Just as a bit of background I thought I’d write this for you and allow myself a pity party and some reflection.
A common question or opening gambit from mental health professionals is “so tell me a bit about yourself.” This often leaves me in a blind panic or upset as how do I summarise the last 20 years into a minute or so.
I usually start with the basics: I have anxiety and depression diagnosed in 2012. Fairly standard but there’s a huge amount of emotion and related issues tied up in those 2 words and how much do you reveal to a stranger? On one hand they are a stranger so just say the bare bones and/or medical history side. Stay factual and scientific about it. Be safe.
I’ve learnt it’s very easy to play people and be selective in what you tell them as you conceal everything in an effort to save yourself the painful process of baring your soul to a stranger. You can force eye contact with them, radiantly smile and make up something about how about how sometimes you feel a bit nervous or down but you don’t really know why you have been referred here as you’re ok and it’s human nature to feel a bit down on edge occasionally. I’ve been under the care of CAHMS, AMHT and CMHTs as well as a multitude of school and uni mentors and counsellors but none of them have really helped as I haven’t taken advantage of their skills & expertise as I’ve always thought I could do better on my own and at the end of the day it was just about getting on with it alongside some pharmacological intervention from a doctor.
Unfortunately it’s a strategy I have applied for far too long and where has it got me? Here’s where: multiple suicide attempts, 5 years of self harm, an overdose induced psychotic episode, the pain of dealing with an eating disorder on my own, an inability to form relationships or to trust anyone, missed school and university as well as dropping out and the inability to hold onto a job in those periods.
I guess probably from looking at me as a child you could’ve maybe earmarked me as one for mental illness. The signs were all there shy, low self esteem, reluctant to join in social or group activities, strong family history of mental illness, first diet at 9 despite a low BMI. etc. I’m not saying there is anyway too spot a child headed for mental illness as then we could pick such individuals out and cure them before they were ever subjected to such a cruel fate. Unfortunately we cannot though and that is the nature of the beast so to speak as there are multiple biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental illness.
It is just with hindsight I can look back and see how it wasn’t normal for a 9 year old child to think she was fat, to cry on her windowsill alone at night feeling empty. However I’ve always had friends, got a string of A*s in school and outwardly appeared confident and independent so I guess it would’ve ben hard for those around me to spot I was struggling until it all became too much. Despite the struggles though I’ve still managed to succeed in life as we (mankind) seem to have a remarkable capacity to carry on despite distress and so I am now in most senses a fully functioning member of society who is at a good uni, who passes exams, volunteers, has friends, holds down a job and whatever else contributes to ‘normal!’
Anyway that’s enough of me and my rambling! I would love to hear any thoughts/comments or personal stories you might have.