Products of Our Environment

So as the title states – I’m gonna be sharing my own story about my younger life and growing up with a history of mental illness in my family.

Now, I’m not sure whether it’s purely coincidental, whether it’s hereditary or whether being in an environment where mental illness was prevalent was a norm for me as a child and perhaps made me more susceptible to becoming mentally unwell.

Does mental illness flow through my veins, beat in my heart and thrive off my healthy mind?

A woman very dear to me has struggled with inner demons for as long as I can remember. I was about 9 when I first began to notice that something wasn’t quite right. She’d spend days in bed, she wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t even wash. With hind sight and personal experience I can now see that she was in an incredibly deep rooted depression.

It didn’t last days, or weeks… it lasted years.

I began to notice these traits in myself a number of years ago which was a very scary thing for me. I didn’t want to have a halted life because my mind would throw a fit every once in a while.

I decided to push on through, to finish studying Forensic Science, to get an unconditional offer at the university I wanted to study at – although I dropped out! I’ve worked in the Mental Health field and am now heading into working for the Ministry of Justice.

It’s ok to be abnormal, I wouldn’t have thrived as much if I was never unwell or had never battled with addiction.

If I could meet my 9 year old self, I would tell her that she would be okay. That her mum would win the uphill struggle. I’m now 21 and have almost set myself up for life.

This is the year everything changes!

If Kiwi can cope, so can you!

🙂

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The Warning Signs

On my Doctor’s records, I’ve been labelled with a whole list of jargon: depression, anxiety, PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder and emotional dysregulation. To be quite frank, even I don’t understand half of the stuff!

I have been able to understand the side effects of each diagnosis though, the possible signs to look out for.

Bare in mind though, every human is very different to the next. Meaning their symptoms, behaviours and reactions can be broad.

Feeling sad and hopeless

The obvious one, feeling sad and/or hopeless. Now we’re not talking about crying at a sad movie or you having an argument with a friend. I’m talking about the heavy weight that’s constantly on your shoulders. The daily routine of waking up wishing you hadn’t, the gruelling thought of having to physically sit up in bed. 

You become a big blob of squishy stuff that makes you think that every breath you take makes you more vulnerable.

On the better days when you don’t feel so bad, you’re fixated on the thought of the black dog dragging you to the floor that they turn into bad days again.

Lacking in self hygiene 

Now I hate to admit this, but it’s the reality of depression. 

When I got really bad, I couldn’t pull myself out of bed. I was sleeping approximately 18 hours a day, every day of the week. 

The last thing on my mind was to brush my teeth, wash my hair, or even bath. I became a prisoner in my own head.

I’d panic if I left my bedroom, I wouldn’t eat for days and ended up losing about a stone and a half in the space of 3 weeks.

Lack of interest in activities

I stopped doing the things I loved; going to see my friends, heading to the gym and even speaking to my family.

I just wanted to be able to wallow in self pity.

The thought of doing things made me cry, I would emotionally blackmail people into not coming to see me and I started to lose my closest friends.

Lack of libido

This has had a massive impact on my life, I’ve never been able to properly have sex up until the last 10 months. 

I would become closed off and would hysterically cry for hours on end.

I would be physically sick every now and then after being intimate with someone.

I would feel vulnerable even in the presence of my ex.

Excessive sleeping 

The excessive sleeping is still something I struggle with even now that my depression is finally under control.

I’m constantly worn out even if I’ve done nothing but sit on the sofa all day.

I get tired walking up the stairs, I get tired standing up… I am always sooo bloody tired!

The need to be in control

I’ve found that I need to be in control of every single situation and if I’m not I get sent into a spiralled frenzy of depression.

I feel threatened if I’m not the one holding onto the reigns.

The most difficult thing is understanding that I won’t always be in control of every situation and that scares me

The future seems bleak

I never thought that I’d ever feel better, nor did I think I’d see the day that I’d be finally writing all of this down for everyone to see.

Depression makes you feel lonely and isolated, like you’re a freak and that you never deserve happiness. 

It makes you feel small.

Recurring nightmares

My PTSD brings on some of the most horrendous nightmares possible.

To make matters worse, a side affect of my anti-depressants is vivid dreaming so the nightmares feel real.

I’ve woken up in tears, with clumps of my hair all over my pillows and in my hands. I’ve even accidentally hit people in my sleep before due to believing they were the ones doing me harm.

Flashbacks

The flashbacks are the hardest things that I still struggle with now.

They’re impossible to avoid and happen on a daily basis if I leave my house.

The strangest time was being triggered on a bus passing the place I was sexually assaulted, someone got on the bus wearing the same disgustingly putrid deodrant.

I had to run straight off the bus to be sick.

I need to move out of this town as soon as possible to have any chance of minimising these flashbacks.

Short intense relationships

I have never been able to hold down a stable relationship, I cannot allow myself to become as vulnerable as I was when I was 15.

I can’t open up to people about the things that I wish I could.

How everything makes me truly feel, I cannot let someone in like that again.

Impulsive behaviours

I’ve gambled hundreds of pounds away, I’ve spent hundreds on stupid shopping sprees when I’ve been stressed. 

I’ve drunk copious amounts for weeks on end, I’ve recklessly slept around which ultimately made me feel so much more worthless than I already felt.

I would take drugs regularly just to keep my mind of the bollocks it was causing me.

Not all of these things may apply to yourself/a friend/a family member.

But just be on the look out if you see any changes in their personality.

However, be careful about approaching them if you do think something may be up. Don’t ram illnesses into their heads.

Instead, talk to them, support them if they want to go to the doctors.

But most importantly, always be there for them. Regardless of how long it may take them to recover.

If Kiwi can cope, so can you.

🙂