Mental Health : My Story

7 Feb

#timetotalkSo I’ve been planning on doing this, but to avoid becoming a bit of a preachy blog, I didn’t want to publish it too close to my No More Page Three piece. Yesterday though, was let’s talk about it day and I think it’s really important that I contribute my own experiences of living with anxiety and panic because I’d love it if I could help someone recognise their own problems enough to have them sorted out.

A lot of you who know me will remember that when I went Interrailing around Europe last summer, I came home after three weeks and rejoined James again when he’d been to Sicily. Many of you will have thought I was being a bad friend, and one of you was even kind enough to leave me anonymous hate on Tumblr about my ‘low’ status as a friend to James. I was in fact suffering from a pretty bad breakdown that consisted of anxiety almost twenty-four seven, joined by about two panic attacks a day. Of course I didn’t want to leave James. Of course I didn’t want what was meant to be one of the best experiences of my life one of the worst.

In basic terms, my anxiety is constant racing thoughts about how I might be ill and about horrible things that are not happening – these stem from perfectionism and hypochondria. My panic attacks manifest as sky high heart rates joined by a brain that will not stop racing (with often suicidal thoughts) until I am talked down by someone else. After a panic attack, I feel very depressed due to the use of adrenaline for the next twenty four hours. Choosing to go back to Italy to meet James was the hardest decision of my life, and the flight home from Budapest and back to Rome were for me, incredible feats.

You see, I have had a fear about traveling since a school trip to France took twenty four hours, three coaches and a lot of stomach troubles to get there. I think that it is from here that my anxiety began. Before going to Berlin with the history department, I had a wobble, and I’m sick to the stomach when I think about coaches. For me to choose to travel around Europe with only a backpack (you know how I like my luxury) and my best friend was an enormous decision designed to take me out of my comfort zone. That I got a tiny infection the day before I left that most of you wouldn’t give a shit about but that terrified to the literal point of madness was the tipping point. The antibiotics didn’t work and I had to conduct an entire diagnosis in a Parisian hospital for more. All in French.  I was gone, and it took me beta blockers (to slow down my heart), anti-depressants and twenty four hour vigils to get set me straight again – but not before another month of turmoil before I saw my GP.

On the other end of the scale, but with the same results, I also have a fear of doing nothing. I get an awful lot done because I’m literally terrified of being alone with my thoughts: every summer is an intimidating wall of potential panic for me.  This Christmas, I purposefully chose not to intern in order to force myself to get used to a massive block of time in which I was forced to entertain myself. Apart from one panic attack two nights ago, I have done remarkably well and I’m really proud of myself.

I am a naturally very happy person and my problems are almost non-existent compared to others.

At least seven of my (close) friends suffer from various mental illnesses. I know someone who has had anorexia. I know someone who has had bulimia. I know someone who has tried to kill themself. I know all of these things because I have talked to them about my own problems, and they have reciprocated. Seeing as today is a day to talk about these things, I think it’s time that you too (if you haven’t already), opened up about your own mental health problems without fear of being quietened and hopefully take steps to fix them.

If anyone needs to talk, then use my e-mail address jess100m@hotmail.co.uk , but I seriously recommend going to the GP.

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