All the talk about the mental health London Marathon last week and taking part in a Time to Change survey made me think about what I do to start a conversation and change perceptions of mental illness – not enough is the conclusion I’ve come to. I’ve mentioned in my blog I have depression and anxiety and that stitching helps but I haven’t really said anything/much about my experience of mental illness. So I’m going to step further out of my comfort zone and tell you about me.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression for a long time. It is something that is always there. Sometimes it’s not noticeable, sometimes it’s there but can be managed and other times it makes day to day life hard work and halts me in my tracks.
With depression I have a brain that feels like cotton wool and a simple decision/action is a struggle, extreme tiredness but unable to sleep, lack of interest in everything, a darkness over everything, an irrational ability to look at everything negatively and blow everything way out of proportion, forgetfulness, very emotional, a feeling of wanting to stop the world.
My anxiety is there the majority of the time and is a constant negative voice in my head. It can make a lot of day to day activities a lot harder work and being too tired makes it a worse. Stitching is a life saver here because it is one of the few times I can switch off that negative voice and find peace – it seriously does work as medicine.
One of the hardest things is that depression and anxiety are invisible illnesses. Unless I become a woman who sits in a corner wailing there is no sign. It’s amazing how a bit of ‘slap’ on the face and a smile can be a mask when even getting out of bed and out to work, do the school run or visit to the shops is a major effort. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “I’m fine” to the question of “how are you?” when really I’m not ok. I’m trying really hard now not to use the words “I’m fine” or “I’m ok” and be honest about how I’m feeling.
Medication, counselling, mindfulness, looking after myself and stitching (the most important thing) does help.
Depression and anxiety does not understand, respect or empathise with happy events that happen in your life and can choose the most inopportune moment to appear.
One of the benefits of getting older has brought experience of coping with it and an awareness of when it can strike. Depression and anxiety is also making me realise what aspects of life are important to me and it’s those things that I concentrate on. So I’m learning to be friends with it.
I have felt ashamed and guilty for having it and I will be totally honest I don’t tell people about my mental illness – probably because I feel I will burst into tears as soon as I start talking about it!
Depression and anxiety are part of who I am. I still laugh, have fun and enjoy life. I can have a life and I can do my job. Although I have had to accept there are some things I will decide not to do otherwise the quality of my life and family life suffers when depression and anxiety makes itself known – that makes me no different to someone who is restricted by their physical illness. Some people have a chronic physical illness – I have a chronic mental illness. Both have an impact on your life. At the end of the day I am a human being, however bad the state of my brain 🙂
My mental illness doesn’t define who I am – my strength and courage in how I live with it does.