Your illness does not define you. Your strength & courage does.
Welcome to the first part of my new series where I’m going to explore and discuss aspects of Mental Health that I am currently or have experienced. This is my story thus far.
I wanted to start this series to document my own journey, and to create a safe space where others won’t feel alone with theirs. Mental health can be extremely isolating and exhausting and knowing there are others going through similar things and coming out the other side makes me extremely hopeful so I hope to add to that.
Right now I feel like I am drowning, but I am trying to keep going. I recently reached out to my local wellbeing team to re-refer myself back for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, something I should of done months ago after my last course. But of course, I left it until I couldn’t cope any more to finally reach out and get help. I self-referred over the phone to the local team, where they booked me a telephone assessment. I then had a indepth & very honest assessment over the phone with a clinician who then passed my details onto the Wellbeing team.
I received a call a few weeks later from the same clinician who then proceeded to tell me I had been discussed at a Multi-Disciplinary team meeting and they had made the decision to not give me CBT but refer me to the eating disorder service for a psychiatric assessment. I was shocked and heartbroken. I still am. Even now, I’m struggling to put into words the emotion I feel inside. Because I’m not sure there even is a word to express how empty and bare I feel.
Nothing hit me quite as hard as that phone call. I assumed I was going back to my old therapist where I felt safe and that I would continue treatment for my Body Dysmorphia but being told I was being referred to an eating disorder service for a psych assessment made me feel sick, and fed into my inner demons. They screamed that how could i have an eating disorder, I was too fat, too overweight, they would laugh at me and I would be ridiculed. Of course this is not at all true, but those intrusive thoughts just kept coming.
A few weeks later I had my assessment, with two mental health clinicians who were extremely lovely and understanding. I had a full assessment to see if I was suitable for their service and 45 minutes later I had a diagnosis and had been placed on the waiting list for treatment. After the assessment I felt extremely drained, confused and numb. WIth all these new labels on my diagnosis I didn’t know what to think, and having to be extremely honest to two complete strangers was exhausting but once I got home and processed the new information I realised that all the pieces of the puzzle added up and it all started making sense.
My name is Sian, and I have an eating disorder, severe body dysmorphia and I am borderline OCD.
It’s scary to say it out loud, even to admit it to anyone without the fear of sounding crazy, but I want to reduce the stigma that comes with Mental Health problems and I want you to know you are not alone.
Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma & bias shame us all.– Bill ClintonThis isn’t the start of my story though, I first was treated for Depression in 2010 when I hit rock bottom. The constant low mood, feeling hopeless and lost or not feeling anything at all. Extreme low self esteem, panic attacks, being irritable around everyone that cared, and not being able to do simple things like going out on my own or even ordering food at restaurants. Mental health was extremely taboo back then, and I refused counselling and only took my medication for a few weeks because I was scared of what others would think. Soon enough all my symptoms increased and I was back to square one.
Fast forward to 2015 where my symptoms rocketed back but this time they came in hard and fast, more intense and worse than before. I gave up my career as a makeup artist due to the the severe anxiety & depression that I developed and hit my highest weight of 19 stone. I was having panic attacks several times a day and my self esteem was the lowest it could of been. I felt like I couldn’t cope anymore so I finally pushed myself to see my GP and even then I couldn’t speak to the GP and say what was wrong, I ended up writing it down and just crying.
I was then put on more medication and referred for counselling, which this time I forced myself to attend. I was actually terrified of going and would have panic attacks sitting in the waiting room, willing myself to cancel the appointment. Luckily I pushed through and got the help I needed and was referred to a higher level counsellor Pete.
The first course was focused more on mindfulness and techniques to help with my anxiety and panic attacks. At the end of that treatment cycle I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphia and was recommended to come back for further treatment.
When I finally started treatment episode number 3, a lot of things had happened in my life. I had quit my job, been dumped by my boyfriend and started a health and fitness journey which has lead me to where I am now. I had lost around 30lbs when I started the treatment and I actually felt miserable. I didn’t realise how much Body Dysmorphia was taking over my life and I was so wrapped up with my demons I couldn’t see anything else. I worked again with Pete, the Counsellor I worked with before, to develop techniques to conquer my ‘safety behaviours’ and to try and work on my Body Dysmorphia. After that treatment cycle ended he again recommended to come back to treat the disorder further and this has lead me to where I am now.
I ignored all the warning signs that I was getting bad again, I spent 90% of my day preoccupied with my appearance, I avoided all social situations, and I felt either numb or sad all the time. Anxiety came back in full force and I spent the last bit of energy I had convincing myself I was fine, that it was all in my head, and I put off referring myself again. And then it all started spinning out of control. The voices started getting stronger, the self-loathing got worse and the need for control increased. It was affecting everything in my life and that is when I reached out for help. Fast forward to the present and now I am here, diagnosis in one hand, the unknown in the other, waiting to see what treatment has in store for me.
I urge you now, if you are struggling to reach out. It is always better to get help sooner rather than later, and you are never alone.
This is my mental health story, and it is only one chapter of what is too come.
Lots of love, S x
& the sun will rise ; Introduction |