General anxiety disorder, recurrent depression and borderline personality disorder.
2 years ago I received the official diagnosis of GAD and recurrent depression – these were of no surprise. I always had the symptoms of anxiety, just never knew exactly what was going on or that it was an actual disorder. Depression, I have had mild bouts of on and off for as long as I can remember. Borderline personality disorder came as a surprise but it explained so many things of why I am who I am that it was actually a relief.
Do you receive treatment for it?
Yes. Over the last 2 years I have been admitted into hospital 3 times for intense therapy. These included CBT, IPT and art therapy.
I tried ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) which can be very effective for some people but unfortunately it made me very ill so I could not proceed after the first session.
I have had many different therapists and each have had different benefits and helped me in one way or another to get where I am now. Currently I am having DBT which I’m finding really beneficial to help me to stop and evaluate my emotions and think about my automatic responses to situations.
I am also on medication, which I will have to take long term.
What is a common misconception about your mental health illness?
Depression is not the same as sadness, and anxiety is so much more than worry! On my level they are debilitating and not something you can just get on with and snap out of. The phrases ‘I am so depressed’ and ‘I feel so anxious’ are used in such a casual way these days it takes away how serious these conditions actually are!
They make me feel unbearable, lonely, out of control, weak, a burden, endless…
Can you mention someone who supported you? How?
It is impossible (and unfair) to name one person who has helped and supported me – it has been a huge team.
My parents, sister and friends have been there for 100% of the time not matter what challenges I give them. The constant support of friends and family who have stuck by me through out this journey has really helped me. Particularly one friend who made a point of reading up on all my diagnosis’ enabling her to know exactly how to deal with it and what to say – and importantly what not to say.
My truly wonderful team at the hospital: therapists, nurses and all the other supportive friendly faces (I love them all!) – when the day comes that I no longer need the hospital I will truly really miss them!
It may seem odd but I have recently discovered the twitter MH community. We are there for each other and spur each other on. It is a place where it feels safe to be honest and open. Some us even refer to each other as one and another’s ‘long lost family’.
How does openly speaking about your mental health make you feel?
I feel proud I am able to do this.
The stigma and shame associated with mental illness angers me. People say I’m brave for speaking about my experience so openly – I’m not. It is nothing to be ashamed of and the more people that speak openly about it the better it is to help reduce this stigma. It is nothing to be ashamed of and so many more people suffer than would like to admit. I want to teach people about my experience so at least something positive can come from the hell I have (and still am) going through. There is so much people can and need to learn about MH both as a sufferer but equally as importantly for people supporting a loved one.
What do you find the most difficult to deal with?
I have been very open about my illness which is great, however there is always that fear of being judged and what others may think. I can often feel people are walking on eggshells around me. Some of the hard things I’ve had to deal with is people not inviting me to things for fear of upsetting me – in reality it hurts and upsets me way way more when I find out I was not been invited to something. It is really upsetting that others feel so uncomfortable with it or how to deal with me. Unfortunately this has happened on a number of occasions.
My illness has prevented me from doing a lot of things. I have been unable to work for over 2 years, and lost touch with many friends. Socialising has been impossible due to my anxiety and unstable mood. My mood is so unpredictable so I feel unable to make plans as I don’t know if I will be able to carry them through without knowing how I’ll feel at that time. Additionally, many people don’t know how to respond to my situation. With me going in and out of hospital it’s made many people frightened as they don’t know how to be around me. Me being in hospital is scary for them, they don’t know how to act or how I will be, especially as to begin with I was severely drugged up.
Has living with this condition shaped who you are today?
Before my illness I was absorbed in the world of fashion, I had thought that was where my future lay. I never dreamt that I would end up leaving the industry I had worked so hard to become a part of. This journey has made me re-evaluate my life and values to do something much more beneficial to help people. My aim now is to help reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. Long term now I am retraining to become a counsellor and eventually an art therapist.
I’m not the type of person who says ‘everything happens for a reason’ – yes my life would have been much easier if the last 2 years had not happened, I’m not going to lie. It is impossible to say exactly what I have learnt about myself. All I know is however tough and seemingly endless this journey has been I am coming out the other side stronger and with a much deeper understanding of why I am how I am. So, however much I wish this hadn’t happened I do believe I am coming out better for it.
What is the one message about mental health you want to tell the world?
This is simple…TALK ABOUT IT!
The struggles people have are so more common than we are lead to believe due to the lack of open conversations. It not only needs to be spoken about from the view of the person experiencing difficulties, but also from the view of people supporting a loved one. The more conversations had and the more ‘masks’ people feel able drop the less taboo the subject will be.
In January a fellow twitterer and I started the hashtag ‘#maskoffjanuary’. The aim of this was to allow people to drop their masks and open up the conversation by talking honestly about their feelings. But this is something that we need to do more often – the more it is done the less of a stigma will be attached.
Once again – talk about it! Stop judging or feeling afraid of being judged. It is nothing to be ashamed of or feel uncomfortable about. The more people feel the stigma attached, the more people will feel unable to ask for help which can lead down a terrible dark, self-destructive and sometimes fatal path. Keep the conversation going and don’t let it go and we will try and erase this stigma together.
What advice would you give to someone suffering from a mental health illness?
DON’T BE ASHAMED. DON’T GIVE UP. KEEP FIGHTING. THINGS WILL GET BETTER EVEN IF IT DOESN’T FEEL IT. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
You can read more about Emma, her journey and other mental health issues…