LifeToday I have a special and important post to share with you all. I'll be writing down the honest account of my mental health struggle and what I did to change it all around. I wanted to do this today (the 10th of October) as it's World Mental Health Day. To celebrate being open and honest about mental health issues myself and my friend Ana of Cocowawa Crafts have collaborated to make a special limited edition toiletry bag to raise money for our chosen mental health charity. 15% of the profits will be donated to help those who are struggling with mental illness. Keep reading to find out why this is so important to me and why we would love your support.
My Mental Health Journey & Happy Bags
If you've read my blog for a while you may have read the post I wrote last year about my mental health and anxiety issues. You can read the post here if you missed it. For as long as I can remember I have been a worried, anxious person. I remember having mild panic attacks as a small child, something that I didn't really understand back then. Things gradually got worse after my father died when I was 15 and I experienced bulling at school. After graduating university I moved to London with my boyfriend who became more and more mentally abusive towards me. I always saw myself as a strong young adult but here was someone who managed to tear down all the good thoughts about myself piece by piece over a period of two years. I ended up being a shell of myself and it took me a long time to move out and find new people to spend my time with. Then I met Simon. He is the one person who allowed me to fully be myself, and I am so thankful that I met him. He taught me to love this scary new city I found myself in, love other people and most importantly slowly learn to love myself again. I consider myself unbelievably lucky to be marrying him next year.
The frustrating thing about mental illness is sometimes the the most painful blow hits you when you're most happy and settled. I had been living with Simon for a year and work was doing ok, I was on track in many ways but my mind decided that something was wrong. Slowly I began to have panic attacks at least once a day, I didn't want to leave the house, use public transport or see anyone. If you've ever had a panic attack you'll know how awful they are. For me it begins with shallow and panicked breathing, shaking, numbness, nausea, dizziness, everything feels as though its pushing into me and noises are too loud. It sounds irrational but I feel as though my heart is failing. The last stage is the feeling that I'm shrinking and disappearing into myself like I'm not real. When I had attacks over and over and over again I begin to forget what I was like when I was "normal". I would say to myself "well this is who I am now, this is my personality, I'm a person who is too scared to leave the house."
This went on for years and it got to the point where I couldn't function anymore. I bit the bullet and decided to pay for a therapist. Going down the NHS free care route was too stressful and taking way too long. Unfortunately it can be very difficult and time consuming to see a therapist via the NHS due to funding cuts plus many GPs won't recognise mental illness as important. I was scared that if I waited any longer to get help that I would become schizophrenic, I was already struggling to understand what was real and what was in my head. Luckily I found a therapist that understood me, we worked together brilliantly and I couldn't believe the change in my mental health in only a few months. It's almost been two years and now I'm down to one session a month which suits me perfectly. I have never been happier or more secure in myself and I'm slowly re-learning the many things about my personality that were taken from me. I'm strong, sassy, kind, empathetic, sensitive and loving and all those good traits cancel out my bad ones (most of the time!).
So this is why this project with Cocowawa Crafts is so important to me. There are many people out there struggling, we all need help sometimes and many people can't afford to pay for help or are too ashamed to do anything to help themselves. So please help us raise money for these wonderful charities and purchase one of our Happy Bags.
You can read Ana's story here and buy the bags on my website or the Cocowawa Crafts Etsy.