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Living with mental health problems: My experience

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Over 60% [edit: 70% 2023] of our workforce here at Disability Positive have lived experience of disability and long-term health conditions, and I am one of those. I have anxiety and depression.

I’d never heard of ‘mental health conditions’ until I began working for Disability Positive.  I think in the past anyone who struggled with their mental health was stigmatised and people definitely wouldn’t want to talk about their problems for fear that other people, wouldn’t understand.

It feels like we have come a long way and events like Mental Health Awareness week is definitely part of that and makes it much easier for me to talk about my experiences, although I’ve chosen to stay anonymous for this blog.

I always knew I was a worrier and thought I’d inherited it from my mother. Outwardly I could be life and soul of the party but inside I was always wanting to hide away somewhere.  I thought this was ‘normal’ for most of my adult life.

Two major life experiences meant that things got worse, and my ‘worries’ became full blown anxiety with horrible panic attacks and the feeling of wanting to be alone. Before long I was in a deep depression. 

Like many people I tried to hide it, from my friends, my peers and particularly family. It was completely exhausting. Eventually someone I barely know approached me and said,
“I don’t mean to be rude, but have you thought about seeing your GP about your depression?”. 
This completely floored me, how did she know when I’d kept it from my family, friends, and peers so well?  Clearly what she saw was the real me in the school playground having the occasional chat or me distancing myself, so I didn’t have to.

Of course, I’d thought about visiting my GP but they’re only going to put me on antidepressants or send me for counselling – right?  We’ve all visited Dr Google; we know what goes on.  I didn’t want to go on antidepressants – I didn’t want to become addicted to them, and counselling to me was a nightmare, I’m not talking about my life to a complete stranger who may judge me.  
So, I took the good days and concentrated on my family and work.  

Years later after starting a new job, again someone I didn’t know well said virtually the same thing to me as the lady from the school playground.

I was embarrassed that two people had now said this to me, but I wish I knew that it was absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, and to this day I cannot thank them enough.

Finally, I booked to see my GP.  I was put on antidepressants which worried me, but then I started to see the real me coming back through all the pain, anxiety, and desperation.  

I felt lighter, I felt brighter, my laughter was real, my shoulders relaxed, and the world started to become a better place and I thought I’d quite like to stay in it.      

I also tried some counselling. There are very different styles to counselling, and it’s worth trying different ones to see if they may be able to help. 

I want to say to anyone who is reading this and worried about themselves or someone they know, the help is there, it’s an invisible condition (mostly) but there is lots of support out there. 

You might be surprised that talking openly about how you feel to your closest and most trusted friends or family will help lighten the load.  You can work out how to cope when things are difficult, by not having to keep it to yourself you may feel better more quickly and not have so many of the ‘bad days’.

These days I am still on antidepressants. I am not having counselling, but I know where to go if I need to top up or need reassurances that my family and friends can’t help with.

I am happy, I have a full-time job, I am full time wife and mother and know that you can live with depression and anxiety if you reach out for support.  It’s a hard step but certainly one I’m glad I took.  I’m not even sure I would be here to write this blog today if I hadn’t taken it.

Remember that you are not alone. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year.  So if you feel low, anxious, depressed, or have any odd feelings that you cannot put your finger on, please seek help from professionals.  I did – eventually, but wish I’d done it sooner.

For anyone struggling right now, please follow this link to the NHS website that contains all of the recognised support services and organisations for you to turn to. 

Mental Health Awareness Week

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