It’s World Mental Health Day tomorrow which is a day to reflect, open up and raise awareness for around one in four people that struggle with mental illness per year.
“Mental health is everyone’s business. We all have times when we feel down or stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass. But sometimes they develop into a more serious problem and that could happen to any one of us. Everyone is different. You may bounce back from a setback while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time.”
So settle down for this one, get yourself a coffee, or a gin. It’s quite a long one….
t r i g g e r w a r n i n g
I do question how open I should be on my blog, I try my best to find a balance between being open and not revealing everything. I reached out to my followers on Instagram stories to ask if this is something you may be interested in reading. 96% voted yes and two lads I went to university with voted no, so I’m sitting here with my coffee about to share some of my mental health experience with you all.
I have had problems with my mental health for around 6 years now, I have always felt incredibly anxious, stressed and ‘depressed’ more than the average person and I didn’t think anything of it for a long time. My main coping mechanism for everything that was going on at the time was food, I gained a significant amount of weight in year 11 which of course everyone around me was beginning to notice. This was difficult to deal with, especially with the ‘fat’ comments from my high school peers but I just carried on no matter what and tried my best to suppress all of the emotions that I was experiencing.
I only decided to reach out for help in my first year of university, I didn’t seek help before then because first of all, I was scared. What if the doctors thought I was crazy? I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t really understand what they could do to help me, other than medication.
The breaking point came in which I had attempted an overdose, as I was lying there in my en suite bathroom, in what only can be described as the most intense pain and sickness I have ever felt, I realised that I really needed help. I kept that ‘incident’ let’s call it, hidden for a very long time, from my family and friends. I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail about that because I don’t feel it’s necessary. It led to some health complications afterwards and I found myself being quite unwell often.
Despite the very long waiting lists, I have had a really positive experience with the NHS mental health services. I saw the doctor and I was placed on a waiting list for an initial assessment. It was a very long, draining few hours of talking and explaining. I was so scared about the appointment so Michaela offered to come with me, she waited in the mental unit waiting area all of that time and she didn’t even complain once and I love her so much for that.
Through that I received support through a community support nurse, a psychiatrist and the crisis team. This support latest throughout my time at university and is still ongoing with a different service in Cambridgeshire. I’ve tried a variety of different medication which I will talk about in another post if anyone would be interested in that?
I won’t sugar coat it, the past three years or so have been rough. However, I am lucky to have friends that would always be down for a chat and would support me through those dark times. There would be days to weeks I would lock myself away in my bedroom and the girls I lived with were so incredibly patient with me and I will be forever grateful for that. If it wasn’t for Elliot, Micheala, Claire, Hannah, Emma, Lauren, Glenn, Ryan, Nathan and Reece, I don’t think I would have finished my degree.
I experience to this day psychosis, paranoia, depression and anxiety and my mood varies from day to day. I’ve learnt to open up more to my friends and my family, if I’m not in a great place, I’m more likely to tell you. I have my down days and I have more knowledge and experience now to see what triggers me. My friend Libby recommended Daylio to me which is an app which you log your mood daily. I have included my September chart below which shows some of the way my mood fluctuates:
I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which I am still learning about and understanding, the diagnosis has helped me understand myself and it has given me some relief as to why I act the way I do sometimes.
The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main areas:
- emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation”
This may include feelings of rage, sorrow, terror, panic as well as loneliness and emptiness.
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – (“cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions”)
This may include upsetting thoughts, hallucinations, hearing voices and paranoia.
- impulsive behaviour
This may include self-harm, impulsive sexual activity, impulsive spending, binge-eating and alcohol or drug abuse.
- intense but unstable relationships with others
This may include fear of abandonment, emotional withdrawal.
Many people with BPD seem to be stuck with a very rigid “black-white” view of relationships. Either a relationship is perfect and that person is wonderful, or the relationship is doomed and that person is terrible. People with BPD seem unable or unwilling to accept any sort of “grey area” in their personal life and relationships.
As well as the poll, I asked the people of Instagram if they have any questions, I’m not a doctor so the answers below are my opinion only.
I didn’t answer all of them as some I felt like I couldn’t personally advise on so I selected a few:
What are your favourite self-care practices?
Writing in my journal is one of my favourite self-care practices, getting my thoughts written down is a good way to just ‘brain dump’ other things I like to do is take a bath and mindfulness. Basically, anything that you find relaxing is good.
What’s the best thing a friend can do to help someone having a bad mental health day? / What’s the best way to be there for a diagnosed friend who is going through a rough patch?
Being supportive is the best thing in my opinion, not everyone wants to talk and people have different coping mechanisms but being like “hey i’m here” can be really helpful to hear. Avoiding phrases certain phrases with someone struggling with mental health can be important too.
“Snap out of it” “Things could be worse” “Remember it’s all in your head”
Stick to positive encouragement if you can. However, I completely recognize how hard it can be to support someone that may be struggling, they may push you away or lash out at you. If you are worried about someone in mental health crisis this link from Mind is very helpful.
What is your experience with psychosis?
For those who are unaware what psychosis is, someone that deals with psychosis may experience:
- confused and disturbed thoughts
- lack of insight and self-awareness
I experience hallucinations but I experience them through hearing only. So you may be having quite a normal conversation with me and I am likely hearing lots of different voices speaking to me this makes it hard to hear what you are saying and doesn’t help my concentration. I sometimes can become confused and paranoid (for example sometimes I may think that certain family members or friends are plotting to get rid of me).
I have learnt with time to train myself for the voices to be quieter or not be there at all. I find that putting headphones in helps and sometimes I just take a nap if it gets bad – something I’m still working on!
Do you think there’s a stigma around mental health as it’s internal and can be “invisible”
I certainly do think there’s a stigma as it’s invisible but the more people talk about it and open up is helping reduce it. Campaign’s such as Head’s Together are so important and the more we talk about it the better understanding people have. Hence why I’m opening up about my own mental health to start that conversation.
What tips would you give those who suffer from anxiety?
Breathing techniques are really helpful and also mindfulness. If I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed listening to a podcast can be great to distract yourself from your worries.
How do you do it, girl? Mental health is such a bum – how do you get through every day? I need inspiration.
This made me giggle! I think I’m very good at acting like things are okay a lot of the time when they aren’t. I need to keep myself busy all of the time otherwise I can overthink things so I like to be constantly doing something. So making a plan each week e.g. Tuesday I’ll go out for dinner, Friday I will see friends keeps me motivated as I know I have things to look forward to. I think I drive people around me crazy asking for their ‘movements’ each week.
Thank you for taking the time to read this very long and open post! If you have any questions or comments, please comment below or tweet / instagram me! @jasminzenobia / @jasminwbu
I’d love to hear about your stories and experiences so please get in contact with me if it’s something that you would like to share.