Did you know that one in four people have either been or will be impacted by a mental health condition during their lifetime? That's a lot of people. Yet the topic of mental health and the different conditions that impact people of all ages is still treated as a taboo subject to a lot of people. I've suffered from anxiety and depression since I was really little, and currently awaiting a diagnosis of PTSD. I don't oppose speaking about it; I think being vocal about these issues is important, but it can be quite isolating when you're the only person talking about it in a group. So a few weeks ago I put out a call to some of my fellow bloggers, asking if they'd be willing to speak up to help raise mental health awareness.
Amazingly, I did get a range of replies, and so, I'm proud to introduce you to some pretty incredible people, and also the launch of:
You're Not Alone:
The Mental Health Awareness Series
BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER: Whilst I firmly believe the following pieces are important, I need to establish a trigger warning for vulnerable individuals as they can contain mature themes. Please continue reading at your own risk, and if you are currently not in a great headspace, perhaps I can interest you into looking at photos of my cute dog instead?
Emily | Love, Em
Anorexia | Depression | Anxiety
I was diagnosed with anorexia 2 years ago, and from that developed other mental health issues. I had been suffering for it for a total of 3 years before I recovered. Anorexia affects all aspects of life from the way you socialise to the way you think. It is a horrible illness which has both mental and physical consequences. I became very anxious over the way I looked, which also developed into depression. It was a very difficult few years, especially as I had just started college.
I made a decision with my parents (as they were people I trusted), to go to a clinic to get professional help for my eating disorder. This was a really helpful and key step into my recovery. I had meal plans set out and weekly guidance. I also read a lot of self-help books, both for anorexia and my other mental illnesses. Self-care is an important step into recovering from a mental illness as it lets you look after your mind. I started selling things on eBay too as this was something I enjoyed doing. It sounds weird, but everyone has a relaxing form of self-care, and this was mine. After being discharged, it was scary being on my own again. I would get panic attacks and cried a lot. Things were scary as I no longer had guidance in what to do. I started going to the gym, which I found really helpful with my body image and clearing my head. When I cried, I would make a mind map and let out everything that had built up. I liked to use pretty colours and stationery, and after it was drawn out, I would come up with an action plan to conquer what was going on! Planning is something I need to do, and it makes me feel a lot better when I know what is going on.
It may seem like you will never conquer your illness. Trust me, there were so many times I wanted to give up as there was no change in my mood or physical state for a while. Keep going. Even when you can't take it anymore. Even when you can't stand to see you, therapist, read another self-care article, or message one more friend that you don't feel okay. Please keep going. Recovery is long, but not impossible. I promise you, you will not regret it! I believe in you, just keep going 🙂 Stay amazing!
Love, Em x
Emma | InvincibleWomanOnWheels
Anxiety | Panic Attacks
In terms of my experience with mental health issues, my diagnoses are anxiety and panic attacks, although the panic attacks are something that I don’t deal with as much anymore. However, I’ve been one of those “worrier” types for as long as I can remember so some would probably rightly say that I’ve had mental health struggles for a good portion of my life. My issues really kicked off somewhere between the middle of my undergraduate degree and the final year of that degree, and that’s when I first heard from a doctor that I definitely had an anxiety diagnosis
I see a therapist/mentor weekly to help me stay in a steady-state and not let my anxiety overtake my entire life. In terms of how I help myself to cope at the specific point where I know I’m having an anxiety issue, I take a couple of steps: Firstly, I try and acknowledge whatever is happening, reminding myself that this is a panic attack, or that I’m obviously feeling particularly anxious today. This usually isn’t a “saying it out loud” thing but more just an individual moment of acknowledging it. Then I try and see if I can figure out why I’m feeling that way (if there is a reason).
Sometimes it’s lack of sleep, so I’ll try and take a nap or at least zone out and not concentrate on anything for an hour. Other times It’s doing too much and not giving myself to think or breathe, so I will make the space and just focus on having a coffee. I know it sounds odd, mixing anxiety and caffeine, but coffee has become my time to have space and just slow down and think. I also try to drag myself out on anxiety spiral by finding something to make myself smile and refocus away from whatever is making me anxious.
In signing off, I’m going to quote one of my favourite characters, Opie Winston from Sons of Anarchy, with a quote that was stuck to my noticeboard during my most anxious times, “I got this” and so do you. It may not feel like it right now, and I know mental health struggles are not something that ever disappear completely, but you will learn to live alongside whatever it is you’re currently struggling with; you’ve got this!
Chloë | Life Through My Dark Brown Eyes
Social Anxiety | PTSD
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with (social) anxiety by a psychiatrist, but I’ve been struggling with it for as long as I can remember. The same psychiatrist believes this is the consequence of PTSD from being bullied in primary and secondary school. To this day, my anxiety expresses itself in overthinking for days about one word I mispronounced, feeling trapped when I’m in really crowded spaces, preparing conversations in my head to make sure I don’t say anything wrong and so much more. It impacts my view on friendships and relationships, and I’m constantly afraid to lose everyone.
Luckily, I feel like I have improved over the past two years, and I’m finally starting to feel my anxiety getting better. I don’t think it will ever go away, but I’m one step closer to finding balance. Immediately after my diagnosis, I was put on medication. I quit after a year and a half though, because I felt better and I didn’t want to be dependent on meds. From that point onwards, I started to look for ways to help myself.
To be honest, my biggest support is my blog. Whenever something really upsetting happens and it makes my anxiety peak, I write about it - and most of the time try to do it in a way that it might help others too. I instantly feel a lot better and it usually doesn’t take me as long to calm down. The blogging and mental health community on Twitter is also a big help: whenever I tweet about feeling anxious, there is always at least one person there to support me. I struggle expressing my emotions in real life, because I always feel like I hit a wall and people either don’t listen or don’t understand. However, the Twitter community is always really supportive. Talking about it has become an important coping mechanism for me in the past two years.
When I’m having an attack, I try to acknowledge what is happening to me calmly. I try to avoid thoughts like “F*ck, I’m having a panic attack” and I try to think “I’m having a panic attack and that’s okay. However, this situation is only temporary.” instead. Sometimes it takes a little longer, sometimes it goes away quickly, but the most important thing is to acknowledge your attacks and not trying to run away from them.
If you’re suffering from anxiety or any other mental illness, remember that you can do this. You are so much stronger than you think. You are strong for showing your emotions and for coming out with your story. Even though we hate it most of the time, our mental health issues make us unique. They make us into who we are, and even though they are definitely not a pleasure to live with, they are part of us. You wouldn’t be who you are today without them - strong and amazing. You can live with this and one day you’ll get better. I believe in you, you can do this!
Can we just stop and say a massive thank you to Emily, Emma, and Chloe for being so willing to write up about their experiences. They are three, of many literal millions of people who have been through what you may be going through right now. It's a little less scary to know that there are others who understand in some way what you have. This is also going to be an ongoing series, so if you want to see when the next post is up, please hit that subscribe button down below in the footer, or in the comments section.
If you'd like to participate in the project, please reach out to me on Twitter or via the Contact Me form and I'll send you the information. You don't have to be a blogger, you just need to be willing to share your story.