Monday, 3 October 2016

Living With... Mental Health Problems

CW - This post contains some content on the topic of anxiety, panic attacks and phobias, please continue with caution if you may find such topics triggering.

They say you should write the thing that you are most afraid to write. So here goes.

I've lived with mental illnesses for as long as I can remember. Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, PND, OCD, and more recently, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. Oh, and I have Trichotillomania too. Yay.

I've always been a worrier, I've always suffered with low mood. I experienced traumatic events early on in life and I've been on antidepressants since I was 16 and able to go to the doctors on my own.

Don't get me wrong, I've had wonderful things happen too. I had my children, I found friends and I met the love of my life. I've had professional success and I've had my world fall apart around my feet. I feel like I've lived a hundred lifetimes already.

I've been living with agoraphobia for some time now. My life changed in ways I still find incredibly hard to cope with. I've always been an independent person, having that taken away has been one of the most difficult things I've ever had to deal with.

I had a breakdown and started to experience panic attacks more severely than I ever had before. I spent weeks in a constant state of panic - I was in what felt like a non stop panic attack. I was so hot, I felt like I had a fever. I was afraid to walk up and down the stairs at home in case I fainted. I was dizzy and distressed. I believed that I was dying, but that no one believed me. The medication I was given to soothe the symptoms, triggered my anxiety. I was alone and afraid. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I developed phobias about food and chemicals, I thought I was going to have a fatal reaction to something. Even writing this down makes me feel light headed.

You see, these things aren't really gone, just slightly lessened. I still have random, frequent panic attacks with no trigger. I've found ways that I can try and cope at home. When I have to go out, the anxiety is horrendous. I feel like my brain is a faulty smoke alarm, it thinks there's fire everywhere. I'm in a permanent state of terror, with every fibre of my being telling me I have to escape to safety. Except I don't really feel completely safe anywhere.

When I need to leave the house, I have to have someone with me, the symptoms are frankly too unbearable and terrifying to cope with on my own. Each time I go out leaves me feeling completely exhausted, drained and vulnerable. My anxiety at home spikes and it takes weeks to recuperate. Then repeat.

There has been some good to come out of this though.

I am much more grateful for the small things in life.

I am taking the time to properly heal from past trauma/illness.

I discovered who in my life truly cares about me.

I learned about self care, and how to be cared for by others.

I am hopeful for recovery, I have to be. I have a whole new life just waiting for me to be ready for it, and I intend to make the most of every second.