Did you know that ‘anxiety’ just means worrying?
Did you know that you don’t need to score very highly on the PHQ (patient health questionnaire that all therapists will assess your mental health on) to be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Did you know that a slight imbalance in your mental health is totally normal?
So these 3 questions are what I learnt in early 2017 about mental health and I feel like we all need a little reminder of these facts.
Before I explain my story, let me hit you with some truths:
- Anxiety and Depression is the most common mental disorder in both the U.K and USA.
- 4-10% of Britons will experience depression in their life-time.
- Although this is not as relevant, 80% of new mums experience ‘baby blues’ which is linked to Postpartum Depression.
- 1 in 6 adults have a common mental disorder (note the focus on common).
Unless you are a very lucky soul, you will experience some issues with your mental health. Does this mean that you are crazy, weak or different? NO. This is totally normal, you are not expected as a human being to be perfect! I would be genuinely terrified if you had a smile plastered all over your face 24/7!
The reason I am writing this post is because I am such a believer in prioritising mental health. I think it is THE most important thing in your life, it binds together every factor of existence and can make or break you. Additionally, when I was at my worse, I didn’t seem to find reassurance. THIS IS YOUR REASSURANCE! I can promise you with my whole heart that it is completely normal to feel like you are not worth this life, you can’t get out of bed and struggle to see a life without these demons. It isn’t you simply over exaggerating or being silly, it is your HUMAN FEELINGS.
So here goes:
After my break up (see advice to dumpees for more goss about it), my mental health dipped. I am naturally a worrier, I seek ALOT of comfort from my worries and often spend hours worrying about things like ‘is the front door closed?’ or ‘will strangers stab me in my sleep if I sleep with my bedroom light on?’.
Throughout the weeks post breakup, I became increasingly more anxious. I was beginning to find everyday life very difficult. I would often go to bed at 9pm, get over 12 hours of sleep and still not want to leave my bed. I was very irritable, wouldn’t socialise much and took no pride in myself. I became very ill with constant sore throats, intense stomache aches and sore legs from the constant ‘on edge’ tension I felt.
My tipping point was when I stopped going to uni for a while and had a job interview for my dream school. Naturally, because I was so anxious I really struggled to be on top-form during the interview. The head teacher commented on my trial lesson as ‘one of the worst lessons I have ever seen’. Despite getting the job, this really knocked my confidence. I felt like I couldn’t celebrate anything and I was completely worthless.
I only went to the doctors to ask for anti-depressants to help me get through the last couple of months of university. When I explained how I was feeling, he immediately dismissed my request and referred me to CBT.
CBT is a short for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is a type of therapy which is very common. It focuses on creating routines/behaviours which help deal with depression and anxiety. The aim was to cope with the problem rather than ‘cure’ the problem.
I saw the amazing Amy The Therapist for 12 weeks. For the first 4 hours of therapy I spent the time crying, asking her if i was crazy and telling her my life story. I am a massive learner, and I really wanted to understand my mental state. CBT did this. Amy The Therapist explained that I was just experiencing a moment of high anxiety and this was because my body was in over-drive.
One of the key issues for me was intrusive thoughts; these are thoughts that get start as a ‘worry’ and then spiral completely out of control. Commonly experienced by OCD, these thoughts can be about a range of different things. They are fuelled by the urge to ignore their existence. They often need to be addressed and broken down but often people are too afraid to admit them. For example, a lot of teachers and first time mothers have the common thought ‘what if i am a paedophile?’. Doctors often imagine people naked thinking ‘I cannot imagine these people with clothes on’ and nurses often have images of killing their patients. Amy The Therapist explained to me that a thought is a thought and anxiety feeds on them. She also explained that you can train your brain very easily not to have these thoughts.
I learnt so much about myself in those 12 weeks and I carry all my taught CBT strategies through to everyday life. For example, I write down all my worries in a worry book, I practise breathing techniques and I factor in time for quiet/leisure so I am not over-worked. After my therapy, Amy The Therapist showed me my PHQ scores. I came in to that office with Severe Anxiety Disorder, Moderate Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was in complete shock! I didn’t even know how bad my mental health had got because I refused to accept the problem. My PHQ scores improved considerably to the point where my depression was overcome and my OCD had calmed significantly. My scores go to show that we all can potentially have dips in our mental health, but they CAN BE OVERCOME.
If you can relate to this post in any way, PLEASE try CBT, it is life-changing! I wish it was more common to everyday life but due to the country’s mental health stigma, it is often overlooked and people head straight for anti-depressants.
I think, where I am going with this is that:
- Anxiety is normal, Depression is normal, OCD is normal, MENTAL HEALTH IS NORMAL.
- There is always ways to overcome and manage your mental health.
So THIS is your reassurance.