#IAMWHOLE PRESENTS / 

MENTAL HEALTH & ME

“My mental health has been on quite a journey. A few years ago, I felt utterly hopeless; I’d lost my interests, my identity, I couldn’t manage to do anything without upsetting someone, the list goes on. After some time and some different experiences, I hit a turning point when I found myself wanting to move forward, but the anxiety was too ingrained. I’d had support in the past that wasn’t right for me, but now I finally felt ready. Making sure I was in the right headspace, I looked for more support, and it really helped. I began to grab onto the specks of motivation that floated back to me, and slowly became more able to take control. Now, I’ve achieved things I never thought I would. Although I still struggle, I’ve learnt so much, especially from friends, and I have my personal life hacks getting me through. Even on bad days, I know I’ve at least got some good creative writing material, and I’m happy with that.”

LUCY’S

STORY

LUCY’S

STORY

“My mental health has been on quite a journey. A few years ago, I felt utterly hopeless; I’d lost my interests, my identity, I couldn’t manage to do anything without upsetting someone, the list goes on. After some time and some different experiences, I hit a turning point when I found myself wanting to move forward, but the anxiety was too ingrained. I’d had support in the past that wasn’t right for me, but now I finally felt ready. Making sure I was in the right headspace, I looked for more support, and it really helped. I began to grab onto the specks of motivation that floated back to me, and slowly became more able to take control. Now, I’ve achieved things I never thought I would. Although I still struggle, I’ve learnt so much, especially from friends, and I have my personal life hacks getting me through. Even on bad days, I know I’ve at least got some good creative writing material, and I’m happy with that.”

COURTNEY’S

STORY

“When I was younger I was really badly bullied in Primary and Secondary school and I ended up suffering from depression and an eating disorder. It was nerve-wracking, I felt like I was alone like, I don’t really know how to describe it. It was like an empty feeling, like a part of me was missing. I didn’t really know what depression actually was, I didn’t know what all these different things were, I didn’t know what anxiety was. I just thought, ‘oh I’m not normal’. I went home crying pretty much every night. At first it was really difficult to talk about because I didn’t know how they’d react, but I’ve always had a positive reaction when I’ve told people. Just knowing other people went through what I was going through, it kind of puts me at ease, but now I know I can help people get through it. The moon is a reminder that whatever phase I am in, I am whole.”

COURTNEY’S

STORY

“When I was younger I was really badly bullied in Primary and Secondary school and I ended up suffering from depression and an eating disorder. It was nerve-wracking, I felt like I was alone like, I don’t really know how to describe it. It was like an empty feeling, like a part of me was missing. I didn’t really know what depression actually was, I didn’t know what all these different things were, I didn’t know what anxiety was. I just thought, ‘oh I’m not normal’. I went home crying pretty much every night. At first it was really difficult to talk about because I didn’t know how they’d react, but I’ve always had a positive reaction when I’ve told people. Just knowing other people went through what I was going through, it kind of puts me at ease, but now I know I can help people get through it. The moon is a reminder that whatever phase I am in, I am whole.”

“When I was 13 I lost my mother to cancer and I think that was when I started noticing more obviously the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Throughout those years, I kind of sunk into this really isolating, lonely place in my life. It was very all consuming, like there was no world outside of it. Nothing interested me, the things that I used to love, they just didn’t matter to me anymore. It’s not even that you feel depressed, you just don’t feel anything. It’s just kind of a disconnect between you and life. I mean you tend to lose that feeling of being a person. When I was about 16 years old, I’d had a really bad binge. I went up to my bathroom, away from my grandmother so she didn’t know and I couldn’t stop crying. I just totally lost the will to fight it anymore. I was so tired and weighed down from it. I remember calling my sister and just telling her that I was done with it and I needed help. I needed someone to help me because I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m in a place now where I can look after my own mental health and I understand it so well that I can help other people, but even though I’m in a better place now, mental health is still a part of me. Mental health isn’t just about a list of symptoms. It’s about the person and how they see the world and how they see themselves.”

SOPHIA’S

STORY

SOPHIA’S

STORY

“When I was 13 I lost my mother to cancer and I think that was when I started noticing more obviously the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Throughout those years, I kind of sunk into this really isolating, lonely place in my life. It was very all consuming, like there was no world outside of it. Nothing interested me, the things that I used to love, they just didn’t matter to me anymore. It’s not even that you feel depressed, you just don’t feel anything. It’s just kind of a disconnect between you and life. I mean you tend to lose that feeling of being a person. When I was about 16 years old, I’d had a really bad binge. I went up to my bathroom, away from my grandmother so she didn’t know and I couldn’t stop crying. I just totally lost the will to fight it anymore. I was so tired and weighed down from it. I remember calling my sister and just telling her that I was done with it and I needed help. I needed someone to help me because I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m in a place now where I can look after my own mental health and I understand it so well that I can help other people, but even though I’m in a better place now, mental health is still a part of me. Mental health isn’t just about a list of symptoms. It’s about the person and how they see the world and how they see themselves.”

FLORENCE’S

STORY

“At the age of 14, I first encountered feelings of insufficiency towards my body and the way that I looked. In the beginning, my unwillingness to eat was to shed what I believed to be “excess” weight. But little did I know, this obsession with weight loss was going to spiral out of control. My plan was never to let this situation escalate but I lost control over my thoughts and soon after, I sought out to find more extreme measures. Making myself sick became second nature to me and a part of my daily routine. Fortunately, I have a loving support system who recognised the danger that I was putting myself in which prompted their intervention. I can only describe this process as a relief that freed me from my inner demons. Now that I’m older and thriving at university, I can confidently say that I have reached a point where I no longer rely on my addictive and compulsive behaviours surrounding food. Battling mental health may seem like a big and scary thing but just know that you’re never alone and help is always there for you when you’re ready.”

FLORENCE’S

STORY

“At the age of 14, I first encountered feelings of insufficiency towards my body and the way that I looked. In the beginning, my unwillingness to eat was to shed what I believed to be “excess” weight. But little did I know, this obsession with weight loss was going to spiral out of control. My plan was never to let this situation escalate but I lost control over my thoughts and soon after, I sought out to find more extreme measures. Making myself sick became second nature to me and a part of my daily routine. Fortunately, I have a loving support system who recognised the danger that I was putting myself in which prompted their intervention. I can only describe this process as a relief that freed me from my inner demons. Now that I’m older and thriving at university, I can confidently say that I have reached a point where I no longer rely on my addictive and compulsive behaviours surrounding food. Battling mental health may seem like a big and scary thing but just know that you’re never alone and help is always there for you when you’re ready.”

“The separation of my parents at a young age that caught up with me in my teenage years, I’d get angry, upset and didn’t know why. I turned to drink and drugs as I approached my teenage years but little did I know I was covering up my emotions and hiding them away the only time my emotions came out was when I was drunk. I started to get bullied a lot I was receiving nasty text messages and in that moment I felt like I was been controlled by the bully. I’ve been shouted at every time I passed by and to only do nothing but put my head down that’s when the anxiety started to become more real. I felt so small, worthless and helpless towards my family. A relationship I was in was a controlled relationship that I kept going back to, I fell for him, we used to always use and have drinks in his house and it became to comfortable I wasn’t the girl I used to be I felt controlled by everyone else except for me I was in love but all he ever did was cause me tears and heartbreak that’s when everything came crashing down, I attempted suicide, I was hysterical and all that was going through my head was that I am going to do it. I was in shock because I didn’t think I was capable of actually doing it. I felt anxious and nervous about attending the YMCA but when I sat down and started talking there was already a weight lifted off my shoulders. By talking out you know you have succeeded in the first step. I talk a lot more than I used to and I don’t bottle things up I will say what’s on my mind. I live each day with positive quotes such as difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations, H.O.P.E – Hold On Pain Ends and of course it’s OK not to be OK.”

DEANNA’S

STORY

DEANNA’S

STORY

“The separation of my parents at a young age that caught up with me in my teenage years, I’d get angry, upset and didn’t know why. I turned to drink and drugs as I approached my teenage years but little did I know I was covering up my emotions and hiding them away the only time my emotions came out was when I was drunk. I started to get bullied a lot I was receiving nasty text messages and in that moment I felt like I was been controlled by the bully. I’ve been shouted at every time I passed by and to only do nothing but put my head down that’s when the anxiety started to become more real. I felt so small, worthless and helpless towards my family. A relationship I was in was a controlled relationship that I kept going back to, I fell for him, we used to always use and have drinks in his house and it became to comfortable I wasn’t the girl I used to be I felt controlled by everyone else except for me I was in love but all he ever did was cause me tears and heartbreak that’s when everything came crashing down, I attempted suicide, I was hysterical and all that was going through my head was that I am going to do it. I was in shock because I didn’t think I was capable of actually doing it. I felt anxious and nervous about attending the YMCA but when I sat down and started talking there was already a weight lifted off my shoulders. By talking out you know you have succeeded in the first step. I talk a lot more than I used to and I don’t bottle things up I will say what’s on my mind. I live each day with positive quotes such as difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations, H.O.P.E – Hold On Pain Ends and of course it’s OK not to be OK.”

DANIEL’S

STORY

“My entire life I’d been struggling with emotional issues, and a lot of times that didn’t end well for me and I made a lot of poor decisions that hurt a lot of people I cared about. It really kicked into gear when I was about 11. Starting into high school, being a teenager, and trying to fit in with people, and that put a whole pile of more pressure on me, and under my emotional state that I was in at the time, I really struggled to deal with that. A lot of people try to pretend at high school that they don’t have emotional issues like that. So whenever you lash out or get upset you are called a ‘freak’, a ‘psycho’, these crazy words that form this stigma, not just around mental health, but people who suffer from it as well. One of the things about being a young person is it’s all about labels and tags and brands. Whether you are a nerd or whether you are popular, or smart, or if you are a freak. Don’t feel like there is a need to perfect and to be free of your problems, because it’s not whether you have them or don’t have them that matters, it’s how you deal with them.”

DANIEL’S

STORY

“My entire life I’d been struggling with emotional issues, and a lot of times that didn’t end well for me and I made a lot of poor decisions that hurt a lot of people I cared about. It really kicked into gear when I was about 11. Starting into high school, being a teenager, and trying to fit in with people, and that put a whole pile of more pressure on me, and under my emotional state that I was in at the time, I really struggled to deal with that. A lot of people try to pretend at high school that they don’t have emotional issues like that. So whenever you lash out or get upset you are called a ‘freak’, a ‘psycho’, these crazy words that form this stigma, not just around mental health, but people who suffer from it as well. One of the things about being a young person is it’s all about labels and tags and brands. Whether you are a nerd or whether you are popular, or smart, or if you are a freak. Don’t feel like there is a need to perfect and to be free of your problems, because it’s not whether you have them or don’t have them that matters, it’s how you deal with them.”

“I think the first time I experienced anything mental health related was when I was five or six years old and I had a hallucination. My parents always said I had an over active imagination. I was just imagining it and everything. But I thought this is real. But I never thought it was mental health related, until I was thirteen or fourteen years old. When everyone found out, it was just hell it was. I already got bullied immensely in primary school, but comp school was the beginning of the insults. I was called freak, retard, psycho. I think as soon as someone tells you, they have hallucinations, they instantly go and think of horror films, that I’m a psychopathic killer. People with mental health difficulties are not dangerous, we’re just everyday simple human beings who just want to get coffee and do well in life. I started to speak out against transforming homophobic behaviour, I started becoming an activist in LGBT and mental health, started championing it. I started to realise that actually the more I do this, the more I realise I’m not alone.”

GABE’S

STORY

GABE’S

STORY

“I think the first time I experienced anything mental health related was when I was five or six years old and I had a hallucination. My parents always said I had an over active imagination. I was just imagining it and everything. But I thought this is real. But I never thought it was mental health related, until I was thirteen or fourteen years old. When everyone found out, it was just hell it was. I already got bullied immensely in primary school, but comp school was the beginning of the insults. I was called freak, retard, psycho. I think as soon as someone tells you, they have hallucinations, they instantly go and think of horror films, that I’m a psychopathic killer. People with mental health difficulties are not dangerous, we’re just everyday simple human beings who just want to get coffee and do well in life. I started to speak out against transforming homophobic behaviour, I started becoming an activist in LGBT and mental health, started championing it. I started to realise that actually the more I do this, the more I realise I’m not alone.”

NATALIE’S

STORY

“I was different, but I didn’t know why I was different and I was bullied about it at primary school. Children have an immense capacity for spotting anyone that’s remotely different and picking up on it. My Asperger’s, I think it acts as a magnifying glass. Because it magnifies everything, all of my emotions and things like that. When I have a panic attack, my whole body goes in to a rolling boil. I call it rolling boil, because of the tingling. You know when you’re boiling water and it starts off as a simmer, then it becomes a rolling boil. That’s what it feels like, it feels like your blood is boiling in your fingers. It’s got a lot better, but it’s still the stigma attached to it. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand, I think ignorance plays a big part in it. People see things on the television in films and things like that and they think ‘oh that’s what they’re like, that’s what a person with mental illness is like.’ But that’s not true at all, you know we’re all different, everyone is. So you can’t say, that’s a person with mental health issues, like a textbook case or whatever, for example stereotypical person with mental health issues.”

NATALIE’S

STORY

“I was different, but I didn’t know why I was different and I was bullied about it at primary school. Children have an immense capacity for spotting anyone that’s remotely different and picking up on it. My Asperger’s, I think it acts as a magnifying glass. Because it magnifies everything, all of my emotions and things like that. When I have a panic attack, my whole body goes in to a rolling boil. I call it rolling boil, because of the tingling. You know when you’re boiling water and it starts off as a simmer, then it becomes a rolling boil. That’s what it feels like, it feels like your blood is boiling in your fingers. It’s got a lot better, but it’s still the stigma attached to it. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand, I think ignorance plays a big part in it. People see things on the television in films and things like that and they think ‘oh that’s what they’re like, that’s what a person with mental illness is like.’ But that’s not true at all, you know we’re all different, everyone is. So you can’t say, that’s a person with mental health issues, like a textbook case or whatever, for example stereotypical person with mental health issues.”

“I always knew I was anxious and emotional child as the bullies at school and my parents always told me that I was too sensitive and hard work. At primary school I cried in class almost every day. I always felt like a ticking time bomb of emotion and I hated myself for it. Growing up with severe anxiety and trauma was very isolating for me. I always felt like a ‘failure’ and a ‘freak’. My mental health difficulties became really debilitating at around 16, so my sister encouraged me to seek counselling at my college. Counselling helped me complete my A-levels and I’ll always be thankful for the support I was given there. I’m speaking out about the mental health issues I faced not to be depressing but to help tackle stigma. I have always felt so ashamed of my emotions and it prevented me from seeking professional help sooner. Shame and mental health stigma is such an unnecessary barrier to recovery. So please speak out to someone you trust as it can braver to ask for help than suffering alone.”

EMILY’S

STORY

EMILY’S

STORY

“I always knew I was anxious and emotional child as the bullies at school and my parents always told me that I was too sensitive and hard work. At primary school I cried in class almost every day. I always felt like a ticking time bomb of emotion and I hated myself for it. Growing up with severe anxiety and trauma was very isolating for me. I always felt like a ‘failure’ and a ‘freak’. My mental health difficulties became really debilitating at around 16, so my sister encouraged me to seek counselling at my college. Counselling helped me complete my A-levels and I’ll always be thankful for the support I was given there. I’m speaking out about the mental health issues I faced not to be depressing but to help tackle stigma. I have always felt so ashamed of my emotions and it prevented me from seeking professional help sooner. Shame and mental health stigma is such an unnecessary barrier to recovery. So please speak out to someone you trust as it can braver to ask for help than suffering alone.”

NONNIE’S

STORY

“My mental health got a lot worse after having my baby, I found myself pretending everything was fine because I had this image in my head of being ‘the perfect mother’. There’s a lot of pressure on new mums to be great all the time, it wasn’t until I was admitted to hospital after a dissociative episode that I really started to challenge my view on post-natal mental health, I realised that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes (or even a lot of the time) and as soon as I got rid of that misconception I realised just how much help is out there, my care coordinator has been amazing, she’s always there to reassure me that I’m allowed to have bad days, even as a mother, and I’m finally on my way to improving my mental health.”

NONNIE’S

STORY

“My mental health got a lot worse after having my baby, I found myself pretending everything was fine because I had this image in my head of being ‘the perfect mother’. There’s a lot of pressure on new mums to be great all the time, it wasn’t until I was admitted to hospital after a dissociative episode that I really started to challenge my view on post-natal mental health, I realised that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes (or even a lot of the time) and as soon as I got rid of that misconception I realised just how much help is out there, my care coordinator has been amazing, she’s always there to reassure me that I’m allowed to have bad days, even as a mother, and I’m finally on my way to improving my mental health.”

“I was in university. A close friend of mine passed away making that summer one of the hardest to get through. I remember having just gotten used to the idea of my friend no longer being with us when I was hit with more tragic news. My boyfriend at the time had passed away. I was caught up in a flurry of questions as to what the point was and how this could happen. With the stresses of being a third year uni student and losing two people so close to me within such a small space of time, I felt like I just couldn’t cope. I stopped going to lectures, meeting coursework deadlines, I stayed in bed crying and lost all motivation to do anything. I was depressed. I was studying psychology, so I was aware of my symptoms, which I think made me more reluctant to seek help. I thought I knew how to manage what I was feeling. One day, my best friend told me that it was time to seek help, and so I did. I decided to talk to my friends as a starting point. What I needed was my friends and my family, they were the most effective support for me, so I let them help me. Through this, I felt myself begin to recover.”

SYLVIA’S

STORY

SYLVIA’S

STORY

“I was in university. A close friend of mine passed away making that summer one of the hardest to get through. I remember having just gotten used to the idea of my friend no longer being with us when I was hit with more tragic news. My boyfriend at the time had passed away. I was caught up in a flurry of questions as to what the point was and how this could happen. With the stresses of being a third year uni student and losing two people so close to me within such a small space of time, I felt like I just couldn’t cope. I stopped going to lectures, meeting coursework deadlines, I stayed in bed crying and lost all motivation to do anything. I was depressed. I was studying psychology, so I was aware of my symptoms, which I think made me more reluctant to seek help. I thought I knew how to manage what I was feeling. One day, my best friend told me that it was time to seek help, and so I did. I decided to talk to my friends as a starting point. What I needed was my friends and my family, they were the most effective support for me, so I let them help me. Through this, I felt myself begin to recover.”

ALEESHA’S

STORY

“I think I have grown up with the idea that bottling up your emotions is ’bravery’. I was never told, but to me the general consensus was that it was ‘brave’ to not bother others with your emotions. I have since realised how lonely a reality that is. I have found that sharing your problems can be immensely cathartic and gives a sense of relief that combats the feeling of isolation. By opening up to someone, you create a bond. Expressing your emotions to someone else is often a daunting prospect but rewarding in more than one way. In sharing, you free yourself of having to face your struggles alone but also give the person you’re speaking to a chance to respond and share as well. I find reassurance in knowing that by sharing my feelings, I can help the person I am talking to by creating a trusting connection in which they can confide in me. Reaching out is an essential step to recovery and in helping yourself, you can also help others at the same time. By having these conversations, stigma dissolves.”

ALEESHA’S

STORY

“I think I have grown up with the idea that bottling up your emotions is ’bravery’. I was never told, but to me the general consensus was that it was ‘brave’ to not bother others with your emotions. I have since realised how lonely a reality that is. I have found that sharing your problems can be immensely cathartic and gives a sense of relief that combats the feeling of isolation. By opening up to someone, you create a bond. Expressing your emotions to someone else is often a daunting prospect but rewarding in more than one way. In sharing, you free yourself of having to face your struggles alone but also give the person you’re speaking to a chance to respond and share as well. I find reassurance in knowing that by sharing my feelings, I can help the person I am talking to by creating a trusting connection in which they can confide in me. Reaching out is an essential step to recovery and in helping yourself, you can also help others at the same time. By having these conversations, stigma dissolves.”