#IAMWHOLE PRESENTS / 

MENTAL HEALTH & ME

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

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

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.”