On Mental Health and What it Means

Friday 6 May 2016

Apologies for the length of this post (and anything that don't make sense), but it's long overdue. I'm not looking for pity or sympathy, and I'm not making up excuses. I'm merely telling a story that should have been shared a long time ago.

I'm not feeling good. I haven't been for a long time. I relapsed and I'm still clawing my way out of the pit, only, my efforts have started to dry up and I can feel myself slipping again.

I've always been a shy, reserved, cautious person, prone to worrying and excessive bouts of nervousness. I was never an outgoing child and I've never had a large friend group. From a very young age I've been the embodiment of the word introvert. As I grew, things didn't change. Or they at least didn't change for the better. 

2008 saw me starting secondary school as a content eleven year old, soon to be turning twelve and without a care in the world. Yeah, I was still shy and hesitant to share in lessons, but I made friends and did well. Things were good.

Year Eight and the start of the dreaded teenage years saw me take a turn, however. I wasn't sure who I was (is anyone, at age thirteen?) and I was experimenting with style and my interests started to change. I liked alternative music and I wanted wear more black, my room was plastered in posters and I retreated into my shell more as the prospect of growing up and having to make choices loomed. Of course there were people that thought the things I liked were weird, but I had a circle who accepted me and enjoyed the same things. I was frustrated, but I was okay

Enter Year Nine, or what I like to call The Worst Year of My Life. Around March or April of 2011, my grandad was diagnosed terminal lung cancer, and things did not look good. I hit rock bottom and could see no way out. I wasn't happy, I hated myself, I stopped going to school, stopped talking to my friends, stopped doing everything. What had started out as a nervous disposition and wariness around new people and situations morphed into full blown anxiety and depression. My world fell apart and I couldn't save myself.

I can't recall much of 2011 to 2013 and that's probably for the best. I was at my lowest and it took every ounce of inner strength to do anything. There was crying, screaming, denial, anger - that I do know. Somehow, I did manage to improve (though it was no thanks to the mental health services, who turned me away saying I was fine) and started college in the autumn. Things were looking up.

In early 2014, progress was finally made and I was put on anti-depressants. At this point, my mood was much better but I was still plagued by anxiety and unable to comfortably live my life. The tablets helped - more so than the therapy I was given around this time - and I was able to leave the house and do well in my exams. Well, some of them. The tablets didn't make up for my lack of revision.

My second year of college saw a lot of changes in subjects and where I was studying, but I handled it. I was at my best. I even got a job. Things soon came crashing down when my mum broke her foot and Draco was hit by a car. My stress and anxiety increased to the point where I had to quit my job and just take some time. Things turned out okay in the end - Draco runs in an interesting way, but he's still annoying as ever - and the New year came and went with only a slight hiccup for me.

Last year, though, was enough to rival The Worst Year of My Life. Perhaps it was even worse because I can still remember it, unlike everything else that I've pushed to the deepest corners of my mind. Early in the year I lost a lot of people, my grandad being chief among them. His death was a complete shock, but at the same time it wasn't. We'd been anticipating it for the past four years, but nothing can ever prepare you for your life being pulled apart at the seams. Needless to say, I relapsed.

My exams went as well as could be expected. given the circumstances. I didn't fail anything, and I was feeling hopeful about staying at college for a third year to try again. In theory, this idea was perfect; I'd get more points for university and I'd still be in education so my prescriptions would be free. In practice, things fell apart. Travelling into the city on a daily basis exhausted me and filled me with anxiety and dread. Add to this the fact that I decided to change my medication several times, and you have a recipe for disaster. I didn't go to college for months, even after I dropped one of my subjects, and it got to the point where I couldn't continue. I felt like I was floundering and any progress I'd made from my last relapse was lost as I returned to rock bottom.

Now, even though things are better for me, I still feel lost in the fog that is my mental health. I've started to doubt the medication I thought was helping me. I'm exhausted all the time. The thought of leaving the house alone terrifies me. I'm not excited about things and I'm not motivated to do anything. Everything is a challenge and I'm questioning my every move. There are new symptoms (and some that I'm only just now acknowledging and accepting) and new hurdles, maybe even new medications coming my way, now that I've opened up to my doctor.

I am not my problems, but there are times when it feels that they are all I am. After years of worrying over every little thing and every decision I make, how am I not Anxiety? How am I still Charlotte when I'm battling myself on a daily basis? I'm lucky, I know - things could be much worse - but that's little comfort when you have to force yourself to get out of bed and fight past the parts of yourself that have nothing nice to say. Just because my illness isn't visible, doesn't mean it's not there. It still affects me physically, you just can't see headaches or muscle tension or adrenaline.

I feel lost but I'm not sure I want to find my way. How do you let go of something that's been part of you for so long?


  1. This post broke my heart Charlotte! I don't really know what to say, but just know that you have an entire community here rooting for you to conquer this. If you ever need to talk, I'm here <3

    1. Thank you so much, Emily. It really means a lot to know that there are people out there. The same goes for you - if you need anything I'll do my best to help you out. ❤️

  2. Thanks for writing this post. No, honestly. Thank you. I'm having a rough few days (sorry to turn things around to me, but c'est la vie, I'm afraid,) and needed the reminder that there are people out there who understand.

    You are not your condition - but you *are* the strength you've shown by being here, by writing this post, by every tiny victory (that includes getting out of bed in the morning.) Your strength (and it *is* strength) is more a part of you than your condition could ever be.

    And I'm sending you a virtual hug, just because. *hugs*

    1. Thank you for reading, and don't worry about turning things around to yourself. Sometimes you have to in order to acknowledge your problems and start facing them if you can. I hope things start looking up for you soon, and if you ever need an ear I'll listen.

    2. Thanks very much - and the same to you. If you ever need a rant or a sob you know where to find me!


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