Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story

Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story

Hello! It’s been over a month since I last posted, but I’m back, ready to continue to try and help with breaking the stigma of mental health, conveniently lined up with Mental Health Awareness Week. I figured that to kick off the week I’d share with you what my experiences with mental health struggles have been like and why I’m now an advocate for it. So, I’ll try and keep it short, but here’s a revisit to my struggles with anxiety, depression, grief and burnout.

To quote Machine Gun Kelly, “I’m 29, my anxiety’s eating me alive”… or at least it was. Anxiety has been something I’ve experienced in some form or another for as long as I can remember. I was always a shy kid, quiet and reserved. I went to a small school for both primary and secondary, and I had my core small group of close friends, but in my school pretty much everyone knew everyone. Secondary school was where my anxiety heightened. I became aware of feeling more anxious than was probably normal. There were times where I would feel so anxious on my way to the school bus, I would feel sick. My Mum got really ill in my last year of secondary school which caused me a LOT of anxiety. As an only child it was hard without having a sibling to share the traumatic time with. I was my Mums’ world, and I didn’t handle it very well. I managed to do really well in my GCSEs, which I don’t think my parents were expecting due to the circumstances, and then it was onto college where, two months into it, I lost my Mum to cancer.

I was 16 when my Mum died, and it happened just under 2 months before my 17th birthday. After that, as you can imagine, I was a bit of a mess. Her death hit me like a ton of bricks. I was an emotional wreck (not a surprise.) My anxiety went through the roof. I was angry, unmotivated, and I didn’t care about a lot of things. For a while I was haunted by the trauma, having reoccurring dreams of her being really very ill. College was hard. I became more socially anxious and always had a lot of anxiety when it came to social events. At a time when I was supposed to be enjoying myself with friends, doing stupid stuff and drinking too much, I ended up getting myself so anxiously worked up and not enjoying myself much at all for the most part.

Since then, anxiety has followed me through the years. Social anxiety is something I’ve struggled with a lot. However, it’s something I’ve also got better with in some circumstances due to jobs that I’ve had – sales jobs turned out to be kinda good for me in that sense. Health anxiety is something I’ve also struggled with since my Mum died. I’m a self-confessed hypochondriac for sure. Just yesterday morning I was saying to my boyfriend how, because my Mum died of cancer, and her Dad also did I believe, that I thought I’d likely get it too. Morbid conversation for a Sunday morning, ey? That’s unfortunately how my brain works sometimes though. Not something that makes you feel great, ya know?

Depression often comes hand in hand with anxiety. For quite a while, about 3/4 years back, I experienced a really low period. I would come home and feel down most of the time. Sad, unmotivated, uninspired, and tired. Anxious a lot of the time too, to an extent. I was working at a job I didn’t really like which was taking it’s toll. I eventually left that job in 2018 and got myself the same role in another company, but part time, so that I could then do a baby photography role part time alongside it. I ended up working 6 days a week for a year, in 2 jobs that weren’t lighting me up, and during that time I also bought a house in June 2019 that needed renovating which was fairly stressful. In July I left both jobs and started a full time photography assistant role in the August, and went through the stress of doing up my new house too over the summer, when finally we moved in the October. Following on from that was a full on couple of months at work before Christmas with big projects, and that’s when burnout happened. Anxiety was at an all time high and made November 2019 onwards pretty much a nightmare.

December is a time of year I’ve not been that enthused about for a while because of all the social situations that come with it, and December 2019 was hard. I was the most anxious I’ve possibly ever been, feeling anxious and low almost everyday, worrying about everything, all the social situations, and then certain events happening that sent me into overdrive. It was late December when I thought I really needed to do something about this. I had a conversation with my partner about going on holiday. It was causing me anxiety just thinking about it, but then he got upset, questioning whether we’d ever be able to and what he didn’t want life to be like with me. Cue me feeling like an utter burden (not his intention, but my anxious brain) and realising that I really needed to do something otherwise I was going to lose a very good thing in my life. It was at that point that I decided to ask for help. During 2020 I went through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Social Anxiety. I did everything I could during a pandemic alongside this to help myself… I read self-help books and bought more that are currently sitting on my shelf unread. I listened to mental health podcasts, tried new crafty things, got into gardening and immersing myself in nature, yoga, working out, baking, meditation, starting this blog…

Over the last year I have seen improvements in my mental health, and in all honesty I think the pandemic helped that in a way. I am currently working with a mindset coach which is going really well. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m getting there. I have times where I feel like shit still. I have felt like a burden at times still, but I have also opened up to my loved ones far more than I ever have and this has strengthened connections like I never realised it would. I have a better support network than ever. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows by all means, but I’m working on it.

So, that’s me… A little longer than anticipated but it’s what I was compelled to share. Now you, if you’re willing to share. What struggles have you had, or do you continue to have? Like I said, I still feel anxiety, sometimes in a big way. I’m going through an anxious phase as we speak. We’re all work in progresses, and you most definitely won’t be the only one who feels like you do.

With much love. Until the next post. xo

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