My Mental Health Story
Note: Content may be triggering if you’re going through a tough time right now.
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My mental health story started as a kid, I just didn’t know it!
I remember being six years old, and performing in the West Auckland choir night. Boy, was I up high in the bleachers, when I suddenly got hot and felt sick, really sick. Down they got me, and I spent my performance at the bottom with all my schoolmates 10 metres above me. I still sang, cause I never turn down a performance opportunity!
Fast forward to ten years old, and I’m going with a family friend and her daughter to the movies - I think it was a Muppets movie, but can’t be sure. Why? Because we had to leave. Ol’ sweats and feeling sick suddenly came upon me, and the family friend wasn’t taking any risks with a child that was not theirs. Fair.
We had a good run after that, until I stayed at a boys house (ooooooooo) at the ripe old age of 17. I wake up and my gosh, I’m gonna be sick! I run outside and dry reach. Nothing comes up! Still gross.
This is where it stays dormant (like a small mental health mountain) through final exams at school, and my three years at uni. Thank god I survived those without anything creeping up, I thought.
Fast forward to 2012, and here is where it all comes to a head!
I’m working in an insurance company call centre (glamourous, right?), paying off my student loan as I freelance as a script writer here and there. I’m out of home now, and living with my then boyfriend.
3 months in and I’m starting to feel a little sick. Must be a bad diet what with living out of home now, right? Haha! Sure.
It gets worse. And worse. And worse. AND consistent. 15 months later, I’m at the point where I’m nauseous on a Saturday morning, knowing a whole new week will be starting soon, working at a job that wasn’t for me.
Mum had driven us to the mall that was 40 minutes away, and I? I couldn’t get out of the car. I said “I feel so sick, I’m so scared I’ll be sick in front of everyone.” We turned around and started the journey home, but before that she said “You know, I think you have anxiety.”
The thing is, you don’t always know what’s wrong with you until that label is added, and it mostly ALWAYS takes a weight off your shoulders to know. From there, all these moments that led up to this, essentially my whole life, clicked and made sense.
On the Monday I handed in my notice and stuck it out two more weeks. At this point I had eaten so little, and been so shaky (imagine a nervous, tiny dog - Dat me) that I’d gone down to a mere 38kg at the age of 22. I couldn’t attend my friends wedding, I couldn’t work, and my whole life had stopped. There were even times laying in bed where I truly thought life wasn’t worth living anymore.
So what did I do?
Gave myself time.
I also researched management techniques (like breathing and cognitive behavioural therapy) to arm myself as best as I could.
Thankfully I slept well as I got through this phase in 2012 (my worst), that took a good 5 months. I think constantly shaking wore my body out. Throughout this time, I created this blog, got some part time work, and finally moved back to full time employment in a creative field - Copywriting.
Since then, it’s been a slow road to managing it. Anxiety is not just something you “fix”. Quite often it’s something that’s hard wired in you, a chemical imbalance, and that’s absolutely the case for me. My anxiety had never been over something in particular (so not worrying over money or relationships etc.), but rather a heavy feeling in my chest and feeling a bit queasy all the time. I wish it was to do with something, as I get hard on myself for feeling this way when my life is particularly going well.
Some things that occur due to my anxiety to this day:
Find it hard being in movie theaters or confined spaces
Constantly carry water with me, and sometimes a sick bag
Have panic attacks in full cars with friends
Sick bucket by the bed during bad nights
Anytime I’m actually sick (nauseous), all the other symptoms pop up
I go inward, and find it very hard to socialise
Doing things with absolute strangers is near impossible
Driving makes me nervous a lot of the time
BUT, I have an AMAZING partner who identifies episodes and holds my hand without judgement, shame, or making a scene!! THIS is important and special to me.
My recovery has been all about identifying, working out the cause, and managing it as I get everything aligned again. Life is a balancing act, it seems, and even your most happiest moments can have something not quite aligned to your basic human needs. That’s okay!
For now in 2019, I’m finding that right balance between working solo from home, and getting that human interaction I need. More on this as it develops!!