YOU ARE NOT ALONE - Mental Health Awareness Week
George, the founder of Maison de Choup, asked people to talk about their experience with a mental health illness. The response we got was HUGE. So many amazing, brave and incredible people have come forward with their stories. Below are their stories INCLUDING notorious Mental Health Advocate and Blogger Hannah Rainey (The Little Thoughts Blog) Remember - YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
BECOME PART OF THE STORY - Email us your experience and story at email@example.com It's OK to talk.
"I don't want to date someone who has depression."
On a cold January day, I waited anxiously at the station to meet my date for the very first time. We had spent several months messaging each other back and forth after meeting online. As soon as we met, I instantly felt at ease and it was like we had known each other for years.
Two months later we were still talking every day. I knew he liked me more than a friend and he had made his feelings pretty clear, but I wasn't sure if I was ready for a relationship. After being let down and hurt so many times before, it felt so difficult to trust someone and let them in.
One day while at University I had a panic attack in my lecture. I text him and he replied saying if I ever needed to talk to someone he would take time out of work and be there. He suggested we met up at the weekend and went for a walk with his mum’s dog to help me feel more relaxed. From that moment on I knew I could trust him.
I explained to him the difficulties I was going through because it felt unfair to get into a relationship and not be honest from the get-go. At the time he seemed really understanding and it didn't seem to be a problem. Each day we fell more and more in love with each other and he had started to feel like one of the family. I remember feeling so lucky that I had found someone who loved my warts (I don't actually have any!) and all.
Things started to get tough as I was in the final trimester of my degree. I was on medication and seeing a counsellor, so I was getting the necessary support I needed. Even so, being stressed and under pressure did not mix well with my depression. To say I wasn't the best version of myself was an understatement. Trying to juggle everyday life became increasingly difficult. Some days I felt so weak and tired I would sleep all day and even forget to eat. Sleepless nights and flashbacks overtook and I struggled to keep my head high. I counted down the days until my degree would be over and I would be free.
I finished on a high after achieving a 2:1 in my final performance. A few days later, I started to feel lower than normal. I hit the worse spell of depression I've had in over a year. Suicidal thoughts started to creep in and I couldn't seem to gain any perspective or see any positives. I tried to tell my boyfriend how I felt but even saying the words felt too hard. He sensed something was wrong and said he didn't know how to fix me. Little did he know that I didn't need fixing, I just needed to know someone was there.
A couple days later he phoned saying; ‘We need to talk.’ I instantly knew something was up. Excuse after excuse and he wasn't making much sense as to why he wanted to end our relationship. Mid-argument he finally said: ‘I don't want to date someone who has depression.’ My heart dropped and I felt numb. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That was the last time I spoke to him.
My mental illness is a part of me but it doesn't define who I am. Yes it's hard, some days I feel like giving up but I have such an amazing support network of family and friends around me. Things didn't work out with my ex the way I would have hoped, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I know I will find someone who loves me even though I have depression and if they don't, well they aren't worth my time.
'ChattaBox' (name disclosed) - ChattaBox - 22. Fashion, Beauty Blogger and Singer/Songwriter talks about dating someone who didn't want to be with her because of her depression.
1.When did you start to recognise you had anxiety or depression?
I first recognised that I had depression just over two years ago when I simply couldn't stop crying. I would wake up each morning with a deep sadness that I couldn't link to anything and I would just cry. Nothing made it better. This went on for weeks before I sought any help. Anxiety was a more gradual thing and definitely, in my opinion, had links to depression. Despite being diagnosed with anxiety as a child, it didn't bother me again for many years until depression hit and I found myself incredibly panicked again. A depressive episode usually consisted of anxiety because I knew how rubbish I would feel and, what if it never went away? I didn't know what I was capable of or who I was really, and this caused heavy anxiety for me.
2. Is there a certain backstory to your anxiety or depression? Something that happened in the past that has affected you now?
Yes. Well, so my therapist said. Of course, not everybody has a 'reason' for depression or anxiety, it can literally strike anyone at any point, but for me, there is a cause. I had a difficult start to life which resulted in me being taken away from my Mum and moving in with my Dad at the age of four. Everyone's always like "you were so young, how do you remember it?" some things stay in your mind, trust me! Anyway, I moved in with my Dad and saw my Mum on weekends until one day she just didn't turn up. Calls stopped, letters stopped, visits stopped. And that was that. It's not the 'difficult start' that I think bothers me. That made me who I am today and on the whole, I dealt with it. I survived and that's what matters. A lot of children aren't that lucky. For me, it's not being able to understand why your Mother would choose to leave you.
3. What heightens your anxiety or depression? (Triggers)
For depression, I don't think I really have specific triggers, but the main anxiety triggers for me are being in a busy place, feeling 'trapped' and as if I can't get out, travel - I'm not good at being away from home - and seeing people in distress.
5. How do you cope with your anxiety or depression? Do you have any certain coping mechanisms?
In all honesty, I still really struggle when it comes to dealing with anxiety sometimes. I believe that I dealt with the worst of depression in therapy and it rarely bothers me now. Of course, there's the odd day but I'm told that's normal. I think that starting my blog was a turning point for my mental health. Now, when I'm struggling, I write. My coping mechanisms are breathing exercises, meditation, challenging negative thoughts and writing.
6. What do you do if you're experiencing a bout of severe anxiety or feeling depressed?
I had a bad bout of anxiety just recently and I found that speaking to people about it was a big help and I try to just take it day by day. I used to struggle with putting a lot of pressure on myself to 'be okay' which only made it worse. Now, I have learned the value of taking time to practice self-care, and this really helps me when I'm struggling. Reading, writing, a bubble bath.
7. Do you find talking to people about your anxiety or depression makes you feel better?
Absolutely. This is why I started the Twitter chat[TalkMH]. I could see how much speaking about mental illness has helped me and decided to try and help other people in the same way. I always found that one of the worst parts of mental illness for me was the isolation and feeling like nobody understood - if I didn't tell anybody what was going on, how could they even try to understand? This is why I believe that speaking about mental illness is so, so important. Talking to people about it makes you feel much less alone, which I am finding vital to recovery.
9. How are you now? Is there positives to your experience?
There are always positives, it's just whether you can see them. There are times, of course, when I still really struggle. Anxiety is a still a big part of my life and there are still times that I'm physically sick and I can't breathe and I can't see and I think "am I going to be like this forever?" Then I remember that I've already beaten depression and actually, I've achieved quite a lot since. The key thing is to never allow yourself to lose hope. The main positive to my experience is that I feel that now, I know what my passion is. I feel very strongly about mental health awareness and being able to offer help and support to other people who are suffering is now a huge part of my life. It's the whole reason I started my blog.
11. Tell us about what you’ve learned about mental health?
I have learned that mental health is a life or death situation. I have learned the importance of self-care and mental wellbeing, but also I've learned that actually, some people are really great. I think I had this view for a long time that, generally, people are bad and the world can be a really rubbish place. Now, since starting my blog and #TalkMH my life is full of support and inspiration - there are some really, really great people in this world and people who use their experience to raise awareness and help other people, like George [Founder of Maison de Choup] has done, really inspire me to keep going.
12. Is there something you want to do to raise more awareness?
This is another positive from my experience - I have made it my life mission to raise awareness for mental illness. That's the whole reason for my blog, Twitter chat and social media platforms - we've got to get rid of stigma. We really need to sort it out. Think of it this way: people are feeling alone, people are struggling, and people are dying. So yeah, I want to raise lots of awareness. And I won't stop until it's done. Even then I probably won't stop!
Hannah Rainey. Mental Health Advocate, Writer for the HuffPost & Blogger of The Little Thoughts Blog.
Hannah wears an MDC Words Fail Me Tee - Available Online now.
As a kid, I always felt different. I didn’t know quite what it was; I could never put my finger on it. I remember being three/four years old sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car trying to convince everyone I was an alien.
“Why do say that?” a voice from the front seat asks.
“Because I’m not like everyone else.”
At 18 years old I was diagnosed with severe depression. I saw a psychiatrist, was put on medication and sent to a counsellor’s office. Five years later I was diagnosed with anxiety as well. I never felt like I fitted in when I was in school. Throughout my time in secondary school, I was mocked for my appearance. I was teased over my acne, my weight, my psoriasis, my eczema, how I walked, and how I talked.
These were things that I had no control over. And yet they singled me out for ridicule.
For my Christmas exams in my first year of secondary school, I did extremely well – A’s in all subjects. But this wasn't something to celebrate because it ended up being another thing that I was told was wrong. Where I was made to feel like I was wrong.
I knew that I had to change who I was if I was to get by in life. I had to prove that I was like everybody else. I was desperate to have other people to like me because I couldn't like myself. I hid anything about my personality that I perceived would make me stand out and I relied on other people's opinions of me to define myself.
At home, with my family, I was safe. Elsewhere, my life was a battleground. But when I started taking my anger and fear home from school with me, I began to shatter that safe place too.
Moving to study at university triggered a severe depressive episode. I had thought studying would give me a fresh start – a chance to be liked, to be ME. But I had to leave my safe place for the city. I missed home and my family. They had been the only thing keeping me sane in the previous years. I stopped eating and sleeping. I stopped being able to study. I couldn't concentrate or focus. I lost interest in my subjects and lacked the motivation to actually complete any assignments or exams. I didn’t care about my appearance; turning up to the odd class I did attend un-showered and in stained clothing.
When college didn’t turn out the way I had planned, or the way everyone tells you it will, I lost all hope. I convinced myself that I was a failure and unloved. I wanted to disappear.
And that’s when I turned up to a GP office sobbing my heart out and begging for help.
I never felt like I belonged anywhere until I started treatment for my illness. Between the professional help and support I received and the tools I self-taught or learned from friends (yes, I did make friends after I sought help) I started to recover. The cloud of unease, fear and alienation I had felt my whole life started to pass. It’s not an easy route. And today, six years later, I am not ‘better’. I still have down days and anxiety. But I am in recovery. I have more good days than I have bad. And I have learned that there are things I can do to help me through the bad days when they do come.
I started to realise my depression and anxiety about 6 years ago (aged 10). At that time I didn't really understand how I was feeling but I knew something wasn't how it was before. I can’t pinpoint what started my anxiety and depression, but about a year into it, I started being bullied as I never really fit in anywhere, which caused it to become worse.
I believe social media has helped me so much through my illness. In recovery from my eating disorders, social media was a MASSIVE driving force, having so much support from the people around me even if they were only online. I’ve made so many friends through social media which has helped me get out of my darkest place, and I’m so thankful for everything they've done for me.
Having been through so many therapies for my mental health, I’ve tried so many ways to attempt to cope, but the one thing other than my medication to help has been T.I.P.P. This is where you decrease your body temperature by having a cold shower or standing outside in the cold (T). The second one is for intensive exercise to raise your heart rate (I). For the third, this is paired muscle relaxation, where you tense and relax each of your matching muscles working your way up and down your body, which helps relax and focus yourself on individual things (P). For the last, it is pace breathing. This would be breathing in through your nose for 7 counts, and out for 11 (P). This has helped me so much and is something you can do anywhere.
When I started talking about my mental health I found that it made other people feel more comfortable talking about their own problems, meaning they felt comfortable enough to seek help. After a while, I realised that speaking about my own problems made me feel slightly (even if it was only temporary)
Georgiana 17. Sufferer of depression & anxiety talks about how it started and how social media helped her.
“It’s clear me to me now that for all those years through my teens and early twenties, what I was feeling wasn’t just a low mood, or lack of confidence. It was the early signs of depressive and anxious symptoms. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom after bad car accident in my mid-twenties that my anxiety states “blossomed”, and I realised this is what it was. And for years now it’s been countless trips to the doctors, councillors, support groups, online support chats, calls to Samaritans, a mental health specialist, and trying different medication to help me level out and not experience such intense emotions that ruin my way of thinking, my quality of life, and life for everyone around me.
I think the important thing that I’ve come to realise over the years is that unfortunately, this might not be something that goes away. I can go weeks, or even months feeling alright. There’s always a feeling at the back of my mind which I’m working to supress (and my tablets help me to suppress). But the reality is at any time it could come back. It’s been 2.5 months now since my last episode. Last time my family called the police to go around my house and check I was okay because I wasn’t answering my phone. I wasn’t in. In a terrible panicked state, I decided I hated my life and needed to get away. I’d sold my camera and lenses, and booked a last minute flight to see a friend in the USA. Of course, I got there and had a full blown panic attack. Over the next few days, I had bad DTs from the litre of rum I’d drank on the plane to numb my feelings.
I’m back home (in the UK) now. Things are going okay. I quit my job after my episode in December and moved in with a family member. I’m working hard from home on my businesses. Just trying to keep my mind busy.”
As a child, I was always very particular about things. This was mainly because I have an autistic sibling and if you know anything about autism then you know that they require a lot of routines and becoming obsessive with routine was what sparked my anxiety. Not only that but growing up in this situation was already stressful enough. It was as if someone had wiped my childhood away. Despite this, I coped well. However, things became unbearable when I started high school. I was relentlessly bullied. Therefore, I'd go to school every day and be bullied to then go home and have to help care for my sister. Which is a lot for any person to deal with. I became more introverted, hardly speaking to anyone but a handful of close friends and family. This went on for a very long time but became worse at age 15. This was when my OCD really started to show itself. My sister became very ill, having epileptic fits. Combined with the bullying I felt like I'd lost control. It was as if OCD began as a way of my subconscious trying to gain control of something. I started to have panic attacks. This was terrifying because I didn't understand what was going on, I thought I was having some crazy allergic reaction! As they became more frequent I started to realise that it was panic attacks, which didn't give me any peace of mind but I was happy to understand what it was. I'm now 20, almost 21 and still having to deal with this on a day to day basis. Sometimes I cope and sometimes it can be unbearable. In 2014 I attempted suicide. That's how awful I felt.
It can be triggered easily. As intrusive thoughts are something I deal with daily from the minute I get up to the minute I go to sleep. Even things people think are silly like worrying about if I turned a light off or if I kept the tap running give me severe anxiety. Another thing that triggers me that some may find weird is PMS. As a woman the lead up to a period can be some of the worst times for me, making my anxiety skyrocket and become even more intense. I assume this is due to hormones.
Although I find it hard to cope sometimes there are some things that brighten my day and make it bearable. I love being busy and occupied so blogging is a great help. I get to speak about what I love, take great pictures and meet people similar to myself. My blog is only small but that's ok because its helped me so much already. Hopefully, it'll get even better. When my anxiety gets high or my OCD starts playing up I'll open my laptop and start typing or get my art stuff and create something. This always calms me down.
I never really been comfortable discussing my anxiety or OCD as I worry people may judge me or thinking I'm strange. However, as I get older I feel I can talk about it more. Especially if I know it could help someone else out there. One person, I feel totally comfortable talking to is my boyfriend. We've been together for a long time and I totally trust him and he's always there to help me even when I'm at my lowest.
I still find life difficult. Some days I don't want to be here at all but there's always something in the back of my mind that makes me want to keep going. I don't want to miss out on some of the wonderful things life has to offer. You just have to keep fighting and working as hard as you can to make your life better. It's scary but I hope in the future the fight will be worth it.
Lauren Lautrec, 20. Illustration Student and Blogger at Lauren Lautrec talks about how she's never really discussed her anxiety or OCD due to judging.
All these amazing people have become part of Maison de Choup and the message we are trying to share, they are helping to grow a community raising awareness for mental health. Maison de Choup isn't just any soulless fashion label, it's a fashion label with a mental health cause at its heart. We will continue to work with and support people who are suffering from a mental health illness, aiming to expand our Anxiety Design range early next year, with donating continuing from sales to YoungMinds. Buying either one of these T-Shirt designs will donate 25% of the proceeds to YoungMinds. Thank you to all of you who sent in your stories and photos! ©photographs to all individuals.
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