So I have decided to write my story, in brief, otherwise we could be here for a while!
I’ve been thinking about what I can write because over the past few years I’ve been blogging and tweeting anonymously with regards to my mental and physical health – Yet, it has only been the past few weeks where I have come to the realisation that this adds to the stigma which is unfortunately attached to mental health. This is why I have decided to open myself up on this blog. After all, as someone who is building a career to help people with their mental health or physical wellbeing through animal-assisted therapy, it only seems appropriate that I follow my own advice! However, it is easier said than done – and we are all culprits of this.
Whilst I do have my personal struggles, this can seem difficult to do at times and I often find myself needing support, and I openly admit that recently I have been reaching out to support networks which can lend an ear whenever I need it. For example, I reach out to the Samaritans via email, because sometimes I don’t feel confident enough to call them. Or I self-refer to local charities offering short-term care in CBT or counselling. And I’ve recently been told I may need further longer-term care/support within the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) services, of whom I was discharged from early last year, and have been referred back to them and am awaiting a decision for the referral.
You see, I’ve been up and down throughout my life. I’ve never felt as though I fit in anywhere, and still struggle to identify where I “belong”.
Looking back, I can see that my anxiety started when I was in primary school, and soon after depression followed at secondary school. Things became very difficult at school and at home. I lost a sense of myself, and there are still many times where I struggle with my identity. In my late teens I was diagnosed with Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), otherwise known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which unfortunately has a huge stigma attached to it – and a part of my EUPD/BPD coping mechanisms stems into disordered eating. After the diagnosis, I was fortunate enough to receive the support I needed in order to aid my recovery. During therapeutic interventions, I still found myself battling the demons of mental health, and it wasn’t helped by the fact I also developed multiple chronic pain illnesses, from several headache disorders, Hemicrania Continua and chronic migraine, to Fibromyalgia, (naming a few!) … Let alone the fact that life around me was still chaotic. I would find myself spiralling from feelings of worthlessness and despair, to feeling elated and on top of the world. I was under the care of CMHT for 6 years, and when I was discharged, I was told “this doesn’t mean you’re cured”.
Even now, I still have these cycling patterns, where I get caught in loops, or webs – unable to untangle myself. Which is why it is important for me to recognise the signs and symptoms, and put steps in place to ensure I look after my own wellbeing so I am well enough to help others.
When I decided what I wanted to do with my life (career wise), I wanted to ensure I spoke openly about my mental illnesses in particular, albeit with some boundaries in place, because not only does it help us heal, but also teach us that we are not alone – And that things can, and do get better!
I am beginning to realise that I am not ashamed of my mental health conditions, but what I am ashamed about is the lack of understanding and the stigma that attaches itself to the “labels”.
Regardless of what career you’re in, whatever qualifications you have or don’t have, you’re only a human being. You are like everyone else around you. You have a heart, mind, body and soul.
I am proud of myself for how far I have come. If it wasn’t for the things I’ve been through, I may not be creating the business I am striving for today. I am continuously learning about what I can and cannot do, and I am not afraid to speak up anymore.
As Keala Settle sings in The Greatest Showman “This is me!”