My mental health in a nutshell.
So, my mental health has played a big part in how my life has panned out over the past few years, so I’m going to give you a bit of a brief history, because I think it is important to know not only why it happened, but how I managed to get through it and some tips that I can give to try and manage any mental health problems you might face.
So, I’ve had problems with my mental health since my teens due to my family situation at home. My stepdad was a big drinker and things were difficult at home, to the point that I decided at the age of 17, to leave home, move country and moved in with my friend, Emma in Leicester. It was a big decision to make to move, not just home, but country.
That was when I started having symptoms of PTSD. Luckily it was managed reasonably well, and I managed to sort of hold it all together until I left Emma’s late in 2009. I was diagnosed with depression not long after that, and luckily until about 2015(ish), I held things together well. In 2015, things took quite a drastic turn. I was in my first year of university studying Biomedical Science. I absolutely loved the course. I enjoyed the content, the labs, just everything about it. The uni I was studying with were fantastic at helping me manage my physical and mental health, but I was putting myself under an unhealthy amount of pressure. I was spending every waking moment either in lectures or labs or sitting at my desk working or in the library. It was around January of 2016 that things started to go downhill for me. I was hearing voices shouting at me to work harder and my depression and PTSD just totally crashed. I ended up having to drop out of uni for that year, and I started again in 2nd year. Unfortunately, I found it too much to deal with and due to physical health problems, I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with Biomedical Science. I’m going back to university in September (all being well) to study psychology and counselling. It’s much more lecture and self-learning than Biomed, which means if I miss a lecture, it’s not going to take me weeks to catch up. I don’t have the pressure of trying to get to a lab when I just wasn’t well enough. But hopefully, come Sept 2020, I will be full time student again.
My friends saw it before I did and luckily were able to get me to go to my GP and let him know what was going on. From between Jan and May of that year, I don’t remember very much. I think it’s my brains way of protecting me from reliving it all and distressing me. But there was a mixture of nightmares, flashbacks, extremely low mood and suicidal thoughts, and from what my friends have told me, it was a pretty awful time. But thankfully after a lot of medication changes and input from my GP, 6 months under the crisis team due to lack of tertiary care available to me and the support of my friends, I can say that as of 2020, I’m doing pretty well.
Like I said though, my friends got me through it, but there are things that you can do to help your mental health if you feel things are starting to slide. So, I’ll give a list of things that are signs that things are getting a bit much and some tips that I use to try and keep myself going.
Signs things are slipping
- My sleep pattern goes to pot – One of the main things for me is that I don’t sleep right. I either oversleep or under sleep. If I am sleeping too much it’s because I genuinely don’t feel like there’s any reason for me to actually be awake. If I’m asleep it’s because I don’t have to be dealing with what’s going on in my head. If I’m under sleeping it’s because my head is too full of everything that is causing me problems going round and round in circles. If I don’t sleep enough then I find my psychosis gets worse, so I aim to try and get about 8 hours of sleep a night.
- I have problems concentrating – When I’m really struggling, one of the things I find is a sign of things slipping is I have no concentration span. I’ll go from colouring books, to puzzle books, to playing my PlayStation and then probably back to colouring again, probably all in the matter of an hour or two.
- My anxiety gets out of control. I struggle to leave the house and find even basic tasks overwhelming. One of the prime reasons I dropped out of university was I couldn’t handle leaving the house and dealing with a lecture hall full of 140 students. The idea was terrifying, and I still struggle with my anxiety, often a lot more than my depression.
- My mood is awful – I suppose that one of the trademark symptoms of depression is the low mood, and it’s obvious when my mood is slipping. I don’t define my depression crashing as having a bad day though, things slipping for me are a combination of things over a longer period. My mood becomes very low and I become very suicidal and I struggle to see any positive sides to life at the time. I get very quiet when my mood is low, and that’s how people tend to be able to tell.
- A combination of these things – So like I said, for me anyway, it’s not just one factor that makes my definition of “depressed”. It’s about looking after yourself and noticing differences in your own mood, activities and overall wellbeing. Everyone is different and it’s important to remember that.
Things to help
- Talk to people. One of the most important things is to tell someone you’re struggling. It’s probably the hardest thing to do because nobody wants to burden their friends when they think there’s already a lot going on in their lives, but it imperative you talk to someone. Even if it’s not someone in your close family, getting it off your chest will make you feel tonnes better.
- Set a daily routine and try and stick to it. Get up and have some breakfast if you can manage it. Set yourself small, simple tasks that are achievable. If having a shower is too much, try having a baby wipe bath and use dry shampoo. Getting out of pyjamas and getting dressed helps you feel like you’ve achieved something.
- Try and have some good sleep hygiene. Going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up at a reasonable time. I know it’s not always possible to spend all day in your bedroom, but if you can try and make your bedroom for sleep only, it will help you get to sleep quicker.
- Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Make yourself a “happy box”. Put good memories in that box and when things get rough, you know you have something that might help make you feel better. I’ve got some sensory things like something that smells nice, something that tastes nice (I’ve got a Vimto rip roll in mine), and a tangle that I can fidget with. There are also a few pictures that make me smile. It’s different for everyone, but it doesn’t matter what’s in it, it’s personal to you.
- Take all your prescribed medication as you need to take it. Be it medication for a physical problem or for your mental health, you NEED to give your body the best chance to be able to deal with whatever is going on in your life. There are some apps you can download for your phone that help you keep track of when you need to take medication and what medication you’re on. I use an app called Medisafe, and it’s the best one I’ve found after 10 years of looking!
So, that’s my first post, I hope people find it interesting and useful, and you’ll hopefully read more from me soon!