I’m going off topic for this blog post because it’s World Mental Health Day and this is important. It’s important people who suffer from mental health issues are not ashamed. If you’re off work for 6 months with a physical condition you get flowers, if it’s mental health it’s like you’re forgotten. People don’t understand. People don’t talk about it and all this does is create a cycle of shame.
So, I’m going to talk about it. I’m getting it out there. It’s not a cry for attention. It’s not attention seeking. It’s peeling back the layers to show what isn’t on the outside.
I started suffering with depression and anxiety in my teens. Having been bullied at school for being ugly and boring, I felt worthless and I believed them. I wanted to die. I started self harming at fifteen. I tried to take an overdose of sleeping tablets. A number of bad things happened in these years, including an attempted sexual assault when I was 17. I was self harming until I was in my twenties, once it was so deep I needed stitches. This was when I broke down and had to take a year out of university.
Picking myself up I recovered and went back to complete my degree. When I fell pregnant with my first boy, it changed things and it gave me something to live for.
The trouble is sometimes mental health issues trick you. You think you’re better but they hide under the surface. My husband nearly died a few years back with a bad attack of Crohns disease and my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. I was a duck, paddling frantically under water and appearing to glide over the water. I can’t even remember what year it was but I ended having a black out and broke down. The smallest things seemed to reduce me to a sobbing wreck. Panic attacks came. I could see the sweat coming from my pores, my chest felt tight, and I couldn’t stop crying.
I feel so ugly I want to scratch my face off. I feel dirty. Dirty, fat and disgusting. I feel freakish. I feel I look about ten years older than what I am. Every comment people make about my appearance I can twist it to make it a negative one. I’ve covered mirrors up so I don’t see myself. I wear sunglasses and glasses to hide behind.
Now, I have been diagnosed with OCD, anxiety and depression. This also includes emotionally unstable personality disorder traits. I ended up off work for about 4 months last year. At my worst, I believed the police were coming for me because I pulled out in front somebody driving. I also thought I had scabies and obsessed over picking my skin and googling the symptoms. I felt so dirty but I couldn’t go to the doctor. I could see insects in the flour and in my drinks, one day it was blood. I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror because I think I look wrinkly and haggard, freakishly so for my age. I have a small chip in my front tooth and I would check it over and over again to see if it had changed. What’s in my head does not always correspond with mirrors or photographs so I have to check and check and check again. If I spend money I have to check and check and check my bank balance. I’m not the OCD cliche of being an obsessive cleaner but I have to count and check, count and check. It is EXHAUSTING! It sucks the joy out of everything because I constantly worrying about what people think or that I’ve made a mistake with my counting. It’s a compulsion that you feel you must do, you have to check or something bad will happen.
I take 2 anti-depressants and 1 mood stabilizer. I have been pushed from one mental health professional to another hoping for some useful therapy with no joy. At this moment I’m waiting for an assessment for ASD. Surely there must be an answer for me somewhere to stop this cycle. To help myself, I colour, I craft, I journal, I blog, I exercise and meditate.
If I ignore you in the street it probably means I’m having a bad day. It’s my problem not yours. I’m the one who feels too disgusting to face you and chat. When I refuse an invitation somewhere, it’s not that I don’t appreciate it. I DO. Please never stop trying. It just means that the thought of socialising sets off my checking and anxiety. If I’m grumpy and unwelcoming when you pop to my house it means I feel unworthy of your visit, that my house isn’t good enough and that I’m not good enough.
This has been so personal and so painful to write down. But we have to share our stories so we know we’re not alone.