Living with a Mental Illness...or two.

I posted on my blog a few days ago about living with a chronic illness. In this blog post I spoke about my heart conditions and everyone was sympathetic and understanding because you know…it’s a heart condition. When I was typing that post, part of me wanted to talk about the “chronic-illnesses-that-should-not-be-named” but I felt ashamed and embarrassed and then I realised something. Something monumental. I shouldn’t have to!

Why should I be embarrassed that my body struggles to get out of bed most mornings? Why should I be embarrassed that my mind likes to keep me awake for hours at night worrying about the most irrational things? Why should I be embarrassed that most days, I feel so anxious, I could make myself sick? The simple answer is: I shouldn’t.

I was watching Loose Women this week and they made me aware it was Mental Illness Awareness week. Don’t get me wrong, I think every week should be mental illness awareness week but let’s be honest, it isn’t and we are made to feel like the whole subject of mental illness should be taboo. Well I’m here to tell you, it shouldn’t be.

1 in 4 adults every year will face some kind of mental illness. Whether it be anxiety, bi-polar, depression etc.…1 in 4 adults will have one of these. So why are we so ashamed to admit it? From now on, I for one am not. I have lived with anxiety and depression for seven years. I have lost countless friends, family members and even jobs because some don’t understand and what better way to make them understand than to educate them on the subject.

Anxiety for me is one of the worst feelings in the world. Want a social life? No chance. Want a partner? No chance. Want a job? No chance. Want to be happy? No chance. Well, these are all things your anxiety-filled brain will try to make you believe. And believe me; I have thought each and every one of these things on numerous occasions. In reality, I have all of these things but some days, my irrational and illogical brain will just not accept that.

When you have anxiety, your mind will convince you of the most ridiculous things. For example: my fiancĂ© doesn’t love me. Right now, I’m in a logical, stable mind set so when I read this statement, my mind says: “’of course he loves you, he loves you more than anything in the world”. But illogical me? She’d say: “he obviously hates me; I’m going to push him away, distance myself from him and if he speaks to me, know what I’ll do? I’ll be an absolute bitch and then he won’t want me back”. Reading that back, I laugh because it’s just so ridiculous but at the time, trust me, it feels real.

I have had a bad flare up of anxiety recently and I have just cancelled every single plan I’ve made with friends. Every single one. Luckily, I have the most understanding friends in the world and instead of having to lie and say, “I don’t feel well” or “something’s come up at home”, I’m now comfortable enough to say, “I can’t cope today, my anxiety’s really bad, I’m sorry” and they’re supportive enough to understand.

Another wonderful thing about anxiety is sometimes, you’ll start feeling anxious for absolutely no reason. Those are the best kind of panic attacks. When you’re feeling fine, in a great mood and suddenly you feel like a pressure cooker about to explode. You can feel panic rising (over nothing!), your hands start to sweat, you get palpitations, and for me, I start to feel nauseous and convince myself I’m going to throw up…which of course makes it worse and the next thing you know, you’re having a major panic attack. You can’t cope, you want to cry or curl up…but of course, majority of the time, you’re in public and you don’t want people to look at you like there’s something wrong with you. So what do you do? You wipe your hands, sip some water, focus on something, hold back those tears and try to carry on with your day. I’m almost crying writing this as it shouldn’t be like that. We should be offering each other support at times like this, showing people that it’s okay to have a mental illness and it’s completely normal and that with time, it will get better.

I for one, know if I’m having a panic attack in public and someone asked something as simple as, “are you okay?”, the weight of embarrassment and shame would be lifted off my shoulders and I’d probably start to calm down. Of course, this would be in a perfect world. We may not live in a perfect world but it is little acts like this that would help make it one.

So if you have a mental illness, tell someone. Don’t be ashamed. Admitting that you have one is the first step to getting better. And remember, there is so much help out there. What works for me? Rescue Remedy tablets. Recently, they've been a god send. I have tried medication but I now feel like I can deal with this without them. And that's the most important thing to remember: it's manageable and you can feel better.

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