Mental illness is not something new to me, although I claim to be no qualified expert. I would go as far to say it’s only really become a major problem in recent years, particularly over this last year. The following is a rather brief life story of my Mental Health, and also an explanation as to why I created this blog.
The first sign that something was not quite right became apparent around the age of five; although discussions with my doctors and parents would conclude that I likely have had my conditions from birth. Regardless, around the age of five I told my mother about the shadows that I could see. At first I think everyone assumed I was just talking about my imaginary friends. As I got older though, the shadows did not disappear, and the longer it went on, the less I wanted to talk to people about it. I began to feel like people didn’t want to hear about them, but also, I was scared of being singled out. The shadows themselves are humanoid in shape and can appear at any time day or night, although I do seem to notice them more in the evening. They are silent and each one is distinctly different, although I could not tell you how I know this. I’ve also come to associate them with certain emotions, and at one time I believed that these things communicated with me and each other through emotion. I suppose to some degree, I still believe this.
Throughout my life I’ve gone through many changes, I’ve moved home more in a year than some of my friends at school did in a decade. I swapped homes between my parents, and changed schools repeatedly. My one constant was these shadows. A lot of the time I could ignore them, much like everyone else tends to blot out strangers when walking through a shopping centre. You know they are there, but you pay them little mind. On occasion, I used to try to talk to one of these shadows, mostly when I was alone. I felt that some of these things wanted to communicate with me, but I also found that sometimes they could make it very clear that they did not. I’ve had a few experiences with these shadows that have left me shaking and terrified, but for the most part, for me, they were just a fact of life that I have come to accept.
The other known condition is an anxiety disorder. As a child I don’t recall it affecting me all that much, I could be very shy at times, but then other times I could be very outgoing. I did however, spend a lot of time alone, but this was of my own choosing. I only became aware of the extent of my anxiety when I moved up North to study at the University of Chester. My anxiety is triggered by social situations, although there have been times that I have been totally alone and have still begun to panic. At the start of University I would sit as close to the door as possible in order to assure myself that I could exit quickly should the need arise. I did however meet some of the best people at University, and with their help I started to show improvement. I would go out socially and I could sit almost anywhere providing I was next to a friend. I got a job as a barman, which I have now been doing for over three years, and most of the regulars would never have guessed that I had a problem at all.
Then around December time two years ago I had what I have come to call a ‘wobble’. My anxiety spiked, I found it difficult to attend classes or even make the journey to university from my home in Whitchurch. The only things I felt capable of doing were working and drinking. At work I felt safe; having that small barrier between me and other people may have had something to do with it, along with being good friends with my fellow staff and employers. I also drank a lot, and this went on for some time. I never quite hit the point of alcoholism, but if I was going to be leaving the house for more than half an hour I would likely come home with at least a couple of drinks in me. After a couple of friends and my mother pulled me aside to tell me they were concerned, I decided to take a year out of University, just so I could calm myself and get back on top of my stress levels. However, when I did go back, all of my friends had now moved on to their Masters’ Degrees or worse still gone home. I felt more isolated than before and I didn’t feel prepared to make new friends with my year group. In the end, I left University with a Diploma of Higher Education for completing two years at degree level and decided to focus on my job for a while, until I could decide what to do next.
Over the next year or so I managed to cut back on my drinking and I was making progress in my own life. I now had my own home, a motorcycle (although the bike proved more stress than it was worth) and had begun to start saving rather than spending all of my money. I had even managed to acquire a partner, whom I was very much attached to; something that I had really struggled with in the past. All in all, things were beginning to look up.
October 2016 is not a month I’ll be forgetting any time soon. After suffering the worst panic attack of my life, I have been left in a state of constant stress. I can’t be around anyone, including my friends and family, without developing a stammer and my body twitching uncontrollably. If I do leave my home for any extended period, by the time I get home I’m exhausted and in serious pain. My relationship fell through, and I am currently unable to work as the body movements and stammer are so prominent that I can barely communicate to friends, let alone customers who ask questions.
At the time I am writing this it has been around 11-12 weeks since the attack, and I have yet to show any real improvement. The Mental Health service, whilst staffed by very friendly people, is a sham in this country, and severely under funded. It took nine weeks of pestering my doctor with repeated visits and complaints that the pills are not helping, for them to finally send me to a Psychiatrist, who is only now sending me for an MRI and requesting more blood tests. Even at this point I still have not been given any ideas as to what might be wrong. I swear, if I get another leaflet about anxiety management and the science behind panic attacks I might just snap.
I consider myself to be a very patient person, and despite my problems with anxiety and hallucinations, I’m also a very social person. Right now I feel helpless, I can’t work, going out socially is embarrassing and painful, and I still do not have a diagnosis for my current state.
This is my story. I will go into more detail over time, but I wanted something for you all to read, and hopefully this will also explain why I want this blog to succeed. If I can help one person feel less isolated I’ll be happy, but highlighting the problems within the healthcare system is something that I feel needs to be done.
Other than that, I’m pretty average really. What is your story? Feel free to e-mail me, anything sent will remain completely anonymous and will only be shared by your blessing. As much as I hate to repeat the mantra that has been thrown at me for the last three months, talking (or writing) about it really can help. If only to organize your own thoughts.