When I was 15 and my mind was introduced to Ben, I had no idea what was happening to me. There was no build up to this new hysteria I was experiencing; no warning; no understanding. Fortunately, this period of anxiety and panic didn’t last particularly long and I was able to continue for a few years without it affecting my life dramatically. There were things I would consciously avoid, but at that age they weren’t overly important to me. During this stage I visited my GP about my symptoms and he told me to breathe into a paper bag when I hyperventilated.
When I turned 21 Ben had started to sneak his way back in, again without warning or reason. At this stage I was experiencing a much higher level of panic and fear compared with my teenage bout of poor mental health. It got to the stage where I was point blank avoiding anything that I knew would set Ben off, and almost everything else I had previously enjoyed was hastily becoming a threat too. I was a shell of my former self, I lost a lot of weight and began unhealthy behaviours due to the fear I had built up inside of me.
I was constantly worried about everything. I worried about being at work. I worried about missing work. I worried about going out. I worried about letting people down. I worried that people disliked me. I worried that I was a burden. You name it, I could switch it up to become a negative and attempt to justify this fear and avoidance that became my daily life.
This was when I visited the same GP again. I explained to him how this anxiety was beginning to take over my life: it was affecting my attendance at work; my self confidence and overall happiness. His words to me were “I don’t know why you’re worrying, just go back to work, you’re fine”. I remember coming out of that room and dissolving into tears. I had built up in my head that talking to this man my problems would miraculously be fixed. But there wasn’t even an attempt at help. From this point, and for the following 18 months my mental health began to spiral downwards. Thankfully, after visiting a new GP I was prescribed propranolol three times a day which is a beta blocker used to help control my panic attacks. These became my crutch. I was so reliant on them that I would panic at the thought of losing them/running out. Even now, when my mental health is at its most even in two years, I have my medication to hand 99% of the time. And if I realise I don’t, it can sometimes become a huge problem in my head.
In Autumn 2015 I began counselling/CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which was immensely helpful. It gave me somewhere to voice my thoughts and discuss ways to begin to pull back control. Julie was and still is an extremely important part of my life, despite now not seeing her for almost six months. She helped me in a way I could never repay and I’ll always be grateful for her ongoing support.
Recently I read a story about a young woman, similar age to myself, who had been struggling with poor mental health due to a family bereavement. She had recognised the warning signs that she was going downhill and subsequently tried to get help. She wasn’t someone who was pretending to be okay; keeping things hidden inside or ignoring her feelings. She was open and begging for help. For three whole months. For someone who has been close to crisis point once in my life, the though of not receiving help for 3 months frightens me. This poor woman had to experience this. Her dealings with GPs were far worse than mine and extremely damaging to a person in her vulnerable position. She was told that only when she made an attempt on her life would she gain the help that she needed. Absolutely horrifying. She has now had to resort to asking strangers for monetary support in order to see a private psychiatrist.
Imagine having a broken leg. If you were left for three months without any immediate help, there would be outcry. Why is it different when your mind is suffering? It is so astounding that this young woman has been able to keep as strong as she has for the last three months. And it is so wrong that it’s happened.
I will always support and encourage raising awareness of mental health issues, breaking the stigma and opening people’s eyes to the struggles people face on a daily basis.
Suicide should not be the benchmark for help.
Link to Andrea’s justgiving page: