Tuesday, 10 October 2017

#WORLDMENTALHEALTHDAY: My Story

In honour of world mental health day, I thought this would be the ideal day to open up about my mental health issues, which is both therapeutic for me and hopefully helpful to someone who may have had a similar experience.
My depression started long before my panic attacks, through having a rocky upbringing and then being bullied throughout my early school years I feel like I've never mentally been in a  good place (until now that is), I was self harming and doing really stupid shit that really wasn't good for me, I definitely think a lot of my anxiety stems from my childhood and just being in a perpetual state of not feeling good enough. I felt like I wasn't worth anything to anyone and that my life was never going to amount to anything, and being a 20 year old now I find it crazy that I was experiencing that as an 12 year old, I was still a child. To this day I don't think I'll ever completely let go of those feelings, I still have down days like everyone but I find it easier to find the positives in life now. By the time I was 14 that's when I began drinking and smoking and I definitely didn't have the right people influencing me at that point, but I didn't really care, I didn't care if anything bad happened to me, I was just there to make myself feel better and have a good time doing so, but I think that just masked the panic that was brewing. A year later it all kicked in, and I was really struggling.
When I first started having panic attacks I was in a constant state of exhaustion, every single day I was having 3-5 panic attacks a day lasting anywhere between 10 minutes and half an hour, people definitely underestimate how physically and emotionally draining panic attacks actually are, it's hard to describe how debilitating it is unless you've experienced it for yourself. For me, as for most anxiety suffers my bedroom was my safe place, the one place I know I could go that I wouldn't be in an absolute state, I couldn't even sit downstairs with my family for more than 5 minutes without my heart feeling like it was going to burst or getting the feeling I was suffocating; thinking back on it I have no idea how I managed to get through going to school 5 days a week, I just never wanted to draw attention to myself because that made my anxiety 10000000x worse. 
After about 4/5 months from when my panic attacks had started I'd done a lot of research into living with and managing anxiety, I feel like doctors can only help so much, but it makes a huge difference when you're talking to someone else who suffers with it too and how they cope, for me the pill route was never an option, I feel it would've made it worse because I worry about side effects from tablets to the point I'll convince myself I've got all the most severe ones and that I'd get really ill if I took them. So I looked into self-help ways of coping, most of the self help ways were to exercise and eat healthy and try and get into a routine but still having depression I just didn't have the energy, I didn't want to move, I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to do anything, so it was a vicious cycle. We were heading into our GCSE's at this point too, which having anxiety at that time worked in my favour because I was so scared of failing and going into an exam that it actually made me more organised, I revised for hours the night before my exams because if I didn't I'd have a panic attack during, siting in a quiet hall for 2 hours that I couldn't leave was the WORST, it was even worse on top of it if I wasn't prepared. 
After my GCSE's were finally over I felt a bit more relaxed, summer was here, I knew I never had to go back to school, I felt a bit more mentally ready for a fresh start. I'd been suffering with panic attacks for just over a year by then and now I finally had time to focus on myself. and I had the mentality at this point that I was going to re-invent myself for college, so over that summer I tried to follow the self help advice, step-by-step I took myself out of my comfort zone, and if I panicked I just tried to remain calm and reassure myself that I'd had hundreds of panic attacks, I knew what was happening and I knew that as bad as it got it would pass and it would last forever, and the more I did that the more I realised that even if I did panic nothing bad would come from it, I wasn't going to faint, or have a heart attack, and the more I did that the more comfortable I felt going out and doing things that I enjoyed again. After repeating this over summer I was in such a good position, I got myself to the point that I wasn't having panic attacks anymore, I'd get occasional twinges but they wouldn't more than a couple of minutes as I knew that. I still got all of my anxious thoughts but I wasn't getting the physical side and I could live with that. As for the depression, the more I overcame the anxiety the more I began to be able to see positives in life again and the more control I had getting myself out of depressive states.  
This continued for around 8 months and I was actually starting to feel more positive again. I'd found fashion and started this blog and I had actually found something to work towards and keep me occupied, whenever I'd get bad thoughts I'd remind myself of all the positive things I had in my life, I was content. Then that all changed, I dropped out of college after my first year to try and persue my fashion career as I was studying law and business at the time, and I applied to UCA (an arts college) to do a year long level 3 course in art and design to attempt to get on a fashion course so that I could try and get a better idea which avenue of fashion I wanted to take, but during my interview after showing my work I was told that I should go back to studying law, which was upsetting to hear. After that I was at a bit of a loss, I had no idea what I should do. So I got a full time job working behind a bar and decided I needed to start at the very bottom by doing a level 2 Art & Design course, but after a couple of months I hated it, I couldn't do anything, I wasn't talented and the more I was there the more I believed I'd never be able to do what I wanted, so I left and continued working behind a bar. When I realised I wouldn't be able to purse what I wanted, I ended up going back to college to finish studying business and try and go down the route of marketing, but there's always something! As I was working full time and going to college I definitely over did it and caused myself to relapse with my panic attacks, I couldn't be in the classroom for more than 5 minutes without losing my shit and having to leave, so for my own sake I dropped out of college for the 3rd time. This is pretty much where it started to go downhill, I was working crazy hours, drinking a lot, I really didn't care about myself at all and then I started having panic attacks at work and I really felt like I was losing my shit. There's a lot of person stuff I'm leaving out but I was at a really bad point in my life. Then I met my wonderful boyfriend, not that he's miraculously cured all of my issues, but he gave me a reason to be happy and definitely bought some light in my life. We've been through a lot together over this past year and a half, but I'll cut to the chase and bring you to my situation right now. *Touch wood* I haven't had a full blown panic attack in around 6 months, I'm about to leave my job at spoons to work in an office and actually earn a decent living for myself, I've rebranded and relaunched my website and I'm trying everyday to find positives in life, I still have anxious thoughts and get a bit down sometimes, but every single thing I've been through has led me to this moment in my life, and I wouldn't change anything, having mental health issues has been so hard but it's shaped who I am and surprisingly for the better, to anyone that's struggling with depression or anxiety it does get better, you just need to find the strength to want to overcome it, you will always get bad days but they're completely normal, we're all only human at the end of the day. 
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