Guest Post by Claire – But you were Doing so Well…

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Claire who talks about having Bipolar Disorder and making sense of what other people may say to us when we’re unwell. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

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Learning to live with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder means learning to live your life quite differently. You have to get used to what triggers you, to make the most of the days where you feel well, to recognise the signs of slipping into depression, and equally raising into hypomania and for those who go there, mania.

The people around you also have a steep learning curve, and despite all their efforts, sometimes it’s really hard for them to understand that your recovery will not be straightforward.

Many of us with mental health issues have felt as though our families and friends don’t understand us, or that they don’t support us. In recent month’s I have started to realise that a lot of the time it is less that than it is near impossible for them to wrap their head around the reality that life really is a roller-coaster for us.

My reality is bipolar disorder, but I know many other illness’ have similar patterns and many people hear phrases similar to one’s I’ve heard from people. These are a fraction of phrases I’ve heard in the past few years from friends, family, and others. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard at least one of these at some point…

“But you were doing so well…”
“You’ve done this on purpose to ruin my careful diary planning”
“Just stick a smile on your face”
“When I was depressed I didn’t…”
“You look fine”
“But you’re laughing”
“Well if you can write a blog, you can work”
“I wish you would come out, just for a bit”
“but I miss you”

I could write these all day, but you get the idea!

Some people are very well-meaning with what they say, and it’s maybe just the wrong thing to say and shows it’s just hard for them to understand exactly what it’s like in your shoes. I find this a lot with family. I know they try very hard to support me, but unless you’ve lived a week in my shoes it’s impossible to know how this feels, to know how one minute everything can be fine the next I can either be in a foul mood or bouncing off of the walls and often for absolutely no reason. The psychosis must be terrifying for them, to see someone afraid of things that aren’t there.

With my sensible head on as I write this, I can understand that as a carer, someone who loves me this must be awfully scary. They must hold onto the moments where we are well so tight and then when we start to get sick again it must be devastating. As the person who is sick, we know it is going to happen, we prepare ourselves for it. But I think our loved one’s hold onto some hope that the last time was the last time.

Often some people just get plain sick of us, and that’s where the more snarky and nasty comments come in. I find these often come from people we had considered friends and it can be soul destroying to find that these people we had found a source of comfort and support are no longer there for us.

From their point of view though, it must be very difficult having friendships with people who consistently cancel plans, aren’t always happy, and I’m being honest here can be quite self-centred at times!

Before the comments get inundated with abuse I am just playing devil’s advocate here, I’m trying to see what they must see. I’ve fallen foul of friend loss because of my illness as much as the next person. I think it helps for us to step outside of ourselves sometimes and see the bigger picture, to see what other people may see.

You then also have the people who are dealing with their own problems, remember that one in four of us have a mental health issue. Not everyone can handle dealing with somebody else’s aswell as their own, or they don’t own up to having one, or won’t realise they have one.

We live with an illness that cripples us, but can be so consuming for us that sometimes we forget to see that it does affect those around us aswell. There could be a whole host of reasons why someone reacts negatively towards you and your illness. Of course, some people are just plain rude and uncaring, and in those cases we are best off without them in our lives.

But for the most part, when you through the rough patch, take a moment to think about why someone has said something hurtful to you. Did they actually mean it in the way you took it? Was it meant as a word of support, a show of love, an act of frustration because they do actually care, do they have an issue you could show them support over?

Guest Post by Fryn Lane – BPD & Creativity

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Fryn Lane who talks about having EUPD/BPD, and how she uses creativity as a way of managing it. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

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Hi, I’m Fryn, I’m 22 years old and I have recurrent depression as a result of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, also known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This has quite a big impact on my daily functioning; my feelings are very intense. Relationships with me can be intense at times no matter how hard I try to curtail it. My boyfriend Joe has his own mental health problems (we click because we have good mutual understanding and empathy) and it is very tricky to manage our individual problems alongside supporting one another. I also have extreme self-loathing, and a constant stream of self-critical thoughts narrating my every day.

One of the key ways I cope with my mental illness is through creativity. I am currently recovering from a depressive episode that hit back in November 2014. It’s been a long time, and keeping me as sane as possible have been my many creative outlets. When, in November, my depression was at its worst, I could not function. I could not think, I could not cope. At this point, I was not creative. I went into Hobbycraft, my favourite shop, to find a new project. For the first time, nothing inspired me, I felt broken. Where was the creative spark I relied upon to get me through? I left the shop in tears.

It was not until a few months later, as the depression was beginning to lift, that my creative ‘spark’, or energy, came back. My creativity is a huge part of my identity and helps me define who I am in my murky sea of moving goalposts and slipping standards. I love being creative, and with a diagnosis of EUPD, with my intense emotions I have a lot of feeling to pour into what I create. I need to feel something strongly in order to create, and the EUPD helps with that! I only ever feel things strongly!

What I do creatively really varies. I go through phases and bore easily so what you see me working on one week will not be the same as what I work on the week after. I paint, I crochet, I design and sew cross stitch, I bake, I cook new things, I draw, I colour, I make things with clay, I build things and I make a mess. I get stuck in, I rip up paper for collages, I use pastels, paint, pencils, felt tips, I write I craft I create. It varies based on my mood, I never plan my future creations, and as I say I go through phases. I’m no real artist; perhaps it is my low self-esteem talking but I often make something and then wish to destroy it straight away. I often detest what I have created, but equally sometimes I feel I have created something truly beautiful.

My favourite at the moment is colouring in (the adult colouring book craze that’s hit the UK is amazing! Seriously, there are so many designs and books to choose from, it’s brilliant!) I often get frustrated with my own drawing inability, so to colour a pre-drawn design feels really therapeutic. It’s great for mindfulness, and you can really express your emotions through the colours you choose. I have stuck all my pictures on my wall to cheer me up; the images I coloured when more depressed used darker, foreboding colours yet my more recent stuff is multi coloured and fun – It’s a visual log of my progress in escaping this depressive episode. And it’s great to pick up and do when I feel a bit stressed out.

I have also been making clay figures that express my emotions from air drying clay. The process of mixing paints and decorating the models, as well as squishing the clay in my fingers is really calming. I can be making models for hours and not notice the time passing. Which is great; because I’m not able to work at the moment being creative keeps my mind active. Someday perhaps when I am better and more able I hope to embark on a creative career, too. My creativity comes hand in hand with my mental illness, and I’d never manage without the release for my emotions and the structure it provides for my day.

Guest Post by Brendan Farrell – The First Step is Not The Hardest

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Brendan Farrell who talks about his journey with anxiety and depression, and how running has helped rid him of his demons. Please check out his blog by clicking here.

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There are so many motivational quotes over the years that compare achieving goals to some sort of uphill task, a mountain or a series of steps. While this comparison works for some people to a large extent, my experience with anxiety and depression can somewhat be the opposite of this. Why? Because that top step is where I sat, in the middle of the night, dozens of times because I couldn’t sleep. I was deeply depressed. That is the hardest point. The loneliness is overwhelming. Every house noise and creek comes with huge hope that it’s someone getting up to help. It never was. Who gets up at half 3 in the morning? Other days those steps would be climbed immediately after work. This was for the sole purpose of lying on the bed not to be around anyone, feeling absolutely numb. So that top step didn’t represent anything positive.

It was the bottom step that did. That bottom step means you’re willing to be around people. It means you can get out and be with the world. Not alone. It shows courage, passion and a desire to give it everything to get through it. And you will.

My name is Brendan Farrell. I’m 31 and from Templeogue in Dublin. I have been working in finance since 2006. It’s deadline, accuracy, bureaucracy and fear driven and the reason I suffered from anxiety and depression. I initially loved working full-time and earning a salary. At 22 there was a large element of innocence and naivety which wasn’t recognised at the time. Getting the job in the first place meant a lot. How times have changed. After 2 years there, some friends were spending a year in Australia (a very common thing for an Irish person in their 20’s). They had been gone a few months when things started to become very stressful in the job. At this point, physical fitness was very low. I weighed 15 stone and running for the bus was an issue (I’ll get back to this later. Turns out these are quite important points).

This started to affect my sleep and confidence in the ability to do my job. It clouded my brain completely. I began to get extremely nervous at the thought of going in, being around all those people, not being able to understand the work and completely obsessed with getting a good sleep. This carried on until I decided to pack it in and join my friends in Australia. I spent 6 of the best months of my life there. We got a point where there was a choice between going to New Zealand or going home. The budget was another issue so returning home was the path chosen.

A month after returning I was to start work again in the same office. I knew deep down that it didn’t sit right. The night before I started, the tears rolled down my face from the pure nerves. Things kicked off. Like a tonne of bricks. Therapists, tablets, hypnotherapy, coming off anti-depressants cold turkey and having crippling panic attacks, loneliness and silence. A long course of CBT chipped away at the negativity and the clouds slowly but surely began to clear. I won’t dwell too much on the CBT because it wasn’t the only factor in my recovery.

At this time, another tonne of bricks hit me. Except it was one of the most positive of my life. I trained for and completed a 5 mile charity run. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from it. I got hooked. The feeling of having a clear head was hugely relaxing. There’s a science behind it. Exercise releases endorphins which reduce stress. It’s that simple. Plus with physical fitness comes mental fitness. To tell you the truth, you wouldn’t believe the impact it can have. Some days when I get pissed off, I go running. It feels like taking on whatever is pissing me off and smashing it to pieces. It’s amazing.

So I took up a spinning class for a few months. This is a tough form of exercise but so effective. I went into it with still a low level of fitness. I didn’t care. What’s the point in thinking like that? Everyone knows there is a reason you’re there. People often say to me, “Oh I won’t be able to keep up”, or “I’d be petrified of how I’d look”. Who cares? What’s gonna happen if you can’t keep up? Nothing. You went. You feel great and you’ll do it again because you’ve got the heart for it. Once you see the fitness levels increase, that’s my nicotine. I lost 3 stone doing it.

I have also found a huge comradery in running. The people are the best part. The support from onlookers as you plough through the streets of a town or city is enormous. There is nothing but positivity in races, online groups, running clubs. I just wanted to be involved. Last September I ran my first marathon. It meant so much that I remember the date and my race time to the second. I erupted into tears but I thought about the first time I did that in this whole process. The night before I started work after Australia.

There are many other things I have achieved but I would hate for this to be a self obsessive article. That’s not me. I simply want to highlight the importance of physical fitness in mental wellbeing. I want to help. Somebody asked me recently what my ideal job would be if money was no issue at all? I immediately said it would be owner of an athletics club. Imagine the amount of people you could help. That’s the dream.

Right now I don’t have depression. I don’t see myself ever having it again. But I will never forget it. It made me the person I am today. Strong, physically fit and happy. I love people and being with my family and friends. After reading this, some people might think why am I still working in that office today? The truth is that I won’t be for much longer. I’m changing careers. I’ve been trying to change jobs for a few weeks now. It’s long, tedious and there are days that it gets the better of me. It still makes me nervous but I have running. I have cycling. I have boot camp. If I didn’t have them, things would be a lot different.

So what is my actual message here? Don’t ever EVER be afraid of that bottom step. Don’t look up and say, “look how much I have to do”. Always look straight ahead, grit your teeth and do it. Achieve something. Absolutely anything. Run a mile. Join a gym. Prepare and have a healthy meal. After that ALWAYS look back and smile at what you have done. If you did that, then why can’t you do everything else?

Exactly. There is no reason and there never will be.

Thank you so much for reading.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice.

Guest Post by Matthew Malin – My nightmares give the boogeyman tremors deep within his soul

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Matthew Malin who talks about his journey with depression, anxiety and getting the help that has made him who he is today. Please check out his blog by clicking here.

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Photo taken from Matthew’s Instagram page – mattyb1213

It is within my opinion that loneliness is the chauffer of the limousine labeled “Depression”.  Loneliness becomes the ghost of your past, present, and future pressing on your mind during the day and haunting you while you sleep. It is always there to remind you that you are the only one sad…that you are the only one going through your individual circumstance.  It becomes the demon of your nightmares. It stalks the hallways of your heart looking for any chance it can take to strike at your deepest level. You may tell it to let you out of the car here but I guarantee you it will ignore your request and abandon you in the darkest recesses of your mind. Loneliness is a vindictive killer.

 My individual struggle with depression, anxiety, and loneliness began four years ago. I was in the midst of a new adventure seeking out new paths when betrayal struck my heart. It was not painless. It was not an “in your face” affair. It was silent, subtle, and it severed the chords of my heart. To place so much trust in a person only to have them break your heart an instant does damage that is hardly reparable. This was the beginning of my nightmare.

Over the course of time I allowed anger and bitterness to rule my heart. I forsook the godly notion of forgiveness and in turn turned my back on God. The slow burn of hatred filled my heart and it was not long until I had fallen into the deep pit of depression. My heart became cold and vacant. Under no circumstances would I allow anyone in. Why should I have? People got me into this mess so I hell bent on making sure they didn’t do it again. It was here that I bought into the lie of loneliness. It came to me like a thief in the night and whispered, “No one cares”. Sadly, I fell for loneliness’ trick. No one asked if I was ok. No one noticed that I was angry. Most importantly, no one noticed how badly I had been hurt. I had all of the evidence that I needed. No one cared.

I found myself lying in bed one evening hoping that the sun would stay away. The room was black and I could barely see in front of me. Despite these things I had the odd feeling that there were presences in my room…Waiting…Hovering. I heard whispers of suicide. They told me that I would be “better off dead”. These things…these voices…they swept through my mind as if they were only here for one purpose. They wanted me to die.

I survived the darkest night of my life but it was not without consequence. I held on to this memory and carried it with me. Thankfully, in a short manner of time I found hope and recovery. God gave me the ability to forgive those who had wronged me and I was finally able to be free.

Unfortunately, as most of you know, depression doesn’t just end there. It’s not just a circumstantial emotion…it’s a disease that rots your heart. I have spent the past four years experiencing heartbreak, broken trust, and misleading intentions. People have come into my life and expertly walked out all the while taking my heart with them. Is it my fault? Should I have given them so much? Honestly, these are questions that will erode my mind for the rest of time. One thing that I do know amidst all of this is that despite my feelings of being alone, I indeed was one of many.

It was only until recently that my anxiety took over my heart. My first panic attack came at the hands of fear. I remember shaking uncontrollably, crying, and begging God to make the pain go away. I couldn’t think straight. My mind was a highway and every which way was a new car wreck begging for attention. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had to get help…

I spent the next two months in a counselor’s office detailing every piece of my heart from the past four years.  Each meeting was a test, a test of my motivation to get better. I had to be honest, I had to be transparent, and I had to hear the painful truth.  Five months later I can honestly say that I am better. I’m not completely healed but I am better. Forward progress is better than no progress at all I always say.

Why do I tell you all of this? I mean, you and I are practically strangers. Why should I let anyone in on my secret? Honestly it’s because I have wandered around in the darkest pits of my heart and made it out alive (barely).  Having been through all of this I have been made aware of an undying need of encouragement to those like me. People who are struggling just as much (if not more) than I did (and do) need to know that they are not alone.

Depression is a thief, a murderer, and it only seeks to take the most precious piece of life away from you. It wants your joy. There really isn’t anything I can say that would help you feel better but I know that if you’re anything like me you just need a friend. Someone who can just simply let you know that everything will be ok even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve seen God do miracles in my own heart and I know that he can do the same for you. I sincerely hope you have found some type of encouragement through my story. My heart is for you and it is with you in your battle.

Never give up.

Guest Post by Faisal Ali – My Mind Marathon

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Faisal Ali who talks about his journey with OCD diagnosis & treatment. Unfortunately, since writing this introductory post in 2013, Faisal hasn’t continued with his blog, but you can follow him on twitter by clicking here

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C.D.O (2014) – By Lauren Hayley

My life has been a little bit like a seesaw fluctuating though happy times and sad times. The seesaw keeps going from one side to the other but doesn’t seem to have a good balance in between, which I guess is something that we all want and yearn for.

One of my saddest life events began 4 years ago at the tender age of 18. I had just finished college and had my birthday in France with some amazing friends of mine and I was really looking forward to going to university. To others I looked happy and seemed happy. However deep down I knew I was suffering but I was really confused because I had never felt anything as painful as this before. I was struggling with intrusive thoughts about harming myself and harming others and I was really frightened and worried.

Taking the first step and admitting to yourself you have a problem is hard. Anyone who has had a mental health issue will be able to vouch for this. One thing I did realise though was that in order to get better and possibly find a way past this was to take the first step and admit to myself I had a problem however hard it may be. I found it really difficult to accept this, as many people with OCD (what I have) will tell you the nature of the thoughts are against their personality and the person they truly are deep down.

I knew I had to make an appointment with my GP to try to find a breakthrough and to find a diagnosis. Plucking up the courage to do so can be very difficult due to the stigma that constantly seems to surround those who have any form of mental health issue. The stigma made me weary and I was aware that people can be very judgemental so for me sitting in the doctors preparing to talk about it for the first time made me feel very anxious, like I knew I didn’t want to be there but it was something that I had to do. Talking about it takes lots of courage and inner strength and that is something which I really felt I had.

The first time at the GP I don’t really feel like I got the point across as clearly and effectively as I wanted to mainly due to anxiety and the naivety of an 18-year-old boy. One of my life morals though is that if at first you don’t succeed, try again and keep trying. I went again and by this time the intrusive thoughts had been with me for about  3 weeks now and I still didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere or any closer to finding out why they were there. This time I really felt the doctor who I spoke to (different to previous one) listened and I felt comforted by the fact she was trying her best to help me. OCD can make a person feel like they are in a constant bubble, but they want that bubble to burst and be set free. By now this is how I was feeling.

The doctor referred me to my local CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) so I could see for myself what services I could use once an official diagnosis was put in place. It was here that I was analysed by another doctor and it was confirmed that I had OCD. I kind of felt a bit relieved to get a diagnosis as it was the first time since I started getting intrusive thoughts that I felt I wasn’t going insane.

It was at this point where I began to realise the seriousness of OCD and what it entails. Like most other people, I always thought OCD was something only associated with hand washing and germs. How wrong was I! The reality is that OCD just isn’t about germs or hand washing. There is so much more to it than that. There are many types of OCD including Pure O (Intrusive thoughts) Religious OCD, Hoarding and checking. The reality is that OCD is an anxiety disorder that can have an effect on a person’s daily life and make them think they are something they are not (own definition).

Once the diagnosis came through I was referred for CBT.

Those of you that have been through it before know that CBT can be one of the most emotionally draining processes that a person could ever wish to go through. I always see talking about your emotions as a good thing though because it shows a true representation of who the person really is and how they really feel.

The therapist I saw was called Denise and from that first session she made me feel very comfortable. I felt like I could talk to her freely about the depressing, despairing and agonising thoughts that were engulfing my mind on a daily basis knowing she wouldn’t judge. From the first sessions I told her about my thoughts and the nature of them because I knew in order for myself to receive the best help and treatment I had to be honest about how I felt at the time.

In total I was allowed 18 sessions and I really felt these sessions taught me a lot in terms of how to control my OCD and let it have as little control over me as possible. CBT for me was about finding ways and methods of me controlling my OCD rather than the other way round, and to a certain extent I think I managed to achieve that.

One of the most important techniques that Denise taught me was that I could lessen my anxiety whilst having a thought itself. I was told to trigger an intrusive thought. I was worried and anxious about that at the time as I had to think about it full on for 2-3 mins. Those 2 -3 mins seemed like a lifetime and at first I wanted to break the cycle and not think about the thought. However the more I thought about the thoughts in those 2-3 mins the more I realised they were not actually happening, and thoughts were all they were.

Guest Blog by Becky Prowse – Fight or Flight (My Battle with Agoraphobia)

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Becky Prowse who talks about her journey with Agoraphobia. Rebecca also has a fantastic blog where she features and reviews small business across the UK, Pretty & Petit

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Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, which means when the sufferer is in an environment or situation that they feel could become difficult or embarrassing to escape, they have a feeling of fear and ultimately this ends up as a anxiety attack. For myself, I usually feel extremely hot, dizzy or ‘spaced out’ and feel I need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. I also feel like I need to be holding on to something or someone so I won’t fall. Falling is my main fear or being sick, which in turn has caused me to up my eating habits and make sure I am carrying water when on the underground or on journeys.
 
The places I feel this anxiety have been long journeys on trains, London underground and in tunnels, any large open spaces like parks and beaches, car parks, crossing large roads, supermarkets, shopping centres, bridges, roads on bright days that have bright surfaces that reflect (yes it really gets that detailed!) train stations and airports.
 
Before January 2011 I had no previous experience of agoraphobia, as any sufferer will tell you it does literally just come out of the blue. Due to unfortunate circumstances I had to visit a&e, where I was told to keep an eye on my appendix as it was very sore. I was written off work and I went back to stay with my mum in Kent. Eventually, I decided to go back to Southampton, where I live and work, to recuperate at home. When I got off the train at London Victoria I felt weak and sick and felt as though I needed to sit down straight away otherwise I would faint. I managed to get back to a station that my mum was able to collect me from and she took me straight to another hospital where they diagnosed me with post viral fatigue. It was at this time I had strong muscle pain in my legs, something which I realise now could have psychologically been linked to not wanting to walk very far from my house, the place that I felt safest. The pain was so bad I struggled to walk to the end of the road without feeling exhausted and I would struggle to get in and out of the bath or shower. So after I returned to Southampton, gaining a lift from my mum this time, I went back to work and slowly resumed my usual daily routine.
 
I found with this routine suddenly some things were getting harder to do. I would feel panic walking down empty aisles in supermarkets, when crossing large main roads and walking through empty car parks. I shrugged this off as nothing but it continued to worsen, leading to me having to change my usual route to work because I couldn’t walk down a stretch of road as it seemed too ‘open’ to even think about walking down. Avoidance of these spaces and situations is key to agoraphobia, and is what causes the condition to worsen, until you are eventually fearful of even leaving the house. Eventually, after moving house I decided it was the right time to go and see a new GP about my problem. I had initially looked it up on the internet but thought there would be no access for treatment and therapy or even hypnotherapy seemed to be a costly option. It was after over a year of frustration and fear that I was eventually diagnosed as an agoraphobic.
I started a course of counselling in Summer 2012, that fitted in around my work schedule. I was given a variety of options, CBT being one of them which is cognitive behavioural treatment. This includes exposure, that is centred around a hierarchy that I have worked on from the most feared situations to the least feared and every week a new fear has been tackled. Obviously a lot more has been involved in these weekly sessions that I won’t divulge into, but if you have any questions please feel free to ask me.
 
I have told this story to various doctors over 7 times now, as many were seemingly unable to diagnose agoraphobia, sending me for countless blood tests. It is only when I moved and visited a new GP that he told me to self-refer to a counsellor who gave me regular CBT treatment over 6-8 weeks. She was wonderful and inspired me to gain my confidence in walking through those places that I fear the most using a hierarchy strategy.
 
Unfortunately in April 2014, around 6 months after I had initially moved to London my condition worsened due to significant stress levels. I was put on a course of anti-depressants to control my anxiety which I had a severe reaction to and was referred back to therapy. This was my lowest point where I felt that I could not leave the house without feeling anxious and I had to be accompanied everywhere I went. The effect that the medication had was absolutely terrifying but my body just reacted badly to it and it is certainly not the same for everyone.
 
I went for weekly sessions with a therapist at a hospital in London where they treated me with CBT. We discussed the various triggers and completed a few ‘field’ trips in large shopping centres to get me used to the open space. We also tackled my fear of escalators which seemed to have emerge after my relapse.
 
So now we are in July 2015 and although my agoraphobia hasn’t disappeared completely I do feel much better. It has been a long journey to get to this point. I still have to plan every journey and avoid going on the tube if I can. I still avoid high escalators opting for the lift or stairs instead and very large open spaces. It is difficult for many to understand agoraphobia, even my closest friends and family are unable to, because it’s difficult to describe a fear and frustration of not being able to do something that is seemingly so simple. I don’t think there has been a session I have had where I haven’t felt emotionally drained and cried because it really is that exhausting.
The sad thing is that so many people are suffering in silence. Agoraphobia, if left untreated, can leave you housebound. This was something that I had to ensure would not happen to me and something that I have kept as a goal over the past four years. I read a fact earlier whilst researching for other agoraphobics who have shared their stories on blogs and YouTube that 20% of those with mental anxiety issues commit suicide. This is a scary statistic and one that I feel will stick with me as I share my own story in combatting this phobia and to hopefully inspire more people. 
There is no certainty that my anxiety won’t return in the future. It could come on just as suddenly, but hopefully I will now have ways to handle the fears and will be able to control it.

Guest Post by Morgan R – A Secret Case of OCD

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Morgan R who talks about her journey with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder after keeping it a secret for a decade. Please check out her blog by clicking here for more.

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I find it odd that I can be having an anxiety attack and no one around me would ever know. Then again, it’s not all that odd because that’s how it was for over a decade. I’ve had OCD since at least elementary school but I was only diagnosed a year ago. And the unfortunate thing is this delay in a diagnosis is not uncommon at all. It’s quite standard for OCD.

I’m not sure why for all these years I put so much effort into hiding all of my fears and compulsions. Maybe it seemed like I was acting odd at times but somehow I did a pretty decent job of hiding my rituals. I remember as a little kid one of my compulsions was to spin in circles evenly to the right and left. Somehow I blended this in all through ballet class. What’s almost funny is I even saw a therapist at times in high school. Yet even she didn’t notice so how could anyone else?

Even if I hadn’t hid my symptoms all these years I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference. Aside from my brief phase of hand-washing in middle school I don’t have very stereotypical OCD fears. If most people heard about my fears and compulsions they might actually be surprised to learn that these are a part of OCD. For example, currently I have a lot of fears about preventing fire, fears about losing information, and even fears about losing information in fires.

It wasn’t until I began college though that my OCD really worsened. It went from fairly annoying to incredibly destructive. An hour a day of rituals very quickly grew to several hours. After enough googling and thinking back to AP psychology it became pretty obvious to me that this was OCD. I don’t recommend diagnosing yourself but the pieces fit too well. I spoke with my mom and we scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a different mental health professional. That day I got an official diagnosis and the road to treatment began!

Now I continue to work on my OCD through ERP (exposure and response prevention) therapy and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy.) For the most part it is helpful. In particular I find exposures extremely helpful. I have already gotten over several fears and am working on more. It is tricky to balance working on OCD with the stress of school and I am being honest when I say ERP is very hard. Old fears like to try to come back when I am focusing on stopping new fears or if I am extra stressed, such as during exams. Nonetheless, I like to remember past successes in therapy to remain motivated and to remain hopeful that I can continue to make progress.

If I can give advice to anyone struggling with their mental health my advice would be to stop hiding everything and take the chance of telling someone. Find someone you trust and tell them about your concerns. Most importantly, make an appointment with a mental health professional. It’s definitely frightening and not always easy but getting better is very possible. It is so worth it too.

Thank you so much to Lauren for letting me write a guest post!

Morgan

Guest Post by Shane Hubbard – My Philosophy

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Shane Hubbard who talks about his journey with anxiety and his philosophy on how to help with his demons. Please check out his blog by clicking here for more.

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“You have been like this since you were a baby. You are so anxious and worried; things I didn’t realize a child could feel that young.” Those were the words of my father one day when he finally sat me down and asked if I was okay.

Hi, I’m Shane. I’ve always been an interesting guy. Much of my life I have had anxiety, depression, and just about any other subcategory of those you might be able to imagine. That being said, I had an amazing childhood. I have two loving parents, and two brothers. My father was strict but not the way you might think. He got stressed really easily, but he was still very loving, goofy, and fun. Later in my life I learned about my father’s upbringing, and learned that from a very early age, he had to protect not only himself, but also his mother from an abusive step -father. Knowing this only gave me more empathy for my father, and left me understanding a bit about where my own emotion issues may have come from.

When my father really sat me down and asked me if everything was okay, I really didn’t know how else to explain it to him other than, “I’m afraid to fail in any capacity, be it falling short of societies quota (like the way I dress, or act) to attempting the simplest task and  “not getting it right the first time.” I take everything personally. I would rather not attempt or try anything and protect myself than to go out in the world, fail, and learn. It hurt too much, like an emotional assassination.   I knew I had been like this since my birth because I cannot remember a time not feeling this way. I felt that it was just part of being a kid, and that I would grow out of it one day. But as I grew older and every day got harder and harder, I knew something was wrong. The more stressed I got, the more ways I had to find methods of coping with the stress. I had to find ways to be in control of my life, because I couldn’t be in control of my fear, so it seemed as a child, and that made me feel insecure. During this time, it is thought that I developed OCD. In my college years, I had several more traumatic episodes that I feel can be addressed in private for those who may be interested, but for the time being, I would like to leave those untouched by public eyes.

My Philosophy Over the Years

I didn’t want this post to focus on my own issues too much, just enough to give some background to my past. Instead, I want to provide support, understanding, motivation, and a philosophy I have come by over the years in regard to anxiety and depression.

In my journey to overcome my depression and anxiety, I have gathered many mentors, and I have learned a lot. What I am about to share is some of the most important take-aways I have gathered from them while on my journey.

Dissolving of Ego

This might be by far one of the hardest exercises I have ever done. It is essentially trying to become ethereal; letting things come and go and not giving any one action too much attention. Some people call it Zen. Either way, through trying to practice this, I have learned a very important thing: Anxiety lives in the past as it relates to the future, but it does not live in the present. So this is to say that a past experience has you worried that it will happen again (future). Paying attention to this is what causes anxiety. Leaving it alone, that is to say not thinking about it and letting it happen when it happens, is an excellent road map to follow in times of anxiety. If you choose to practice this, do not get discouraged if it doesn’t help the first, second, or even third time. I have by no means conquered this myself, but being mindful has shifted my thinking and expanded my consciousness, and it will for you too.

Keep Moving Forward

Although an easy idea to conceptualize, not giving up can be hard. Now, some things need not be pursued to the end if you do not desire the results. But for your dreams, always keep moving toward your dreams. Every dream has road blocks. There isn’t a soul who pursued his or her dreams without struggle. If you really love something, and I know everyone does, keep moving forward when things get tough. Find a support system you can communicate with, even if only to distract you from the hard times. Learn from your feelings and embrace the knowledge of your gut. When your heart speaks, listen, it is on your team.

Embrace the Little Things

If you are like me, the most important things in life get lost in the business of work and daily tasks. This is a reminder to you, as well as me, that when we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, to look at our life through a much bigger scope. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we get caught up in the micromanaged part of life. We forget to love, laugh, and enjoy the little things. Spend a little time each day remembering this. Make time to show someone you love them, have lunch with a friend, call up your parents and have a chat. Remember to keep in touch with what really matters in times of stress, anxiety, and depression. I promise it will help in your battle.

You are Important

I am so entirely enthralled by people’s stories. There hasn’t been a life story I have heard from either a friend, a mentor, or even a co-worker that I didn’t find interesting. We each have interesting lives, even if they might seem boring to us. Each one of us has lived a life no one else will live. No one else can be us. Isn’t that crazy?! In your times of anxiety, depression, or just a plain old bad day, remember that someone cares about you, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. Your story is important, so live it, share it, and embody it to its full potential.

Final Words

In the closing of this post, I would like to thank Lauren for giving me this opportunity to share. I believe guest posts are a very powerful way to build a community and bring like people together. I would also like to thank those who have done other guest posts, as well as all the readers for taking time out of your day to read this. Everyone’s time is valuable, and not all of us have much of it with work, school, and the like. So, in closing, I would like to thank you for your time and contributions to sharing your own unique story.

Guest Post by Amber Young – The Importance of Compassion

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Amber Young who talks about how important compassion is in the healthcare service. Please check out her blog by clicking here for more.

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The most important thing to me when I go to treatment for my mental illness is how my doctor or therapist treats me; how they act towards me and what they say. Bedside manner, we’ll call it. If my doctor is dismissive of my concerns, or speaks in a way that lacks sympathy/empathy, I get nothing out of the visit. I feel judged. I feel like I should be ashamed of who I am. If, on the other hand, my doctor is kind, caring and concerned, making every effort to listen and encourage, that’s a whole other ballgame.

Compassion in the field of healthcare, especially mental health, is essential for treatment of the patient to be successful. You’re going to get nowhere fast if you stick with a physician whose demeanor, actions and words have a negative influence on you. So what are some of the reasons compassion is so important to those suffering mental health issues?

Being positive towards the patient can help them become more positive in their own lives. When you treat someone well, they reciprocate this towards you and others. Treating mental health sufferers just like you would anyone else also helps them feel human. Sometimes, those of us with disorders feel alien in the environment we’re in (not UFO alien, just… strange). Put us at ease, treat us like you do everyone else, and we feel more comfortable.

Kindness and compassion encourages patients to develop relationships and social skills. When you have trouble talking or socializing due to fears brought on by your mental illness, the last thing you need is negative interaction with people. Show us that you care, that it’s okay to speak our minds, and we’ll feel better about socializing and making friends. When you have a positive view of people, you want to get to know them more. Negative interactions discourage this.

Compassion improves a patient’s mental health through positive reinforcement. Let us know that it’s okay to be who we are, that it’s not abnormal for us to be this way. Reinforce that having a disorder doesn’t mean we won’t be able to live health, fulfilling lives. Be ready to give good examples of mental health sufferers that have lead fulfilling lives; maybe someone you know or a former patient (without giving too many details, of course). Congratulate us on even the littlest of accomplishments and improvements. It makes all the difference.

Finding the right healthcare provider can be difficult, especially when it comes to therapy, but don’t give up hope. It’s so very worth it to find the right physician for you, the one that will display the compassion and kindness you need. I hope that all those suffering mental health issues can find the care and guidance they need. Compassion can heal even the deepest wounds.

Guest Post by Jessica Jayne – My Mental Health Journey

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Jessica Jayne who talks about her journey with with mental health struggles. Please check out her blog by clicking here for more.

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I never know how to start these so I’m just going type and see what happens.

Seeing as this is a guest post and you know absolutely nothing about me, I thought I’d tell you about my ‘mental health journey’.

From a very young age my mum knew there was something different about me; at the age of four I was showing signs of depression – which is quite disturbing when you think about it, how can a four year old be depressed? I didn’t have a bad childhood, in fact it was quite the opposite. I was the luckiest child ever, I had parents who loved me and a big brother who I looked up to and who I got along with. We weren’t rich but we definitely weren’t poor; we wanted for nothing and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing.

However, obviously something in my brain was different to other children around me. I was incredibly insecure for a child worrying about looking like a boy. I didn’t care much for my appearance. I wasn’t a moody child; just extremely quiet and I stayed in my best friend’s shadow. This continued on until my early teens where obviously puberty hit and my hormones were all over the place. I have to admit I don’t know how my parents put up with me; one minute I was happy as anything, the best teen ever. Then next it was like a different person, extremely irritable and hostile.

Things got worse around fifteen – I had a ‘trauma’ that I don’t feel comfortable talking about yet, but let’s just say it had a huge affect on me and I went off the rails. My mood swings were worse than ever, I was erratic and completely horrible to be around, then the next moment I was so affectionate (maybe too affectionate) and as happy as could be. I was definitely putting on a front, and it seemed to be working. I made it through my GCSEs regardless of these “aggressive” bursts that I was experiencing for as long as I could remember.

I described these bursts like short periods of time where every movement felt aggressive and my head was hazy – you probably know what I’m talking about but I’ll go into more detail later. I made it through high school regardless of the numerous “sick days” I took throughout my time there (convincing the school nurse I was ill because I just wanted to go home more than anything) and got into college, after completely shutting down one of my college interviews because my school made us interview for two.

Once in college I got through the first couple of months fine, I made lots of friends and actually enjoyed my classes. However it didn’t take me long to get back into my usual routine of pretending I was ill and going home, or not even going in at all. It got to the point where the college gave me a personal guidance counsellor who repeatedly asked me “is everything okay at home?” to which I replied every time with “if there was a problem at home, wouldn’t I rather be here? You make absolutely no sense, everything is fine at home, that’s why I’d rather be there”. I mastered deleting the answer phone messages they left every day on the home phone before my parents got home; I did it so much that they started ringing my dad’s mobile instead. You’d think they’d of realised there was something else going on but no, my journey kick started when my best friend sat me down and said that she wanted me to go speak to my doctor. I couldn’t thank her enough for doing that, as she has probably saved my life. We don’t speak any more which really upsets me, but she will forever have a special place in my heart.

So I went to see my doctor, who then after we talked decided that I needed to have my blood taken and have all these tests. To put this simply and quickly, over the space of about nine months I was tested for: breast cancer, HIV, diabetes (twice), another form of cancer and a few other things. Literally every time I went in they wanted blood for another test, so I just stopped listening to what they were testing me for.

When finally I got my first mental health diagnosis when they said, “okay, I think you are experiencing depression”. it makes me so angry that they tested me for so many different physical illnesses before they explored mental health. This should not have been the case, especially seeing as they were putting all these life threatening illnesses forward to someone who was already severely depressed. I was then given antidepressants (Citalopram) and Diazepam (I’m not sure what these types of meds are, they just knock me out – apparently it’s a tranquilliser… nice). This was the start of a very long and still ongoing journey.

The next year after this I went through a long journey of different diagnoses’; I kept going back to the doctors because even though I’d been diagnosed with severe depression and put on medication to help it, I wasn’t getting any better and life wasn’t getting any easier. I was in and out of jobs because I’d end up ringing in sick due to the “aggressive bursts”, then never going back. The only job I manage to keep for over a year and a half, I left because I decided it would be a great idea to move across the country to Newcastle for a guy who I’d been with for 3 months who was cheating on me. Safe to say I didn’t move to Newcastle in the end and couldn’t get my job back; this was one of my “highs”.

I kept going back to the doctors, was given therapists who I didn’t get along with so they didn’t help me, and had my meds changed because I was hallucinating like hell! Finally I had a doctor who actually listened to me and helped me understand what was going on – I had an anxiety disorder. Those “aggressive bursts” were actually panic attacks, so when I wondered what the hell was going on and couldn’t breath and everything felt aggressive when I moved, that was me having a panic attack. It makes me wonder why they don’t teach mental health education in school, because I had no idea what was going on, thinking I was dying, and now there was one doctor that could help me understand what I’d been experiencing for years!

After this I was then put forward for therapy again because they were concerned I was Bipolar, due to my mood swings. The conclusion was that because I wasn’t sleeping around, it was just mood swings (I lied, but I didn’t question their stupid method that somehow I fit the diagnosis perfectly apart from one thing and so I wasn’t). I then self diagnosed myself with trichotillomania, because one day my mum had enough of vacuuming hair from the side of the couch and me vacuuming my room so much. I didn’t realise I was pulling my hair until she told me about it; this was about 2 years ago, and it was only this year that I came across Beckie0 on youtube, that I found out that I wasn’t the only one that pulled out my hair. I didn’t have it as severe as others with the condition, but I have had my fair share of bald spots and a very drastic hair cut which made me cry, and I’m still four years on growing out my hair after finally deciding I was ready to let it grow.

I’m conscious this post is extremely long now so I’ll tie it up.

I started my blog because I wanted to be able to get out my thoughts somewhere. I was crap at keeping diaries, and because I already had a youtube account and half my life was online, I thought a blog was the best way to go.

I now work for a mental health charity part time (however off sick at the moment due to new medications because my mental health deteriorated, which you can read more about on my blog), and I volunteer for Mind and Time to Change as much as I can. On my youtube I have a documentary about the realities of mental health in general life and different settings, this is an ongoing series but it is on hold as interest has dwindled.

I am upset that I have relapsed, but at the same time I know my darkness and struggles might help someone else feel less alone, or help them understand their own mental health.

Every cloud has a silver lining and all that crap. Thank you if you have made it this far, you deserve a medal. It’s inspiring to know there are other mental health bloggers out there, and Lauren’s blog is definitely one to read. I am honoured that she has allowed me to be a guest poster on her blog. I never know how to end these things.