Friday, 8 January 2016

My Journey With Mental Health

After an overwhelming response to just one sentence about mental health in my TMI post, I decided I would dedicate a whole blog post to my journey with the bastard that is anxiety. I've never written anything personal on here, mainly because I didn't think anyone would want to read it. However, I've learnt SO much in the past year, most importantly that blogs can be more than just a place to find out what to wear, where to eat or what make up to buy. They are also a fantastic platform to share your own views, struggles and life experiences. This may be a long one so bear with me...

Many people see the 'perfect' side of life via Instagram and blogs, which is absolute crap. I think this can be an incredibly dangerous way of thinking. NONE of us are perfect or have perfect lives. Even bloggers who are lucky enough to do this as a full time occupation, travel the world and get given endless supplies of designer handbags. They have bad days, family problems and bad outfits just like the rest of us.

 Blogging has changed my life. I wanted to tell you exactly what I mean when I say this. I mean it has literally changed the way I live. Not many people know, but I have battled with mental health, specifically anxiety and panic attacks, for over 15 years. I started my blog because of my anxiety, and I have recovered because of my blog (adding Panic to my blog name of course!)

In a nutshell, I developed anxiety when I was 13 after having 'post viral syndrome' and had to be off school for 7 months. I felt sick and tired constantly, not only did I have to go into a school where everyone was asking why I had been off, I also, at the age of 13 had to deal with feeling ill the majority of the time. I hated lessons where it was quiet, or exams, as I felt claustrophobic when I felt sick, so was happier in busy, loud lessons. Despite having great friends, I still had the odd teenage tosser being less than sympathetic about things (and asking if I'd been off because I'd had a baby FFS). I didn't understand anxiety and none of my teachers did either. I was put with the naughty, disruptive kids when having exams, or catch up lessons; making things worse. I couldn't do anything 'normal' children do. I hated being away from my mum, I couldn't stay over night anywhere and I couldn't even try drinking or smoking in case it made me feel worse.

I made it through my GCSE's and somehow did well. I started at college and managed through, I even had a part time job. Things were getting easier. When I was 20 I met my husband on holiday with my family. This was a turning point in my life. 6 months later I had moved to Turkey, whilst continuing my teaching degree. I still had anxiety, despite having to fly on my own several times (don't ask me how, I couldn't do it now!).

Everything changed when my husband and I moved back to the UK when I was 22. I hadn't been used to living in our society. For 9 months I had lived in an idyllic setting by the beach, with part time work and where people focused on being happy and healthy, not on materialistic possessions. I struggled. I started a job at a local school and lasted 4 months due to having panic attacks up to 5 times a day. I suffered with IBS, and was underweight, not out of choice, but because I couldn't keep food in me.

So it was January 2012 I was 23 had no job and I couldn't cope. I have somehow managed to avoid depression. I credit that to my family and friends always keeping me positive and not letting me slip down, but I was very close and I can totally understand how easy it is for anxiety and depression to go hand in hand. I'd always kept busy, having a little craft business online. I'd also tried Stella and Dot which is like Avon but jewellery. Anything that I didn't have to go out of the house for and didn't have pressure from anyone. I'd had CBT and counselling, but nothing could help. I felt I was going to be stuck like this forever.

Skip to 2013 where I finally saw a specialist (privately as most of you who suffer with anxiety will know the NHS is not the best with mental health!) for an ongoing hormone problem, which my CBT therapist thought may be causing some of the panic. The Doctor said that hormone problems and anxiety, especially in young women, are incredibly intertwined. She told me to come off the pill and have some vitamin B6 (obvs, don't take anything without speaking to you GP). Two months later and I hadn't had one panic attack. It was literally over night. I had not expected anything, I never did when it came to anxiety, but my mindset had changed completely. My heart no longer raced 24/7, I didn't feel sick and I wasn't always on the loo. I felt like me again. 

I continued to recover that year. That's when I decided to focus on my passion, not just what my anxiety could cope with. I had always loved fashion. I'd studied textiles at A level and had a place to study Fashion at Salford Uni, but at the time I didn't think I would be able to cope in the fashion industry with anxiety (remember this was back in 2007 so no bloggers!).

I started my blog in June 2014, having only followed my first blogger the month before. I just knew I wanted to be like her and write about my clothes. I thought it would possibly make me look narcissistic and vain, but the bloggers I followed weren't like that, so I hoped I wouldn't come across like that either. My hubby took pictures of me on my Samsung Galaxy Mobile, and I started on I got Instagram in August that year, only discovering hash tags in November (haha I know!). I started, and quickly left a job at Next during that time. I applied for a part time 10 hour contract, in my second week they made me full time, which I couldn't cope with. Workplace understanding is a whole other topic. Next as a company was great. They had short shifts, and you could swap shifts with colleagues. However, the store where I was placed, didn't have great management. That's the issue really. The company I worked for had the foundations to create a great place of work for people with mental health problems, but if this isn't carried out by the staff, then it can't happen. I think training would be really helpful, as people just don't get it!

I wanted to write this to give people hope. Yes, mine turned out to be a hormonal imbalance, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of young people out there with random, awful mental health problems. I still suffer. I hate flying, I hate illness, I'm still not 100% comfortable when I stay away from home (which at the moment is my parents house!). But I'm now happy, doing what I love and I'd say 80% 'normal' (hate that word, but you know what I mean).

Everyone has problems, everyone cries, everyone feels alone. But if you have anxiety, depression or any other of the shitty conditions, then please know that there is support. Mind have been great, as have Anxiety UK. They're all on twitter and IG, so you can contact them easily. Finally, just remember; social media is the life people want you to see, not what they live. I hope this has made it more clear to you, that I'm not just about clothes, shoes and vogue, and maybe it could even help someone. Either way, you can always leave a comment on email me.

Lots of love,

Lauren XO

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