Inspired by the courage and strength of Just Jodes’ video on her mental health journey, I decided it was time to open up and get things off my chest. I’ve spoken before on my blog – to some extent – about my mental health and the struggles I’ve faced. I’ve never been ashamed to talk about it, but I wanted to be in a position where I felt comfortable and safe before I fully opened up and went into detail. I’m there now, I’m ready so I apologise in advance for the rambley post but it’s needed..
My mental health journey began a few years ago now, when I noticed myself becoming increasingly anxious and worrying about things that were almost entirely out of my control. A course of CBT more recently taught me that these are called hypothetical worries – I’m allowed to worry about them, it’s perfectly normal to do so, but that I shouldn’t dwell on things that can’t be changed.
Nights out and drinking, things that I used to enjoy, became noticeably more difficult. I would constantly be worrying about my friends and my bag and my belongings, and I would get to the end of the night, exhausted from worrying so much, having not enjoyed myself at all. I found that leaving the house became more difficult as well – not in terms of actually going outside, but in ensuring that I had switched off plugs and had everything I needed. I would check my straighteners were turned off time and time again before I could actually leave, sometimes locking and unlocking my front door to double-triple check they were off. Such seemingly small, day to day, things were becoming more difficult to deal with, but I wouldn’t admit it, not even to myself..
I don’t know when or why I started worrying excessively about my future, but I did. I saved, and I saved, and I saved because I wanted to be in control. I wanted to ensure that my future was laid out in front of me, I wanted to have everything planned and the idea of something going wrong, of things being out of my control, was enough to make me cry. And that’s what I did – I planned absolutely everything out. I knew exactly how much money I was going to spend a week, I saved almost every single penny, determined to create the future I really wanted. I find people comment on how well I’ve done with saving money, but looking back now, I don’t think it came from a healthy place mentally. In my head, I had to save so that I could throw myself in the right direction and ensure that I was in the exact position that I had in mind. I wanted to be completely in control of my own future, and having money was a way of ensuring that..
I’ve never dealt well with change, or at least for as long as I can remember I haven’t. I reached a point where everything had to be planned, and if it wasn’t, then it wasn’t happening. Admittedly, there would be the rare occasion where I wanted to do something spontaneous, but it had to be on my conditions, and I had to be in control. Things planned by other people would cause an excessive amount of worry – what if something happened that I couldn’t control? What if I needed to leave and I wasn’t allowed? What if I had a panic attack and embarrassed myself in front of everyone? I began to avoid situations where I thought that might happen, and looking back now, without a doubt, I missed out.
Obviously, that caused issues for me and my now-ex boyfriend. He would want to do something together or go out, but I would get so worked up that I just couldn’t. There was a party one night with his friends, a night we originally weren’t attending but plans had changed, and as a result, I was really struggling. In the taxi over, I could feel my hands getting more and more sweaty and my breathing getting more difficult. I struggled, and he stayed by my side almost the entire night which made my night bearable, but he didn’t enjoy himself. Without really noticing, I had become so reliant on him, he was my comfort blanket and I couldn’t picture myself without him at all.
When we first met, I was dealing really well with my anxiety. I was working two jobs, I was doing well at college, I was super independent – I genuinely felt like it was me against the world. Throughout my teen years, I was an independent, hard working and head strong gal. I knew what I wanted, where I wanted to be in life, and I was determined. Towards the end of 2017, I felt like I was none of those things in any way. I wasn’t independent, I struggled to do anything or go anywhere by myself. I wasn’t hard working, in fact, I had quit my job and wasn’t working at all, and I certainly wasn’t head strong – I honestly had no idea what was going on inside my head. All I knew was that I wasn’t myself. I recognised that, and my boyfriend did as well. I felt like I had no one else around me – and if I didn’t have him, then I didn’t have anyone, especially not myself.
I was difficult to deal with, without a doubt, and I drove him away. When he cheated and the lying began, I knew that I had no one else to blame but myself. I felt as if my anxiety was not only effecting me, but it was effecting him as well. When he told me what had happened, I accepted it which is one of the most difficult things in hindsight because ‘old me’ wouldn’t have even considered that as an option, I would’ve walked away without a second thought. I couldn’t lose him though, I couldn’t deal with being alone, I couldn’t do it all by myself.
Except, I couldn’t accept him cheating either – leaving the house became more difficult so we did fewer things together, and any moment we weren’t side by side, I fought with my own mind over what might be happening. I needed constant reassurance that he was safe and okay and not in trouble, and if I didn’t know, I would get so worked up that I would have a panic attack. I reached a point where I was having at least one panic attack every weekend, working myself up over what may or may not have been happening. My hypothetical worries were ruining me, and I just couldn’t do it.
Our relationship finally came to an end. I couldn’t deal with the anxiety brought on by the relationship any longer, I couldn’t deal with those worries any more, hypothetical or not. I’m proud of myself, looking back, for taking such a huge step but in my mind, I was now alone, by myself. I came home one day from work, a few weeks after we’d broken up, and some builders had been doing some work in my bedroom – they’d obviously had to move stuff around in order to make room to replaster a wall – but that was enough to trigger a panic attack. I think it links back to the whole ‘being out of control’ thing, but I couldn’t deal with the thought of other people touching and moving my stuff around. Having since had to explain it to other people, I feel stupid. Why did such a small trigger have such an effect on me? I’m still not entirely sure, whether it was a build up of too many emotions over time, but that night was one of my worst..
I was sat on the floor in my bathroom, home alone, struggling more than I ever had. I felt like I had no one around me any more, which made the whole situation even worse – I wanted to call someone to calm me down, but I didn’t know who I could speak to that would understand. In my mind, there was no one that would understand. After forty minutes, still on my bathroom floor, I called my ex boyfriend. He pulled over from driving, and talked me round. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t made that call, and even after everything that had happened, I was thankful for him that night..
I stayed home for the next few days, locked myself away from the world. I felt the lowest I had ever felt, hidden away under my duvet. I felt like I had no one, I felt like I was going no where with life, I genuinely didn’t know what I was doing with myself. And that, without a doubt, was the most difficult thought. I had always had a plan, everything in my life had always been planned in fact, and now, I felt like I had no one and I felt like I had nothing.
Thoughts of ending your life are common when you reach a low point in life, but at the time, I didn’t really know how to deal with them well, I just knew I couldn’t deal with them myself. After much debate, entirely with myself, I finally reached out to my doctor – and I’m super glad I did! I’ve spoken about it before, but I was put on tablets for my anxiety, and noticed a difference within a week, as well as tablets to help regulate my sleeping pattern, which were a little less successful. I was later put on anti-depressants, and referred to group therapy for a month’s long course of CBT.
I cannot thank my doctor enough for what she did – we’ve all heard horror stories of doctors not accepting thoughts and feelings around mental health, but my doctor was super understanding and saw me once, if not twice a week, for the weeks following my initial visit. I started group CBT a month or so after my referral. In such a short space of time, I learnt so much and those sessions changed my way of thinking, without a doubt. I realised during these sessions that my initial thoughts and reactions to triggers could so easily be replaced with more positive or neutral thoughts if I recognised when an unnecessary negative thought occurred. An example of this during the time I was going through therapy was a ‘friend’ cancelling plans – my initial thought was that he didn’t want to see me, which is unnecessarily negative, which I replaced with the idea that he actually might just be busy. As a result of replacing that initial thought, instead of getting upset or angry, my behaviours that followed were a lot more calm and neutral.
A month and a half ago now, I finished CBT. I’ve been back at work for roughly the same amount of time, and I’m so much happier in myself. The pressure I had put on myself to save absolutely every penny has gone, I’m making spontaneous plans with friends and not cancelling, and I’m living for myself rather than constantly making everyone around me a priority. I’ve had a few off days, not everything is perfect, and I still have to consciously replace that initial negative thought which I hope I won’t have to do eventually, but I’m so much happier mentally than I have been for a very long time – and I’m committed to remaining this way as well!
Small steps, every day.. ✨