Inspired by mental health awareness week, I wanted to share an insight into my mental health journey. The reason I have titled this post (Chapter One) is because this is very much a journey that I am still on; it’s not something that has an end date, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I have spoken about my anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health struggles in a previous post, and after many years (almost a decade) of being too ashamed to talk about this, I am finally at a stage where I feel comfortable having open and honest conversations about my mental health. In fact, I actively try and talk about it as much as I possibly can, because I find this so helpful. As mentioned in my post about anxiety and running – shame has no place in your life!
However, I understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help, or to even acknowledge that you might need help, because I’ve been there. I thought it might be useful to explain the steps that I took, and the steps that I am currently taking. (Disclaimer – of course, this is relevant to my mental health journey and I am by no means suggesting that these are the steps that anyone else should follow).
Just over a year ago, I reached a point where quite simply I could no longer ignore the fact that I needed help. I can pinpoint the exact moment – it was Thursday 31st May at 6:15pm and I was at East Croydon station. I was on my way to a 10k race, organised by my running club, and for some reason I decided to get off the train two stops too early. I stood there on the platform feeling completely lost, full of dread; a kind of foggy, overpowering, out of control feeling which was both horrendous and liberating all at once. It was liberating because it was the poignant sign that I needed to seek help.
That evening I emailed the Samaritans, and I can’t thank them enough for their support. They convinced me to book an appointment with my GP, and for me, this felt like a big step because up until that moment I had simply refused to acknowledge that there was an issue. I needed somebody to TELL me to visit my GP, even though I already knew that it was an appropriate first step.
Over the past year I have tried CBT, talking therapy, mindfulness classes and most recently medication. Of course, there are plenty of other ways that I look after my mental health. This includes leading an active lifestyle, eating well, moderating my alcohol intake, and all the other things that 21-year-old me would have mocked, but 28-year-old me wouldn’t have it any other way #adulting
At this stage, I don’t want to go into detail about what’s worked for me and what hasn’t as of course this is different for everyone, plus I’m still working this out for myself. One piece of advice I would give is to try and be open minded. For example, up until recently, I was SO against medication; the thought of it terrified me. I know others who assume that mindfulness is a load of rubbish, or that CBT is a pointless exercise – assumptions that cannot be made prior to trying out said method. There are many ways to take care of your mental health and being open minded has definitely helped me.
Another piece of advice I would give (this is advice that I have given previously, and advice that I will continue to repeat until I’m blue in the face) – talk about your feelings. Talk, talk, talk and keep the lines of communication open. Ensure that talking about your feelings is something that you prioritise. Having honest conversations with friends and family is probably the thing that has helped me the most; the little reminder that you are going to be okay and that the panic (or whatever it is that you are experiencing) is only temporary.
REMEMBER: Mental health is so important, and you are never alone.