According to MQ, 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness each year.
In 2016 I was one of them. Now, I’ve always been a “worrier” and I’m from a family full of “worriers” but I found myself at an all time low back in October-November 2016. I was moody, tired -no- exhausted and the slightest thing would upset me. I couldn’t enjoy my partner’s pranks and jokes because I was so uptight with planning what to do at work where I was a manager of the fitness and leisure dept.
Every night, I would worry about texts I had sent to friends, I anticipated texts from my team at work, I worried about budgets, revenue and renovation of facilities. I’d check my emails at midnight in case someone had an issue and needed me to tell them to call out a technician. The list went on.
Finally the moment came when I was in bed, the night before my birthday and also the night before I flew with my partner to Rome. In the past I’ve not so much been a nervous flyer, just an excitable flyer but at this time I was feeling awful, to the point where I would have rather stayed home and avoided the trip.
Anyway, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed as you do, where I found a post about a young man who had committed suicide. My first thought was “well, at least he doesn’t have to feel how I feel right now”. This thought worried me. I was in no way suicidal, I love life, in fact that’s one of my issues, I’m terrified of death and losing people/pets. However I envied anybody who wasn’t laying there as I was at that precise moment, churning, heart pounding and palpitating.
I asked myself “What if I haven’t I set my team up well enough to deal with issues while I’m on holiday?”, “What talks and meetings will I have when I get back?”, “do they think I’m working hard enough? Can I do more?” alongside “What if the plane crashes tomorrow?”, “What if something bad happens to us in Rome?”
This was incredibly tiring. I couldn’t do it alone anymore so I finally told my partner. Everything.
- Worries at work,
- The worries of flying,
- Wondering if a train would hit me as I drove over the track because “the barrier might not be working”,
- Avoiding walking on the same side of the road as someone walking towards me in case I had to make eye contact and say hello,
- Playing out scenario after scenario in my head of car crashes while driving, being grabbed when walking alone and my family getting ill or being in trouble.
- I would even drive the long way round to somewhere because the shorter route had a busier road and I’d get flustered holding traffic up-even though I couldn’t physically pull out and knew no one would be bothered.
My partner had no idea, and why would he? I’m bossy, confident, happy, giggly. I teach big groups of classes without batting an eye. I stick up for myself, I confront things and people. All against my urge to avoid EVERYTHING. I would constantly say to myself “for crying out loud Sarah, you’re an adult. Just get on with it” and little did I know I was actually working some of my own cognitive behavioural therapy on myself.
Plan of action
By this point we were in Rome, and I had spilled my guts because he knew I was walking around the beautiful city worrying about work. We both agreed I needed to visit my GP. I really didn’t want to. My GP knows my profession. Knows I exercise people with mental illness. Knows that I myself have referred heart patients to the mental health support we have here locally.
I wondered, would he think I’m weird? Stupid? A hypochondriac? I had to do something though! I wanted to feel like my old self again.
The GP was great, he asked me what I thought would be the best plan of action. We laughed because I said I couldn’t do MORE exercise than I already was so therefore the local support would be best. He said he didn’t want me taking medication as he felt I could tackle this with their approach.
Working on it
The rest is history. I worked with the support service and they diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder (GAD) and gave me a lot of self-help. I found that writing a list of things to worry about “later” the best approach personally. Purely because I make up a lot of hypothetical scenarios on my head that have hundreds of outcomes and answers. So when I feel myself start, I tell myself to write it down and worry about it at my allocated worry time. Normally as I’m in the car when these thoughts pop into my head. When they do, I tell myself to worry when I’ve reached my destination. By then I’ve forgotten all about it.
It’s been amazing how many people I’ve spoken to feel the same as me and how many have got help already but never ever mentioned it. What are we so embarrassed of? I mentioned in an interview with blogger Nicole that I’ve never worried about saying to someone “I think the biggest problem is, to admit you’re anxious, you must show you’re vulnerable which is very difficult for people. It is for me anyway”. Why can’t we talk about mental illness in the same way we do physical illness? I don’t think twice about saying “My knee hurts today” or “I won’t eat that I know it will start off my IBS”. This is what mental illness charity MQ want to conquer.
MQ are an amazing charity that dedicate their time and resources to researching mental health. Their vision is to “create a world where mental illness is understood, effectively treated, and ultimately prevented”
They want to make it a subject people don’t fear discussing. Stop the isolation and the stigma behind mental illness and bring treatment knowledge and speed up to that of physical ailments.
How incredible would that be?
I have always thought that mental illness should be more openly discussed and people shouldn’t be ashamed of it. However, I was in real denial when I was diagnosed myself. I felt like people would think I was being dramatic. I wondered if people would think negatively and question “but why you have nothing to worry about?” because I’m so happy, confident and love life. I definitely don’t want to wear it like a badge of honour. I just want to be able to discuss it openly and honestly without feeling judged.
Have you been affected by mental illness? Is it time you spoke out about it? Please feel free to comment below.