremen, Germany. Instead of going to lectures, I retreated into a cocoon of duvets and a world of fantasy limited to the confines of my bedroom. I shut out the outside world and ignored all calls from friends and family. The only time I went out was late at night to the nearby convenience store to buy a bottle of coke or beer. The shopkeeper noticed my gradual deterioration and asked me if I was alright. The misery etched in my face was very apparent.
Three years ago I found myself at what felt like my rock bottom. I was at the end of my first year of uni, I hadn't left my apartment for 6 days, I hadn't left my bed for any other reason than needing to go to the toilet, I hadn't showered, I hadn't made contact with anyone.
During my final year at university, I was aged 20, and finally asked for help from my GP. In the words of my younger brother, I’ve always been a bit ‘quirky’. I have a hard time processing emotion sometimes, and I’ve plummeted from inescapable lows to strange highs in a matter of days since my teenage years.
On World Mental Health Day, I spoke. I spoke about my experience with mental health, which I haven’t done so honestly and raw before. I made my post public and had the biggest surprise when I had the most wonderful response. I’ve always been an ambassador for this sort of thing, especially at 17/18 when I was psychology representative at my sixth form which I used as a platform for National Eating Disorder Day, Time to Talk Day and World Mental Health Day, for example.
Travelling through the other side of depression, there’s a sudden realisation that the end of the tunnel, the road to recovery, is achievable.
An only child, dealing with family illness proved tough – even though, at the time, I thought I was dealing with the stress. Both parents and my wife going through serious illnesses (luckily all is well with all) and both remaining grandparents passing at wonderful ages (93 and 101!), it seems all of this piled up on me.
In my past I have and still frequently experience depression. I've used medication for years trying to deal with it, but it does have side effects. I understand that mine may not be considered as severe as many others'. But it's severe enough to affect me, my relationships and my life.
I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hiding my mental health, partly because it was never spoken about. I didn’t know what mental health was and the little I did know was based on what I had seen on television. I grew up believing that a person had to be thin to have an eating disorder and that a mental health hospital was all strait-jackets and restraints, but my beliefs were wrong.
When used as an adjective, the term ‘borderline’ means ‘only just acceptable in quality or as belonging to a category.’ This is why a lot of people make the assumption that borderline personality disorder is not quite a personality disorder, not quite a mental illness. It’s a term that creates confusion. Your personality is often used to describe who you are as a person, so being told you have a personality disorder makes it feel like there is something wrong with who you are. That’s tough to hear.
I'm 21 and starting my third year of university, though technically as I took a year out because of my illness, I am still a second year. I couldn't wait to move out of my home for first year so I could have so well-earned freedom. Throw a mental illness into the mix when you come home for the summer after this utter high of a year, and your life is turned upside down. From here, I first experienced stigma and discrimination.
My battle with bulimia started at the age of 12 but with the gift of hindsight I have discovered my battles with binging and body image started before then. I come from a family of very slim people. Despite a height range, the build is the same. Wide shoulders, slender bodies. At 20 years old and nearly four years into recovery, I can finally see that I'm built just the same. At 8 years old I thought exactly the opposite. I felt like the odd one out. I felt large. As I grew, my desire to be smaller grew too. Doing exercise in my room on the carpet or bed, I was so proud of myself.
Young campaigner Sophie is challenging attitudes towards mental health and promoting student well-being in her school. Read her top tips on how to create a caring and understanding environment for people affected by mental health problems.
Everyone says that your school days shape your life. But I feel that mine did in a profound way. And I’m still affected by it every day. I was sixteen when I first started struggling significantly with mental ill health. At the time I had no idea what it was – or even if I was ill – and that terrified me; the idea that I could be like that forever was my worst nightmare.
My name is Melissa, I am 26 years old and have experienced symptoms of psychosis for as long as I can remember. If I mentioned my symptoms to anyone it was put down to “imagination” or some sort of supernatural phenomena, like ghosts; no one ever thought that it could be something to do with my mental health.
Three years ago, I lost my voice. I could still say what I was expected to, say what people wanted me to, say whatever I was told to, but I couldn’t seem to find my voice. I could say whatever anyone needed me to, anyone but me. My voice had been almost silenced by the people around me. I was made quieter by the people who called me selfish, the people who thought I was weak, the people who convinced me I wasn’t worth their time or energy, all because of my worsening mental health.
The best part of my job as a service user trainer is seeing a professional change their opinion, or at very least want to explore their preconceived ideas surrounding personality disorder. I struggle to accept or sympathise with the blanket generalisations placed on people with the diagnosis without any real thought or exploration.
My name is Josh Davis and I am 18 years old. I have suffered from extreme OCD for 9 years of my life now and have faced moments where I have just not wanted to continue or thought I can’t. I have experienced OCD for 9 years and only just recently reached out for help.
As a student nurse I encounter mental health issues on a daily basis, however I have been carrying my own secret for years. At the age of 15 I was diagnosed with depression and placed on anti-depressants. We have a family history of depression and anxiety with my Nan undergoing ECT.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an anxious perfectionist. When I was 3, that centred around using up too many stickers or colouring outside the lines; at 5 it was a fear of dying; at 8 it was a paralysing fear of lifts and at 16 it was the incessant worry of not getting 100% in everything at school. For years, I dismissed these feelings as normal parts of life, necessary sacrifices for success, things that everyone had to deal with.
Approximately 3 years ago, just after I had finished my first year undergraduate law exams, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. Since then, I have achieved more than I ever thought I could. But my biggest achievement by far has been learning to be happy in myself.
On Thursday 10 March, we hosted our fourth children and young people Roadshow event aimed at the voluntary sector, schools and others working with children and young people. At the event, a panel of young people and representatives from Kent Healthy Schools, Mental Health First Aid, Headstart Kent, a local headteacher and a young person spoke about their personal experiences of mental health problems and the opportunities for local services to engage in joint working and share their learning to tackle stigma and discrimination.
On Tuesday 1 March, we hosted our third children and young people Roadshow event aimed at the voluntary sector, schools and others working with children and young people. At the event, a panel of young people and representatives from YoungMinds, Off the Record Bristol and the British Youth Council spoke about their personal experiences of mental health problems and the opportunities for local services to engage in joint working and share their learning to tackle stigma and discrimination.
Recorded live at the second Time to change children and young people Roadshow event, Liverpool, 08/02/16
On Monday 8 February, we hosted our second children and young people Roadshow event aimed at the voluntary sector, schools and others working with children and young people. At the event, Shadow Minister for Mental Health Luciana Berger MP spoke about her vision for tackling stigma and discrimination around mental health and a panel of speakers from local services discussed opportunities for joint working and how to set up networks in order to share learning.
Recorded live at the first Time to change children and young people Roadshow event, London, 28/01/16
Today is the first of our four children and young people Roadshow events aimed at the voluntary sector, schools and others working with children and young people. We are privileged to have a range of speakers and young champions with lived experience of mental health problems who have kindly agreed to chat to us at today’s event.
You miss school because you need a mental health day and people will ask you what was wrong and you’ll lie about it. For a moment you’ll hesitate, maybe tell the truth - but then, before you know what you’re doing, you’re lying and saying that you just had a migraine. You didn’t have a migraine. It’s then that you realise that you’re ashamed of your mental illness, embarrassed even, and you don’t know why. Maybe, it’s because mental illnesses are so often invalidated, deemed as unreal and ‘all in your head’ (where else is it supposed to be?).
I knew for a long time that I had a particularly melancholic attitude towards a variety of things. However, I chose to plod on deliberately ignoring the clear signs and symptoms that pointed towards me suffering from depression. I chose for many years to suffer in silence – but I can say now that I feel better having opened up about my depression and actually seeking support.
Depression. Go on, say it. It's such a.... depressing word. It conjures up pictures of a person sitting on a dingy sofa, clutching their head and looking anguished. I have depression. I also have a family, dogs and a cat. There are packed lunches to make, teeth to brush, faces to wash, the school run.
13th September 2014 was one of the most important days of my life so far. I was moving to university to study a social work degree. I’d blogged about my journey for months on my blog and it was finally here. The moment I had been waiting for. I was elated. But at the same time, I was filled with dread. This was a big experience for me, and one that would test my mental health.
A-levels are hard for everyone. The challenge to “do well” is enough when you’re healthy, but when you suffer from severe mood swings and impulses, which leave you exhausted, irritable and sometimes incapacitated, it sets a whole new challenge. My bipolarity came to the surface at a bad time.
Memory is a fickle thing; if I need to remember to buy washing powder from Sainsburys then there is a 100% chance of me completely forgetting it. On at least three consecutive occasions. Before I give up completely and buy it online. On the other hand there's the trivial things that stay with you decades later. Here are two that have stuck with me across the years:
I have had Bipolar Affective Disorder since I was 18 and my mental health problems became more severe during my first year of university, which resulted in me being in hospital for 9 weeks. It is certainly the hardest challenge I’ve had to face.
I have struggled with mental illness for a few years, specifically a mood disorder. 2014 was a bit of a tricky year for me, constantly roller-coastering up and down but, for the majority of it, I was in a dark place. Self harm and thoughts of taking my own life consumed me.
Throughout my younger years, I'd always been the 'happy kid'. The one that was always smiling and joking. I was confident too, taking part in plays and volunteering answers in class. When I got to the age of 14, I started to feel 'down', or at least that was how I thought of it. Suddenly I lacked the enthusiasm I once had.
Six years ago, aged 17, I was admitted to a mental health adolescent ward with anorexia. I spent a year living in hospital, fighting my eating disorder. It was by far the hardest year of my life, but without it I would not be here anymore. It was hard work, and every meal was a battle.
Even though I have experienced mental illness for many years, I still question how people are going to react to me. I think stigma is still a great problem in modern society especially with the majority of the media showing negative stereotypes of mental illness. Luckily, my family, friends and teachers have been extremely supportive.
For me going to university had always been something I had wanted to do: ever since year 7 I had aspired to go. I wanted to go for the academic side but also the social side and the friendships that you are always told will last a lifetime. But one thing I certainly never expected was to develop a mental health condition at the start of university.
We need to keep people in schools by ensuring that mental health issues are discussed, not hidden away
“So, two A’s for English I see. Well, I hardly think you deserve them given your lack of attendance to my class.” That is what my English teacher said to me on GSCE results day. It all seems so long ago now but I will never forget how my teacher decided to shame me rather than praise me for my success.
I was bullied during my entire school life. Sometimes I think back about my bullies and feel myself seething with rage, other times I completely understand why they did it. I was always an odd one at school, either bursting into tears at the tiniest thing and not speaking to anyone for days on end, or being so hyper that I'd get sent out of lessons and given detentions every other day.
Where to begin? I started to notice my mood changing and feeling more down during my final year of university in 2011-12. There were so many factors that caused it - especially the pressure of doing my dissertation and looking for a job even before graduating. I also have a learning disability in the form of Dyslexia so things were much harder than they seemed at the time.
Being a 21 year old studying at university, I feel it is now time to be honest about my illnesses and not be ashamed of them anymore. Hiding them isn't going to help myself or anybody else, so I'm ready to talk.
I have always suffered with “nerves” as they used to call it in a less enlightened times. The mere thought of going to school would see me dissolve into a flood of tears. Supposedly enjoyable events and situations, like playing football and cricket which are hard wired into the young male brain, would be akin to trial by ordeal.
It is only natural that from time to time everyone will experience some levels of anxiety, or panic, in relation to events around them. Often this is linked to the in-built adrenaline based ‘ﬁght or ﬂight’ response.
I’m been thinking about root causes of anxiety. How & why does it develop? Are some people simply born with an anxious temperament, or does traumatic experience trigger it? Personally I think it’s a mixture. I was born with the ability to develop an anxious condition if the right environment were presented. For me, this environment was secondary school.
On my way home on the train with my Dad after having a massive panic attack at university in London, was when I first acknowledged to myself that I needed some help. Physically, the panic attack was the worst I’d ever had, and I ended up being carted off in an ambulance, alone in a big city. I was scared because I thought I was about to die.
As a ‘Time to change Champion' you get to have many interesting conversations with lovely people, usually one to one, but every so often you get a wonderful opportunity to talk to groups. One of these opportunities led to potentially the best conversation of my life, and a critical moment in my recovery, all at a Time to Change event. There was a little issue with this group that I was stood in front of, besides my wife, her colleagues and friends, a former teacher of mine, and just over 200 year 9’s (13 and 14 year olds) in a large Comprehensive school.
As a person who has mental health difficulties, I can understand the importance of things in life. The routine of life, the knowledge of how good and bad days affect us (particular people with mental health difficulties) and the way people with mental health issues can be judged. One thing I have learnt most though is who I can truly trust and rely upon.
There was a time three years ago which I often identify as the time where I was at my worst. As an international student in his first year spending the Christmas break on campus was not easy. I was deeply depressed (although did not know the name at the time) and would spend the entire day in my room for weeks on end apart from going for the occasional run. I was also anxious and felt unable to connect with anyone.
Having a mental health problem makes life complicated. For me, a teenage girl, going to boarding school, living with 7 other girls in a room, life seemed impossible, but it wasn’t just that: life always seemed impossible, at home, at school, wherever I was. There wasn’t exactly a lot of privacy with my mental health problem.
How do you explain to someone what it feels like to have depression, to feel like you are 'dead in a city of pulses'? How can you get someone to understand how seriously anxiety affects you in your daily life, when each panic attack feels like gravity is holding you down and crushing you?
Depressed. Anxious. Borderline. These labels only added to the feeling that I was wrong, that I wasn’t like anyone else. I felt like no matter what I did this constant emptiness would follow me, a disease slowly eating me away from the inside. The worst part was that I couldn’t tell anyone. My childhood ensured that.
The last time I saw my diagnosis a couple of years ago at the age of 14; I had emerging borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, recurring depressive disorder and high levels of anxiety. But the hardest thing for people to understand is the fact that I hear voices.
A while ago, a doctor in A&E told a very good friend of mine that her injury was 'a classic Borderline self-harm cut.' Later, a different doctor told my friend that her injury should never have been referred to like that and apologised profusely for the other Doctors words.
I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Schizotypal Personality Disorder (StPD), Depression and Agoraphobia, so a bit of a list there. It’s a struggle knowing where one conditions begins and another ends. I don’t feel like I have a “normal” day and if I have, at any point, a “normal moment” I try and hold on to it for dear life but everything changes so quickly.
Okay maybe you don’t tell them straight away, I usually don’t, though I feel like they need to know about me in case I ever get in a bad way. Just so they are prepared for it - if I suddenly locked myself in my room all day, not eating or drinking, people would probably find me pretty weird if they didn’t know I had a mental illness.
As mental health continues to make the headlines, some of the most influential figures and organisations in politics and finance are joining forces with Time to Change and taking part in a number of activities to mark World Mental Health Day 2013.
June 2009. A hot summer night in Manchester. It finally happened. I was on the pavement, cradled in the arms of my best friend.My face felt as if it was on fire and I could hear someone screaming hysterically. It took me a moment to realise that this sound was coming from me.
As many of you may know, Brighton Village was held on Saturday 3rd August 2013. When I am home for the summer, Brighton is just over an hour on the train away so I knew I had to go this year. I have been a huge supporter of Time to Change for a long time now and am a registered Champion. I applied for a volunteering position with them at the beginning of June.
After watching ‘Football Suicide Secrets’, I was inspired by Clarke Carlisle’s honesty and bravery to share my own experience. The documentary highlighted the public pressure footballers deal with and I identified with it my experience as an elected student officer for a university students’ union about nine years ago.
Last Thursday was A Level results day, and my Twitter feed was packed with people talking about how they felt when they picked up their results, or how they still get anxious at the very thought, even though many years have passed since they were the ones waiting to open that envelope.
I first experienced psychosis when I was 16 and still at school. I remember the exact moment when I heard “my friends” talk to me through my speakers. They were saying great stuff about how awesome I was.
Natalie has been a Time to Change Champion for some time and previously attended Speak Out training as well as shadowing Regional Coordinator, Karen Machin and attending Ministry of Justice event in Manchester in May.
Recovery is an interesting concept. The Oxford English Dictionary defines recovery as the restoration of a person to a healthy or normal condition. In this sense we think of recovery as a process of leaving damage behind, of getting life back to normal.
When I last wrote a blog for Time For Change I was feeling very low and very isolated. Due to the mental health discrimination I experienced at the hands of my previous employers I had been made redundant from a job working with big cats, amongst whom there were three lions I adored.
Starting university is a unique experience. Leaving your hometown, family and school friends is daunting but moving to a brand new city, making new lifelong friends and gaining independence is an experience incomparable to any other.
There are some days when I still think, ‘I’m not depressed, I’m just lazy.’ But the truth of it is, I am. I am depressed. Yet saying it out loud makes me cringe every time.
I have told a few people, some were great and very understanding (unlike some my employer has been fantastic). My friends and family on the other hand well, like me, I don’t think they really have or will accept it.
I'm a university lecturer at Goldsmiths and during Mental Health Awareness week I'm sitting on a staff/student panel, an event organised by our Disability Team, discussing the challenges of mental health issues and university life. The reasons I feel able to contribute to this?
When I was 14 years old, the style of ‘emo’ was rife. Joke upon joke suffocated anyone with dyed hair and skinny jeans, most of them fixated upon depression and self-harm.
I had depression at this stage but for me it was all about avoiding the symptoms. If I felt emotional it was because of hormones, if I had no energy I should go back to sleep, If I couldn’t sleep it was because of my uncomfortable bed.
It was a huge step; packing up my belongings and leaving to go to university 200 miles away from home. I was excited but terrified. I was leaving friends, family and a boyfriend of 2 years. I was sure we could make it work long distance.
I first became depressed at around 19 years old, when I was taking a lot of recreational drugs. After 2 bad experiences with acid, when the anxiety turned to despair in a matter of weeks, I went to the doctor and my mum came with me.
At the time, it was becoming harder not to feel lonely. It was becoming harder not to lie down in my bed at night and not spend hours staring at the ceiling. Usually this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, usually, this would be quite refreshing to sit and think – but what about when your thoughts no longer occupy your mind, what about when your dreams no longer excite you enough to close your eyes?
It was when I was at college that I realised why the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness has made my recovery, and is making the recovery of many others, so much harder than it should be.
Last year, I completely and utterly fell in love with the Time To Change campaign. At a time where I felt broken, I was desperately looking for a safety net, I really needed something telling me that things were going to be ok.
Over the months and years I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression, I found I was only able to talk to a few people. The few friends who I revealed information to were supportive but didn’t really understand so I didn’t tell them as much.
Rather than talk just about my own mental illness, I’m going to focus this blog more on my friend Cat. We met and became friends at uni (she’s a finalist, I graduated in July) and we both moved into a shared house with two good friends just over a year ago.
I’m chilling out on the sofa, making the most of the last few days of the Christmas holiday by playing rubbish games on my phone, when I hear “My name is Rae. It’s 1996, I’m 16, 16 stone, and desperate for a shag. Oh yeah, and I’ve been in a mental hospital for a while”.
Back when I was still at school studying for my GCSEs I was struggling by myself with what I thought was depression. It later turned out to be bipolar disorder but perhaps that is another story for another day.
Every morning, I used to have the same feeling, the same dread and anxiety about what might happen at college that day. The bullies we’re there waiting every day and something would happen most days. The snidey remarks, the topic of gossip at college or facebook and being that target. It’s as if I was their entertainment, I was their entertainment.
My mother is looking at my nail-polish, bitten, chipped and the colour of a rose, deep red. She reads a poster on the wall, then looks back to my hands. They are shaking, nails on one hand gripping the other so tightly I know I am leaving indentations of half-moons, tiny little nervous red marks.
During the lead up to my manic episode I had begun to lose patience with a lot of people. I was arguing with them all the time and could not understand why they were not cooperating with what I wanted them to do. Friendships slowly fizzled out. The pressure mounted from final year studies, graduate job applications and extra circular activities so then I went into mania very quickly.
I experienced mental illness for years but it took something huge to make me eventually open up. It was no longer my choice to talk, it was unavoidable. I wish I had disclosed my problems sooner and had control over when the truth came out about my mental health. Just as it’s never too late to talk, it’s never too early either.
Friends are there for a lot of your ‘first times’ – your first day at school, your first car ride after finally passing your test, your first time out clubbing, but what about the first time you confide in them about your
I was diagnosed in 2008 with depression and anxiety. Suddenly, the rumble of feelings that had been gradually affecting my life more and more had a label and I was given something concrete to tell my friends and teachers, which explained why I hadn’t "been myself lately."
I never thought of myself as a good liar but when I eventually faced up to my problems I realised that's what I had been doing constantly, for 3 years, to my family, my friends and even myself. I've been described as 'the best actor in the worlds worst play', which I think is appropriate.
Having suffered with depression and anxiety for many years, it came as no real surprise when I experienced a breakdown after the death of my father in '94. Having been very close to him it was a huge loss.
I have never constructed a creative piece of writing in my life. I tried to write a book at the age of 10, but sadly, my story ended on page 7. This was despite my best efforts at stretching out the story by writing in huge font sizes and leaving mammoth gaps between each word. Anybody remember the rule at primary school whereby you should leave a finger gap between each word?
Nothing prepares you for your child being affected by a mental illness. There is nothing in the parenting manuals that can help you to understand and cope with the total change that comes over someone once they are in the grips of such an illness. I can only describe it as truly shocking, terrifying ...
In December last year I was walking home from another busy 12 hour shift, where I worked in a nursing home. It was a cold frosty night and I was exhausted from working three long days on no sleep. I remember walking home wishing and praying for sleep that coming night in order to get me through another 12 hour shift the next day. I could not let my fellow colleagues and more importantly the residents down by leaving them short staffed.
That feeling, the one on the underground, as the doors slam shut and the train pulls away. You are left stood on an empty platform, the faces of the passengers squeezed into each carriage speeding past, as they begin getting on with their day, their life, and you’re left stood there, alone: your life is on hold.
Depression. More than just a word. A very real, debilitating condition. I was diagnosed with it when I had just turned 16 and in truth knew very little about it. But it was through talking to people about how I was feeling that I came to be in the doctor's surgery being told that I had depression and referred to a counselling service.
Please note: do not read this blog if you feel vulnerable to triggering issues.
Mental health problems are often thought of as ‘invisible illnesses’; that is, their effects are not immediately obvious to a stranger. There is a notable exception to this rule, however, and those who are familiar with self-harm are all too readily aware of this.
Psycho, nutter, loon, mad, mentally ill. To be honest it doesn’t matter what terminology is used, they all spell out the same thing: I’m different, an outcast, not "normal".
From the moment a referral was made to mental health services I was suddenly a different person. It didn’t matter that five minutes ago I was like everyone else, just a fifteen year old girl. Suddenly I was set apart and needed different treatment to everyone else.
I first became unwell as an adolescent. At age 14, I started experiencing severe depression, panic attacks and obsessive tendencies. The obsessive behaviours included compulsive skin picking, a disorder also known as dermatillomania. I began to pick at areas of skin on my face.
At the young age of ten it was easy for me to remember my dolly whenever I left the house and to hide my vegetables in the dog if I didn’t want to eat them but to understand and be aware of mental health was a completely different matter.
I distinctly remember my brother and my mother looking at me and saying those words. I must have been around thirteen or fourteen. They were both sitting on the sofa and I was in the middle of the room
I wanted to write and talk about my experiences of depression and discrimination as a young adult. I started self harming when I was 16 and had recently started Sixth Form College. My parents were told and they were shocked and disgusted. I was punished for this and had my MP3 and my television taken off me.
It was never part of my plan to work in mental health. In fact as a student in Cambridge in 1990 I had no plan for my life at all. It was then that my psychosis suddenly struck. Although I managed to graduate a year later I was left with a future of medication, incarceration, and no hope of getting better. I certainly never believed I would ever work.
I want to say a big thank you to Frankie from the Saturday’s for opening up about her struggle with depression. It is always hard for anyone to open up about any issues they may be experiencing relating to their mental health.
There are not enough words to say how much I want to thank you for not giving up on me. Without you I wouldn’t have recovered from anorexia and instead your last memories of me would be tainted by that horrible illness which turned me into an evil, lying monster.
I am subject to a gagging order. My employers thought it prudent to offer me a settlement and silence me by contract to ensure that I never utter a seditious line.
So here we go. I will tell you what I know.
For eight years I worked as a teacher. I was considered popular, if a little eccentric, with staff and students alike. Management had even described me as inspirational! I was involved in all aspects of the work from classroom teaching to organising school sports teams, overseas trips and excursions in the great outdoors.
In the 1990s during my A-Levels I developed ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after three-weeks of type A or B influenza caused my immune system to collapse and never recover. I didn't get diagnosed for some years, so had to drop out of university, and suffered a “breakdown" more properly known as a major depressive episode.