I don’t know how to start this blog. I just know that I want to start it.
I’m writing this on the train, so please excuse any writing errors. I want this to be as authentic as possible rather than a polished piece of writing. I hope that’s okay!
Trigger warning: depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide.
2019 has been a difficult year for me in a lot of ways. My Vasculitis has flared up, my mental health has dipped significantly, some of my close relationships have broken down and I was on sick leave for quite a while. The fact that I was signed off work due to anxiety, depression, and Vasculitis makes me prickle with shame. But I’m trying to move past it and forgive myself.
My mental health probably dipped around some time in May – my boyfriend had moved city and I was looking for jobs every single day to join him. In fact, I was initially conflicted between continuing to work in Plymouth and moving, but after a lot of crying and sadness on my side, I realised that I wanted my home to be with my boyfriend and that a new city would open a lot of opportunities for me. And it has!
However, applying for jobs every single day meant that I barely had breath to take care of myself. Every lunchtime and evening was spent trawling job sites, applying for things, and writing endless applications. The stress I put myself under was ridiculous and resulted in total burnout.
At the very least, it paid off – I had three job offers in total and another follow-up interview. I chose one role and was even bold enough to ask for a higher pay bracket, which I got. I was ecstatic. My hard work had finally paid off!
Unfortunately, this wore off quickly when I realised what the stress had done to my Vasculitis. My physical health was suffering, which in turn triggered total anxiety and panic.
It all got too much for me at a work party – a leaving party, ironically. There was a lot of noise, people congealed into one big crowd, and after a few weeks of feeling completely on edge, I had to get out. I went outside and rang the doctor. I managed to get an appointment and confess everything to the mental health advisor, who was incredible. She listened, asked questions, empathised, and offered solutions. She signed me off work, and while I felt relieved that I could heal, I felt so guilty. Work was really busy and lots of people were leaving as it was. I felt like a letdown, but I needed to look after my health. My anxiety was so bad and I couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.
When it came to talking to people, including my lovely in-laws who I lived with at the time, I was good at keeping the mask in place. I have always been high functioning in that way, which worsened the paranoia I had about people thinking I was ‘pulling a sickie.’ In the privacy of my bedroom, I’d often cry, want to harm myself, and feel sick at the thought of seeing anyone I knew out of my safety circle. Luckily, I am in an incredible relationship, and just thinking about my boyfriend stopped (and still stops) me from doing anything harmful to myself. But I know that not everyone has that anchor in their life.
Things didn’t improve – in fact, they got worse. I became both anxious and so deeply depressed that I just didn’t want to wake up anymore. I love my life and loved my life at the time too, so I didn’t understand why I was so low. I didn’t actively want to die, I just wanted to stop feeling the way I did. I felt hopeless AND helpless. I went back to speak to my mental health advisor, who gave me a full treatment plan, swapped my medication slowly, gave me some really helpful resources and signed me off the rest of my work contract. It really felt like rock bottom, and I couldn’t show my face to anyone.
Now, I won’t say I’m 100% better, but I’ve definitely climbed out of the majority of the pit. Moving city was somewhat of a miracle tonic for me. I found a brand new place to explore, and it gave me a sense of adventure, excitement and contentment. I did two things I’d never have dreamed of in Plymouth – I learned to cycle on the roads (thanks to a great new friend of mine!) and I started swimming in the sea. I was back with the person who knew me better than anyone, life felt less derailed.
Now, a few pretty crap things have happened since moving, but overall I feel like I’m moving onwards and upwards. I feel more fulfilled in my life, and stronger for getting through it all. I’m grateful for everyone who sat down, listened, tried to understand me and love me all the same. I’m appreciative of the people who saw me smiling but knew I was feeling completely dead inside, and loved me anyway. I’m not 100% better, but I’m trying. I’m getting there!
I really hope this ramble can help at least one person feel less alone in their feelings. It’s hard to grow up with mental illness and navigate adulthood with the barriers it puts in place, especially when working full time, but it is possible to get through it. Certain things really help me in my downtimes, and I hope they can help someone else, too.
1. Opening up. I know this is said time and time again, but it really has been helpful to open up and speak to people. It’s hard sometimes, especially when you don’t understand why you feel the way you do, but I feel a lot less isolated in my feelings when my friends listen, relate and offer different perspectives. Sometimes, if I haven’t been able to say things out loud, I’ve written them down on the Notes app or over text. If I haven’t wanted to ‘burden’ my loved ones (I use quote marks as they always encourage me to message and talk to them), I text or ring Samaritans. It always helps.
2. Having companionship from my pets really soothes me. Caring for my hamster and two cats makes me happy and gives me another purpose, which is really important to me. However, this may not be the case for everyone, so please don’t buy a pet if you feel unable to take care of it and yourself at the same time.
3. I found new, riveting challenges in work and in my masters degree. I thought that moving city, starting a new job and enrolling in a masters programme in the same month was insane, but the variety has refreshed me. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, though! Try small challenges first – going for a walk outside, going to the shop, etc. Building up is key, and it’s exactly how I built myself up to big change.
4. I find that reading allows me to escape my feelings, even if only for a small while. My Kindle is sacred! Happiful Magazine (not sponsored) really lifts my mood with its dedication to mental health, research, and stories from people living with mental illness. I always feel so comforted reading the real stories, as I’m reminded that I’m not alone.
5. Counselling and mental health advice from doctors has enabled me to talk through my feelings and access real, practical help. I went through a very difficult medication change during the summer, which made things worse for a while, but the end result has been genuinely worthwhile. Talking with a professional is so important for getting better.
7. My Vasculitis support group has been an invaluable resource to me. Working through my feelings, getting practical advice, and speaking with people who experience the same illness as provides a community for me to feel a part of. Have you got an online or local support group you can join? They are amazing resources.
I know it’s hard, but you can get through it. I’m trying every day. Help is out there.
Call Samaritans: 116 123
Text Samaritans (there are delays in responding): 07725909090
Email Samaritans (24 hour delay): email@example.com
Visit Samaritans online: https://www.samaritans.org/
If you are in an emergency, please ring 111 or 999.