Let’s get real about mental illness

I first started writing in 2018, as a way of coping with a diagnosis of Depression and Anxiety, after the death of my beloved Grandad and the ongoing stress of seeing my dad’s MS condition worsen. I often feel like the labels of ‘Depression’ and ‘Anxiety’ hide the true nature of how the conditions impact, perhaps because these terms are used quite often across social media or maybe because it’s not so common to read about how they can really affect individuals. All I can say, is that the combination of the two rendered me paralysed; unable to move from an invisible weight of bleakness, yet my body felt like it was on fire from anxiety attacks that happened both throughout the day and during the night, causing me to wake up screaming in a pool of my own sweat. I consistently saw my Grandad begging me to help him, and yet I could not. I was put on antidepressants in a bid to help my mental health from worsening – and that they did. My nightmares stopped after a dream in which my Grandad told me it was not my fault. I was desperate to see that the world I was currently living in had more life in it than I was experiencing so I travelled across multiple continents solo, with nothing but a backpack and a diary to record my adventures and my struggles. It was from meeting people that I felt safe for the first time to disclose that beneath my bubbly exterior was someone who had come face to face with the perils of mental illness and I was met with support and those that in turn had a story to share.

Fast forward to 2023, and the antidepressants that helped me for many years seemed to stop working. Depression started to raise its ugly head once more and anxieties turned into obsessional thoughts that I’ve been struggling to let go. Feeling the sense of shame so often felt by those in this position, I turned to a kind psychiatrist for help who gave me a further diagnosis, but who reminded me labels meant nothing, and the important thing was to focus on recovery. I recently started a new SNRI and weaning myself off my previous antidepressant has been pretty turbulent but I was getting better. This new SNRI I’ve found has helped, but I had a rough turn this last week from using a different form of this medication which has caused me to throw up at work and extreme nausea. It’s been a rough time because on top of not feeling great, I also am fighting feelings of shame. Shame that I have to rely on medication to feel ‘whole’ and that it can interrupt my daily life, however, it’s coming up to #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in May, and I feel that it’s important to share my story. I have a strong support network in the form of my family, my partner, my friends and my work colleagues – all of whom unknowingly come together to fight off these demons that try and bring me down with love and integrity – and for that I’m grateful. Ultimately, I’ve written this to help those who may also be struggling. You are not alone. We’ve got this. #mentalhealth #work #people

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