I thought 10 October was the perfect day to launch a blog on holistic health. WHO recognises this day each year as World Mental Health Day, with the objective of raising awareness and support for those living with mental health issues.
While the pandemic has had an impact on everyone, and many people are more aware of mental health than before, there is still a huge stigma attached to diagnoses. Today, I want to share my own experience, in the hope that it has the potential to help somebody else out there, and to help me on my continuous self healing journey.
I’ve been afflicted with mental health issues for as long as I can remember, but it’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to put a name to them; general anxiety, social anxiety, imposter syndrome, body dysmorphia, depression, seasonal affective disorder. But I’ve been acutely aware for some time that these are all just symptoms of something bigger.
My sister calls them peaks and troughs. When I am peaking, I am super social, highly productive and feel I can achieve anything. My brain overflows with ideas and I take on too many projects. This cycle usually lasts 2-6 weeks before the black dog comes skulking in. When a low hits, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t plan or cook a meal or even make myself go for a walk. Every time I am down I consider ending everything because it seems like an easier option than just existing. I can’t usually remember everything I’ve done or said when I’m in a different state of mind. It’s been going on so long and I’ve tried everything naturally to self manage this, but despite all the vitamins and exercise, it’s a perpetual cycle, so I’ve become accustomed to trying to get so much done when I’m up, before the inevitable low rolls back around.
I do have in-between times where I am relatively level, or I’m coming off an up or down, which can mean I’m just about able to put on that front and go through the motions. Much like Joker says ‘the worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave like you don’t’, so you swallow the prescription pills and believe that this is just how life is. Slip on the mask and become bleaker inside with every passing day.
The most recent low has been so bad, I have reached out for professional help, and my GP referred me for a mental health assessment. (I should mention that this is a new GP and not the one that has just chucked me anti-depressants for the past few years every time I try to talk about my mental health). I am now working with a psychiatrist and my GP for treatment of bipolar disorder.
After suspecting this would be my diagnosis for around the past 6 years, the fact that a mental health professional has concurred has actually made me feel some freedom. There is a reason this continuous cycle occurs; I’m not a bad person, I have a chemical imbalance. I have unresolved trauma and it does not make me weak to need help to work through this. My treatment plan will involve both medication (which I hope will be short term) and talking therapies (definitely long term), and I will also look to incorporate somatic trauma healing (a body-centred approach). There’s no quick fix; this will be a life-long journey.
I’ve been too ashamed of having an official diagnosis because of the stigma still attached. Recently someone suggested I keep this to myself because ‘your clients won’t want a massage from a mental person’. Growing up I’ve been told I’m too dramatic, too sensitive, and I thrive on stress. Just eat healthy, exercise and smile every day. I wish it was that simple.
My mistake was trying for so long to explain my symptoms to people who never understood, never knew where to signpost me for help, who just tried their best to encourage me with the old keep calm and carry on adage. I feel I have been screaming for help for so long, yet everyone has just generally accepted this is who I am. That’s just Kat, she’s great fun when she’s around but she does just disappear for a while. I told people close to me that I was having suicidal thoughts and was met with, essentially, that’s just life *shrug*, get help if you need it. If you’ve ever been unfortunate to suffer or know someone suffer with depression, you’ll know the last thing you feel capable of doing is asking for help, especially if you don’t even know where to turn for it. Particularly, if, like me, you’re someone who believes themselves to be strong, capable and in control.
The purpose of this isn’t to seek attention or pity, it’s to raise awareness. If you or someone you know is exhibiting or expressing any symptoms of mental health issues, please don’t ignore or dismiss them. Encourage them to talk. Sometimes they just need you to actually listen and not offer what you think is good advice, because it might not be the advice they need. Familiarise yourself with the services available and seek professional help. If you can’t afford private, insist upon a GP referral and don’t let things spiral because, believe me, they will get worse without intervention. I have clarity on the root causes of my trauma and thought that I could self manage them; I believed I was doing so well, but you never know when something will trigger and you could slide right back down that slippery slope.
If you are a client or friend reading this, I sincerely hope that this doesn’t discourage you from continuing to know me. It’s not contagious, I’m still me; I’m still kind and empathetic and caring and giving, I’m still anxious and worried, I’m still creative and determined, I’m still full of love and want to be loved in return. Receiving this diagnosis just hopefully means I have a chance to function on more of a balanced level, be able to get out of bed every day, to work, socialise and enjoy life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope that my story can help. Please feel free to ask me anything if you want to understand more.
Types of mental health problems – make yourself aware of the symptoms
Bipolar UK mood diary – it can be useful to journal & document triggers (not just for bipolar disorders)
Modern Love, Take Me As I Am – for me, this perfectly depicts my own struggles
The Holistic Psychologist – join the self healers community, or just follow on FB/IG