On October 10, World Mental Health Day is recognised across the globe.
It is a chance to speak candidly about mental health problems - and a day to become part of the wider conversation about mental health.
Today, Sunderland University student and aspiring journalist Sophie Dishman shared her own personal journey with us.
This is her story, taken from her blog The Musings of a Journalism Student.
This post is the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write. I’ve wrote many personal blog posts in the few years that I’ve been blogging, but this post needs to come out now. It’s been over two years since I hit crisis point.
It all started in November 2013, as far as I can remember, and it spiralled out of control in a few weeks, leading me to crisis point.
Now I’m going to tell you how it all started.
*Breathe – let’s do this.*
It all started back when I was studying at college. I was studying health and social care; a subject I enjoyed immensely and a career I could see myself in.
In one lesson, which was all about research, we were asked to research a topic.
The lecturer assigned me and my table with HIV. We had to search for specific things such as how it was transmitted. I didn’t mind looking at first, but then it got into signs and symptoms.
And that was it. The panic started. What if? Have I? I started to feel faint. It was my body’s reaction to hearing it said and reading about it. I couldn’t help it and I didn’t know why I was feeling this way.
You may be thinking, how is that hard to write? Well it’s the thing that caused me to go into crisis. It changed me. It gave me the label of having mental health problems. It’s not an easy thing to accept.
Going back to the story… I went to get tested and I broke down in the clinic. I remember the nurse having to speak to the consultant and then deciding I could get a fast response test and then an actual test done to put my mind at ease. I told her that I wasn’t eating or sleeping well over the worrying – I wasn’t.
She told me I had anxiety, but it went to the back of my mind as everything was okay.
But the worry didn’t go away and soon I was scared of going outside for fear of contamination. Public transport became a nightmare so my college attendance dropped. I wasn’t feeling well physically or mentally. Coming into contact with people and their bodily fluids frightened me. I couldn’t bare it.
Things eased over Christmas as my mind was focused on spending time with my family.
But the new year (2014) came with a shock and I was triggered again.
Firstly, in January of 2014, I remember having to go to a university in Yorkshire for my social work interview. I wasn’t bothered much until I was introduced to my interviewers. I didn’t take my coat or my gloves off for the whole interview and sat huddled in the chair, nervously answering the questions. One of the people interviewing me worked with people with HIV. Again, I want to point out, I wasn’t judging the interviewer or the people she worked with. It was the word that I was judging. There was also mention of drugs and alcohol and blood. I couldn’t handle it but I got offered a place.
When I got out of the interview I was straight on the phone to helplines and that’s where the calling started.
I also started placement at a local organisation and I feel that it made me feel worse.
I finished placement a few weeks afterwards and it was difficult. I didn’t fail, but there were significant weaknesses that didn’t sound like me at all.
Over the next few weeks, I gradually became scared of leaving my room. That’s how bad it got.
I would spend days in my room frightened of the place I’d grown up in for nearly 20 years.
I felt like I would be contaminated by the people I loved – and that was hard to take too. I had no reason to be scared though, but my mind said otherwise. It was the same with my partner. It was all a blur and still is because it wasn’t like me at all.
I became a recluse and found it impossible to leave my loft. I remember crying having to go down my loft ladders to tend to my personal care – that’s when I could muster the courage to. I found it hard to eat and drink and sleep. It was a nightmare. I rang helplines several times a day out of worry. It’s not a nice image for me to remember.
Things started to get a little better when my dad and sister started to worry. They’d coax me downstairs but I’d ask them to open the door for me. I’d watch my every move meticulously using hand sanitiser. I’d go through a bottle or so every few days. My family didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t even stroke my dog, it was heart-breaking. I was paralysed with fear.
A few weeks passed like this and then I couldn’t take it anymore. I rang a helpline and said I needed help. The woman on the end of the phone said it would be best if I self-referred myself to my GP. It was a big step, but my rational mind told me I needed to take it. So I did.
That’s what started my journey onto my recovery and my informal diagnosis and eventually my formal diagnosis that I received last year.
I’ve come far from those few weeks of crisis. I can now say the word out loud when I don’t think about it. I can also write it too evidently. There are other things that trigger me off now – that make my heart jump and race, but I’m breaking through them.
It has taken some guts to press the publish button as this post will have to remain on my blog. But I’ve done it.
I’m in recovery now though and that’s the most important thing. I still have some of my original symptoms, some have gone and new ones have sprung up. There are bends in the road. It happens.
That’s it. A lesson in which I had to research HIV started my mental health problems.
I’m not blaming anyone, it’s my fault – it’s my brain’s fault for being affected by it.
This is my mental health story and I’m not ashamed anymore.
*And exhale. You’ve done it. The story is out. Now people know.*