KATIE’S STORY

BY KATIE SWANN

MENTAL ILLNESS AND ME - I AM NOT ASHAMED!

I've battled with my mental health ever since I was about 12/13 when I was sexually abused. I didn't tell anyone until I was about 15 and in between that I had had a full blown mental breakdown complete with being admitted to a adolescent psychiatric unit. I've battled an eating disorder, I've battled self harm, I've battled depression, psychotic episodes, I've attempted suicide, I've been diagnosed as Bipolar type 2, I've been told I have borderline personality disorder, I've battled postnatal depression, borderline postpartum psychosis, I've battled OCD, I've battled panic attacks, anxiety attacks, paranoia, mania, addiction. I've battled all of this and have come out the other side. I've fought each and every one and come out on top.

I've been stable with my mental health for several years. I was even discharged from my 6 monthly check ups with the community mental health team about 5 years ago. I was finally at a place of mental equilibrium, peace, control and it was amazing! Even when my life was turned upside by FND and I fell into the inevitable depression that having a chronic illness will bring at some point in the journey, I was able to experience those emotions for what they were and they didn't take complete hold of me, I was able to pick myself up with a new lease for my new life and the new person I had transformed into.

You can imagine my desperation and total frustration when this last week anxiety has reared its ugly head again. That constant sick in the pit of my stomach feeling. Feeling on edge 24/7, as if my world is going to go up in flames at any moment. Knowing your emotions are out of control, knowing how you are reacting is totally neurotic but not being able to get a handle on the emotional outburst. Crying like I haven't cried for years. A constant nagging feeling that something awful is going to happen to my loved ones. Feeling paranoid, second guessing what everyone is thinking or saying about me and those I love. Self doubt and self loathing, feeling unworthy and a failure. A new feeling with anxiety this time round is so many negative feelings about my health conditions and what other people are saying/thinking about these.

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I feel I should be in control of my body and brain and therefore should just be able to be ok, well, healthy, then comes the frustration and stress and guilt that I can't just do this, that I can't just make myself ok. A need to know exactly what is happening and when and how (this is because I feel so dependant on others for everything) breaking down when I haven't got this control over mine and my families lives. I haven't felt anxiety for several years. I'd actually forgotten how quickly and totally it takes over your whole life. I find I am berating myself constantly throughout the day when I am feeling like myself the real me who is in control, I know I'm being neurotic and I know I really do not need to feel like this. I talk myself through ways I'm going to overcome this obstacle and I start to feel in control and positive. Then the anxiety rises and that sensible voice gets silenced!

It's playing havoc with my FND and my seizures and this makes me even more frustrated and annoyed! I'm trying to be superwoman at home and do everything like I used to but I just can't and this realisation is agonising. I'm beating myself up and pushing my body way to hard which is then causing my health to suffer. I've gone back to not wanting anyone to know I can't manage things as I'm scared they will think bad of me. I know this is not true but I can't stop feeling like it! I need to remember anxiety isn't something that just goes away it is something you learn to control. I need to remember I have controlled it in the past and I can again. I've managed to control it so well in the past. I became so good at controlling it I felt as if I'd never lived with anxiety in the first place.

I also need to remember I can't stop myself having a seizure so why do I expect that I should just be able to stop myself having an anxiety attack? It's that belief that is ingrained in us all that mental illness isn't as valid as other illnesses. That those who suffer mental illness are in someway responsible for their illness. We wouldn't think this of a Parkinson's patient so why so we as a society think this of a patient with a mental health disorder. This needs to change, society needs to accept mental illness for what it is - a debilitating chronic condition. The only way it will be changed is by people talking about it and this is why I decided to write this post. I'm not ashamed of my mental health disorder and I do not care who knows what I've fought, what I've succeeded to conquer, what battles I'm still fighting.


If you have been affected by any other the themes in this piece, please speak to your health care provider, see our page on managing moods, or visit www.samaritans.org