Mental Health Awareness-My Story

I have been wanting to do a blog on Mental Health for a while now as it is a subject that is very personal to me.  People need to know that mental illness is far more complicated, common, and damaging than what they could ever imagine! There needs to be just as much information and awareness put out there for this as what there is for a physical disability or disease.  Even though it is talked about far more these days, people are still very ignorant too it and have the view that mental illness doesn’t exist, that its used by people as an excuse or that they are just being hypochondriacs.  The brain is an extremely complicated organ and when these chemicals in the brain aren’t working together as they should be, strange, scary and dangerous things can happen and unless you have gone through it yourself, it is impossible to explain just how scary it can be to feel like you have lost your mind.

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Obviously there are different types of mental health problems and different kinds of treatment.  For example, someone who has suffered a loss in the family who is struggling  to cope at that time can benefit from being on anti depressants for a short while to help them through it, but then there could be someone suffering with schizophrenia on such an extreme level that they need 24 hour care with permanent medication.  People need to know that just because you cant see an illness it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  One of the things that I hate most is that as soon as people hear illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar, personality disorder they automatically picture people out of an old insane asylum horror movie. As with any physical disability there are different levels of how bad it affects you and people have more extreme and noticeable signs than others.  But no matter how mild or extreme, it is something that should never be made fun of and taken lightly

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Research suggests that there are lots of different things that can contribute to a persons mental health status but here are a few,.

-The persons actual make up.  The chemicals in the brain can be unbalanced causing mental illness but then can get triggered in a more complicated way by things such as these-

-Emotional neglect

-Negative home environment

-Alcohol and drug abuse

-Traumatic experiences/events through life such as being bullied, bereavement, physical, sexual and mental abuse

To look at me, read my blogs, have a conversation with me, see me living my life daily,  you would never know that I have experienced all of the above and have a number of mental illnesses.  I only got diagnosed and taken seriously when I had a huge breakdown in 2011 when I was 28.  Up until then I was on anti depressants from being 17.  I had been on every anti depressant going and when one didn’t work they would increase the dose and then again to the highest.  When that didn’t work they would try a different one, gradually increase the dose and so on.  Each one of my illnesses is an umbrella and under than umbrella is a hell of a lot of issues. So here are the ones I suffer with and a little information about how each of them effect me when I am unstable.  Many of the symptoms are there when I am stable but are much easier to manage and control when on the correct medication.

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Borderline Personality Disorder-Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder

Overwhelming feelings, this could be bad or good.  But it means that when life is good I am high as a kite and it feels like I have won the lottery. When its bad then it feels like the whole world is ending and sends me into a deep depression. It brings with it impulsive and addictive behaviour.  With myself it can lead to over spending or alcohol abuse. When in depression it can bring anger and rage episodes, anxiety, feelings of being worthless and useless,  fears of being alone, paranoia and panic attacks.  When not stable on medication it can bring self harm and feelings of not being in reality. I am a very black and white person.  Things are either amazing or devastating. You’re either in or out.  Its yes or no. There is no in-between.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder- Repetitive Thoughts OCD

OCD isn’t as simple as someone over cleaning, anything that you do over and over again is classed as OCD. Mine is with my thoughts. Like a song lyric going round and round in my head.  When something good has happened I can over think it.  I can have the same sentence repeat itself over and over again.  Almost like if I keep repeating it then its true and its really happening.  Making sure I haven’t imagined it.  It can get so bad that if my mind is running over time then I have to stop what I am doing to let the phrase/sentence repeat in my head, I often have to pause the TV so I can concentrate on what I am thinking.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder- BDD

When I am stable and on medication this is not a problem at all and I see the real me, the problem doesn’t exist, but when I was really unwell it was awful. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, I felt absolutely disgusting. I couldn’t drive at the time when I was suffering at my worst and if I was on a bus I would feel like everyone was staring at me.  As a grown woman when I was walking down the street and a group of children or teenagers were walking towards me, I would cross the road so they wouldn’t see how ugly I was and to avoid being called names.  My head was always down and just before my breakdown, when I was working, every time someone came into the office of about 20 of us I was convinced that they were staring at me and then going off to their workmates to laugh at how unattractive I was. It was a very overwhelming paranoid feeling.

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My story-

Why I suffer with these illnesses.  Obviously I cant get through my whole life story as there is just too much of it, but I am going to write about the parts which made a huge impact on my mental health and memories that will be with me for the rest of my life.

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Early school life and home life-Emotional Neglect

Early, early school life wasn’t too bad from what I can remember, but I would say probably the last 2 years of junior school changed.  Boys and girls started being boyfriend and girlfriend, obviously in a very innocent way, but things were changing and I wasn’t part of that.  I started being ignored, I remember sometimes being sat in a corner of the playground on my own crying.  From that very early age I started to feel ugly.  No one ever told me I was pretty, boys weren’t even remotely interested.  Even at such a young age I remember there was a lot of overwhelming sadness.  The last teacher I had before moving up to high school also took a dislike to me and would find great pleasure in making me answer questions in class that he knew full well I couldn’t answer.  This made me feel stupid and again I would burst into tears at the drop of a hat, I just couldn’t control it. It was just as bad at home. Don’t get me wrong I grew up in a big nice house, my parents had nice cars, we had nice holidays, but I was lonely, felt unloved and no amount of holidays could take away that feeling. I had no brothers or sisters, we weren’t a big family, obviously there were other relatives but we hardly saw them, which would have been fine if my parents had made up for that. I never heard the words ‘I love you’ from my mum and dad.  I remember crying all the time and my parents ignored it,  I would spend hours and days in my room at a time and no one would check in on me.  Luckily I did have my nan (my mums mum) who was completely opposite to her and knew how to show affection, so I wasn’t deprived of it completely. My parents used to think it was amusing to tell me I had a big forehead or big ears, and when I didn’t find it funny, it was then my fault for not being able to take a joke. I don’t really remember many good times from my childhood.  Of course there must have been some but I think the bad memories must out weigh them.

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High School- Bullying

High school was doomed from the very beginning.  All of the kids I knew from junior school were moving up with at least one person they knew into their new classes.  With my terrible luck I didn’t get anyone in mine.  I felt singled out from the first day.  My mum always bought me clothes that she liked, never mind what I wanted so that I could do my best to fit in.  She refused to buy me branded clothing and shoes even though I told her I was being bullied.  I even used to borrow my friends Nike trainers on non uniform day to try and avoid being picked on.  I did manage to get into a group where there was about 4 of us, but I was always the one having to put serious effort into making sure I stayed in that group.  I was bullied from boys and girls out of our circle, called names, told that I was ugly, picking on my certain facial features.  To top it off, none of my so called ‘friends’ ever stuck up for me, they just let it happen because they didn’t want to have any enemies themselves.  If there was anyone to make fun of in the corridors, in classes or walking too and from school then I would always be the easy target.  This all lead to serious different types of self harm, which my parents really were completely oblivious to or just simply that they didn’t give a damn.

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College- Drug Abuse

I fitted in better at college than high school.  I managed to get in with the popular people in my group and clung onto it which meant I would do anything to stay there.  I dropped all concentration with my studying and focussed on being in with the ‘popular crowd’.  This was a crowd that steered me in a different direction though. It wasn’t anything to do with being under pressure, its just a thing that I was curious about and that was the world of party drugs.  At 17 I was going out every Monday night taking ecstasy pills, high as a kite and I was loving it. My college work got further and further ignored and I didn’t care.  It was also at this time that my nan got diagnosed with lung cancer. The news hit me hard and all my focus turned to partying, anything to take my mind off things. At this time I was also working weekends at a retail store which I hated, that was also another place where I didn’t quite fit in.   So at this point in my life I was working on a weekend, partying on a Monday and going to college for the rest of the week. (well some of the week)  Somehow I managed to scrape through my course with a pass and still have no idea how I managed it. After college, which I would say was normal-ish partying times, it took a turn towards more heavy partying

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Late Teens-Drug And Alcohol Abuse

A month before my 18th birthday I started my first full time job, then 2 weeks later my nan died.  I was devastated.  The people who I was hanging around with at college started to disappear and I had moved onto more of an intense drug and clubbing scene. This was another time in my life that I had little confidence in how I looked.  My parents made jokes when I went out that I looked fat.  I now look back at myself in photos and I had an amazing figure which I never realised I had. Ecstasy turned into amphetamine, and a lot of it! I was dancing the weekends away at all night clubs, but then it got to the point where I would be taking drugs towards the end of the week during the daytime.  The drug abuse got too much and the come downs were getting worse. It wasn’t fun anymore I just felt overwhelming depression.  I moved to Spain with a friend for 6 months and had some great opportunities come my way but unfortunately the drug abuse had now moved onto alcohol abuse and I messed things up. I lost my job and got accused of something that I have never done and never will do. I had no money to help my friend with the rent and I could tell she was getting more than annoyed about the situation.  This was fair enough I couldn’t blame her for that, but one morning I went into the living area, and on the table was a letter telling me to get out of the apartment straight away as she had found something in my bag that was hers. In other words she was calling me a thief!  Apparently a voucher of some sort for a shop in the main town.  Being accused of stealing was devastating, I have always been and always will be one of the most honest and trustworthy people going. Personally I think she was fed up that I was late with the rent and wanted an excuse to get me out.  I had never seen the so called ‘shopping voucher’ before and never did.  My friend worked at an estate agents and so got me an empty villa to stay in until I was able to get a flight home the week after.  I had no food, I had no phone, no money, the TV didn’t work, the bedding felt dirty and to be honest I was basically a squatter.  The meal that came with the flight deal back to the UK felt like the best meal id ever eaten in my entire life. Things were ok back home for a while, I got my job back and things were plodding along but it wasn’t long before a man came into my life and after months of mental, emotional and physical abuse I was drinking heavily.  It was also at this point in my life that my parents decided to move to Spain, and I wasn’t invited.

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Early 20s- Alcohol Abuse, Mental, Physical And Sexual Abuse

Whilst they were planning their move I was made redundant from my job, started a new one, moved into a little one bedroomed flat, worked hard and managed to get a promotion. I loved my job and I had some great friends and everything was ok for a while until I met another mental and emotional abuser type of man. It seemed that I was so desperate to be with someone that I would just accept anything.  I ended up concentrating more on him than the job I had worked so hard for, too many sick days etc. and was sacked. About a week after I lost my job he started messing with my head, taking advantage, using me for money.  Luckily the job that had always been my safety net took me back on, but I was depressed, I had lost the job I loved, my friends, the only people around me were my mum and dads friends and my mums brothers family.  Neither of which I was close to and hardly ever saw and even now haven’t seen for years. I was having this guy messing with my head and my parents were moving abroad.  They moved in 2006 and then everything went extremely downhill.  I started drinking heavily, taking days off work, drinking from morning to night.  I stopped paying my rent and my bills and was threatened with eviction.  I was so low though that I didn’t even care.  Probably one of the most traumatic experiences in my life was when I experienced sexual abuse. Obviously I don’t want to go into every detail but to sum it up I was taken advantage of when I was absolutely out of my mind on alcohol, by the guy I was seeing and one of his friends who I still have no clue who it was or what he looked like. I don’t remember much about it, I was just left confused and in shock.  This was the incident that really made me lose it.  I drank and drank and drank.  A week later I was evicted from my flat.  I somehow still had my job so wasn’t completely on my arse. I didn’t have any furniture or possessions so I ended up in a shared house, which was fine at first as there was just another girl there.  But over the months she moved out and in her place came 2 alcoholics and a drug addict.  I kept myself to myself but I was drinking heavily too both after work and at weekends.  I had nothing else to do.  In the middle of one random night the guy who had used and abused me found out where I lived.  Here is the really sad thing, I was so lonely and so desperate that I just pretended nothing had happened and let him back into my life.  At the very end of 2006 I fell pregnant

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Mid 20s-A Mixture Of Drama

2006 Christmas day was awful.  Over this time I didn’t know that I was pregnant so I was still heavily drinking and smoking.  I dreaded finishing work for the Christmas, I had nothing to do. I had no where to go other than to my mums brothers house who I saw every once in a while.  I didn’t really know them and even now we have no contact. I was there for Christmas dinner only and then was back in my bedroom of the shared house for the rest of it, all whilst my parents were enjoying their lovely big Christmas dinner in their new Spanish villa with their new found friends in Spain. I couldn’t wait to get the season out of the way and get back to work.  Again I just drank the time away.  A week into January I was late with my monthly and found out that I was pregnant.  I must have done 15 tests because I didn’t want to believe it.  I rang the soon to be dad and of course he didn’t want anything to do with either of us.  I went through the pregnancy despite being told by my parents that if I had the baby I wasn’t part of the family. It really was the wake up call that I needed, I believe that if I had not had my beautiful amazing daughter I wouldn’t be here today. I immediately quit the booze and the cigarettes, my head became clear and I got on with it.  I worked up until my maternity leave, I had the midwife appointments, the scans and all the worries and fears that came with it. I was absolutely petrified.  My babies dad actually worked on the same industrial estate as me and if we were caught on the same bus he would make sure he got off at the stop before me and would completely ignore me even though I was pregnant with his child.  It was hard and them were the mornings that I would walk into work sobbing to my manager wondering if I was doing the right thing. I had a support worker by this point who was trying to find me somewhere of my own to live.  For 8 months of my pregnancy I stored everything I needed for the birth and the baby in my room of the shared house.  As the time went on I was worrying more and more and honestly believed that I would have to have my new-born baby at this dive of a house.  A week before I gave birth my support worker had found me a little house.  The stress of moving and the worrying brought labour on 2 weeks early but I had just managed to get set up and everything ready in time for her arrival..

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Amie Rose born 27/08/07-Just Me and Amie 24/7

My mum and dads friends were at the birth, not exactly ideal but I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice on who would be my birthing partner.  Through the pregnancy my parents had softened to the idea of having a granddaughter, not that it made a difference to me but they decided they were going to come over for the birth. I kept saying to them that if they wanted to be there in time then they would need to get over early to help me prepare and in case I had the baby early etc., but no they turned up 4 days after I’d had her because they had decided to drive.  I had post natal depression, I wasn’t coping, I was scared, couldn’t pick my baby up, frightened to death of her waking up because I didn’t know what to do.  I hadn’t felt that love and bond that I was supposed to feel and it scared the hell out of me. Even though my parents were useless, at that point I just needed help.  I kept calling from the hospital in a panic asking when they were going to get there.  The nurses kept me in until I had some kind of support at home because I was a mess.  When they finally got there 4 days later they went off for a drink and a chat with their friends, when I called and asked them if they had set off, they said ‘yes we are on our way’, an hour later and still not arrived.  I rang their friends on the house phone instead and they told me that they hadn’t even set off yet.  I will never ever forget being sat on the hospital bed watching the clock tick by.  They arrived maybe an hour to 2 hours after that.  I gave Amie’s birth dad one chance and one chance only to be in her life but he didn’t take it and I hope he never does.  My parents stayed for about 3 weeks and after that it was just me and my daughter 24/7. I had no clue what I was doing, my post natal depression was getting worse and I was still having trouble bonding with her.  Everything felt like a chore and it didn’t feel right.  I went back on anti depressants, had support workers again, arranged for her to go into nursery a couple of afternoons a week so I could have a rest but every day was groundhog day and it was becoming seriously mind numbing. So I went back to college, used the college nursery and qualified as a Beauty Therapist. 

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Finally Some Support

Whilst shopping one day in our town centre I ran into one of the women who was on my ward in the hospital.  Her son was born on the same day as Amie and so we started having play dates. We got quite close and finally I had a little support and friendship.  When Amie was 10 months old my friend got married and me and Amie were invited to spend their special day with their family.  They picked us up and it was at my friends house where I met the grooms cousin and his mum.  They helped me through the whole day with Amie and at the end of the day and the night do, the cousin asked for my telephone number.  We dated for a year before I moved over to live with him in his town, which has been my home now for 7 years in Blackpool. He took Amie on as his own and for that I will always be grateful. 

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Our little baby boy Dylan Jack joined us on the 26/06/10.  I didn’t have post natal depression with him and I felt quite guilty for it.  I know it was out of my control but it feels sad that I didn’t get to have a close bond with Amie from the very start. 

 

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Breakdown And Diagnosis

When Dylan was 1, I tried getting back to work.  But from the very first day it was like I had gone back in time to when I started high school.  This time it was a group of women I didn’t want to be a part of though. It was an office of about 20 bitchy women all very much in their own little clique.  I started to feel overwhelming paranoia.  I felt like everyone was talking about me because they didn’t like me. Then it progressed to thinking they were looking at me and thinking how ugly I was.  It was so bad that when someone from a different department walked into our office, or if I had to walk through someone else’s, I would be 100% sure in my mind that they were staring at me, and then going back to their workmates to tell them how disgusting this new girl was.  I still wasn’t driving at this point, so on the bus too and from work I had the same convincing thoughts that I was being stared at by complete strangers for being ugly.  If there were teenagers walking in a group down the street then I would cross over and keep my head down to avoid being called names.  Day by day it got worse, I was having days off with depression and finally one day it all exploded.  I was sat at my desk and all of a sudden everyone was against me, laughing at me, the whole room closed in on me, everything got louder and I ran out of the office and called the doctors, I was transferred to the mental health team and I cried and cried none stop for a good few days.  I felt like I had completely lost my mind.  I wasn’t in reality anymore, I started self harming, drinking to try and numb the feelings I was having, suicidal thoughts, feeling so unbelievably disgusting that I couldn’t look in the mirror, feelings of not being worthy of having children, that I was a failure.  I spent a couple of years in assessments, mental health centres, seeing psychiatrists and psychologists, it was explained to me that all the years of taking anti depressants never worked because they wasn’t treating the right illness.  My illnesses required mood stabilisers, anti psychotics and anti depressants. But then it wasn’t as simple as that.  It was then trial and error with how much dosage I needed and what medication it needed to be.  Basically we had to find the right cocktail of medication and the right dosage to keep me stable.  It was an intense few years and it finally tore me and the kids dad apart.  We weren’t right for each other and neither of us were happy and hadn’t been for a long time.  He moved out and as we were now sharing the time of having the kids, it meant I had time to myself and I chose to party.  I had a couple of months of partying and then my dad showed up on my doorstep.

 

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Early 30s-New Beginnings

Him and my mum had split and he didn’t have anywhere else to go, so he came to me.  It put a downer on everything,  it was stress on top of my many years of stress that I didn’t need and quite frankly don’t think I deserved.  But of course I felt it was my duty to help him out so he stayed with me. A couple of months after he had arrived I got into a new relationship. We fell for each other quickly and it was all very intense from the start.  He was right there for me when my dad took an overdose in my house and taken to hospital. Things were a mess for a few months, my dad was mentally ill and he was living in a hostel.  When they finally sorted him out with a flat of his own me and my boyfriend moved into a new house together.  Looking back on it now, it was far too soon, things were so complicated at the time and we rushed everything.  After a few months I was showing signs of depression again.  He stayed for a while but it got to a point where he wasn’t in the right frame of mind himself to deal with it and to support me.  It was such a shock that this man and his family had gone through mine and my kids lives like a hurricane.  Suddenly we had all this family around us and suddenly it was gone. I was devastated and it resulted in me being in hospital myself due to too much alcohol mixed with too many of my tablets.  Then it was a few days at the mental health centre so I could figure out a way of getting my life back on track for me and the kids. From then on all that mattered was getting myself, my children happy and settled and that’s exactly what I did from October 2014..

 

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2014- To The Present Day-July 2016

Since that October in 2014 I have been completely stable on my meds. There has been little blips, ups and downs that everyone goes through, but no major breakdowns, no psychiatrists, mental health centre visits.  My kids are happy and settled, I did try going back to work in 2015, but that didn’t work out well because unfortunately my medication can cause tiredness so it was difficult to keep up the motivation.  I had a few short term relationships but no-one ever matched up to my ex.  We are now back together and have been happy for a good few months.  This time taking everything slow.  We both had time to face our demons, figure out who we are as individuals and are now stronger and ready to face anything and everything together. I started ‘Mixxit Reviews’ at the beginning of this year as I wanted to do something to keep my mind occupied. Now it has turned into my own little business and I love it!  I have been having a few signs of depression again lately, tiredness, no motivation but it actually turns out that its due to physical problems.  Obviously that’s not such good news either , but it does mean that in my mental health I have now been stable for 2 whole years. There is no doubt that there will be relapses where medication might need switching and changing etc. but that’s what comes with the mental illness and its just the way it is.  All I know is that at this point in my life I am now happy with who I am, I’m proud of who I am, I don’t need to try to fit in anywhere because I’m comfortable just being me.  I must admit though that I’m a ‘you will love me or hate me’ kind of person. I say exactly what I’m thinking, I’m straight to the point and I’m so sarcastic with my sense of humour that people don’t know if I’m joking or not. I am proud of what I have achieved, my kids are happy, settled and I do believe that I am a good mum.  Obviously no one is a perfect parent but I think I do a pretty good job.  Unfortunately my daughter has been showing signs of a mood disorder too for years now but its something that we have been on the ball with from the start.  My kids have completely different lives to my childhood, they are showed love and affection, they can talk to me about anything, saying ‘I love you’ is the norm on a day to day basis, I never wanted to only have one child because of how lonely I was so even though they argue constantly and say they hate each other at the moment, I keep reminding them that they will appreciate each other as the years go on

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Behind closed doors my mental illness is very real, can be very scary and can be very dangerous. It is something that has effected me my whole life and will always be there.  Due to the experiences I’ve had, I am now on medication every day for the rest of my life which every now and then needs reviewing.  I am in and out of contact with the mental health teams when relapses occur and if I have a little blip then there is the fear of becoming unstable again.  I always have to be prepared for a relapse and as soon as I feel anything wrong then I have to be on it.  Keeping my mental health and sanity in check is essential for me to live a normal life and look after my children.

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I will be doing another mental health awareness blog on my experiences in the mental health centres and the psychiatric hospitals  as I want to share the stories of some amazing people with illnesses who stay strong and get through life the best way they can.  Because of these people it has taught me never to judge or make fun of anyone with a mental illness.  They are the strongest people out there. I will also be doing a blog on bullying. People need to realise, especially children that saying something they find funny to someone can lead to that child going home, self harming and in more tragic cases sadly taking their own life .  Words hurt far more than a physical injury because it can never heal or be unsaid. If anyone would like to ask me questions about this blog or just chat about their mental health issues then please get in touch.  No one should feel like they have no one to help them when they are ill, lonely and hurting. 

Stay safe,

Thank you for reading,

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