Trigger Warning: I discuss my experience with crappy mental health and I also mention weight loss and sickness in this blog.
Okay, so I know I’m a bit late for World Mental Health Day. You know, the one day each year where we tell everyone to “treat each other with kindness” and share some aesthetically pleasing posts on social media, before we forget and resume normal life until next year? Yeah, that one. Well, I’m posting this today because caring about mental health shouldn’t be treated as a novelty like World Biscuit Day.
Crappy mental health doesn’t come around once a year like Christmas, it happens every minute of every single day. I know this because it’s something that has affected me for almost two years now. So get ready for it… Yes, you guessed it. I’m yet another person talking about my struggles with anxiety on the internet.
The easiest way I can describe suffering with poor mental health, is like you’re constantly carrying a person on your back. Now unless you’re Hulk Hogan, you usually have to put that person down after a few minutes. But in this case, the person is holding onto you tight and you’re unable to put them down. No matter the amount of pain you’re experiencing carrying the weight of this person on your back, you’ll never put them down. The person on your back is a humanisation of poor mental health.
Although you’ll carry this person on your back for the rest of your life, there are ways that you can make it easier. You can either get stronger and become Hulk Hogan, you can ease the pain by taking pain relief or you can share this weight with others. In my case, I did all three.
Before I started to experience the symptoms, I want to point out that I was someone who used to think that someone having a panic attack was just them being over-dramatic and that you couldn’t possibly feel that distressed about a situation so small.
So I knew something was wrong back in March 2018. Working in London, getting trains and braving the Central Line had become a daily ritual that I did with ease. Until one day, I thought I was going to puke. The feeling completely overwhelmed me and the thought of throwing up all over the carriage terrified me. I can only describe this feeling as the way your body feels before you actually throw up. Hot, dizzy and nauseous. But anyway, I persevered and continued my usual journey into work.
Once I was in the office, the feeling didn’t disappear and things only got worse at the end of the day when I had to get back on the train again. The nauseating feeling followed me the whole way home.
So, long story short. This cycle continued and progressively got worse. I was completely dreading going to work, I was carrying Tesco carrier bags in my handbag in case I was sick and I was popping travel sickness tablets like there was no tomorrow. At lunchtimes, I would be completely repulsed by the thought of eating and gave it up all together. I’d convinced myself that food was making me sick and I’d be better off without it. As a result, I lost a lot of weight during this time. I didn’t tell anyone about what I was going through because I didn’t even know what I was going through.
The turning point, however, came when I went on a trip to Amsterdam that I’d been planning for months. I was buzzing and not just about trying the weed. I somehow managed to get through the train journey there through sheer excitement and a couple of sickness tablets. But once I got there and realised my dream hotel was in the middle of nowhere and I’d be faced with tram journeys everywhere, I completely lost it.
This is how it went:
- The Sex Museum: I left this place in a complete mess and not just because I sat on the giant penis sculpture.
- The Ice Bar: This place was pretty crap but I love cocktails. However, we went for 10 minutes before I needed to go back to the hotel again.
- Canal Boat Ride: You can’t go to Amsterdam without a boat ride along the famous canals and somehow I managed to “sail through” this excursion.
- The Red Light District: I’m not even going to lie but this was the place I was the most looking forward to. However, it must’ve been insulting to the women looking like I was going to throw up at their door.
- The Anne Frank House: I really wanted to see this historic place but had to leave within ten minutes as I was crying my eyes out, feeling like I was going to puke on her poor bed.
So, yeah. Amsterdam went pretty well. (I thought I’d insert this little excerpt of my trip for some much needed humour).
Anyway, back to the story. Once I was home, there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I was getting back on the train to work again, so I called my boss and told her exactly what I’d been secretly going through for the last few months. Even though we have a strong relationship, I was still terrified about what she’d say and whether she’d believe me. But she did. Looking back now, I wish I’d just been honest as I’d have been able to overcome this much quicker.
Once I’d gotten her approval for a few days off, I went to an appointment with my GP. I know this is a scary place for anything that isn’t a physical illness but I needed help right away. So I just did it and I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Now, unless you’re a serious risk to yourself or others, there’s not a lot that they can do in this one appointment alone. Which is why I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and offered my first packet of antidepressants or “happy pills” as I like to call them.
Happy pills have a huge stigma around them, like they’re a weakness or something. But the way I see it is that you’d take insulin for Diabetes so why wouldn’t you take a drug designed to help your brain, which is also an organ? So I took them and after a few initial side effects, they gradually began to help me to live a normal life again.
(As this blog is hella long I’m going to be writing another all about my experience with antidepressants and tools I use to cope with anxiety so stay tuned.)
Almost two years later and through sharing my mental health problems with those close to me and as well as taking the happy pills and regular visits with my GP, I’m almost the person I was before. I say “almost” because I’m coming back to the metaphor in paragraph three about carrying a person on your back.
Even after all this time has passed, I still carry the person on my back. But it’s a lot easier now. By sharing the weight with my friends and family and by taking pain relief, I sometimes forget they are there. Some days, it’s a struggle to carry the weight of them but I’m gradually getting stronger and stronger everyday. I’m practically Hulk Hogan now.
I hope that if you are reading this, you never have to experience what I have been through but if you do, that you follow my advice and seek help straight away as it can change your life. Stay strong and remember to treat others with kindness every day as you don’t have a clue what they’re going through.
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