he 10th of October is World Mental Health Day. According to the NHS information centre for health and social care, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. I've struggled with my mental health, particularly anxiety and poor self-esteem, since I was a child but it only started impacting my life negatively since my first year at university.
When people think of mental illness, they tend to assume it's all ‘in their head’, when in fact mental illnesses can cause physical symptoms. Moving from my small village 80 miles to a big city, where I didn't know anyone was a nerve-wracking experience and I quickly learned how my anxiety manifested itself physically. I felt sick, trembled, had constant butterflies and suffered from digestive issues for at least the first week I was at university. I now experience dizziness and hot flushes on top of this. With my depression, I get headaches due to neck tension and, when it's particularly bad, a lot of fatigue.
Fatigue is what is often misconstrued as laziness, but that isn’t the case. Depression takes a toll on both my physical and mental energy levels. Sometimes I can get ten hours sleep and have a three hour nap later on in the day because I can't keep my eyes open. Other times, even watching a TV show can feel too exhausting. For that reason, I stuck to cartoons and YouTube when I was feeling low. My disinterest in everything stopped me from pursuing hobbies. It was a bit of a catch 22 since the boredom affected my mood even more.
The biggest impact on my life is my Borderline Personality Disorder. I haven't been diagnosed officially with this since it is a long process but a psychiatrist has told me I have enough of the DSM-5 criteria for a diagnosis and I identify strongly with things people with the disorder experience. BPD affects my relationship with people quite a lot, due to my fear of abandonment and black and white thinking. It does have one advantage - I have a favourite person that I'd do anything for.
Another way BPD impacts my life is that I dissociate. Dissociation feels like your brain isnt connected to the rest of your body and I can get a feeling of floating, struggle to recognise myself in the mirror and have periods where I feel generally disconnected from myself, my life and those around me. This usually happens when I’m tired or stressed and can be confusing and scary for myself and others. A form of dissociation that happened to me a lot in childhood is maladaptive daydreaming. This is excessive, vivid daydreaming that can take over certain aspects of the person's life, such as being unable to sleep due to daydreaming, which happened to me a lot.
I've tried to get treatment for my mental illnesses but haven't found anything completely helpful. I've seen about ten different doctors for my mental health, both at home and in my university's city. Unfortunately diagnosing and treating mental illness isn't as simple as diagnosing and treating something physical. According to the NHS, only 1 in 8 people with mental illness are being treated for it, and the most common type of treatment is medication. Personally, I have been on medication for two years. In that time, I have also tried counselling and CBT but did not find either to be effective. I manage my symptoms by getting support from my partner and friends, and by making sure I’m not becoming overwhelmed by things in my life. Sometimes it can be very hard but I’m coping better than I have for a long while.
On World Mental Health Day, I want to take the opportunity to share my experiences so others can hopefully feel less alone if they have similar experiences and to also reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. I also like to hear how other people cope with their mental illnesses so I might find ways that are effective for myself.
I hope everyone has a good day and stays safe.