Monday 10 October 2016

Getting Personal

As it's World Mental Health Day, I thought I'd share something a little more personal - my experience with mental illness.

As I sit in a room filled with people, I feel so alone. I look around trying to focus on something, anything, but for some reason my brain doesn't allow me. I try to listen to someone speaking or focus on a conversation but I cannot concentrate past two words. I try to retell a story or a conversation I've just heard but my memory fails me. I get out a book in an attempt to escape from the world around me, but the words dance across the page, not forming real sentences.  I am trapped inside my own head. I have depression.

People associate depression with a constant feeling of sadness but rather it's a feeling of nothingness. For me, the sadness comes in waves - sometimes I feel numb with nothing going through my head, other times I feel everything at once and it is completely overwhelming. I cannot think straight sometimes, or on occasions not at all. It's as if there is a fog or black hole inside my head, preventing me from thinking properly. All I can do is wait for it to pass. I can't think about the future because all I have the ability to do is concentrate on getting myself through each day. Things just don't excite me. 

It's not just a mental illness, but a physical illness to the same extent - I'm constantly exhausted, my bones ache, I have no energy, I'm dizzy and my head is thumping. I'm so mentally tired that I struggle to have a proper conversation. I can hardly even find the energy to work out what I'm thinking myself. People ask how I am and my response is "I'm not too bad" because I can't form a simple sentence to describe how I'm feeling so it's easier to lie. I feel so distanced from life, people and myself. I feel like I am suffocating inside my own head and I can't escape it. 

I had to leave school, I couldn't even sit some of my most important exams after being predicted 4As, and thinking about the route I would now take has been a scary process. I've had to cancel events, seeing friends and I could barely leave the house for  several weeks as I would feel so disorientated. The only people I could spend time with was my family. People often ignore me as they don't know what to say but unfortunately that is the worst thing they could do. Receiving cards and messages meant a lot as I could begin to accept that I wasn't alone. Aside from a lot of negative thoughts and changed opinions, that weren't really my own but a product of the illness, what many people don't realise is that I'm still me, I can still have a laugh and make jokes (excluding the dark sense of humour I have formed as a coping mechanism). When I'm not quite myself, I won't burden anyone with that. 

Even though I was only diagnosed with depression around 5 months ago, I had been struggling with occasional depressive episodes and anxiety for about 2 years. After experiencing a breakdown, I have now reached the recovery stage. I'm now able to go out more, see people, read and have normal conversations. However, as some people may not realise, the recovery stage does not mean I don't feel the things I did - I am still extremely fragile and I will still dip quite often. These dark moments are particularly scary during the recovery stage as the thought of going back to where I was is extremely unpleasant. My mood can change in a matter of seconds, often with no trigger. Finding the right medication is a very long and difficult process and the side effects are nearly as bad as illness.

I take each day a step at a time, trying not to plan or think too far ahead. Set myself small targets - sometimes having a shower is the greatest thing I'll achieve, but I've learnt that it's okay not to be okay. One of the most important things is not to give up, especially when the only thing that seems possible to you is cocooning yourself in a blanket. Allow yourself to be vulnerable - writing this post is a big deal for me as I'm usually a pretty private person, but it's healthy to share how you feel as there are people that will feel exactly the same. Never blame yourself for the illness as it's a chemical thing that cannot be fixed by thinking differently. And finally, just be.

"The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell." Anon. 

Mental illness, mental health awareness, beach



  1. Sorry to hear that you've been through so much in the past few years and I am really happy to hear that you're starting to recover from it all! Good luck and remember that you're a great person!!!!

  2. Katie, you won't remember me as it's a while now, but I'm kind of your uncle (Fiona's cousin). I've suffered from "mental problems" all my life (with me, constant, crippling anxiety and often depression too) so I sympathise enormously. Sometimes the only comfort the likes of us do get is knowing that three are, at least, some other people who understand what we're going through, and don't think we're loonies (most of us are pretty bright actually ;-) )

    You're right about the drugs too - some of the side effects can be gruesome, though they tend to lessen if you stick with the drug.

    If there's ever anything I can do to help, or a chat, love to hear from you. I know what you're feeling :-)

    Best wishes


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