Mental Health Month and Mental Health Week occur every year in October, the Monday just gone being Mental Health Day. While this is quite hard for me to put out on the internet, I’m not ashamed to say that I have been dealing with anxiety most of my life, and recently became a sufferer of depression.
I was officially diagnosed in 2012, my parents discovering that I may be depressed in late 2011. In terms of my anxiety, looking back now, it seems that I had been suffering most of my life. I always had trouble with social situations such as family gatherings, and often felt physically ill when being dropped off at places like dance classes. Myself and my parents had always thought I was just shy, but it is now clear that anxiety affected me from a young age.
My anxiety makes it really difficult for me to participate and deal with everyday life, and it seems that the depression is a factor of that. At times I don’t even feel I’m in control of my own body, and that I’m not truly myself. Over the years I have seen my GP, multiple psychologists, a specialist, and have been hospitalised. I have been on medication for a while now, which helps me deal a little better, but if I miss a dose or two I really feel the difference.
A lot of sufferers say that their mental illness is not who they are, and I completely understand that. However, at the same time my anxiety and depression is a part of me. I don’t want to let it control my life, but I know it’s probably something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. I refuse to rely on medication forever, and don’t want my future be affected by feeling uneasy. But I do have a mental illness, and that’s okay.
What I am truly sick of is how people perceive a mental illness. It is just as much of an illness as a physical one, and people may have difficulty understanding that because it’s not as visible. 3 Million Australian’s are living with anxiety or depression, and it affects the suffer everyday of the life. You can feel stupid, and like a burden, because you feel it’s all just in your head, but it needs to be emphasised that a mental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.
I have experienced judgement because of this. People I have known all my life have told me I am rude or antisocial, and didn’t take the time to understand that I may be undergoing something more. I find simple everyday tasks, such as speaking to someone I know or answering the phone, a massive challenge.
Mental illness is not a choice. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, not choosing to be sad. You body can show signs of being anxious without you even knowing.
It’s not laziness, or weakness. People who suffer try to live a normal life. They want to be social with their friends and loved ones, but at times it can be too hard. It’s not about ‘sucking it up’ and accepting that life is hard, they can see that, they just accept and deal with it differently. Plus, feeling as though you are not ‘really ill’ and it’s all in your head makes these feelings worse.
If there is someone in your life who suffers from a mental illness, all you need to do is be there to listen. Just a simple question of asking if they’re okay. You may not fulling understand what they’re feeling, and that’s okay. You just need to be supportive.
At the moment I feel pretty good with myself. I have been making an effort to really put myself into social situations and be productive during the day, but some days this is harder than others. Especially with depression, you tend to think that the happiness you are currently feeling isn’t real or going to last. I’m just taking one day at a time, and learning to do things for my own happiness.
Recently I have found an effective way of dealing with my depression, and that’s my guinea pigs. Looking after them gives me a purpose to my day, and they never fail to make me smile. I truly feel a lot happier since getting them, even my parents have noticed. Simply going outside and playing or cuddling my dog, Bella, can really brighten my day.
I am so lucky to have supportive people in my life who accept what I am going through, and take the time to understand and help me.
Here are some of my favourite YouTube Videos that talk about Mental Illness
If you need Support –
Different things work for different people, and that may take some time. But know that there are so many people who care for you, and are able to offer support.
Beyond Blue – Beyond Blue is a fantastic support service. It offers a range of information for suffers, and family and friends, and it contains an anxiety and depression checklist to measure whether you may be affected.
Lifeline Australia – A Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention service offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A simple chat with someone can change so much.
7 Cups of Tea – An anonymous and confidential online counselling service, that is great for if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You may need to get something off your chest, need some advice on a problem you’re having, or just want someone to have a chat too.
IMAlive – Similar to Lifeline, this is network that offers people to chat with online if you feel you are in a moment of crisis.
Sometimes you may be feeling overwhelmed and just need to escape from what your experiencing. Listening to meditation or calming sounds can really help with this.
If I’m having an anxiety or a panic attack while I’m out, I use the Smiling Mind app on my phone, which is spoken meditation to help you feel relaxed and calm.
Websites such as Calm and Soundrown are also great to help feel calmer and focused through sounds such as rain, fire, birds, ect. (and I find really help when studying too)
You can even speak to your local GP, who can also suggest options and refer you to professionals you can see.
Lastly, if you have a family member or friend you you trust and feel comfortable with; confide with them. Or something as simple as writing everything down in a book. I find if I take a moment to write down what I’m going through, I feel as though I’m getting things off my chest.