Your Mental Health Journey

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Your mental health stories

Having a space to share your mental health story and hearing what others have been through can be a way to get the conversation going.

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This year has been a strange year. First the rumours of a lockdown followed by the reality of this happening. This was completely unknown territory and like many others I didn’t know how to manage everything that was happening.

My job involves partly working in an office but more importantly going out to meet people to offer relevant support and guidance. How was this going to work in this strange world. Initially, there were daily team meetings with constant discussion about how things might work and of course about the daily briefings. At first work slowed down as we tried to figure out what was going on and how to work in the new normal.

There was a new normal with work being just as busy as before. Video calls with the people I would normally visit became the way forward. This moved onto a mixture of video calls, meeting in gardens and home visits. I’m still not out and about as much as I used to be, which I miss. I find even a walk round the block in the morning helps.

On top of managing work like everyone else I was dealing with personal anxieties. My husband lost his job. This brought financial worry but accepting support by the banks at the time helped.

The hardest thing of all was the loss of family. Not being able to see the people I hold dear I found unbearable. I’m not sure I did really cope with this. I phoned my mother loads every day. I was so thankful when we finally could meet in the park. She is now in my bubble and I hope that this continues to be the case as lockdown restrictions continue to change. Video calls with family and friends helped when we were not allowed to see people and the new night out – virtual family quiz nights!

What a year this has been. What I have taken away from this –

– We can change and adapt to new situations but it takes a bit of time and we need to be kind to ourselves and each other.
– As hard as it may be to stick to restrictions I know Covid has impacted others personally in much more devastating ways. Adhering to rules for the greater good of those more vulnerable to the virus is important.
– The huge importance of family and friends and a simple hug. Something I hope we won’t take for granted again. Find ways to connect when we are not allowed to in person.
– Give yourself a break. I stopped watching the daily briefings and tuned in when necessary.
– Going for a walk. A short walk can help clear my head and helps me step away from the constant video calls.
– Unplanned adventures are simple pleasure which we can take for granted. Now I have to remember to book many places in advance!
– A sense of community. NHS clap with the neighbours made us meet more of the neighbours with many offering to help each other out.

I had a friend who became my boss, every 3 months he would go to a managers meeting in head office and come back with complaints and horror stories. The negativity was a slow build-up but after a year and a half I was not in a good place, my work slipped and I stopped hitting sales targets. The last straw was when I was pulled up for not hitting targets and I was asked “what is the longest period I consecutively hit targets”, when I answered I was told I was wrong, there was one week I went on annual leave and didn’t hit the target. Apparently, I was expected to still make sales while not at work.

I was already considering leaving which is when I had a big fallout with my friend/manager’s wife (also a good friend), she started spreading horrible rumours about me to my friends who then came to work and yelled at me in the shop, for which I was pulled up for on disciplinary. Long story short I then tried to stick it out but my mental health was spiralling and at this point, it was clear my friend/manager was now actively trying to drive me out the company. Every conversation I had with customers led to written “improvement notes” which were used in my second disciplinary in which I was fired (not for this reason but for having a go at my boss when he refused to give me a full week’s annual leave).

In the end, I managed to get some counselling through the NHS and made an extremely difficult decision to cut away from the entire circle of friends. I couldn’t see a way to keep contact with those who stayed neutral through the whole ordeal without staying in contact with those toxic friends so I had to cut off all communication. Even after doing this, it took me 6 months to start recovering from the who ordeal and I finally managed it by going back to work in an industry I had worked for several years and had a lot of confidence in doing. By the end of the year, I was married, had an amazing honeymoon, and started a new career. Though even to this day (3+years later) I keep people at arms reach and keep a much closer eye on my mental health and the early signs that I need to get some help.

Over half of the UK’s female workforce has been affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. And what follows is often a whirlwind of crippling anxiety, self doubt and an overwhelming sense of dread.

I’m one of them.

It’s the dismissive gestures in your meetings.
It’s the unsolicited compliments and inappropriate comments.
It’s the hand on my shoulder sliding down towards the small of my back.
It’s the standing in front of the exit so I have no option but to stay and talk to you.
It’s the linking my arm so I can’t leave the after work gathering.
It’s the buying me a double even after I’ve declined the offer.
It’s the small intoxicating white circle dropped into my drink.
It’s the blackout and desperation to piece together my thoughts.

It’s the realising I’m not the only one.

To the people who behave like this, you have an impact. Your impact is colossal.

I’m pretty normal. I’ll pass you in the street and you’ll see a perfectly put together figure, no imperfections on show.

In 2017 I told myself I was going to kill myself.

I remember the first time I heard about suicide, the first time I really understood what the process was. A sunny Llandudno day trip, 10 years old, car journey home. I remember being surprised that a local radio station wasn’t speaking Welsh, instead our native tongue told us that a woman mid-30s had thrown herself from a cable car up the Orme earlier that afternoon. I was probably there. We’d been up the Orme that day and looked out at that amazing, vast sheet of blue.

15 years later I thought I was going to do the same. I’d planned out every detail and was waiting for the opportune moment.

It didn’t quite go to plan though as one drunk night I blabbed to my best friend. I was swiftly taken to a walk in centre and sat down with a man I’d never met, who expected me to pour my heart out as if one conversation would suddenly fling me into a place of positivity. Now I love the NHS, but really, is that what you think I needed?

I remember three things about that conversation:
1. He told me I had depression and that it was environmental so I should simply move.
2. If I wanted any support I could either be put on a three month waiting list or be sectioned, and he assured me that I didn’t want the latter.
and 3. his brown shoes. I hated his brown shoes.

And with that, I was sent on my way.

So I went off and rewound the tightly wound spring that holds this perfectly put together figure, together.

I’m intelligent. I’m in control. But the science of a spring lingers in the back of my mind. I know that at some point this is going to be something I have to address. It’s on my to-do list.

My experience is something 1 in every 4 pregnant women go through. In July, after trying for what seems like forever, I found out I was pregnant. At first I was in shock as I didn’t think it would happen again (it took us 5 years to fall pregnant with my daughter). Then followed immense happiness and we started to imagine what the future would be like with another little one. Everything was just as it was meant to be, I felt so blessed and we were excited, my daughter has wanted a sibling for years and I couldn’t wait to tell her, but we decided to wait until after the 12 week scan before we told her. I was so glad we waited, because in August I had a miscarriage, and I was heartbroken.

It was such a dark time for me, nothing made sense. When a woman has a miscarriage, she always feels like its her fault. I completely blamed myself and felt I must’ve done something wrong, given my positive first checkup. Telling my husband (who was also ecstatic about the pregnancy) was the hardest thing I have had to do, and the guilt I felt consumed me. The truth is 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and no-one will ever know why it happened or if there was anything that could’ve been done differently to change the outcome. But when you’re going through it, nothing makes sense and the anger and upset you feel is unbearable, even writing this now has bought up emotions I thought I had dealt with, but the hurt never really goes away, you just find a way to deal with the loss and try to move on. This isn’t my first miscarriage. The last one was when I was 22 years old – I was 14 weeks pregnant at the time and wasn’t sure what I wanted until it happened, so whilst it was hard at the time, I don’t think I dealt with the emotions and just buried them. This miscarriage bought all the past hurt and emotions to the surface and I mourned for the 17 year old child I could’ve had today and for the baby I just lost. The anger took over, I was angry at god for letting it happen again and I was angry at the women who were currently pregnant. Its unfair! Why can they be blessed but I can’t? I must’ve done something to deserve this? These are the kind of irrational thoughts that went through my mind, and goes through the mind of almost every woman who has experienced miscarriage.

For me my husband was my rock, even though he was going through the heartbreak of the loss too, he understood I needed to vent and be angry, and to let my feelings out. My family and friends have been amazing and I honestly believe the support was vital. At first, when I started sharing my story outside my support unit, it felt like it happened to someone else and I was narrating their story. But the support from people has been overwhelming and being heard initiated my healing process.

I now understand that all the feelings I felt are completely normal, but what I don’t understand is why the subject of miscarriage is still taboo? Its such a common tragedy and affects some many women and couples, but people don’t talk about it which makes me sad. People suffer in silence when there is absolutely no need. This made me want to share my story more, and the more I talk about it now, the more I heal and feel I can help others. Since initially sharing my story, I have been contacted by so many colleagues who have been affected by miscarriage, both men and women. We must remember that whilst this happens to women, men are also affected, but they feel their pain pales in comparison to their partners. This isn’t true as the loss has been suffered by both parties, so whilst my husband was my rock, I then became his. He shared his feelings of not being able to make this better for me – my husband is a fixer (as most men are) and when he couldn’t ‘fix’ this for me he felt helpless. I listened as he talked and shared his own anger at not being able to take care of me, somehow thinking if he had looked after me better then maybe this wouldn’t have happened. This was an eye opener for me as I thought the guilt was mine to feel, not his. The truth is I didn’t know what he was feeling as I was so consumed by my own demons.

I know I’m rambling but the point I’m trying to make is that talking helped me and people didn’t look at me like this is an experience I should be ashamed of (which was another fear I had). Talking also helped my partner in knowing that he isn’t alone in this experience. Many couples go through their pain alone, not wanting to share in fear of upsetting the other. We have to feel what we feel, its what we need to heal. If we deny and bury our feelings, they just fester and whilst for me it caused me pain to deal with those feelings, it was a process I needed to go through, but many don’t and carry the pain inside. Its a horrendous experience to go through but I just want people to know they are not alone. Thank you for allowing me to share 🙂

Where does it begin? When do you say “I have an illness?” and how do you know when you do……. When its too late. When the black hole has totally encompassed you and the ladder has been taken away. That’s when I realised I needed some sort of support.
Winston Churchill had his famous Black Dog, even Dexter had his Dark Passenger, I refer to my depression/anxiety as the black hole. The black hole where my toes constantly overhang, but I try my best not to topple forward into its gaping darkness. A darkness that envelopes me like a blanket. I recognise it and even though I hate everything about it, it convinces me it feels welcoming. Everything I try to avoid in my life comes flooding in and I cant help but embrace it – the feelings of total negativity, self-loathing and a complete awareness of my insignificance and how EVERYONE would be better off without me, not wanting to be here, not wanting to get out of bed, to shower, to function. Its like my pseudo self takes over, a total opposite to who I am. I have to find me again and lock pseudo me away.
My depression and anxiety has been medicated for over 30 years and during those years the majority of my time I felt numb. I functioned, I managed and I think I read the script on acceptable behaviours really well, because I got through it. I brought up two children and kept in work and managed to hide the worst of it from everyone, including myself at times.
The worst was my feeling so worthless, crying in front of my children and not being able to explain why and then praying with all my heart that my anxiety, stress and depression did not rub off on them.
Looking back I realise that I have always had mental health issues. I have memories at the age of 10 sitting in the window waiting for my mom to come home and crying because I felt so lonely (a desolate picture painted, but she had only been out the house for an hour and my Dad and brother were in the other room, so not really any reason for me to cry). It was around that time I tried taking my life for the first time. Bouquet of Barbed Wire was on TV and one of the characters had taken alcohol and tablets. I thought I would do the same but I drank milk! Now I know milk counteracts the effects!!
Four times I have tried to take my life, each time unsuccessful, so now I don’t try, because I cant even do that right!
I am grateful for my life’s journey. I have worked through the challenges, the highs and lows and became the person I am today. I am still learning to love/like myself, because I don’t feel I deserve to and sometimes I do or say things that I regret because I have hurt someone unintentionally. And I still crave the love of acceptance and friendship from everyone I meet.
I have to stay happy. I have to stay focussed on smiling and working with the positive. Bringing positivity to others, helping them through their dark times, helping them in their daily lives, supporting and bringing a ray of sunshine wherever I go. Because my mental health is successfully survived by my feeling that I have a purpose, I have the most important job and that’s to stop others feeling the way I do. And that is what makes me happy.
For the past five years I have worked with a positive energy that has helped me remain in survivor state without medication, which has helped me get back in touch with my emotions and I am grateful and blessed for this gift.
I am not perfect, but I am me and I am here to help you, because ironically, I know that by helping you, I help me.
May you be blessed with laughter, love, learning and light.
Always aim to stay in the light.

I have suffered from an experience of work bullying which had a significant impact on my mental health. I had just returned from a fairly short maternity leave of 11 weeks as my husband was training to be a teacher and we had no income. Luckily as I returned to work, my husband was on summer break from his studies so he could look after our girls. Life was perfect and we were a very happy family unit. Until the day I walked back into work…

My boss was snappy with me and made me repeat work with no explanation but just kept telling me it wasn’t good enough. He would email me regularly asking me why I couldn’t be as good as a colleague and during team meetings, if I spoke, he would roll his eyes at the other team members and they would laugh. He would give me in depth tasks to do at 4pm in the afternoon and tell me it had to be done for 9am the following morning, forcing me to stay very late in the office. Only to be told to do it again and again. This went on for over 3 months and was isolating me from my colleagues. I felt like I had nowhere to turn. My department boss was so busy and I knew if I approached him, my boss would make life even worse for me. I felt very very alone and my confidence was rock bottom.

It was impacting me at home too. I couldn’t concentrate and was struggling to give my girls the care and attention they needed. My husband was an amazing support but he didn’t truly understand how bad it was. He’d tell me to ignore him and try to forget about it when I was at home. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind, I wasn’t sleeping and fear built every morning as I got ready for work.

The day my husband found me sitting on the bathroom floor sobbing and shaking and talking what can only be described a gibberish was the day we both knew I needed professional help. I reached out to my GP and was immediately signed off sick for 6 weeks. I did need medication help to get the balance back and as first I was worried about the stigma of being on anti-depressants but they really helped me. I often think they levelled out the ground again as I didn’t feel so wobbly. With on-going support from my GP and loved ones I began to feel like I could cope.

When I returned to work, I was so nervous but I felt like a different person and was able to tackle the day to day. I did raise a grievance and although that was tough, it was taken seriously. Turns out he had done this before and therefore was asked to leave the business.

I remained on anti-depressants for 6 months but during that time I flourished at work and found “me” again at home.

I thought I might share about anxiety in case it helps someone as it’s likely with Coronavirus that this is likely to be affecting a lot of us right now.

I’ve generally suffered from some form of anxiety a lot of my life, which has often been made worse by stress. The type of anxiety I suffer from is that I tend to overthink things a lot. It comes and goes and most of the time it is manageable but every so often it can get out of control. I will overthink a situation until my fears and worries get out of proportion compared to what has actually happened or is likely to happen. When I start to overthink things this can cause me to become very anxious leading to insomnia and sometimes I can get a feeling like a pain in my chest (which can feel like all my worries crushing my chest) and it will generally end in tears at some point usually over something very trivial that generally wouldn’t bother me at any other time. It also takes up a lot of time when I could be enjoying myself instead of feeling worried. I often struggle to believe that I’m doing a good job and if I make a mistake I will generally beat myself up about it (imposter syndrome). I also worry about whether people like me or not and what they think about me and again let this get out of control in my head.

I have found that my main coping technique is through talking to friends and family to try to get things back into proportion and through exercise I tend to go the gym or do a run or walk most days. Since the lockdown I’ve been able to get outside a lot more and this has really helped dealing with the current situation. I’ve really enjoyed getting out in the fresh air for an early morning walk, run or work out. I have found fresh air, exercise and trying to bring your mind back to the present are really great ways of calming myself down.

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