2014 started with me sleeping too much, having panic attacks, heart palpitations, being irrational, crying at the drop of a hat and basically feeling as if I was drowning in my own life. Things were just too complicated – and I’m talking simple tasks like getting dressed or making a coffee.
After weeks of attempting to scrabble out of a black hole I went to see my doctor. I had reactive depression – triggered by extreme stress and trauma. My body had gone into survival mode pushing everything important out of my brain so that I could function. Forgetting my own name was standard. I was prescribed a low dose of antidepressants which took the edge off my anxiety and told to simplify everything.
To the majority of the outside world I was fine – although inside I was a mess. I slowly started to isolate myself from people – not in an intentional fashion, but I started keeping people at arms length because I didn’t want to talk about what was going on and trigger any extra anxiety. Some days I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Other people I clung to, they were my safety net, and I poured myself into anything comforting that made me feel safe and happy. I had two friends who were going through similar experiences and we would meet up in the pub and either chat happily about our issues, or on one occasion just sit and stare like zombies.
I shrank my world into a small package that I could handle and built myself a little cocoon. I wrapped myself in a security blanket, our home, which is filled with love, children arguing, a broken dishwasher, not enough gin and more washing than is plausible for a family of five to create. I wasn’t agoraphobic but at times I could certainly see the appeal.
I can’t remember much about the particularly dark early months but I do remember;
- Texting Facebook Wife “I just want to punch happy people in the face” – Ironically I was in IKEA.
- Breaking down in Morrisons’ cheese aisle because I couldn’t locate the Parmesan
- I texted The Husband from a particularly bad therapy session, saying “My therapist just called me Claire and yawned in my face”
- Having to go and breath into a bag in the toilets at Cineworld half way through the first Hobbit film because I was having a panic attack.
That has all passed now, which is probably why I’m writing about it. My life is still streamlined – it’s probably a very selfish life. I throw myself into my family and work – I consider anything else is a bonus. I still avoid some situations and maybe over time that will change. My priority has to be me – I have to look after myself first and foremost so that I can look after everyone else.
I’m back in the room but I’m not the same. That’s not a bad thing, I’m not fragile though, I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve battled. I am still scatty, forgetful and aloof, at times. I’ve learned more about myself than ever before. I know what my limits are and how far I can be pushed before I break.
The best news, though, is that I no longer wish to punch happy people in the face, I know where the parmesan is in Morrisons, I no longer have therapy and I haven’t had a panic attack for a whole year.
Some days are still hard. Some days I feel like I’m walking through treacle but I know that over time the better days will out number the crap ones.
Talking about mental health is still hard for some people. I’m more open than most but I’ve never felt any shame in asking for help, taking medication or sharing my experiences on this blog. If you know someone who is suffering from mental health issues just reach out, let them know that you are there and that you care. For me, that was all I needed to know.
One in four people suffer from mental health problems each year in the UK, but many feel unable to talk about it for fear it may negatively affect their relationships or job prospects. Today, 5 February, the #TimeToTalk campaign is encouraging people to take five minutes out of their day to talk about mental health issues. Whether they suffer from anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder, people are taking to social media to share their stories to help normalise mental health issues and eradicate stigma.