It is Wednesday so that means it is time for me to hand my blog over to a new blogger on the block for my next instalment of The Newbie Takeover. This week I have Charlie from Our Altered Life guest posting for me. This is a very important post about mental health and how the reality of living with a mental health condition can be completely different to the myths we are told.
The myths and reality of mental health
Common mental health beliefs include that there is absolutely no need to become depressed if you notice the signs and do something proactive to help – exercise, socialise, laugh with friends! Anxiety is simply a state of mind and people can “shake it off” if they choose to – or wallow for the pity points. Antidepressants are for those who really haven’t got the mental strength to deal with their own crap.
These were my thoughts at one time in my life and I am ashamed now. Its just a shame that it took my own depression for me to realise just how unfair and judgmental I had been.
Let me take you back.
The symptoms of my anxiety presented themselves when my boys were around 6 years old but it all started with a shock announcement that the lives of me, my partner and our twins had been turned upside down in the time it had taken the registrar to pull my son Harry into a world that he changed forever. Despite a perfectly healthy and very happy pregnancy, he had been born with only a half a face. This was a lot for me to get my head around particularly after an emergency c-section too! A few years later, Harry was also diagnosed with autism as well.
Anyway, back to my gross misconceptions of mental health. I had noticed the signs but they were subtle at first and infrequent. Singing in the car one day, enjoying the sunshine or returning the smiles of passers by. Crying the next, aware of nothing but an ache like an elephant sitting on my chest. Unable to tolerate the sound of the music that less than 24 hours earlier I had been bouncing around to. Days when I got out of bed ready to face the day. Days when I could barely pull the duvet off my lead like body. Nights when I feared the next morning – unable to predict even my own mood. Yes I saw the signs, but at every point I thought it was a ‘phase’, ‘the blues’ something that I would shake myself out of. I didn’t have the energy to exercise, I didn’t enjoy my own company let alone the company of others and after a day of teaching where I was a performing seal in front of 30 children who deserved the best teacher, I would come home to feel a failure as a Mother to my own two boys who deserved so much more than the dregs of a weary actress.
Something had to change.
If I could have “shaken it off” believe me, I would have. But, like a storm that you feel has come from nowhere despite dark clouds and occasional drizzle, it gripped me before I knew it. I was contemplating whether I even wanted to be here anymore.
A confession to my mum and a trip to the doctors resulted in the antidepressants I had feared but in time they helped me massively. I had expected jazz hands, cartwheels, taking the breakfast orders in a musical styleee of prancing around the kitchen, feeling like life was an amazing experience. Of course, it wasn’t quite like that but I did slowly begin to feel like a version of myself again. Lighter. Calmer. I was able to predict a steady mood and didn’t go to bed in fear of my own self. I didn’t just find myself again, I found a better self. A more understanding self. A more tolerant and accepting self. One that I would never have become had I never experienced that darkness.
The light after the darkness.
Strange how things work out hey. My stereotypical beliefs about mental health were wrong and if you agreed with anything in my first three sentences, so are yours. I only hope that it doesn’t take a course of antidepressants for you to realise.
And if you’re struggling with the truth that you need some help then consider this. You wouldn’t think twice about a plaster cast on a broken leg or a plaster on a cut finger. Is just the same but its way more important. Be kind to yourself. Breathe and know that if this cynical, judgmental neghead can be reformed then there’s hope for us all.
As a side note, life now actually is a wonderful experience (since I stopped looking at what was going wrong and focused on being grateful for all that’s going right) and you can find me most mornings performing my musical version of “honey or jam on toast?” in the kitchen with my boys.
A bit about Charlie:
Thank you Charlie for this important and honest post. I have written a post about post natal depression recently and I agree with you, the common misconceptions of a mental health illness and what it is actually like living with one are completely different. I am so glad to hear you are doing better now.
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