When I posted a status on my personal facebook reaching out for people to share their stories of mental illness I expected one response at most. Instead my phone was buzzing all night as people were keen to share their stories. It was eye opening to see how many people who I know in real life are suffering in silence and how many were willing to share my status with their friends and encourage them to speak out too. Honestly I feel overwhelmed by the whole thing and it has made me feel so positive about this new project I want to start.
My aim for this mini-series is to educate people who have never experienced mental health issues so that they can understand how to support their friends. I also want to stop this stigma that surrounds talking about mental health issues. I feel like it is something that people should feel comfortable talking about without the fear of being judged or accused of attention seeking / being dramatic. So many people suffer and you may never know because they feel like they are unable to talk about it openly. Over the next few months I aim to post at least two stories a month (maybe more if the volume of people messaging me increases!) from people who have contacted me. Some have faced or are facing mental health issues whilst others have experienced helping a friend / family member. They will be talking about their experiences, the stigmas they have faced and the ways in which they try to help themselves.
Just to make this clear to everyone, anyone who I feature has contacted me personally and has consented to me posting their story on here. Some have asked to remain anonymous whilst others have said they are happy to be identified.
So without further ado, here is the first story for this mini-series to #StopTheStigma. It comes from Pollyanna who was the first to share her story with me:
So, I always knew I had something, but I’m stubborn and hate criticism. My parents had a horrific divorce when I was young and I ended up living with a very emotionally abusive father since the age of 11. The constant battling and early disappointments basically ensured that I grew up wanting to do better and prove my dad wrong and so that’s where the stubbornness is, but the criticism is something that I don’t like because of how much I was criticised as a child. So when I got to about 16/17 and started feeling really down to the point where I didn’t go to school for a few days here and there and then lashing out at people who I cared about to then quite literally cutting people out of my life I knew something needed to change. Years of counsellors and psychiatrists during school and uni have done nothing of any help. Relationships are hard, and I didn’t tell anybody I was with about them I’d just disappear when it got too much. It was only when I told my best friend a year ago how much shit I was in. I could barely make it to a lecture a week without wanting to crawl back into my room and shake with anger. My anger would stem from even someone just moving my milk in the fridge and then after a wave of anger I’d be hit with total numbness and that would linger for sometimes days at a time before it finally felt like I’d woken up. However the anger I’d say it’s been a positive because my motivation to succeed is driven by my ‘off days’, I work overtime and juggle multiple positions and hobbies to ensure that I don’t waste a day. Everyday life hasn’t been so much affected apart from I don’t drink since being on medication, and opened up to more friends since my best friend ensured me that people wouldn’t run away so they’re supportive. Biggest hit has got to be that my only two big long term relationships took so long to cultivate and work at to prove I wasn’t just an angry bitch both ended because they couldn’t handle it anymore. That’s really broken me in terms of will I be single forever, and I look forward to the day I work up the courage to see a therapist for CBT and I stop relying on pills to chill me out. To others with mental illness it is shit, it’s 100% shit. But you can’t do it alone, because you will sit in your hole and that’s when you spiral. You take those days off that you need but you cultivate another hobby, you listen to podcasts and make lists of places you want to go when you’re happy. It won’t cure you, but it’s a good distraction until you’re brave enough to try help, at least that’s what I’m doing for now.
Oh and for medication, I’m on 20mg of Citalopram, going up to 30mg in a couple of weeks to stop me dipping so frequently. The first couple of months you will feel suicidal, nauseous, fatigued and even worse than usual. But the other side is much more chill.
If you wanna see how Pollyanna is bossing it you can head over to her instagram (@pollage) for the most amazing pictures of food & coffee & social media related coolness. She really is doing some great things with her life & I hope for anyone who is feeling similar to Pollyanna you have gained some reassurance in the fact that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. That is the aim here, to provide reassurance and encouragement to do what is best for you and your mental health.
If you would like to share your story please contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would also like to say that even if you do not want your story posted, my email is open for anyone that needs to just vent how they feel. I’ve had a few people do that already and sometimes it is nice just to share it with someone and take some weight off. I will not post your story without consent.
Thanks for reading this first story! Be sure to check back soon for another installment 🙂