IF I OPEN THE CAR DOOR AND FALL OUT IT WILL ALL BE OVER

We were on the motorway on our way to a holiday with friends. In the back of the car were my two sons. I felt like I had my hand in a plug socket and a powerful electric current was flowing through my body. Nothing would take it away. I was so desperate for it to go, to feel normal, to feel well.

But it wouldn’t go away. It was with me from the moment I woke in the morning to the moment I fell asleep. As soon as I opened my eyes it was there, wave upon wave of anxiety. Even completing the simplest of tasks took a herculean effort. I understood why depression and anxiety drove people to drink or drugs; all I wanted was a momentary escape.

I hadn’t expected to have a relapse. Things were going well, I had felt fine. The antidepressants had worked and I was ready to come off them, or so I thought.

What I didn’t do was speak to my Doctor. I had been on antidepressants for about four months and I thought I was better. Instead of asking for medical advice, I literally stopped taking them.

All was well for a couple of months and then I began to feel a knot in my chest. That knot began to spread, until I felt my chest getting tighter and tighter. It took me a couple of days to realise that the anxiety had returned.

I called the Doctor and got an appointment and a new prescription and started taking the tablets again, but they don’t start working overnight and I was back to square one. Except this time it felt worse, much worse. What if I would never get better? What if I would have mental illness for the rest of my life? What if the tablets didn’t work this time?

I had always wondered what Hell would be like and here I was feeling like I had arrived, with no escape.

And that’s why I nearly opened the car door. It was so tempting to end it all. But of course I knew that I couldn’t do that, to myself, to my family and friends.

In that moment I chose. I chose to have hope, to believe that I could and would get better.

As I write this I want you to believe that too. That you can get better, you can recover from mental illness, that death is not your friend; it is your enemy. You are here to have life, and life in all its fullness. Look around you at the signs of spring. Of the daffodils and crocuses in bud. They are there and I am here to show you that there is hope that you can recover and life can get better. Grasp it with both hands.

 

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The best way to protect your mental health

Wear leopard print stilettos

I have always loved leopard print shoes. In fact I love animal print, but I don’t like it overdone – no mixy-matchy for me. They need to have a bit of a heel, but not too high. You can wear them in any season and they go with almost anything.

By now you might be wondering what have leopard print stilettos got to do with mental health? Well, I have no scientific or empirical data but I can tell you that they have everything to do with it.

You see, I’m wearing my own pair. Something else might do it for you, but for me leopard print stilettos float my boat.

They tell me to be my own person, to wear the shoes I want to wear and not someone else’s. And that’s the point. We all need to wear our own shoes. If you were to put on mine they would probably be uncomfortable, too big or too small, too wide or too narrow. Don’t look at what someone else is wearing. Be you.

For too long I tried to be someone I wasn’t until a time came when I couldn’t do it anymore. It was too much like hard work and I ended up becoming ill. Fortunately that’s not the end of my story and don’t let it be yours.

I went on a journey of self-discovery that involved walking away from a business that I had built up, and counselling and prayer.  What has been so amazing is that I’ve learnt so much along the way and the biggest thing is not to be anyone else but me.

What about you? Are you trying to be like someone else? Stop. Take a minute, a day, a week, a year, and think. Who are you?

There is no better time than now. Take time for yourself and be gentle; who knows you might end up wearing a pair of Louboutins or Dr Martens, whatever.

Why we shouldn’t be ashamed of mental illness.

I’m thankful to Per who talked to me and my husband about the investment in and science behind the medication for depression and anxiety and for Sarah who urged me to see my Doctor. If it wasn’t for their help and others, I wouldn’t have taken any tablets and who knows what could have happened.

I am not ashamed I have taken medication. In fact I’m so thankful for it. For the scientists who have used their very large brains to develop it and for the Doctors who prescribe it. I have been so fortunate to have had very wise and professional Doctors who have been careful about the medication they have given me. I have never felt judged by them or made to feel that it is my fault.

Diabetics take insulin. We take pain killers for headaches and period pain, antibiotics for bacterial infections and night nurse for colds. The tablets I have taken aren’t any different except they have helped my brain to get better.

I am not mad, mental or nuts. I am sane. I was born with a sound mind and I still have it. Yes I have been anxious and sometimes that has been crippling. My mental health has been affected by the stresses and strains of life, of loss and so many other things. Yes I’ve made mistakes and I haven’t always lived in a way that is life giving. But I’ve learnt and am learning how to protect myself from some of the louder, harsher rhythms of life.

Today if you find yourself anxious, fearful and frightened, breathe deeply. See your Doctor, get help and share with others. You are not alone.

There is hope. I am not the same person I was four years ago waiting anxiously outside of my Doctor’s surgery at 6.30am to get an appointment. I am strong, free of anxiety, full of life and thankful for all of the people who have helped me along the way. Have sat with me as I’ve sobbed and sobbed, have prayed for me and with me and listened to me. You know who you are and you are wonderful.

Where you can find help:

Don’t keep quiet and carry on: Kate, William and Harry’s mental health plea
Evening Standard

Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry today united to stop people suffering in silence and urge everyone to talk about their mental health. Read the full story

The Worry Book by Will van der Hart and Rob Waller

The Healing Mission

Mind

Sane