I have said it a few times in posts but I'm going to say it again I'M HAPPY! In spite of being chronically ill I really am. But there was a time when I wasn't. Really wasn't infact. At the time what was hard to comprehend was the fact that it was a time where I should have been really happy. And there are times when I fear I'll go back there.
To start off this series of posts on mental health issues I thought where better to begin than my own story. I have posted a few times about my past struggles with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and self harm but I want to reitterate some of it for the purposes of this series, to show that this topic actually means a lot to me. It's something that I will carry around with me for the rest of my life. And I'm not the only one. Mental illness of some kind affects 1 in 4 people at any time. Yet how often is it talked about? So let's start talking...
Look at the photo above. What do you see? A young woman on her graduation day. One of the biggest achievements of her life. Well sometimes photographs can be deceiving. I really wasn't sure at the time if I could even attend the gradution ceremony. Wasn't sure I wanted to. Because behind that photo was a woman who was fighting a battle against her own head. A scared shadow of myself and all that that photo should represent. Take off the layers of concealer and you'll see eyes puffy from constant tears. Look at that hair, only clean because my Mum had to wash it for me as I shook so much. Peel back those sleaves and you'll see the fresh cuts and the healing scabs that begged to be itched and scratched. The bare legs that my Mum helped do with an electric razor to stop my brain from feeling temptation.
So no I've not always been happy. I've suffered a few bouts of depression and anxiety since the age of 14. However the period after I left university and graduating was certainly the worst. It's a place I never want to be again. Sometimes I feel that I am running scared from mental illness hoping it will never catch me again. Unfortunately I can't guarantee that. However I'm extremely grateful for every day I have where I'm not battling my own mind. I'm lucky I learnt to control it. Luckily the physical scars are not too visible but the emotional ones will last far longer. I will never forget that time.
I try to use that experience as a way to try and remain positive now, to be more grateful for what having a healthy mind means. Sometimes I even say to myself that if I can get through that then I can get through anything. Within reason of course. That has been tested a few times during turbulent flights. And of course regularly gets tested during particularly bad health flares or relapses. What's more I've learnt that mental health needs to be talked about more. That it's all too taboo and hush hush, which considering how common it is is ridiculous. And so I try to talk about it when I can in a bid to raise awareness.
To go back to the graduation photograph to the outside world no one would have guessed what was going on in my head. And it's the same for millions of people. Sometimes though it's important to see behind those masks. To say actually my mental health problem is more real than what my photograph documents. And if I can help just one other person by blogging about my personal experiences and by doing this January Blues series then that's something positive.
If you have any suggestions for topics or conditions that you would like to see covered in this blog series then please do leave a comment. Likewise if you would like to share your story through a guest blog post. To any of you that are suffering or if you know someone that is then I hope this series will help somewhat.