After what have been some of the most difficult weeks of my life, I’ve finally made the decision to write this blog post. Not because I feel obligated to or because I want to garner attention, but because I’ve realised after deep thought that I literally haven’t said these three words out loud to anyone- I’m not okay. As someone who struggles with spoken words, it’s only really through this blog that I get to express my truest inner thoughts. You might wonder why I didn’t just write this post, save it in my drafts and keep it there for no-one else to see. I considered that. Then I realised that in doing that I would be acknowledging that this is something that should be kept secret. I would be wrongly accepting that society’s narrative of mental health being something to be ashamed of is correct. Well news flash guys, it isn’t. I’m sick and tired, and I mean that literally, of keeping inside these feelings and emotions that are currently threatening to tear my life apart. I’ve decided that it’s time to just be unashamedly open. So here goes.
It’s no secret that I have a history with mental health problems. I won’t bore you again with an excessive explanation, but here it is in short. Several years ago I was diagnosed with Health Anxiety, otherwise known as Hypochondria. It effectively means that I worry about my health to an excessive and unhealthy extent. It led to me feeling constantly unwell and being trapped in an endless cycle of panic attacks as fear washed over me at the millions of diseases that could be killing me without me even knowing at that very moment. I began to believe that I was allergic to everything around me and I started putting strict controls on the food I would consume, the medications I would take, the fabric of the clothing I would wear, the hair and beauty products I would dare to use and many other things. The strict controls followed over into the type of media I would allow myself to consume. No more television shows, books or songs about illness or death as even the mention of a word such as cancer would send me into a pit of despair and panic that I could not control. I could no longer sleep in a room on my own or leave the house on my own without becoming extremely distressed. To many people that sounds insane. To me it was normal every day life. At the end of last year I wrote a blog post on how after a cocktail of different medications and endless attempts at therapy, I overcame that period in my life. My life had changed so much for the better that I didn’t see myself ever being in that situation again. But here I am.
At the moment I would mainly describe my life as frustrating. I’m a naturally driven person and I hold myself to high standards, so I’m left feeling extremely angry towards myself every time that my anxiety stops me from doing something. One of the saddest aspects for me was recently moving home from London earlier than I was supposed to. I led such a busy and independent life there and saying goodbye to that was sadder than I can put into words. The biggest implication of leaving London was coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go and see The Girls as often anymore. As it is one of the few things that actually allows me to feel happy and free for a few hours, this was and still is difficult to deal with. Of course The Girls is closing on July 15th and therefore if I was in the right state of mind I’d want to spend as much time there as possible, especially as I still have my flat in London at the moment. However most of my recent attempted trips to The Girls have resulted in me turning back half way through my journey, because the fear of feeling unwell or dying away from my home and my parents is so overwhelming that is paralyses me. I just want to make clear to everyone reading this that I still love the show and I would be there supporting it every single day if I could. I am devastated that I can’t be as dedicated as I would like to be right now, especially in these final six weeks.
The only thing bringing me comfort is knowing that I have been through this before and I’ve seen the other side. The thing tearing that comfort away is knowing how hard I had to work to get to that other side and how easy it has been to fall back into the trap. Despite my anxiety being horrific last time, I always kept in reasonably good spirits. Maybe I was so busy being anxious that I didn’t have the time to be overly depressed. Or maybe I was just saving up all of those negative thoughts and emotions so they could strike me twice as hard a year or so later. I think the difference this time is that I was given a taste of a “normal” 21 year old’s life and now I’m painfully aware of what I’m missing out on. My mind is also constantly plagued by knowing that I have so much to lose. There’s 6 weeks left of The Girls that I want to make the most of. I have a place to start at my dream drama school in October. I have various other wonderful things booked and planned. The overwhelming concern of course is that if my anxiety gets any worse I could end up having to say goodbye to those things. I don’t know how I would live the rest of my life with the anger that would cause me to feel towards myself and the constant imagining of what could have been. Overall I just dread the thought of living a whole life feeling like this. It’s ironic really that my overwhelming fear of dying is taking away the joy I should be finding in living. I find myself longing for a night where I don’t have to cry myself to sleep.
Here’s the most important part of this blog post. I am in no doubt that I am in need of help right now to overcome this. However I feel utterly helpless because the harsh reality is that there just isn’t any help available to me. Although I’m sure a doctor would be happy to prescribe me anti-depressants as long as it got me out of their waiting room, they are not the right thing to help with my form of anxiety. There are other medications, yes, but trust me when I say that I have probably tried them all, and none of them achieved the desired effect. Of course there’s also therapy. For those of you who haven’t had to get therapy through the NHS, it’s not anything like you’re probably imagining. The NHS are very big on this thing called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As I type those words I can hear the echo of thousands of British teenagers laughing sarcastically. I have met very few, and by very few I mean zero, people that have found CBT to be effective. In essence it’s about giving you the tools to deal with your own anxiety, because they don’t have the time or the money to help you themselves. You’re limited to a small number of sessions so they can race their way through as many people as possible. As you’ve probably gathered I’m not a huge fan of CBT, but seeing as I’m not in the financial position to afford a private therapist and I’m desperate, it’s worth trying again right? Sure thing, let me just put my name down on the EIGHTEEN MONTH waiting list. Our NHS is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but we are still dangerously behind when it comes to mental health care in this country and Theresa May is hugely to blame for that, so please take that into consideration when casting your vote in the upcoming general election.
So there it is, the truth. It’s possibly slightly more ranty than I initially intended, but I think it would go against the point of this post to go back and change it. I no longer want to feel ashamed of a part of me that is beyond my control, as the longer I go bottling this up with no help or support, the worse and more alone I feel. Mainly I want other people to know that it’s okay to be open and honest about your mental health. Seeing as professional help is so difficult to obtain, it’s important to open up to those around you- even if it is just through a blog post. I want everyone reading this to know that they can message me any time. I don’t promise that I’ll be of great help, but I do promise that I will be there and listen with no judgement. Usually I’d hate ending a post like this as I don’t really feel as if I’ve achieved much in terms of spreading a great important message or anything, but I guess this just isn’t one of my usual posts.
Sending so much love to you all,
P.S. I have no hard feelings towards the individual CBT therapists that I have encountered. I think they strive to do an excellent job under the difficult circumstances that they have been placed in by the government and their thoughtless financial cuts.