Just another blog post about mental health.

I never wanted to be one of those people I see so frequently on my newsfeed. The kind who post ALL the time about the same thing, like a message they want to spread or a cause they feel passionately about. And yet it looks as if I may be becoming just that! The truth is, so many people with mental health problems are talking about it now that I almost feel stigmatised in a different way, like now I am one of those people who’s sole purpose in life is to spread the word, ‘end the stigma’ and educate people. As much as I do enjoy reading other people’s stories and get some comfort from them, I also know how annoying it is to see my Facebook newsfeed cluttered by people trying to sell their opinions, not that understanding mental health is an opinion, but I feel it is being forced upon people and in an effort to rid sufferers of one stigma, it is just pushing us into another as the annoying kind who always want to tell people the deepest, darkest feelings we are experiencing on a day to day basis and share our ‘sob’ stories. Having said all of this, here I am, writing this blog post and about to share thoughts and feelings which really, nobody needs to know. But it helps me, writing has become a very therapeutic thing for me and unfortunately despite it having been almost 1 year since my initial blog post about all things mental, I still have no other way to share things with people as I just really suck at talking!

I have recently started attempting CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) however due to my unwillingness and inability to access counselling or therapy, I am attempting this via a book. Shock horror, me reading a book at all is like major news!! The reason I am mentioning this is because I have only read 2 chapters of the book and have already been left pondering over the past 21 years of my life! This may sound scarily philosophical but honestly, I don’t feel like that and am simply treating this recent self exploration as scientific research. Apparently mental health isn’t all chemical, I had led myself to believe that the anxiety and depressed feelings I experience were all down to a chemical imbalance in my brain which I can do nothing about and was simply something I was born with. However there is little scientific proof of this. In fact it appears that perhaps my brain is wired a little differently, but it is environmental factors which have triggered it to react the way it has and develop unnecessary anxieties and fall into depression. Now how on earth do I figure out what caused this!? Last night I was watching a TV programme where a psychotherapist claimed that receiving a diagnosis or a label was one of the worst things a person with a mental health problem could do. Her reasons for this were that the minute you are given a diagnosis you feel like it is an illness, something which can never go away and you simply have to find coping mechanisms and medication to manage the illness. This however means that you stop exploring why you could be feeling like this. She was carrying out a study on 2 people who suffered with Bipolar Disorder and concluded that one had been bullied very badly as a child and it seemed as though every time he was in a depressive state he was actually reliving the bullying therefore feeling the negative thoughts which that past action once instilled in him, and the other was an obsessive ‘winner’, he always had to be number one and this had massively affected his ability to cope with everyday life triggering his manic or depressive states depending on his social standing at the time. The truth is neither of these findings help me in the slightest, but it was interesting to note that perhaps if I could unlock where this all started, I would maybe be able to start tackling it from the root of the problem rather than simply masking the symptoms with medication.

As I mentioned it has been almost a year (10 months in fact) since I first started on anti-depressants and I am still on them. I recently went to the doctors and after a very brief conversation about how I was, in which she seemed very uninterested, it was decided that I shouldn’t come off of them and that I would get another 4 months worth to ‘experiment’ with, changing my doses as and when I wanted. Now I am no doctor but I am pretty sure telling any patient to experiment with their medication and take their health into their own hands is risky business! Luckily I feel pretty stable at the moment and as if I know what works and doesn’t work for me, but at the same time, the thought of any small thing changing and me spiralling back to how I was this time last year terrifies me and honestly I don’t think I would have the courage to come back out of it again! Right now, I feel like I am stuck in the middle between cured and square one, literally unable to go either way! Whilst I feel miles better and rarely have a bad day now in comparison to this time last year, I also only feel like I am coping, rather than continuing to get better. Without the help of a caring doctor like the one I first spoke with in Lancaster, I am finding it hard to believe that I can move on from my current status without figuring out what caused it in the first place. The thought of coming off of my medication scares the life out of me because I feel like I will fall back to square one, but I also know that things can still be better than they are right now, I just don’t know how to get there! Truth is I don’t think the medication is going to get me there so maybe some soul searching will help?

I wish I could blame bullying for everything…that seems to be most people’s answer but I wasn’t bullied. The only real trauma I can remember from my childhood is the many divorces and near divorces I have been through. I wish I could blame those, certain family members and my constant travel as a child…but actually, something I finally realised last night was that this all started when I was about 12. Before the turbulent divorces and family dramas. I was always a really bubbly kid, just like I still am, but I vividly remember being sat in my room on MSN (yep remember that thing!) night after night, head in hands just waiting for people to talk to me. When people weren’t online I used to be paranoid that they had blocked me and would set up fake accounts just to check they were actually offline. That is not normal! I would sit at my desk feeling miserable and lonely almost every night of the week, even though I was speaking to friends and had my parents in the house with me! During secondary school there was a girl in my year group who suffered very badly from anorexia. She got painfully thin and went away for treatment 3 times throughout our 7 years at that school. I remember people worrying about her and checking she was okay and I used to wish that I could have something wrong with me or something bad happen to me to give me a reason to be miserable and for people to care about me. That makes me sad just thinking of my younger self like that! I had NO idea that I was depressed, I don’t think I even really knew that I was miserable or sad, I just know that there were times I used to wish I was that anorexic girl, I used to think about something happening to someone I knew and how this would give me a reason to be sad and feel the feelings I was currently trying to hide. I wouldn’t have to tell people, they would just know and look after me… that is not right!

Beyond that soul searching I haven’t got any further with my quest to pick my past apart and figure out what happened to my little fragile brain but lucky for me I have roughly 70 years of my life left to figure this all out..woohoo!

Current questions:

– Stay on medication?

– What caused me to be like this?

Answers: none yet.

Check back for another episode of ‘Siana writes her whole life publicly on the internet’ soon.

Love xxx

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Trying to explain…

Roughly a month ago I posted a Facebook status explaining that I had recently been to see a doctor regarding my mental health, something which I had been planning to write for weeks but until then, wasn’t able to do. The reaction I got was completely unexpected and I had so many people private messaging me, some telling me that they wish they’d have known and that they ‘would never have thought it of me’, others telling me they had been through similar situations and trying to offer me comfort, and some just telling me how much they love and are proud of me. Well, it’s safe to say I appreciate all of the love I really do, and for about a week afterwards I felt like a massive weight had been lifted because people now knew so everything could start looking up right? Mmm..maybe not. You see, suffering like I do isn’t quite the same as having a broken leg or even being diagnosed with a life threatening illness, because both of those things you can be cured of, if you take the right drugs/have a little bit of luck those things can completely go away, but something I recently learnt whilst on my second doctors visit was that this is never going to go away, it’s just who I am, how my brain works and I have to learn to manage my thoughts. Yes I am on medication but it’s not going to make it go away, unfortunately these often nicknamed ‘happy pills’ don’t actually make you think ‘happy’ or remove the fear I feel in everyday situations, they simply remove the physical symptoms of it like feeling sick, shaking and not being able to breathe, something which then makes me feel a little bit like i’m going crazy as my mind still gets panicky but on the outside I look cool as a cucumber. Apparently I have to deal with the thinking part by myself unfortunately…doh!

So many people have tried to help me since finding out, asked me how I am, asked if there’s anything they can do and sat talking to me trying to understand, but explaining it has been really hard! Not because I don’t want to or am afraid of the confrontational nature of the conversation, I don’t like speaking about my feelings but in this case it actually isn’t the reason, I just didn’t know how to explain everything! I’ve spent ages reading other peoples stories online trying to find the right one to direct people to and say ‘this is what I mean’, but i’ve not found it! So here’s my plan..over the past week or so I have been compiling a list of some of the things/thoughts I go through on a regular basis, to try give some perspective to those people who love me and are trying to help, so you understand better.

Diagnosis: Anxiety (and resulting Depression)

Explanation: Imagine you’re walking down a dark alley way and you feel like somebody is following you. You start to get butterflies in your stomach, you might shake or feel sick, some people might start to sweat more because they’re scared. Imagine you look out of your window to see your dog stood in the middle of the road and a car is driving straight towards it (analogy stolen). You might find you start to panic, you can’t breathe properly or you start to feel dizzy. These are all completely normal reactions considering you’re walking down a dark alley way or you’re about to witness a loved one get run over! But here’s where the difference occurs, I get these feelings ALL the time. First of all it started with just when I had something big coming up, like attending the first day of the dance summer school I went to in London or starting back at school after a long summer break, in a new class and a new year group. Then these feelings started to get more irrational, they’d happen every time I had to meet or talk to somebody new. If I was ever confronted about anything, particularly told off at school i’d instantly feel sick and start to cry. I still didn’t really think anything was wrong though I just thought I was shy and a bit of a scaredy cat. Then the really ‘stupid’ thoughts started happening (yes I think i’m stupid…I haven’t quite accepted the fact it’s an ‘illness’ yet). For about 2 years before I went to the doctors a whole array of things would (and still do) scare me to the point of the physical reactions mentioned above; feeling sick, shaking, feeling dizzy, being unable to breathe etc etc. I’m going to list some of these below in an attempt to explain:

1. PHONE CALLS – I HATE phone calls. I can’t explain why, I just do and if I have to phone somewhere to make an appointment I will usually sit there staring at my phone for about half an hour before I work up the courage to do it, but in that time i’ve probably had a mini panic attack. For anyone who knows me and has gone ‘but hey you work on LUSU reception answering phones all the time’….yes I got that job in an effort to snap myself out of this but it didn’t work, when the phone rings at work my stomach jumps a mile but because I have to answer it (it’s my job!) I put my protective front up and deal with it.

2. Going somewhere i’ve not been before – I will only do this if i’m with someone else.

3. Cashiers – I will always use the self service check out at shops to avoid them, and if I walk into a shop and they don’t have self service I have been known to turn around and leave without buying anything.

4. Walking into empty shops – It’s just me and the cashier…that freaks me out!

5. Looking for a seat on the bus – I feel like everyone is watching me and tend to try to sit down as quickly as I possibly can.

6. Meeting new people – I like to think of myself as a very friendly person who always makes people feel comfortable in my company, however that is all a front and underneath i’m actually a nervous wreck. Don’t get me wrong once i’ve met the person I’m glad I did but if it was up to me i’d never go anywhere new and i’d never meet new people. This also applies to meeting up with people I have not seen in a long time as the possibility of an awkward situation is a massive no go. Because of this i’ve lost a lot of friends because they think I don’t care.

7. Sitting alone – It doesn’t matter where I am but if I am sat alone in public then I worry that everyone is looking at or judging me.

Whilst a lot of people don’t understand what is going on with me, others think they do and….well you’re not exactly right…

Misconception number 1: I am not just stressed. About exams, or life after graduating, or anything that ‘normal’ people get stressed about. I have had this for almost as long as I can remember and just before I went to the doctors it had got to the point where I would wake up every single morning with butterflies in my stomach. It didn’t matter if I had a full day of plans or was going to spend the whole day sat in bed watching episodes of ‘Dance Moms’, thoughts of the day ahead filled me with dread. This isn’t situation specific, this isn’t just because I happen to be taking my University finals, in fact half the time I forgot that was even going on because I was worrying about everything else.

Misconception number 2: I have spent about 2 years thinking I could snap out of this and that I just needed to stop being a scaredy cat or a miserable poo and start trying to be happy but turns out that’s not possible. I guess that’s the difference between an illness and a bad day. As I previously mentioned i’m still having a hard time accepting I’m actually ill and kind of still do want to ‘snap out of it’ but apparently I can’t (that’s my brain, the doctor and the drugs telling me that). Everyone has bad days, wakes up sad, has things that scare them, but then they go away, or something good happens and you get happy again. My problem has been one constant bad day and scary situation for at least the last year if not longer. Obviously i am ‘happy’ at times, I smile, have a good day out and laugh until I cry too, but difference is then I might go to my bedroom and suddenly feel like my mood has been dragged into the dirt with absolutely no reason for it. I can be happy as larry and feel ‘normal’ one minute, and then be in a horrible mood where I just want to sit in my bed and make it all go away another.

Misconception number 3: I don’t want your sympathy. Feeling loved, getting a cuddle or a ‘how are you’ text every so often are VERY much welcomed, but I don’t want people to act awkwardly around me. I don’t want you to gasp when someone says something about mental illness which you think will offend me (i’m yet to find anything which actually offends me), I don’t want you to cringe, blush and go silent when I mention the counselling service or my medication, and I don’t want you to tip toe around me if I’m having a bad day. Just treat me like normal, I’ll shut myself away or go for a walk if I don’t want to talk 🙂

If you have got to the end of this thanks for reading, i’m impressed!! This isn’t supposed to be a sob story, far from that actually I just wanted to explain. Anxiety isn’t just being scared and depression isn’t just being sad, there are so many different factors and they’re different for everyone, unlike the broken leg which is a bone…broken…painful…and in a cast, pretty much the same for everyone except maybe the pretty colour of the cast! I hope maybe I’ve explained everything in a half understandable way whilst still maintaining the ‘I am 60% normal’ front, and I want this to just be a ‘personality trait’ people expect of me, not a sympathy worthy, deep talk prompting topic. Apparently it’s here to stay so now I just have to make friends with it 🙂

LOVE YA ❤