Today marks #TimeToTalk, a campaign in which Time To Change are hoping to get people to talk about their mental health issues, one million different conversations in fact, in the hopes it’ll reduce the stigma attached to those suffering from mental illnesses. This is something very close to my heart, as I’ve already briefly mentioned in previous posts, suffer from mild/severe anxiety, depression, emetophobia and agoraphobia.
While it’s something I’m open about to people I feel completely comfortable around, it’s something I find very difficult to talk about with most people as I always feel judged for feeling the way I often do. I’ve suffered mildly for many years now (I can’t remember when it even started) but in the last year or so it gradually started to make a large impact on my daily life. I’d describe it as feeling as though you’re drowning amongst a sea of worries, whilst everyone else around you is swimming around, both unaware and unable to help. A constant black cloud following over head. A constant feeling of dread and uncertainy. A constant want to escape.
Emetophobia is the fear of sick, which is actually one of the most common phobias around. And whilst most people don’t like getting ill, I fear it. I tend to stick to ‘safe’ food (which I’m unlikely to get ill from), I rarely drink alcohol and I am constantly terrified of getting ill away from my home, where I panic over how I’d get home. Sounds a bit silly really, but once something gets into my head, it’ll snowball into something that’s all consuming. This has lead to places such as public transport, lecture halls, cinemas, restaurants, busy shopping centres, becoming particularly bad places for me – places which often trigger my anxiety attacks. And it isn’t until you become scared of them that you realise how important they are in your life. Lectures at University? Rarely happens. Getting on a bus to town? Absolute struggle. Going to see a film in the cinema with friends? I’ve went once in three years.
Just leaving the house leaves me with every inch of my body telling me not to, questioning whether something bad will happen, something I’m not in control of. Negative thoughts that crush me, that make me feel like I’ll never get better, that make me scared to just live. It can completely take over me within seconds, and I’m not going to lie it’s absolutely terrifying. I never know when it’ll hit, and avoidance quickly became my way of dealing with it. Most days I feel like I’ve failed, that I’m the only one in the world who feels this way, and that I’ve got no reason to feel the way I do, people have some things a lot worse. I’ve lost friends because of it, I’ve ruined amazing opportunities and I’ve made silly mistakes which I still to this day regret. Yet, I’ve also gained the best friends a girl could ask for, who are there for me every single step of the way and I couldn’t be more grateful. And without that support system behind me, and that ability to tell them whatever I’m feeling, I dread to think where I’d be right now (if I were even still here).
But you know what, it’s okay to not be okay. Yes, I’d love to feel carefree and not filled with fear pretty much 99% of the time, but it’s a part of me and many years down the road, I think I’d feel a little lost without it (strange, huh?). I think acceptance is the first step towards recovery. Something about being able to say ‘I’m allowed to feel like this, it’s alright and nothing to be ashamed of’ is somewhat freeing.
While it’s a struggle most days just to leave my house, there isn’t a better feeling than fighting the fear and just getting on with it. Doing something you felt sick at the thought of. Because something I’ve grown to realise is, no matter how bad it gets (believe me, I’ve been in some horrific states) – it will pass – like a storm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, the constant nausea, inability to barely eat, sweaty palms, light-headedness, achey limbs and chest pains are a bit of a nuisance. Yet, it’s something that always gets better. Always.
The last few months especially have been a rough patch for me, hence the sporadic posting and if you follow me on twitter, frequent rants. University has become a massive battle for me, and for the first time it’s made me physically ill (as in I almost landed myself in hospital this week). I’m not going to lie and say that I’m better, because I’m far from it, but I’m battling it and it’s the first time I have in a long time. Having a bad day? I’ll do something to challenge myself. Because at the end of every single day, I like to think that I’ve done one thing that was completely out of my comfort zone. It may be simple things, like eating something new or going into a new shop, but it’s progress – and that’s what counts, right?
Whilst anxiety and depression tends to be something with a stigma attached to it, I feel very passionate towards mental health being something which should be talked about more. One in four people will suffer from mental health issues at some stage of their lives, which is a pretty staggering statistic – so why should we feel judged for simply admitting it?
It’s not weakness, and if anything it takes a lot of strength to battle with it constantly. It’s exhausting fighting a battle that’s all just in your head, believe me, but we manage to keep going with it every single day. Through social media, whilst I’ve saw the terms ‘panic attack’ thrown around loosely at times, I’ve also noticed a massive increase of people talking about their problems. And if I’ve being honest, each one makes me feel a little bit better, a little bit more normal.
I’ve been having CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for a few months now, where I’ve learnt many lessons about thought patterns and I’m gradually discovering a different way to view something I’ve always seen as a hindrance. Whilst when I’m anxious sometimes being with people can be suffocating and overwhelming, the best thing I’ve ever done was ask for help. Hell, it took me years just to pluck up the courage, and although things are far from good currently (University is it’s latest victim) – I know that whilst anxiety will always be a part of me, I’m going to find a way to cope and go back to being the girl I always was. I will. Once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up, right?!
A little something I like to remind myself is “A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”
(William G.T. Shedd)
I’m not really sure how to end this post, but I just wanted to say I’m always there for anyone wanting a chat, a rant, advice, anything. Just remember, you are not alone.
Feel free to email me at [email protected] or tweet me at @AmyRebair! I’d hate to think anyone is suffering in silence, and believe me, a problem shared is a problem halved. Let’s beat this mental health stigma, we have nothing to be ashamed about!
And here’s a link to post I wrote about panic attacks a few months ago.(Also, if you’d like some posts in CBT techniques I’ve learnt, books I’ve read to help etc let me know!)