Mental Illness – A lived experience

WARNING: This could be triggering for some.

As a child I had anxiety. If my parents were out for dinner I could’nt sleep until they returned home. I worried about everything. Absolutely everything. I just thought everyone was like me and because I internalized so much my parents weren’t fully aware of my anxiety. I was then and have returned to being a very positive bubbly person. But for some years I sunk into a dangerous and dark mindset which was actually threatening my own well being.

After my son was born I had post-natal depression. The only support I was offered by a GP was anti-depressants. The medication was just a band aid and it fell off time and time again. I had to increase my dosage. I had to change anti-depressants. I had to increase the dosage again and then again. Still I was seeing only my GP. I decided to see a psychologist and found her to be very helpful. Sadly she passed away and I felt alone again. My GP told me he would not increase my dosage and I should see a psychiatrist. I ignored him which was a critical oversight by me.

About nine years ago I started to cry and I kept crying. I couldn’t stop. My husband and my Mum took me to a public hospital. It was a weekend and nobody from the Mental Health area worked on weekends. I missed that memo about not breaking down out of hours. So in the midst of a dark rainy night and me scared and very unwell along with my husband and Mum tried to find our way around a closed and badly lit private psychiatric facility.

This was the beginning of many admissions into this hospital. I met and made lovely friendships. Many I still have contact with now. I tried cognitive behaviour therapy, electric convulsive treatment (suffering a mild short term memory loss I’m told will return but doubt it after so long). I started a day program two days a week. I prefer not to share the name online due to friends I know still attending. I also saw a mental health nurse who practiced ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). I loved ACT the most. It was very realistic and reminded me that the way I feel right now will not be the way I feel in the next moment. It’s not that simplistic but I really found a way to use that treatment to help me become stable and slowly repair my damaged soul.

I have a history I will not share. It involves a trauma that is only something that my family knows about. It wasn’t a lengthy trauma but my mental health care team all agree that this most likely has caused the dark pervasive mindset I lived with for so long. I nearly killed myself. I didn’t attempt. I had a plan though. I won’t share that either. My husband heard it once and that was bad enough. Thankfully he listened and acted.

I fought so hard to become well. I was treated very badly by a few people along the way which made it even harder to recover. These people taught me the value of steadfast loving family and friends. I know at my most unwell I doubted I had one person who liked or loved me. That was not because of anybody’s actions but instead because of the horrible feeling of being unloved that I had. To this day I am very needy and at times mildly paranoid. I struggle if I don’t hear from someone for awhile. I forget people are busy and that they aren’t even thinking about me. I forget that people care and the right people I need in my life are on call 24/7.

As I write this crying with absolute relief and gratitude I just want to say that I know that I did not do this alone. I know I had people rooting for me whether by being present in my life or watching on the sidelines.

I am now in constant awe at what happiness means for me. I can’t believe I am the same person. I can’t believe that I can now manage anxiety. That it is possible to drive somewhere new without a practice run. That I don’t have to arrive an hour early to anywhere I go. That I can dance and sing loudly because it makes me happy and I don’t care what people think anymore. I am not longer the person who sometime ago thought my family would be better off without me. Suddenly everything interests me. I am curious and I want to learn. I want experience everything. Sadly my wallet disagrees with this.

Helping my son with his business and then starting a social group for autistic kids and teens along with being Mum to my daughter has been the absolute most rewarding things I have ever done. Having a great relationship with my husband is important and being able to support him for a change means so much to me.

To my friends who I know are still gripped by dark days I wish for you to have what I have. It pains me so much to know that you are still fighting something so hideous. I just want you all to know that you have to hang in there. Find a way to get through the pain and ground yourself by surrounding yourself with the people who love you. No matter what you think they will never be better without you. I would not be better without you.

5 thoughts on “Mental Illness – A lived experience

  1. Thank you for sharing Laura. I have always found you to be positive, although it’s only been a short time and Only under one circumstance. However, I want you to know I am always available if you need me, I will always try to make you smile, sing and laugh at class. I will always admire you and be awed by what you have achieved. As I tell you in class, I only do this because I LOVE YOU. Now move that chunky backside.

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  2. Thank you for writing this. Especially the bit about the people who care for us never being better off without us.
    Some very lucky people have never experienced the extraordinary pain of mental illness, but they can still show compassion and support. I’m thankful for that support and need to remember how best to show my thanks- it’s by remaining here and believing there will be better days.

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    1. I hope you can climb out of the insidiousness of it. Please no matter how painful remember you matter to the ones who love you. I know the pain and was desperate to escape it but realise now how terrible that would have been for my kids.

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