Today I’m bringing you another mental health spotlight, this time with the absolutely lovely Sarah from Lost in the Land of Books, who is bravely discussing her journey with depression and anxiety.
1. What mental illnesses have you been diagnosed with?
I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety ever since I was 16 years old. The depression was at its worst after the birth of my son to the point I couldn’t cope with day to day life.
2. What are the main symptoms that affect you?
I sometimes find it hard to pick the main symptoms with my depression. I feel like it’s a black cloud all the time, some days are worse than others, and I struggle to get out of bed. When I do, it’s like I work on autopilot. My anxiety creeps in and it’s almost like voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough, ‘don’t say that, don’t do that.’ With my anxiety, I suffer from panic attacks. I hate being in busy places, places I don’t know, being put in environments where I come face to face with people I need to communicate with. My breathing can become difficult and I get pains in my chest. I try to avoid going out when I know places are going to be busy. I changed careers as I couldn’t cope with the one I had. I was a carer and it was too much, the panic attacks were getting worse. When I do go out 9/10 my other half has to be with me.
3. What prompted you to seek a diagnosis?
My mum took me to seek a diagnosis in my teens when I tried to commit suicide.
4. How has your mental illness impacted your life?
My mental health prevents me from going outside my comfort zone, my blog is very much in the baby stages and something I have spent years building up the courage to do as I always thought it would never be good enough and I still think that but was encouraged to do it for me, to think of it as my own record of books I’ve read. I pulled out of college, had to change careers (for two reasons), I shy away from meeting people face to face, cancel plans if I’m having a bad day as I can’t leave my bed, I struggle to cope and deal with everyday life like bills etc and I’m hopeless with money.
I keep a journal which a counsellor suggested to me, so I keep track of my days, but I keep track of the highs and lows. I like to write both so when I look back I can see that was a really bad day but the kids said this to me or that was a good day and we did such and such. I clean and clean and clean some more and if I’m not doing that I find hiding in a corner with a book helps too. Being a book lover, I also never leave the house without one as when I start to feel panicky, I can pull my phone or book out and read and it soothes me. My other half also suffers from anxiety so she is very understanding and we tend to help each other. We know the right things to say and do, not that we can always do it for ourselves.
5. What medication do you take?
I was on medication for ten years. I hate the feeling of numbness it gives me and my last medication was tweaked as it stopped working after a while, but it left me very suicidal. I’m now on a trial to see how I cope off it with a review in January.
6. What is the one thing you’d want your younger self to know?
I would want my younger self to know through all those dark days when I didn’t think I would survive to my twenties that I make it and now in my 30’s with two children. I would want my younger self to know I will be true to myself and I will find someone who supports me and loves me, flaws and all.
7. What misconceptions do you want to break?
One thing about my mental health is the people who tell me to pull myself together or to get over myself: I wish it was that easy. I have battled the thoughts and demons in my head every day for the last 16 years. People who tell me that they see a smile on my face when they see me so how can anything be wrong when they don’t see that it’s a fake smile I’m hiding behind like a guard so people don’t ask if I’m okay. I don’t choose to have panic attacks when places get busy, I don’t choose to have days where I can’t get out of bed and over the front door because I’ve fought too long and it’s like my body and mind shut down. I would want people to know that I fight with myself every day and battle with the doubts in my head all the time over my abilities but I’m still here, I’m still fighting and I’m still trying. I try to push myself and I try to be the best person I can be but it doesn’t come easy. I want people to seek help if they have feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt, hate for the person they are, not wanting to be here any more, feeling like they will be judged for speaking out that it’s okay, there is help out there, people they can talk to. The more we talk about mental health, the less of a taboo it will be.
8. How can others help you with your mental illness?
I’m not sure what helps, seeing people like my reviews have given me the encouragement not to give up, my kids and other half telling me they love me makes me fight another day for them. People not patronising me or telling me to suck it up helps, the fact more and more people are talking about mental health means more help is out there and that I’m not alone and other people suffer from mental illness too. The few people who are close to me seem to know the right thing to do and when to do it even when I can’t see it myself at the time.