6 February 2014

Time To Talk


Today is Time To Talk day which aims to start conversations about mental health and raise awareness in the hope that it makes people realise mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Through the Time To Change website you can pledge to end mental health stigma and discrimination. Your pledge can be to talk more about your personal problems or for those of you who do not suffer from mental health problems you can pledge be to let someone know you are there for them. The options are endless.

I’ve pledged to talk more about my mental health problems in the hope that it will help break down the stigma and to let others going through the same thing know that they are not alone. As well as pledging this on the Time To Change website, I also wanted to write about my mental health experiences to let you know what I go through and also in the hope that it will help at least one person out there going through something similar.

This is an incredibly tough post for me to write so please do not post irrelevant comments or discriminate in any way against any others who may comment as you never truly know what others are going through. 

So here’s my story…

I’ve never been the most confident person but the small amount of confidence I had, was slowly shattered through suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for the last few years. I say the last few years because it’s hard to pinpoint where it all began. It definitely got worse about 2(ish) years ago when I fell out with one of my housemates at uni. I’m not going to go into details about why but she stopped talking to me and took to shouting at me and indirectly tweeting horrific things about me. The worst part of it though was I lost one of my best friends. Not the girl who I argued with but another housemate, who I had been at school with for 7 years before going to uni together. This ruined me and from there, my anxiety went downhill at about 100mph! We pretty much stopped talking and I now haven’t spoken to her other than the odd hello around uni for a year and a half. We are no longer friends on facebook and our only link is via twitter. This is so heartbreaking for me considering we used to talk everyday and if we weren’t with each other we were always on BBM (in the days when blackberries were the phone to have!). When we lived with each other I had a poster of lots of photos from our first year at uni which was AMAZING and when I was most confident and after we stopped talking I couldn’t even look at it without becoming a blubbering mess.

These events paired with another horrific experience nearly 4 years ago have contributed to the severe anxiety I live with today. I’m no where near ready to talk about what happened 4 years ago publicly and even the thought of it makes me highly embarrassed. This event is one of the worst aspects of my anxiety but I hope you appreciate that I’m not ready to unlock that part of my story just at the moment. Along with this I was also diagnosed with IBS. IBS is Irritable Bowel Syndrome which you can find out about here. Over the past 2 years it has just got worse and worse and worse to the point where I am now being referred to the hospital for tests to determine why I am in so much pain and why I have my symptoms (again I’m not going into detail but I’m sure you can imagine).

Christmas 2011 was one of my lowest points. I was in my second year of uni and things were so bad (fell out with housemate in November 2011) I didn’t want to go back to uni and contemplated leaving. Thankfully I didn’t but the coming months were hell. It got to the point where I had become agoraphobic (see here for details of agoraphobia) and found it extremely hard to leave the house. I also stopped taking public transport and trains are my worst nightmare. I referred myself to the uni counseling team and cannot thank them enough for getting me though my second year.

Things improved around Summer 2012 but things were still far from “normal”. I managed to leave the house a lot more easily and hold down a summer job. I still wasn’t a fan of getting the train and to this day can count on one hand how many times I’ve been on a train in the last 2-3 years (more about this later).

Then came third year and it brought with it a huge amount of stress. I was much happier in general as I had moved in with new housemates and we all got on so well but the stress from uni work and my IBS slowly mounted. I referred myself back for another lot of counseling, which again was so helpful and got me though some of the most stressful months of my life.

The problem with stress, IBS and anxiety for me is that they are all linked. I stress, which makes my IBS worse, which makes my anxiety worse, which makes me stress and so on the cycle goes. My IBS has impacted me hugely as it’s meant I’ve developed a lot of food issues. I’m not anorexic or bulimic but there are so many foods that make my IBS 100 times worse and I avoid. Due to the stress, IBS and anxiety, I’ve lost over a stone and a half in the last 2 years. I’m now on a relatively strict diet to determine what I’m allergic/intolerant to.

I was hoping that having finished uni my anxiety would improve. Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case and I still suffer just as much. I graduated last July and by the end of August I already had a job. I managed to hold this job down until the end of January when my contract ended but many of those days at work were a struggle and I would spend the day counting down the hours I had left. I decided I couldn’t live like this so went back to the doctor a few months ago and was prescribed with anti-anxiety medication. I was also referred to the counselor at my surgery. The medication has been beneficial and although I’m yet to experience the full potential of it, I already feel better. When I say better, things aren’t miraculously better but it means I can live my life a bit more than I was. Unfortunately the counseling this time was not a success as I really didn’t get on with the counselor and ended up leaving after the 3rd week.

My anxiety still has a huge impact on my day to day life and brings with it awful fears and many irrational thoughts. I find it a lot easier to say no to doing things as I feel like such a let down if I say yes and then cancel. As not many people know the full extent of my problems I find it hard to say that it’s because of my anxiety. The boyf knows the extent of my problems and I cannot thank him enough for what he has done for me.


I mentioned that I wont go on trains unless I absolutely have to as all my irrational thoughts and fears are sparked to the max. It’s all triggered by 2 words … what if? What if I feel ill? What if I cant get out? What if I’m sick? What if I need the toilet? What if I die? What if people see me panic? What if I collapse? What if, What if, What if? All these thoughts and many more have run through my head at one time or another. The anticipation of most situations is the worst thing for me as I have such a 50-50 mind about things. This may sounds mad, but I have the irrational side shouting all the above things and the rational side telling me I’m being silly and just to get on with it.

My main fears are dying, being pushed onto a railway/into the road if I stand too close, choking when alone, drowning, accidentally cutting myself whether with a knife or my razor (note: nothing to do with self-harm), burning the house down with candles, losing the people I love, what people are saying about me, what my friends actually think of me etc. One of the worst of these is dying. I have this awful fear of death and thinking about it in too much detail paralyses me. I can’t move, I can’t breathe, I get a tight chest and I cry. I hate the thought of living and then once you die that’s it. This has nothing to do with believing whether there is life after death, it’s just fear of the unknown creeping back in.

What if and fear of the unknown are two of the worst things for me. I now avoid new situations if I can, unless I know where I am going and all the arrangements. I can’t be spontaneous any more because it just sends my anxiety into overdrive, unless I’m somewhere I know and with someone who knows how I may react. It’s resulted in me choosing to stay at home rather than venture out, as home is safe to me. I’d love to go travelling but right now this just isn’t an option.


I hope this hasn’t seemed too jumbled to you and makes sense. It’s so hard to even type these things let alone think that there will be people reading this who don’t know that any of this goes on in my day to day life. 

I’m sorry for the length of this post and well done if you’ve made it this far. I just think it’s so important that we start to speak out about mental health more as it affects so many people and there shouldn’t be discrimination towards those suffering.

If you're suffering with any of these problems or just want someone to talk to, please feel free to email me at hannah.alice.clark@gmail.com and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you would like to get involved then you can Make A Pledge or start a conversation on twitter with #timetotalk. 

Han
x





21 comments:

  1. Wow Hun, this is such a brave thing to share, i have had a lot of similar problems and if you need to talk im here for you :-) xxxx

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    1. Thank you :) I really appreciate it x

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing. It can often be empowering to write about it publicly. I hope for better days for you and improved health so you can do all the things you want to do in your life xoxo

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    1. No problem, I wanted to get involved and felt that this would be the best way to do so for both myself and others. Thank you so much :) x

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  3. I'm so glad you've written this hun. I hope it made you feel loads better and you'll see that there's so many people that can relate to this. You are not alone! We definitely need to meet up at some point too!!

    Jenn | PhotoJennic

    x

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    1. Thanks lovely, I certainly do feel better and the support I've been getting is amazing. It's nice to know people are reading it and that I can help others too! Yes I definitely agree on meeting up especially as were so close and can relate so much! X

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  4. I can really relate to this! I've started experiencing food intolerances and I'm not sure what it is but IBS is something I never thought of! I suffer with huge anxiety too. I'm here to talk if you want! Thank you for sharing xx

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    1. Yeah it might well be IBS because it's quite common in females age 18-25! So definitely worth seeing the doctor to get them to confirm it. And it's also a good idea to keep a food diary to keep track of what affects you and the symptoms you experience. X

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  5. I bet you feel tonnes better for letting this out and getting it off your chest don't you ? It's horrible how something physical can start to control you emotionally I totally understand, and I hope you keep making progress. You deserve to be happy, I've also written a long post on the #timetotalk campaign, check it out if you like :)

    Jamie xox
    http://bethnalbohemia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/time-to-talk-lets-get-few-things-out-of.html

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    1. Yeah it's definitely been something I've wanted to do for a while! It does feel strange though putting so much out there! Thank you :) I'm definitely going to come and read your post too x

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  6. Such a brave post. I too suffer from IBS and find it really hard when have a flare up as it makes my anixety/depression worse which in turn makes my IBS worse. Like you said its very much a vicious circle and its trying to find a way to break it. Good luck and I hope things keep getting better for you. xx

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    1. Thank you :) oh gosh I'm sorry to hear that but I completely understand where you're coming from. I hope things improve for you too x

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  7. This is such a brave post of yours! As someone who also suffers from severe anxiety/agoraphobia and IBS because of it, I could relate to a lot of it and understand how truly horrific it really is. Not many people (unless they've suffered it) really understand the true extent of how much MH can affect even just the simplest of things, it's a constant battle. I'm currently at my second year at university, and I have to travel 90 mins on a bus and a train each way every single day I'm there, which makes me physically ill pretty much every time - it's not so good! I really hope you're feeling better soon! You should be proud of yourself for being so open about it : )

    xxxx

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    1. I completely agree with you about people not understanding! It's not just a case of chilling out or calming down. Oh gosh I really feel for you, but good for you, I wouldn't even consider getting a bus and train! No way. Thank you :) and I hope your situation improves too! X

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  8. What a brave post, Hannah. It must have took a lot of courage for you to write all of this and click that "publish" button at the end of it all. I'm going to take a proper look at the website later tonight but I definitely think that schools should start educating pupils on mental health. I personally know people who have gone through mental health issues and it annoys me so much when others assume they're "crazy" if they have mental health problems. I think it stems from people calling each other "mental" as an insult.
    I also know that some people who have social anxiety or OCD prefer to just call it by those names rather than saying it's a "mental health" issue because they're scared of who will judge them.
    Once people start to understand it more, those suffering from it will be able to get better support from those around them.

    IAmLinderella.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Mmm it was a challenge but I really wanted to share my experience in an attempt to help others. I agree with you about schools, I think it should be something openly talked about so people can be more equipped as to how to deal with it. I completely agree with you about where it stems from and I myself wouldn't say I have mental health problems I would just say it's anxiety. X

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  9. Thank you for sharing this, very courageous of you. I think this post will help a lot of people with similar difficulties. Sorry to hear about what happened at Uni with your house mates. You did very well to get through it. I also have mental health problems and through support have found coping strategies. I wish you the best, Helen xx

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    1. I hope it does help some people. Aw thank you, I hope you continue to improve too! X

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  10. Thank you for this post. I know how hard it is to open up about things like this. I suffer from anxiety and depression and have discussed it on my blog. I was amazed at the volume of comments that let me know that I wasn't alone in my suffering. The blogging community is really good and sticking together and helping each other out. One thing that keeps me going (even if it is one hour at a time) is that I know it is a chemical imbalance and it's not my fault. Our minds and bodies are so weird that way. I just wish other people would treat it as a sickness/disease like they would any other. You can't just snap out of cancer so why expect us to snap out of this? I wish you the best and know that you can always vent on your blog, we don't mind. We will support you! :)

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    1. Aw I'm sorry to hear that you do too! It's amazing how supportive the blogging community are! Yep I completely agree with you about taking it one hour at a time and knowing it's not your fault It should definitely be treated in the same way as other problems! Thank you :) x

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