*A featured personal story for this MENTAL HEALTH MONTH series.
Some months after my relationship with the boys’ dad ended, I had what can only be described as a ‘break down‘. And that’s exactly what it felt like because, both physically and mentally, I was broken.
I started to get these odd sensations; I could feel my heart thumping out of my chest and could hear it pounding in my ears. Lots of jumbled and disturbing thoughts races around in my head and I felt scared all the time, so I was constantly jittery. I was anxious about being anxious again and much of the time I felt like I was on the world’s longest and biggest rollercoaster.
Sometimes, there was so much adrenaline buzzing through my body, my nerves were jangling, and I couldn’t sit still, so I’d pace around my home. At other times, I felt exhausted or gripped vice-like with sheer terror so I couldn’t move.
I was having what I now know to be panic attacks – throughout the day and particularly at night keeping me awake until it was time to get the boys ready for school. It felt like how people explained having a heart-attack. My fingers and toes were tingling, and I could feel the colour drain from my face. I was finding it hard to catch a breath it felt like I was drowning in quicksand, so I’d lie rigid until it passed, knowing it would be followed by another, and another.
It was torturous, twenty-four-seven, week on week and with no end in sight, I wished I was dead. Although close friends and family were aware of the break-up, I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my head, scared they’d think I was mad and that I should be locked away. This was to continue for around eighteen months.
I’ll be eternally grateful that our GP eventually noticed and taking me aside, he urged “Tell me, what’s the problem? You’ve lost so much weight and though you smile, I think you are very sad.” Once I’d explained and told him that I was devastated by the break-up, he was able to get me to immediate counselling. He actually drove me to our local hospital where he knew the Psychiatric Team.
Fortunately, although I had suicidal thoughts, the psychiatrist and his team were confident that I had no intention of killing myself. I’d told them I knew I couldn’t do that to my sons. I couldn’t possibly leave them with that legacy. Three years of painful weekly counselling followed.
I was on the road to recovery when I realised I wanted to study but I wasn’t sure I was clever enough and I wasn’t sure what to study. I thought I’d test the water and start small, so I took evening and weekend courses in Shiatsu. This was quickly followed by Swedish Massage, Seated Massage, Aromatherapy and finally, Indian Head Massage, where I was trained by the blind guy who invented it (Narendra Mehta). I loved it and so too did my family and friends who I practised on.
I had the massage table, the massage chair, lots of fluffy white towels and a full kit of aromatherapy oils. However, despite passing my exams with distinction in all the above types of massage, I just couldn’t charge anyone. I didn’t like asking for money so all I asked in return was a fluffy towel or an aromatherapy oil.
In February 1997 I learned I was about to be made redundant again, which was fantastic as I’d seen a large advert in the Evening Standard looking for General Nurses to study at my local University and Hospital. This didn’t so much interest me but, right at the bottom of the ad, there was a few lines about becoming a Mental Health Nurse. It felt right, and I believed that my own experience of mental illness would help to make me a good mental health nurse.
So, during my recovery from, what I learnt was, a lengthy psychotic depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and anorexia, I applied to train as a Mental Health Nurse. After three long years of study, I worked successfully as a Mental Health Nurse in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I had the honour of meeting thousands of people who shared their chaotic and difficult life stories with me, possibly for the first time ever. I always felt humbled by their often-fraught experiences and journeys through mental illness.
I remain extremely passionate about raising mental health awareness, I’m a determined advocate of mental illness and continue to fight the stigma, the social exclusion and discrimination that come with it.
“As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” – Paul Shane Spear
“Think of the enormous impact if just ONE PERSON improved the world of just ONE PERSON. That alone might change the world. And everyone in the world would be part of the change.” – Samuel Rozenhider
A big THANK YOU to Caz for her willingness to share her story about moving through anxiety. Catch her at THESES LINKS:
For tips on anxiety and panic attacks, you can use my link, here: https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/2020/01/17/10-quick-and-easy-coping-techniques-for-anxiety-and-panic-attacks/
Or use my home page, here: https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/
My twitter feed, here: https://twitter.com/hannahsmiley
Pinterest boards, here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/800444533760600123/