With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it timely to write about what has been going on with me lately, in particular with regards to my mental health.
One week into the new year – my feet were itching and I was craving some sunshine and adventure, so we booked ourselves an amazing holiday to Malaysia in April, where we would celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I was excited, I hadn’t felt this excited in a long time.
As January continued, a sense of unease came creeping in. Having dealt with (mainly social) anxiety for a long time I told myself that I always feel shit in January and February and that it would pass once March came along. I got myself some herbal remedies, went back to yoga class and brushed off that gnawing feeling as a seasonal thing.
Late February, one Sunday I had gone upstairs to lie down and read a book. My husband came up to check on me as I had just disappeared without saying anything… and that’s when it first flooded out. I was scared, anxious, crying. Something bad was going to happen. In the pit of my stomach I knew that something bad was going to happen. I didn’t want to go on holiday. I didn’t want to go to work. But I also didn’t want to cancel my holiday or quit my job. Something did not feel right. I am not an overly emotional person and I rarely cry in front of other people, including my husband.
Two days later I managed to get an appointment at a walk-in centre to see a doctor who referred me to online therapy. I began therapy but around five weeks after my first breakdown, it hit me again. That escalating dreaded, miserable, hopeless, nauseating feeling. I wasn’t eating properly. I wasn’t sleeping properly. And I had had a headache and jaw pain for about two weeks straight.
Cue another doctors visit. She asked me questions and sent me for a blood test, stating that I was showing severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. She also prescribed me anti-depressants and a sedative and told me to come back to see her the following week. As I was crossing the road from the surgery to get to the pharmacy my mind considered what would happen if I just stopped and let the oncoming traffic hit me. I didn’t want to die, quite the opposite, but if I got knocked down then I could rest up and not feel like I had to try to prove how bad I was feeling.
That weekend was my birthday and easter – two of my favourite things and yet I was in no mood to celebrate. I felt like a robot. Like I was physically present but void of any emotion, or any good feeling at least. Everything was going on around me but I wasn’t really there. Smiling was an effort. I don’t know how it looked from the outside but I ended up going AWOL from work because every day I woke up with a racing heart and a big black cloud over my head.
I returned to see the GP as requested and the reception I got was less than friendly. My blood tests were fine and it seemed as though she had more or less forgotten that she had asked me to return, she almost seemed angry that I was bothering her. My mum came with me so I know I wasn’t imagining the doctor’s unfriendly attitude. If I didn’t have white coat syndrome before then I’m pretty sure I have it now. I was in a much worse state than before.
What then followed was me being signed off work for two weeks and then cancelling our holiday. A holiday I had had on my bucket list for many years. Travel had felt like the only cool thing I had to show for my life and here I was not even being able to do that. I felt like shit. On top of the dread of the future that I was carrying, plus the fear of the ‘bad thing’, I was now laden with guilt for cancelling our wedding anniversary holiday, guilt about taking this adventure away from my husband and the sense I had let myself down.
In hindsight I should have seen this coming and believe me, I spent plenty of time punishing myself about it. In all honesty I haven’t been truly happy for a long time for various reasons but thankfully I got help before it got any worse. I would urge anyone who is feeling low to talk to someone about it, you may be surprised just how many people have been in the same boat as you and I’m forever thankful to my friends and family who have supported me over the last few months. I am also grateful that mental illness is spoken about more and with campaigns such as mental health awareness week it allows for more people to seek the help that they require.
For more information about mental health awareness, try mentalhealth.org