1 in 4 people in the U.K. currently are battling with their mental health, that means ¼ of the population. I myself have battled with my mental health over the last 5 years- Depression, Anxiety, OCD and PTSD. When I feel like my depression is rearing it’s ugly head, it feels worse than any other physical pain I’ve ever had. The black fog engulfs me, when I’m here I don’t feel like anyone can reach me or even hear me. I feel so isolated and alone, even though I’m sleeping up close to my partner. I feel like I have no place in society, I don’t have a group of friends, work colleagues or even people that I pass every day on my commute that know I exist or would miss me. I don’t have a profession anymore or a passion that links me to anyone out side my 4 walls. Who am I now? Who is this woman I get the reflection of in the mirror? How did I become this shell of myself? I feel nameless, empty and confused. Who’d wish this poor health on me? If there is a God how did he allow this to happen, what did I ever do to deserve this? Why’ve I been chosen for this? I constantly get told that ‘Gods given you this pain as he knows your strong enough to over come it’ What if I don’t want this pain?
My identity is changing and my life revolves around pain and it’s effects. I start to believe that I’m a burden and suck life out of those I love. When I start to think like this I know I’m in a low place. My self esteem and self worth is at an all time low and I’m my own worse enemy. I look at myself and think ‘who’d love me; lumps, bumps and a exhausted body’ I know who loves me, the man who worships the ground I stand on, the man who adores me regardless of the ugly nature of my ill health and the man who devotes his life to ensure I’m loved, well cared for and makes my life worth living- the reason I wake up to fight each day and the reason I’ll keep on fighting. Deep down in my thoughts, my black fog tells me that he’ll be better off without me and with someone else he can have a better fulfilled life. I feel guilty for not giving him the life I believe he deserves.
My black fog makes me feel like I’m toxic, like I poison all those I love, gradually drawing out every bit of life out of them. I’m scared to form new relationships just in case I poison them too. There gets a point where I think who’d want to be my friend? Who’d want to choose to spend time with me and can they cope with fact I’ll never truly get better. I feel that my black fog keeps me locked away sometimes; I’m not up to date with the latest fashion or trend and to be honest I don’t have the motivation to care. When my fog is at it’s worse I don’t look after myself very well. I’m cruel to my self, I rip myself to shreds and wear myself down to the bone. I don’t bath often, don’t brush my hair, don’t do my make up, don’t sleep, don’t eat and I disconnect myself from everyone. At my lowest, I get paranoid and I’m petrified. Petrified of who I really am, am I still the same Robyn from 5 years ago or has my physical pain and trauma moulded me in to someone else. I’m petrified of what’s yet to come with my health, will I make it to age 30 or 40?Will I get to be an old lady and have children? If my body continues to fail what happens next and that thought alone paralyses me with fear!
Running alongside my depression is it’s ugly aunt -anxiety. I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember but since nearly loosing my life 3 times, 5 years ago, I’ve battled extensively with PTSD and OCD. During my 3 month stint in the ICU and the following 6 months on a specialist ward. I had no control over my own life, due to how critically Ill I was I wasn’t included in any plans or treatment relating to my health. One night on the ICU, I over heard the doctors explaining to my parents to prepare for the worse, I was extremely agitated due to sepsis infecting and failing all my organs. In my delirious state, I ripped all my lines out, inconsolable about the fear of dying. Screaming that I just wasn’t ready to die yet, begging and praying. As I was being sedated I asked the doctor if I was going to die, he couldn’t give me an answer, each time the sedative wore off I’d ask again and the nurses would say ‘not on my shift’ this did nothing but instil fear. So as you can imagine going through what I did, has mentally scared me for life. I flatlined 3 times and was resuscitated each time. The feeling of you passing away is peaceful but each time I knew I wasn’t ready, as everything zoned out I could still hear the panic in the doctors voices and the nurses stroking my brow and holding my hand begging for the defib and the drugs to work. The third time, I remember the nurse bursting in to tears of joy when she knew it’d been successful.
Being powerless and having to put trust in the system that failed me, was the toughest obstacle. That’s why now I battle with my PTSD and OCD every day because during my ordeal I was never in control of my own life or even involved. My OCD can be so severe that I can have a panic attack over leaving a plug switch on, even though nothings plugged in. In that moment, I feel if there was to be a fire it’d be my fault and I’d done it to cause harm. Before leaving the house, I have to turn EVERY switch off and take a photo for my memory as when I’m so anxious my brain will blank out the memory of flicking the switches off. I have rituals that I do every day, if I don’t do them I believe as a result someone I know will get hurt very badly because of me, so I have to do them to keep them safe. As I know how unpredictable life can be, I get very anxious when left alone, I believe that if I’m not with Greg that I can’t protect him from the unknown. Sounds silly I know but it’s something that terrifies me.
My PTSD is scary, anything from my day can trigger an episode, anything from medical jargon to the weather. My brain locked all the nasty memories from when I was deathly ill and was resuscitated. When I started having therapy things became unlocked and I began to relieve them when I was awake and during my sleep. During the night during an episode, my brain will relive a memory, one I’ve never even consciously experienced. I’ll begin sweating,shouting ,screaming, crying in my sleep. No one can wake me up from it, I then start grabbing the bedsheets and fight back. Sometimes I’ll appear like I’m awake but I’m frantic and beg for help and reassurance. Other times, when I’m awake and my PTSD is triggered, I get locked in to my own thoughts. My heart rate begins to double, I struggle to catch my breath and the memories play on a loop in my head. I can’t escape from them, the terror paralyses me. I’m reliving it- I can feel the physical pain, the nausea, the fear and I can hear everything being said. I can feel all the sensations that my mind had previously blocked out. Luckily I haven’t had an episode for sometime but I do experience hyper arousal every day, I feel on edge and constantly aware of any triggers. Over the years, I’ve learnt my triggers but this means I’ve had to distance my self from loved ones and places I love so I don’t encounter an episode.
I do think poor physical health has been my catalyst for my fragile mental health. Going through massive trauma and living with an illness that’s not even understood by the medical profession can change the way we view ourself and how we identify. I know I’m not the same girl from 2013, in some ways I still grieve for that girl but in others I’m thankful for how I’ve been changed for the better and I’m hoping by sharing my story I can challenge the stigma around both physical and mental health.
If you’ve been affected by anything I’ve spoken about in this article please don’t feel alone, you can always contact me at Robynadlard.email@example.com or please contact Samaritans at: 116 123.