This month we had World Mental Health day. I wanted to get my two cents in on this subject as this is a topic very close to my heart and features in pretty much everything I do, have done, and will do.
When you're facing the perpetual challenges that a diagnosis such as anxiety or depression can pose on you it is hard not to be aware.
On the other hand, I noticed also that it is an apt time for everyone who doesn't understand mental health issues to emerge from under their rocks of ignorance and spout out daft phrases such as "these people just need to pull themselves together", "depression is a made up thing", "they're just saying it for attention" and so on. It infuriates me.
I can fully understand why people who haven't been unlucky enough to experience mental health issues may not understand, but this is why we must talk about it.
Before Amy's incredibly traumatic entry into the world I thought that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was something only people who had been to war experienced.
I now know the sheer terror a panic attack, a flash back, nightmares and insomnia can invoke.
It is nothing to do with Amy, she is my world and I love her. But being a carer is a lonely world at times. I sometimes feel like I can't relate to the "real" world anymore.
I will walk around a shop trying not to look at the children's scooters for sale (not something we see Amy being able to do), I will look past the children's sweets (Amy is tube fed) and I will leave.
Sometimes feeling lonely makes me feel guilty because I know how incredibly lucky we are to have her here with us.
I do wish I could have more normality sometimes and that our lives weren't dictated by Amy's mood and appointments that day, there is a lot I crave but then feel guilty for wanting.
The need for respite upsets me at times too. I don't want Amy to feel like a burden. Ever. But having anxiety means I know exactly how it feels to feel like you are a burden.
Every interaction leaves me with an internal monologue "am I talking too much? I bet they're sick of me. I'm wasting everyone's time. I'm such terrible company, I wish I could just be alone".
I can be absolutely fatigued but desperate to be full of energy and be the care free person I used to be. You don't want to harp on about your many life challenges, you want to be upbeat and optimistic, but this sometimes feels like an act.
On a bad day the palpitations can be debilitating, the feeling of a tight chest and a lack of control.
The inner monologue again strikes up at the most unhelpful time "why are you so pathetic? What are you even stressed about? There are people out there in genuinely harder times than you, you need to get a grip".
It sends you on a downward spiral where the more stressed and upset you become the more you berate yourself.
You can feel unworthy of the love and support that surrounds you and force you to isolate yourself.
It can also make you very easily irritable... any outburst I make at a loved one has me feeling like an irrational fool, unworthy of love.
You can soak up those feelings and fill that void with carbs and sugar and your brain will temporarily release those happy chemicals you so desire.
Until again the guilt sets in. "You're so overweight. How have you managed to gain 4 stone in 5 years? You're disgusting".
Every interaction is a joy and you want to spread that as much as you can. But the next day could be an entirely different story.
The next day... everywhere you go the lighting affects your head and your mood. The busyness and bustling crowds make your heart rate increase and your face start to flush.
Your chest tightens and your breathing starts to feel laboured. You can't make eye contact, you keep looking down at the floor.
Eventually you rush to your car. You make a dash. You get in. Sit down. Breathe. A sigh of relief... you’re alone again. Sweet, sublime, sacred, solitude. Or is it loneliness?
Why am I afflicted with this constant hypocrisy about how I feel? There are days where I feel I can't leave the house, and days where I have to. There seems to not be a comfortable in between.
Sometimes as a carer you spend so much time worrying for the person you care for that you can overlook your own needs. Or you know you have these needs but haven't the time or energy to address them.
Anything you do for yourself can feel selfish and over indulgent. This of course further fuels the anxiety as you don't feel worthy and you feel unimportant.
One of the main things we want as humans is to feel important and like we have value. When your job role pays approximately 37p an hour with no thanks, no holidays, and no sick cover and so on it is quite easy to feel a little worthless.
You worry how people see you - do they think I am a "lazy benefits sponger" or do they see a neurotic fumbling overweight wreck going about life the best she can?
I then wonder why I care what they think - sometimes I don't.
I can have a whole conversation and feel that I wasn't part of it. Dissociation is common and a bit disturbing when you realise it has happened.
It's a bit like you're operating on auto pilot, ploughing through tasks like a factory robot until you can finally switch off. Burn out is common - I am often unable to stop being productive until night time when insomnia can kick in.
Sometimes after a conversation I realise the person has noticed I didn't completely connect with them and I feel terrible. I don't do this on purpose. I am trying my best.
I am easily startled by the smallest thing, it would seem that my fight or flight response is in constant operation.
People laugh as I almost fall off my chair when someone knocks on the door, or I press the phantom foot peddle in the passenger seat of the car. It's one of the most exhausting aspects of mental illness.
It makes me good at planning and very thorough on fine details. My overthinking can sometimes be a positive and sometimes if you think of the worst case scenario you will either have your expectations met or you will be pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes that fight or flight response can force me to get things done as motivation can sometimes be a big issue when you are burned out.
My need to prove my worth and be productive makes me a good house keeper, secretary, nurse, and most importantly mum... even if sometimes I feel like a terrible mum.
See your GP, enquire about medication, find out what support groups are in your area, look into what therapy/counselling may be beneficial to you.
There are provisions out there for anyone going through a hard time and you should never suffer alone.
I hope the insight into my frantic little mind resonated with you and I wish you great mental health.
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