Living with a mental health problem

My brave friend Alex (@alexreacleaver) opened up about what it’s like living with a mental health problem. Her story is raw, honest and very real. #yourstory

So if your unlucky enough to know what it’s like to take tablets to make you feel normal , then I don’t have to describe to you what this post is regarding. But if you don’t I will fill you in.

I have a medication that allows me to deal with a normal day to day life. Although most days it leaves me tired, spaced out and emotionless. Crazy right? 🤷🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ Why would anyone want to feel like that. Well this is why.

You see I suffer from depression and anxiety. Let me start by saying, I don’t have suicidal  thought .My depression is Simple things like relationships and friendships become so trivial, so complicated.

In my brain it doesn’t sit right, something seems different. I notice little differences that ‘normal’ people wouldn’t notice.

That comment you didn’t tag me in, but you tagged other people? I saw that, why didn’t you tag me? What’s up with me?

You read that message, I saw you did, but you didn’t reply.. why didn’t you reply? Have I done something to upset you?

You didn’t say I love you on the phone.. do you not love me anymore? Do you love someone else instead?

They just made a comment about me. Was it a joke? Was I supposed to laugh? Or do they mean it? Are they being nice? Are they talking about me? Do they talk about me? I bet they don’t like me really.

I say sorry all the time. I feel like I annoy everyone.

And for all those questions I will spend hours trying to answer. Let it all build up in my mind, until it sends me to tears…… it’s mental that isn’t it!!! That I see things that way.

It’s not only mental changes, but physical changes. I don’t eat a lot, mainly rubbish, because I need it now and I need the energy from lack of sleep. Insomnia, up all night answering questions to situations that don’t even exists. or sleep to much and waste half my day still feeling tired.

I still smile and I have every excuse for when you ask why.

But the tablets help me.

Because I know when I start to feel this way or think this way, I need help.

I know that when my behaviour starts to change, I need guidance.

And I understand that I don’t need to be ashamed. I don’t need to be understood. I just need to be accepted. Everyone is fighting a battle and sometimes you need to be kinder.

So I may just be another person who’s talking about mental health. But this is the reason for my silence. For my lack of enthusiasm.

And to my family and  friends, I love you and I’m grateful, because living with this illness is hard, but trying to understand it, is even harder.

Don’t suffer in silence.
This is my story about living with mental health ❤️

Each day is different, you never know what to expect. Will today be a good day, will I get my jobs done, how will I feel? How long for?
So many things go through your head the night before a new day begins. It’s a waiting game! No one knows what tomorrow will bring, not even yourself.
I have always been a very confident social person and it wasn’t until I went to uni that my behaviour changed. My friends and family started picking up on little changes I would make that led me to accept I could be ill.
I have been living with a mental illness for nearly 6 years now and I’m still learning and adapting to my life.
Back when I was 18 in university people were noticing a change in me, that I couldn’t see. Small things like not wanting to meet up. Not putting on my make up. Feeling tired and upset. Finding it hard to sleep. I carried on my normal life not knowing at the time that these little things were all connected and led to bigger picture.
It wasn’t until I started missing lectures and my grades started to slip that I noticed something wasn’t right. Everyone was enjoying uni life, but for some reason I wasn’t. So I decided to book in for a GP appointment. Not having a clue what was wrong I just made a list of changes that I was experiencing and handed it to the doctor.
As first the doctor decided to do a blood test to see if they show anything abnormal.
A few day’s later my results were back and it showed I was anaemic and had very low B12 levels. I was put on medication and had injections 3 times a week.
The doctor said that this illness causes fatigue, mood swings, lack of motivation and a few other symptoms that were on my list.
Perfect I thought!! A few tablets and injections and I would be right as rain.
That’s were I was wrong!!!
Deep down I think I knew that there was still something else. After months of taking my meds my levels were back to normal and my dosage was reduced. For a few months I felt like the problem was solved until I noticed some of the old problems were still there and subsequently getting worse. It got to the point in my life were I didn’t want to go uni, I didn’t want to meet my friends, my hobbies and interests didn’t appeal to me anymore. I was just a shell of the person I use to be. The happy, vibrant, confident girl was gone.
After realising that the problem had got to big to handle I decided to go back to the doctors.
After more tests and examinations the doctor sat me down and said you have a mental illness.
You have depression. All the symptoms and tests indicate this. I remember just sitting there in silence. The doctor was talking but I just zoned out. When I got home I just sat on my bed with all these leaflets and my prescription. Thinking me, have a mental illness that’s wrong. My brain isn’t ill, I’m not depressed. They must be wrong.
A few days passed and I hadn’t told anyone the diagnosis, don’t know if it was shock, or if I was embarrassed. All I knew was that I had a mental illness and didn’t have the foggiest of what to do or were to start.
I did what every person does when they get a diagnosis and googled it. Worse mistake!! The stories and things that people were saying made me think for definite that the doctor had made a mistake.
I went back to the doctors the same day to get some clarification on the situation. The doctor explained all the signs and symptoms, and then explained that 1 in 5 young people (20%) suffer from a mental illness. I was shocked. After a 30minute appointment all my questions were answered and I was now 100% sure I had a mental illness. We discussed how I was feeling, what they think could have triggered it? What the best plan was? What I should do next?
The doctor decided that in my best interest I should take a break from university to focus on improving my mental health as it had deteriorated a lot.
In less then a week I went from a normal university student with a list of life problems to a girl with a mental illness. Who’s dream had just been put on hold.
It took me a while to realise what the doctor was suggesting. I just broke down in tears. Having a degree in sports has been something I have wanted since I was little, and the thought of it maybe not being possible was heartbreaking.
After talking it through with my big sister the first one I told about my illness she made me see it was just temporary so I could get better. It wasn’t me giving up, I was just having a break until I felt well enough.
So that May I left my university course after completing my first year. My friends and lectures were very supportive of me and they understood.
With the reaction I got from the people at uni I decided to tackle the job of telling my parents.
I told them and it was the best thing to hear when they said Alex it doesn’t matter if you are mentally ill, if you couldn’t walk or if something was wrong, as we are you parents and we just want what is best for you.
My mum and I have always been so close she was like my best friend. That evening we sat there just me and her watching a film, talking about my mental health and how I was feeling. I just burst out crying and my mum put her arms around me and said it’s fine we can do this together. Your a fighter. Don’t be ashamed. As soon as I realised what she was saying and she understood how I was feeling. It made me realise I CAN do this.
It started off with little things like changing out of my pjs or putting on make up. These might seem little things to other people but to me these were daily struggles. There were still days when I would just have a breakdown for no apparent reason or I would just stay in bed and watch tv. But slowly I was fighting my illness. For some members of my family and my friends understanding my illness was some what hard for them. They didn’t understand that I didn’t chose to feel like that or how I was going to get better.
It made me think that my mental illness isn’t a problem it is part of my life and my journey. If it never goes then so be it, I just need to be strong enough to fight it. It took months of trying different medications and trying different methods for me to feel some change, but eventually it did. My interests for my hobbies slowly came back as well as my motivation.
It was the first time in a long time were I actually felt like I was worth fighting for. I had a chance.
After around 6 months my mental health had improved massively and I was back to all my normal activities. I decided that it was too soon to go back to university as I didn’t want a relapse, so I left it. I got a job and was determined to make the most out of my situation.
A few years later and I still have my ups and downs but try my best to help myself through.
My family have been so supportive of me over the years and always help me when I’m on a low. It took me a while to realise that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health problem, as most young people will experience one in their lifetime. I know now that I can achieve what I want if I put my mind to it. It’s been a few years since I started my university degree but this September I am hopeful to return to finish, and make my mum proud.

Loving memory of my mum 1954-2020 ❤️

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