Today is World Mental Health Day and, although it feels there is a ‘day’ for just about everything now and Twitter is always trending with one or another, I think this is a really important one to talk about.
We are all aware we are suppose to be taking care of our bodies. We take time to go to the dentist, opticians, chiropodist, yet if we are stressed, feeling down or unable to cope we just soldier on.
I am researching children and teen mental health and well being for a post I am writing with The Childrens Society.
I had never realised how many people suffer with mental health problems.
I started to think about friends, family and people I know who have or could be suffering from mental health issues.
I thought back to a school friend who battled with his sexuality and felt so down that he tried to take his own life.
I thought of a friend whos dad was so depressed he felt he had no way out, leaving my friend fatherless.
I thought of a good friend of mine who suffered badly with PTS as a result of his time served in The Falklands.
I thought of my nan and how I watched her deteriorate from Alzheimer’s.
I thought of bloggers I know who suffer with such bad anxiety that they find it a near impossible to leave their house.
It was while thinking about different forms of mental health, from post traumatic stress to post natel depression, dementia to bi-polar to stress, depression and anxiety, that I realised I was overlooking my own experiences with mental health problems, albeit not as serious or obvious as some.
I think it would suprise alot of people to know I suffer with anxiety.
I know what you are thinking…. Thats no suprise with sic children. But it started way before the kids came along.
It first started at Primary school.
I started suffering with terrible shortness of breath.
I always found it really hard to explain to my mum and dad, but it was like I was breathing in, but no air was getting into my lungs.
Once it started, it felt like it would get worse and worse. It could last anywhere from a few minutes to days.
I would have to sit outside the headmasters office with a brown paper bag and practice slow, deep breathing into it.
Mum took me to the doctor and I was tested for asthma but all the tests came back normal.
I never really talked about it again for years, I would just try to get through it by trying to take my mind off it. Sometimes that worked and sometimes I would end up in a panic and crying.
Then, towards the end of primary school I developed a twitch.
My nose would screw quickly like Samantha from bewitched…..only I wasnt casting a spell!
We put it down to my fringe being too long and tickling my nose, so I grew it out.
But the twitch didnt go, so we put it down to habbit as a result of the twitch from my fringe. It sounds crazy now but It never occured to me that it could be anything more.
So, here I was, going through my teens, suffering with shortness of breath and a nervous twitch (as we called it)…. I was a right sort 😉
The shortness of breath was never constant. I could go months without suffering from it, then, out of the blue it would hit me.
I would go into a panic and have practice my ‘mind over matter’ technique.
Things finally got to a point in 2009 when I went back to the doctors, desperate for help.
I was staying in France with the Mikey, Harri and Charlie (who was about 10 months).
Mike had gone to portugal with some friends and was going to fly from Faro to France to meet up with us.
The whole time I was in France on my own my shortness of breath was unbearable. I couldnt concentrate on anything and I felt like I was in a constant state of panic.
As a young mum (25) all sorts of things went through my head.
Maybe I have lung cancer…..
What if its my heart…..
Once Mike arrived at the cottage to spend the rest of the holiday together the shortness of breath dissapeared and I felt ‘normal’ again.
He would wind me up (and still does) that I just cant bare to be apart from him – trust me, thats not true!
With the fear it might return as badly as it had in France I booked an appointment with my Doctor.
I sat and explained everything to him. I told him all about the asthma tests when I was a kid to the horrible feelings in France.
He said with no uncertainty
‘You are suffering with stress and anxiety’
I laughed it off and explained to him that I was not stressed! In fact, I was completely laid back and never got stressed, thats what I was known for! Laid back, easy going Kate- always smiling and never stressed.
Apparently I was the perfect candidate for anxiety. He told me that because I am never outwardly stressed, my body deals with it in different ways.
In my case, through shortness of breath, my rabbit-like twitch and small panic attacks.
I left his office feeling relieved but also confused.
I was relieved that i wasnt dying! But confused as to how I didn’t know myself that I had been suffering with anxiety all these years.
As time has gone on it has become more obvious to me.
I can almost predict when the episode will start.
Flights and holidays…..a month or so before I will start feeling jittery.
My breathing gets deeper as my shortness of breath kicks in and Mike and friends will comment on my twitch getting worse.
My close friends will even ask me whats on my mind as they will know from my twitch how high my anxiety is.
Sometimes my twitch gets so bad it gives me a headache as my whole face contorts.
Big events, weddings, parties and nights out will start me off.
My dad was very poorly a couple of years ago and that sent my anxiety to a whole new level.
The last two months have been a challange aswell. Mike has been working away and we have been trying to choose a high school for the boys.
In fact, writing this has made me very aware at how anxious I am feeling right now.
There is no cure or immidiate fix that I know of and I count my blessings that my anxiety is not as debilitating as some people.
I have learned how to cope in my own way. I still practice mind over matter, a little like meditation and sometimes i will try to busy myself with something else.
If it is really bad I will run a bath with a few drops of lavender and ylang-ylang oil and soak for a while…. that usually calms me down a bit.
Sometimes nothing works and I just have to ride it out.
So, mental health can come in all sorts of forms and you never know who might be suffering. That is why tolerance and understanding is a great quality to practice.
Mental health problems are certainly not something we can control or just ‘get over’.
Everyone who knows me will probably be suprised that I suffer with this, It is not something I tend to talk openly about, maybe I should.
I certainly do not feel crazy or ill, but I have learned to try and listen to my body and when it tells me to chill out I try to do just that.
And luckily Mike has always found my twitch cute thank god!
Thanks for reading guys…..that was as good as a therapy session!
I would love to hear your experiences with mental health and anything you can suggest to keep anxiety at bay.
Please share awareness for World Mental Health Day