The first time I remember feeling it, I was 14. I had been physically ill for 4 years already, and I was going through my lowest time yet. A routine vaccination had brought what was left of my physical health crashing to the ground, and as I spent the months in bed, my mental health followed. Depression, at 14? It didn't last too long, if that can make sense. My physical health improved somewhat over the summer holidays, and a restrengthening of my relationship with God helped with the mental side. I couldn't tell anyone what I was feeling though. A combination of being "different", being ill, and having a faith had resulted in no close friends. My mother couldn't handle things, and I knew would stay awake for nights on end worrying if I told her. My father couldn't comprehend illness at all, and never had ears for his family. My siblings... I don't know. They were either distant or would tell my parents. I had noone to turn to, so I fought on my own.
Time passed. My physical health deteriorated again, and my mental health slipped with it, but I ticked by. I was 16, nearly 17. November. My Nan passed away, somewhat suddenly. I held it together to start with, turned to a couple of close friends I'd managed to make at Church. But after a day in school I simply broke. My father was in deep grief. My mother noticed this time. She knew I wasn't coping. All I knew was that my Nan had died, but she was healthier than me. She could sit for longer than me, and walk for further. She didn't have brainfog, she could cope with things. If she was healthier than me and had passed away, then where did that leave me? Why was I alive? I don't remember much from the months that passed, although I have an online journal full of thoughts from the time. I turned there constantly, and had friends online who cared. Friends who understood. I remember spending hours curled into a ball on my bedroom floor, just crying. I remember feeling stuck in a glass cube, being able to see the world but not reach it. Cut off. I remember thinking about death all the time. I couldn't get it out of my head. I remember wanting to hurt myself, planning suicide attempts, writing suicide notes. I don't think I would have ever seen it through, I really am not that type of person. People at school though, they simply couldn't understand. When I spent all that time off when I was 14, they were surprised I had returned - my so called "best friend" had told everyone I had died - it certainly makes for an interesting first day back. Now, at 16... I remember going for a meal out for someone's birthday. One girl said, "I just don't get how anyone can be depressed". I flipped at her.
A few weeks into this my mother took me to the drs. I have always been anxious, and she came in with me as ever. The dr could tell that I was bad - I had only seen her recently and she could see the difference in me. I asked for a referral to the local homeopathy service, as it had helped my siblings with their physical health, and she also referred me to the child and family mental health service. I was somewhat suicidal, you would think it would have been urgent... The latter referral came through 7 months later. My mother didn't know how low I was though, she didn't find that out until last year when she asked me. She couldn't have handled it, my family couldn't handle me. I was having crazy mood swings, I could go from the depths of depression to the highest of highs in an instant. But I had friends who cared.
In the January, I saw the homeopath. She started me on a remedy. Within a couple of weeks I was balanced. I was happy. I felt better, so much better.
Time went by. I lost a lot of my friends, they couldn't seem to handle this more normal me. My physical health deteriorated. I met my now husband. I left school. I got married...
And now here I am. Aged 22, nearly 23. I am battling so hard against my head. Before I met my husband, who was willing to take the time to understand this, and had been through so much of it himself, I had had noone to turn to. Bottling it all in has done damage. I still battle depression, including the self harm thoughts, the ending it all. I battle anxiety. I battle OCD. I am still physically ill, and spend a large amount of time lying down.
My OCD effects me in many ways. When I use a light switch I have to rub my finger over it to check it's fully down. When I lock a car I have to check the doors. When I lock a door I have to check it. I sometimes go back and do them multiple times, and when I have walked away I still think about it. I need to know what's happening when, but I cannot handle being held down to a commitment. I need things done in specific ways and specific orders. Because of my physical health, I have to allow others in to clean the house. It gives me panic attacks because things are moved. I am out of control and I cannot handle it. If there is a cupboard in a mess and someone else tidies it, I will mess it up again simply because I cannot handle the fact that someone else has moved things in there. If I touch one side of my face, I need to touch the other side in exactly the same way. If I get it wrong I need to do that second touch on the first side, and so it goes on, I have to fight to break it. I get stuck in counting rhythms in my head, and cannot find a safe place to end. I wash my hands constantly when doing things, and am obsessive about things such as raw meat in the kitchen. I remember elements of this, such as needing things even on each side, as a young child, but my parents didn't understand, didn't try to. There are things I hear which can become triggers to me. I have to work to stop them. When I hear other people's OCD things they make sense to me, and I have to work not to take them on as my own.
My anxiety is a big one. I have a constant fear of anything I do not fully understand, and when I am out of control. I fear going into a shop for fear of what anyone in there might say to me. It makes everything, especially drs and hospital appoitments very difficult. Some appointments worry me for weeks in advance, I feel sick, my chest is compressed and it is hard to breathe. My panic attacks and tantrums are more easily triggered. My bowels play up and my nose runs. I try so hard to fight it. I am driving tomorrow. I know it will be fine. I enjoy it. I don't want to worry, yet my body is without my permission. My symtpoms are flaring. I can't use phones as I can't handle talking to people, even seeing friends and family is difficult. I was at the hospital the other week for a vulva exam, and I had a panic attack because noone would tell me exactly what they were doing, I was meant to trust them - I can't! My health is so fragile I can't trust them to make the right decisions for me, they don't understand. I've always struggled with anxiety. At school I would be worried sick about certain lessons, about certain people. I hated school, I felt so scared.
So where am I now? I am still on various homeopathy remedies, which help various symptoms. I am prescribed dihydrocodeine for pain, which I take because it eases all my physical and mental symptoms. I am battling every day to overcome everything, but as my physical symptoms worsen, the fighting becomes too much. I have a husband who I can turn to with everything. Who supports me more than I thought another human could. I am trying to prepare myself for trying to start a family, and that's affecting my anxiety - I don't trust drs. But I feel hope. Having found someone who I can turn to when I want to hurt myself, or when I'm panicking because the shower I use at the swimming pool isn't available, or when I am screaming on the kitchen floor because I dropped a spoon, has made a huge difference to me. Having him speak positives over all the negatives in my head is slowly transforming me. Constant prayer and night time support has limited my nightmares and my waking visions*. There is hope for a future free from mental and physical health problems. They say X percent of people who have mental health suffer from it for life. Well I'm going to work to decrease that percentage, and be someone who doesn't suffer from it for life.
But let me say this. There is one thing which could have made a huge difference to the state my head is in now. Having someone earlier in my life who I could trust to turn to. Who wouldn't have judged me. Who wouldn't have said I'd grow out of it. Who wouldn't have seen me as odd. Who wouldn't have told me to pull myself out of it. Who would have been able to handle the information, and who would have tried to understand.
If you know someone with mental health issues, just try to understand, please.
* I used to suffer from horrific vivid nightmares every night, and regular waking visions, where I would be awake but see a nightmare such as holding the dead body of someone I love.