Trigger warning: This post discusses my mental health battles with anxiety and postnatal depression.
It’s okay not to be okay. It’s not okay to stay that way.
It's no secret if you saw my first and subsequent posts on social media that I have been battling with my mental health for a while now. I was diagnosed with PND and severe anxiety. Although I have shared a bit about my journey on social media I haven't ever written about it on my blog.
As today is World Mental Health Awareness Day it seemed like a good time to do so. It's quite a long post but I feel it is important for me to share, so please stick with it and read to the end. I hope that even if many who read this do not really fully understand, that at least one person will realise they are not alone, and be encouraged to get the help they need.
Please be aware this post may contain triggers.
If you want to read some of my social media posts about my battles with anxiety I have listed a few below:
Realising something was wrong
I've battled with things over the years, always alone. I keep them bottled up. I very rarely open up to anyone, and when I do I don't always tell them everything. I've shared about my miscarriages before (read about them here) but there has been many things that have affected my mental health.
My mum had an accident at work when I was a teenager, resulting in years of health battles. I had a terrifying experience when someone got into a friend's house where I was staying and put a knife to my throat. I was bullied for being a Christian. I lost friends when I got married, and again when I had children. After I had both my girls I went through bouts of depression, in particular after they stopped breastfeeding. However I pushed through with a smile, always believing I didn't need help, there was always someone worse ofd than me.
There's no way to pinpoint where exactly the journey to this point started, but it's likely an accumulation of things that eventually led to me having a massive breakdown. A breakdown that changed a lot of things, but most importantly made me realise I needed help.
I just lost it.
I felt like I couldn't cope anymore.
I had tears streaming down my face but I couldn't cry.
I couldn't breathe.
I felt broken.
I could hear my children on the other side of the bedroom door and I just wanted to run away.
I felt like a prisoner in my own body, and clawed at my skin feeling like I needed to climb out of it.
I closed my eyes and I couldn't stop the intrusive thoughts.
I felt alone.
Yet I wanted to get away from every one and everything.
Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are not rational. They don't make sense, even to the people suffering from them. Somehow in the midst of it all, I managed to have one, good, rational thought. I needed to get help. So I called John.
John immediately came home that day, and together we began the journey to getting me help. We started by booking in to speak to the GP. I went in alone, while John waited with Pickle (Squidgy was in preschool). I panicked. I wanted to run. I forced myself to speak to the doctor. He could see something was wrong.
He was kind.
He was understanding.
He didn't brush off what was going on.
He didn't tell me to stop being silly or get over it.
He didn't tell me it would pass.
He helped me calm down.
He validated that what I was feeling was O.K.
He recommended ways he could help. I was referred for CBT (a.k.a. therapy) and given some medication. One to take daily. One to take twice daily either morning and night.
John started coming home at lunch, and adjusting his hours at work so he could be around to help.
In June we moved house so we could be closer to our families and friends as in Peterborough we were around two hours away. In Watford we are closer to a support network that, should I need it, can be around to help.
The important thing though throughout the journey is that I had to learn to remove the word “fine” from my vocabulary. When someone asked how I was, I started to be honest. Thankfully I have never felt suicidal, but I have had some pretty rough days and honesty is key.
Why did I get help?
I got help because I needed it. I got help because I was scared of my own mind. I got help because I love my husband, and he needs me well. I got help because I love my children, and they need me to be able to function like a normal (whatever that is) human being, not hide away from them. I got help because we are lucky enough in the U.K. to have an NHS that supports us and offers help for things like this.
I got help for me.
I got help for them.
Six months on, I now only need the second before I went into a situation that might trigger a panic attack or when I could feel the panic rising. Now, I have good days and bad days: more good than bad thankfully. This past week and a half has been difficult for me as Squidgy was really unwell.
Today I am struggling.
I am worried about her starting back at school after missing so much time. I am looking at my messy house, massive to do list and the amount of work I have to catch up on and I can feel the panic rising. Yet I had a bath, took my medication and I feel calmer. The feeling is still there, the anxiety, the panic, but I feel like I can control it. I feel like I can do this. I feel ready to tackle each thing I have to do, one step at a time. With time, I will be able to look back and be proud of how far I've come. The journey isn't over, but I am doing better.
If you think you need some help, be sure to let someone close to you know as soon as possible. There is also plenty of support available including:
Your local GP who can direct you to the best course of action for your situation.
Mind, the mental health charity.