Mental Health, my story so far

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So, to kick start Mental Health Awareness Week I thought I would share with you my own personal mental health journey. I’ve written a lot on this blog about how I live with my mental health, what helps me and some of the not so great times.

If you don’t know me or my blog hello and welcome! I’m Chloe, a 22-year-old blogger, graduate, writer, musician and mental health campaigner. I’ve been living with Depression and Anxiety diagnosed since I was 18 but undiagnosed from around 15 (it took a long time to get a diagnosis).

I’ve had quite a lot of time to think about myself and the fact that I am more than an illness, more than a diagnosis. I struggled throughout my teenage years for a lot of reasons, I was bullied a lot which definitely kick started my illness. I spent a lot of time isolated and desperately unhappy, with no professional help. That was pretty shit. Moving on to college I was slightly better with a new start but still struggling with my mental health, I did have some councilling at the time and sought out my diagnoses, which I got at the age of 18.

Little after that, I went to university after starting my first trial of medication, freaking out and not taking it (not something I’d recommend). I spent my first year pretty sick and being incredibly unhealthy with my mental health, I’d spend days locked in the dark of my room alone, not eating and avoiding people. Towards the end of that year I went back on medication because I was at a really low point, where everyone had noticed.

For my second and third year I was better with the help of my mentor who I had talking therapy with once a week for 3 years. I also started to speak out more about my mental health and working towards educating others, I was also lucky enough to make a speech (watch here) which made my passion even stronger.

I will admit I’ve had a really rough time in the past year since graduating with figuring out who I am, getting used to not having the professional support I had at uni, trying to work on being a graduate and getting used to new doctors (not my fave).

So, that’s a little bit about me. My illness is a part of me, but not all of me. I’m hoping you’re going to enjoy this week. If you have any questions for me drop me a comment below, email me at chloefmetzger@gmail.com, or tweet me @chloemetzger. I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Sunday Seven: Seven Things You Should Know About Depression

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I wanted to write about depression tonight. It’s an illness I’ve had since I was a teenager and it’s definitely misunderstood, especially in young people. So here are seven things I think people should know about depression.

It impacts everyone differently. 

Depression is a very personal illness. For come their depression makes them feel irritable, teary or numb. For others their depression may mean they will work and work to make themselves better. Everyone has different triggers and emotions and everyone has different routes to recovery and feeling better.

It’s exhausting.

Mentally and physically depression saps energy. Whether or not you suffer with insomnia, which I do when I’m incredibly stressed, it can impact the quality of your sleep. So even if you’ve had a perfectly chilled day, you can still find yourself wanting to sleep for hours, or being tired at odd times.

A lot of people have jobs and lives whilst having depression, other people don’t, it’s not a competition. 

There’s a common misconception that people with depression stay in bed and don’t leave the house. Sometimes, that is true, personally I’ve been at the point where I’m so sick I can’t get up or haven’t gotten dressed for days. Some days I have to fight those feelings because I have a job and I know that I need to just look after myself a bit more on days like that. Like I said before the illness impacts everyone differently and it doesn’t mean anyone’s depression is better or worse, it just means that people have different ways of dealing with it.

Medication is a personal choice and not for anyone else to judge.

It works for some and not for others, depression is an illness and some illnesses need medication, I don’t understand why it’s judged so much. Would you judge a person for having an inhaler?

There doesn’t need to be a reason. 

A lot of people think there needs to be an event or trauma for depression to happen, but this isn’t always the case. My depression was started by bullying at school but I was also more prone to it anyway. Life can be going incredibly well and you can still be depressed, it’s just a part of the illness.

There are good days and bad days.  

Some days I will be in a great mood, chatting, laughing and going out with friends. Other days I need to cancel all my plans and have a day to myself because the slightest thing is too much. It’s all about good days and bad days.

I’m still me. 

No matter what a person with depression is still the person you know and love. They may be a little lost for a while or not act like the person you know but try not to treat them differently. There are quite a few people who have deemed me a bitch or not wanting to bother when I’ve had a particularly bad time, not understanding that it’s just a rough patch and I’m still the person I always was, just struggling.

What Dark Clouds Can Do

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If you live in the UK you can’t have failed to notice that our summer time isn’t doing so great at the moment. As I’m writing we’ve endured battering winds and almost constant rain all day, and it doesn’t look like tomorrow is going to be any better. Why am I giving you a weather update? Because for me, and for many others out there the weather can have a huge impact on their mental health. I know that for years now I’ve always found everything a little harder when the weather is bleak and miserable.

My depression is something I’ve lived and worked through since I was in my teens. I’ve written about it a lot and I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to reach out and help others get through the tough times. When I talk about the weather it doesn’t mean that when it’s warm and sunny I don’t get depressed, but there’s the choice to try and take a little walk and go outside, or even just open a window if that’s too much. Also, it’s known that sunshine is incredibly good for people with depression and the chemicals in your brain.

When it’s raining, windy and cold it’s easy to let the darkness overcome you. When you are struggling to get out of bed in the morning, it’s dark and howling a person who isn’t depressed isn’t that keen on getting up, when you have depression it can feel impossible. With the changes in weather it can be exhausting for someone with a mental illness, I know it is for me.

While it doesn’t mean that this weekend I’ll be on a huge low (because they come and go depending on a lot of things) it does mean that if someone you love is a little off or struggling a little more it might not be you, it might be as simple as a change in the weather making things a little more difficult. Having a mental illness isn’t easy, but educating people and having them understand makes it a lot more bearable.

 

Work and Mental Health

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I’ve now been working for a month a month of huge change for me. Now, I have been anxious about leaving university and joining the ‘real world’ for months. Terrified of the impact it would have on my mental health as well as trying to adjust like a ‘normal person’. I’ve been very open and honest about my mental health online, because I want to share my story and to encourage others. In my interviews to work with Exonar I spoke about the blog, the mental health work and campaigning I’ve done because I’m proud of it. I’ve never hidden it but I don’t about it. I also know that my colleagues occasionally read my blog, they’ve told me which was both nerve wracking and exciting. Luckily I work with wonderful and understanding people, they’re read and don’t treat me any different.

Of course, I’ll always be honest, there have been days in the past month where I’ve worried that I was starting to slip. My anxiety has been kicking in again and the depression will grab me some days and make me really struggle, but I’ve been living with those kinds of days since I was 15 years old and I know that most of the time they pass sooner or later. It doesn’t mean that the lows are nicer to deal with or that the anxiety attacks don’t make me feel like I can’t breathe but I’m doing it, I’m dealing with it the best I can. I got to work, I get stuff done and try and concentrate until it passes. I think the hardest thing is when I’m tired, because I know tiredness is one of the things that makes my depression really hard to deal with, but I’m learning, working and trying to find my feet. The tiredness is something we’re all dealing with, it’s more irritating than not that it makes me more irritable and prone to low mood.

All in all, I’m trying. I know that I have to live with this and with the support of Ali, my family and knowing that I have people I can rely on at work fills me with hope. This illness may never go away but like hell am I going to let it control my life.

 

 

Image from Healthyplace.com

 

 

Depression Awareness Week: What You Don’t See

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This week it’s Depression Awareness Week, and of course I’ll take any opportunity I can to get involved and spread more awareness about the mental health condition I’ve been living with for about six years. Of course, for this blog, writing about Mental Health is nothing new, I frequently write about my own experiences, struggles and triumphs so that other people can see that they’re not alone, because that’s what I felt for a really long time.

Every single person reading this blog knows or had known someone with a mental illness, in the UK 1 in 4 people have a diagnosed mental illness, and those are the people willing to talk about it. It can be a really huge and scary thing to think about, let alone talk about. It took me a really long time after my diagnoses at 18 to be able to say the words ‘I have Depression’ out loud. For some reason, somewhere along the line mental illness was percieved as a person being weak, which is definitely not the case.

This year along with #sicknotweak, people have been sharing their stories of what you don’t see. We’re at a point in time where we share our lives online all the time BUT we often forget that these are edited. It’s rare for someone to share a picture of themselves at their lowest points, we create something that people want to look at, and most of the time that isn’t pain or suffering. SO, as a social media addict I thought it would be good to share 10 of my experiences of what isn’t seen when dealing with my illness.

What You Don’t See… is my mind going into overdrive while I’m trying to sleep and I’m tossing and turning.

What You Don’t See… is the days when I can’t get out of bed, because even having a shower is a mammoth task.

What You Don’t See… Tears, all the bloody tears sometimes for no reason, sometimes for a list of reasons.

What You Don’t See… The exhaustion is real, especially in low points.

What You Don’t See… Is the lack of motivation before going to the gym and taking those selfies.

What You Don’t See… My life when I’m physically sick and can’t take my medication for a few days…not pretty.

What You Don’t See… is the struggle to write day to day when my head is buzzing.

What You Don’t See… when I have an anxiety attack about things that I cannot control.

What You Don’t See… is the scenarios that my brain creates to induce me into another panic attack/ anxiety attack, over situations that will probably never happen.

What You Don’t See… what I don’t want you to see.

Talking about Depression ‘The Other Side of the Coin’ event and our first flat viewing

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A copy of Lizzie’s tweet, this made me very proud of myself! 

 

After last nights attempt at a video to try and get used to talking to people about depression in a more formal and informative way you’d think I would have been a little less nervous about today. I was, very slightly but that didn’t stop the nerves creeping in after a lack of sleep again. What do I wear? How did I manage to get toothpaste on my top? What did I want to say again? URgh, Urgh, Urgh! 

I managed to make it to the lecture room early, much before everyone else and I was calm at this point. I knew I was here on time, Lizzie from the Students Union would be there soon, along with the other speakers whom I had never met before. I soon started chatting to Gabby, a masters student who was going to be part of a small group talking about Bipolar. It was nice to talk to someone else about mental illness before speaking, it put me in the right frame of mind and made me feel safe. There were also two other speakers talking about sight and post traumatic stress disorder. Although I was anxious  I really wanted some of my faculty to walk in and support me. A lot of my friends couldn’t make it for various reasons so I was hoping someone I recognised would. I nthe end it was the KUTalent team who eased my nerves (who I have to say took a lot of notes in the lecture. 

Before long, despite a smaller turn out than I had thought, we set up the camera and began the lecture/presentation. I was first before running off to a flat viewing. I’ll admit I did feel nervous, would I make an impact? How do I want to come across? Will the videos I watched of others giving speeches have any impact? I hadn’t written anything down but I was hoping I would need to. I started off with the video ‘I have a black dog, his name is depression’ to give people a sense of understanding and hopefully empathy. The talk went well, I focused on my strengths not my weaknesses and incorporated them into what I was trying to say. I put empasis on three things that people with Anxiety and Depression need, time, patience and understanding because these all relate to the idea of ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’, something I wanted to stress and use myself as an example for. 

I feel like the tlk went well and was a good opener, from what I could see I got a good response. I also learnt a lot today about others, their determination, their motivation and how they learn. Unfortunately I had to leave before my friends part, I’m sure she was brilliant and after speaking to her after she seemed happy. Although I’m disappointed that more people didn’t come I know they’ll see it. We’ll be using the talk in their training now and I’m hopefully going to work towards raising awareness and being a part of the student support group. 

As I mentioned I had to go to mine and Ali’s first flat viewing and it was eventful…in true fashion I ended up hitting a low at the end. Brilliant. As with everyone else the process of flat hunting is stressful, for us it’s a whole different kind of stressful. I’ve never done this before and it’s showing Ali and I parts of our relationship we haven’t had a go at yet. We have argued about flats and where to live and all the rest of it and our first viewing really made me nervous. I’d been to a flat viewing before and the lady was lovely. The flat was spacious but there was something that didn’t feel right. After seeing the bathroom and bedroom I just had a gut instinct of no. By the time we got back to the flat I was in a full scale panic. Had we looked at this, at that? What if we couldn’t live near Kingston Hill, What f they were all the same price, How would we afford things. The list went on and so I sat and cried and lashed out and this is the reality of what  I had been talking about. The smallest panic and I can completely lose myself. 

Eventually I calmed down, exhausted and we started talking before I got a call from the university. We were being offered the opportunity to view another flat! As if all my prayers had been answered we both called our Mums, we’d look at the flat tomorrow but hopefully this one was it. We decided that we both had to feel comfortable and both Mums gave us some vital advice; don’t rush into things and don’t panic. 

With this in mind I think it’ll be easier to sleep tonight. Since Jens left it’s harder to be back at Seething Wells but I’m ok, I think. Just lonely. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some good news, this flat stuff is doing my head in!