Opening a dialogue made it easier to ask for support

I first started feeling really low and struggling around two year ago. Two years on and it regularly feels like I’m still stuck in that darkness.

Social media, TV and films seem to romanticise the battles that people with mental health problems face, and feed the idea that people hit a sudden turning point in their recovery and it’s all uphill from there. Well that’s wrong; at least it was for me. I reached breaking point a few months later, after months of lying to all those around me and becoming so isolated that I could barely leave my bedroom.

People were surprised when I told them. I’d recently celebrated my 21st birthday and the photos taken to mark the occasion showed a smiling face. What they didn’t show were the anxiety attacks in the days leading up to my birthday. They didn’t show the panic attack on my night out which lead to me running from the club and jumping into the first cab I saw, but unable to give my address to the driver through my panic. They didn’t show the negative thought spiral that I was sinking into. But in the photos I looked fine. So I must have been fine.

After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, the support that I received from close family and friends was incredible, for which I am so grateful. They tried their hardest to understand and guide me through, which meant that I was able to finish the last few months of my university course and graduate as a primary school teacher.

But then comments like “But you’ve been on the medication for a couple of months so you must be fine” and “I thought everything was alright now because you seemed happy” started. It made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough to get better and that maybe I should be alright by now.

I felt like I was failing and I was a burden on those around me because I wasn’t getting better quick enough. So I started hiding things again. Putting on a front to keep up the idea that I was okay, but in secret I’d started hurting myself and I would binge eat until I was in physical pain. It was a way to release and have some control over some of the feelings that I couldn’t share with anyone else.

It took another few months before I was able to have a conversation with anyone about the feelings that I was still having, but I managed to do it when I was confronted by a close family member. It was a difficult conversation to have and I know it was hard for them to begin the conversation, but I also know how much it helped.

Opening that dialogue again made it easier for me to ask for support when I needed it and my family became more aware of signs to watch out for in my behaviours and they had a better idea of how to help me.

Talking therapy, monthly reviews with my GP, CBT, a combination of medication, a weight management programme with support for binge eating disorder and a waiting list for another form of CBT. The last two years have been hard, but recovery is not a straight road. Most days it still feels like a battle, but I know that I am trying. I know that there are small progresses being made. And I now know the importance of talking and sharing personal experiences so that those around me can have a better understanding and I can continue to make progress. That’s why I decided to write this blog, in the hope that it helps one other person know that they are not alone, encourages one person to talk about their own struggles or helps one person to have a better understanding of what it’s like to live with a mental health problem.

Recently, there has been an increase in understanding and a lot is being done to reduce the stigma around mental health, but there’s still more to do and I think talking is one of the best ways to do it. Be kind to those around you, be kind to yourself and talk!