This is another awareness project about a personal struggle, it’s not an overly heavy blog! Although it’s an important one, the work was also really fun and rewarding to create.
Accepting help for mental health problems when you don’t feel you need it is hard. Why isn’t this talked about more?
Too painful, shameful or too real maybe? It’s hard to think about, talk about and write about, I get it. Mental health is a tricky subject, but why? No one judges you if you fall over and brake a leg, get ill with the flu or catch a stomach bug so why do we feel ashamed when we need mental health help still. I’ve had many conversations over the years with people close to me about this, friends and family. When people have opened up to me or I’ve seen someone clearly struggling I’ve stepped in to help and offer advice, because I genuinely care about others, their wellbeing and mental health. However for a very long time I’ve let myself struggle ashamed of my own feelings.
So here is a little insight and hopefully it's helpful to someone.
The first 3-4 weeks of antidepressants is no joke. Of course this depends on many different factors, but getting use to a new medication can be hard (sticking with them was the best decision I’ve made in a while). I knew it would be hard, I was advised it would be hard, I’ve seen others go through it. I thought I was ready for it, but wow it was intense! And in my already vulnerable state the new chemicals in my body took some serious getting used to. I also convinced myself I didn’t need them, which really didn’t help. Truth being this is the first time I've agreed to take them although I’d been advised to take them before, but I’m stubborn. I always told myself I didn’t need medication for my mental health and that I could work it out on my own and that in time everything would feel better, and I managed ok(ish) with this mindset for the most part of my adult life when everything went according to plan and there wasn’t too many stressful situations happening all at once or I was busy enough not to think about what was bothering me. I would push my frustration and unhappy memories down as far as they would go, they would surface at night time but I genuinely believed that lying awake most of the night sometimes hating myself and reliving every mistake I’d ever made was perfectly fine as long as I could I get up and function in the morning for work. Now I understand that this mindset isn’t healthy at all, I’ve never had amazing self esteem because well I’m weird which is fine. I’m happy being weird these days, but as a child and young adult being different was hard. I’d never felt self confident, I just learnt how to act confident enough so that people wouldn’t ask to many awkward questions, I’m not shy either if I need to get something done or have an idea I’m not afraid to go for it. I feel that these are often mixed up, people will assume that someone who isn’t shy is also self confident minded too. This really isn’t the case. They are completely different feelings.
Lockdown didn’t help, all the extra time to overthink of course I was going to struggle! And then I got myself into a state after losing the baby were I completely lost control of my sleep and self worth. I was prescribe sleeping tablets, they were strong and I loved them, (I know how that sounds) although they didn’t keep me sleeping all night and I still had nightmares the relief I felt just having them was amazing. I would get excited when I knew the time was coming up to take one because I knew I would be sleeping soon and I could shut out my negative thoughts for a while. Yeah unhealthy mindset again, I have a habit of this! I soon started to run out, this made me incredibly anxious the side effects also weren’t great either but I needed more, so I rang the doctors, we had a good chat about why I felt I still needed them. Because of how addictive they are and the dangerous side effects of long term use they decided that they would give me another two weeks worth (which I more or less had to beg for, not my proudest moment) and than that was it, we discussed my other feelings and made the decision that I would give the antidepressants a go. This would mean an overlap of sleeping tablets and antidepressants, which is probably why it was so rough. I felt like a zombie, sick and over emotional. I didn’t feel like me at all, I’m pretty sure I turned up to a work zoom meeting looking like I could have just walked off the set of the walking dead. But I didn’t want to book time off because I was ashamed, which is ridiculous because firstly my work place is excellent but in my mind I didn’t want anyone to question if I was capable of doing my job or not. Secondly if I had come down with a sickness bug or the flu I wouldn’t have been concerned about needing time off, I would have sent a quick slack explaining myself and spent a few days resting so why was I so worried about needing to rest due to my mental health? Why was I so ashamed? This all needs to be spoken about more. A bit of time passed and I got use to taking the sleeping tablets and antidepressants together. After two weeks the sickness feeling started to ease I was just incredibly tired and achy all over with no appetite. My sleeping tablets were almost gone... I knew that when they were gone I wasn’t allowed anymore I was ill for a few days with withdrawals. I had such a bad headache, I cried in bed for two days (of course I waited till I was on my own for this, because the shame of having emotions...) I also worked from home while coming off the tablets so it wasn’t a massive deal, still it was tough I really do sympathise with anyone having to go through that it’s not a nice feeling, but stick with it. Also my sleeping has improved too, it’s not amazing maybe it never will be but I did manage to reset a few bad habits and I'll keep working on it.
No one asks to struggle, it’s not a personal flaw although it feels like one, it’s no ones fault but yet the conversation is awkward. I worry about what others think yes, I don’t want to be seen as weak I don’t need sympathy. However when you open up you also open a door, and people will have opinions. Being depressed isn’t just in your head either, there is physical pain, my stomach hurt, my back hurt, my temperature become hard to regulate and I couldn’t concentrate or eat all I wanted to do some find away to sleep. I lost two stone in six weeks after the miscarriage, probably why I had so much stomach pains, this was weight I didn’t need to lose either. Why isn’t this spoken about more? All of this needs to be spoken about more, in schools, in work places and in general.
My life feels like it’s changed so much in the last year, not necessarily in a bad way. I’m still incredibly lucky in many ways, my family, house and job. Maybe why that’s why I felt so much shame about my situation. The guilt of struggling mentally when you have so much is hard, again no one talks about this, but I can’t be the only one who feels like this. I felt and some days still feel terribly guilty for being unhappy when I have so much to be happy about.
This is still all very raw, in fact this could be a blog post I regret, but I find myself writing it and I know I'll post it. How long will I need to take tablets for? I still struggle with this question. Honestly I don’t know hopefully not for too long, but I’ve changed my ways now and I listen to people and I take better care of myself. There is help available, unfortunately it takes awhile to get people to listen to you sometimes and the pandemic means that face to face appointments aren’t really possible anymore. But please don’t struggle, reach out if you need it. It’s not your fault and asking for help is ok. Everyone is worth helping and everyone deserves help.
I feel like I’m getting back to a good place, I’ve grown up, I’m more focused now than ever but I also understand I put way too much pressure on myself. I love my day job and my art work, these are my focuses but I also deserve time off to relax and think less I actually don’t need to take my camera everywhere with me (although I like too). My head feels incredibly clear at the moment for the most part, I like this feeling, my regret is turning down the medication in the past I clearly needed something. Feeling frustrated, tired and anxious shouldn’t be something we feel like we have to put up with. I thought I would be judged, this still scares me, and I no I will still have bad days. I don’t want to be labelled as anything, I was terrified of people thinking I couldn’t cope, that I was fragile, after attention, lazy or a bad mum because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health illness.
Why is awareness for mental health so important to me? This is a deep subject and unfortunately my own issues isn’t my first experience I’ve had with a mental illness. As a child someone close to me tried to take their own life, I wasn’t in the room at the time but the chaos of the day and the time that surrounded the event echoed in my mind, children shouldn't have to go through that. I also had sleeping and eating problems as a child that I’m not ashamed I needed a little help for. The eating wasn’t a massive deal, I saw a doctor on and off for a while. However the sleeping never really sorted itself out, and I’m battling it again and I will win. Perhaps I would of had these problems regardless of my life events, it’s hard to say and I was a tricky child with communication problems anyway which didn’t really help the situation. I also found my home life tricky as a teenager for many reasons, life has always just felt a bit messy. I feel it's so incredibly important to be open about these subjects, I hate the idea of anyone feeling that their only option to deal with a mental illness is to take their life. Negative thoughts can be very heavy, but you don't have to carry them alone.
The creative part
The art, after all this is a photography blog! I’ve taken part on one my all time favourite artist Brooke Shaden's creative challenge last week, there was a number of tasks to inspire a theme and to help us build our concept of work. My theme was ‘healing’ which was a very positive would for me and also the inspiration for my openness of this blog once again.
We were asked questions about why as artist we create, we were asked what it was that inspired us to want to share our work, our feelings and experiences. How can we connect with people through our work, and what this all meant to us. This was incredible to think about, art brings me so much joy. I really try to express how much I love it! I’m just compelled to create, it’s not really a choice I just need to make work and share it. I also really want to make people feel through my work to spread awareness and grow as an artist.
What is healing to me?
I used to think healing was just getting over something, being a strong person or acting ok. I now realise that healing is learning how to handle feelings, allowing emotions, being patient and growing as a person slowly. Life can be heavy but it can become lighter even after traumatic events. Healing is learning how to feel, how to talk and how to ask for help. Healing is accepting a hug from a friend, crying without feeling shame and learning how to have self compassion. Healing is accepting flaws and still feeling worth loving, healing is forgiving. Healing is an ongoing journey that will have step backs, healing is becoming a better person. We can all heal.
The work, if you follow my work you will know I like my images to tell a story and to flow together. So here is my story of healing, I’ll keep the reasons for the work fairly short as I feel I’ve already talked a lot once again! I've tried to articulate my struggle, the feeling of being trapped, my anger, love and strength.
I hope these images tell the story that’s intended but art is subjective!
Thank you for reading!
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