My mental health story

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Around this time 5 years ago I first experienced a panic attack and ever since then I have lived with a constant anxiety almost every day for no apparent reason. I do not want to get into details right now about what provoked this first ever panic attack but looking back now I can see how one day everything was fine, I was just my normal self and then the next day I woke up and everything was completely different. Little did I know that from this moment on this would be my new reality.

During those first days and even months I felt completely lost and disoriented – I did not know what was going on with me, I was feeling these heart palpitations, stomach ache, nausea, fatigue constantly and I was going crazy trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I started developing these defence mechanisms that almost all anxiety sufferers use – paying close attention to my body and all of its symptoms, trying to find the illness behind them, searching for information constantly on Google, visiting numerous doctors and doing tons of tests and not being happy with the result that shows no actual physical illnesses. After a dozen of doctors told me that there was not anything physically wrong with me, I felt even more desperate because I started thinking that it must be something really serious and hard to find – I was feeling awful every day and this could not be happening without a reason. This, in turn, made me dig even deeper onto the Web for information – I have read so many medical journals over the years that I certainly feel like I could practice as a GP without any problems – after all even my family and friends started turning to me for basic medical information. The years have passed and this obsession became stronger and stronger – I was constantly researching symptoms on Google, I could not leave the house without carrying a dozen of different pills in my bag and so on. I believe that the picture is quite clear and you get it now.

So much time has passed and no one could find what was wrong with me. I was totally desperate and thought that I will be living like that for the rest of my life.

During all this time the last thing that crossed my mind was that I was actually suffering from a mental problem. With years my mother and my boyfriend started to realise that I was having mental issues, not physical ones and pointed this out to me a few times but I was just laughing at them and told them that it was not possible.

And why did I think that it was not possible? – Because of mental health stigma!

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Lots of people think that mental health problems such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression does not really exist, that it is just stress and you must be tough and deal with it, that if you suffer from something like this you are just weak and unable to deal with everyday problems, that you won’t be able to achieve anything in life. Basically that you are weak and incapable of dealing with your own life.

And who wants to feel weak? – Nobody.

The same applied to me – in my head I was so strong and so capable. How dare someone tell me that I am weak and that I am suffering from an anxiety disorder?!

It took me a long, long time – 4 years – to realise that they were right and that I was actually suffering from a mental health problem and that did not mean that I am weak and incapable.

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I was just part of this breed of people that are more emotional, more creative, that see the world differently and have a kind heart that cannot tolerate injustice. And although I was trying to change this part of me for a very long time, eventually I did realise that this was not necessarily a bad thing, that thanks to my emotional spirit I was able to experience life more fully, to be more compassionate and understanding, to know better what is best for me and so much more.

But due to the society that we live in and mental health stigma, I have lost 4 years of my youth suffering and obsessing over something that was quite clear. This resulted in health anxiety and hypochondria on top of my anxiety disorder, in the development of a lot of safety behaviours which became habits and overall made the things much worse. Although I have spent the past year trying to get better, I still can’t shake my health anxiety and can’t change a lot of my safety behaviours.

The longer you wait to get help – the harder it gets to get better.

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I am sure that there are a lot of people out there who have experienced the same and this made me wonder why in this day and age mental health is still neglected so much worldwide. In the developed world every 4th person is affected by some mental health problem throughout their lifetime. This is around 25% of the population in countries such as UK and USA and still a handful of people take this seriously. The NHS (in the UK) and the media bombard us every day with tons of information on how to recognise the signs of cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases that affect lots of people. But nobody tells you how to recognise the signs of mental health disorders. Having (physical) health assessments and screenings and tests is the norm in the developed world in order to prevent and treat effectively various diseases. But having a mental evaluation means that you are crazy.

I can see how lots of people still talk about mental health as if it is something dirty that should be hidden in the closet and prefer to make it seem like something crazy, because God forbid somebody knowing that they are actually suffering from something like that. The other bunch of people do not ever talk about it for the same reasons.

I myself have not had the courage to tell many people about my issues because I fear the look on their faces, the judgement in their eyes and the way they will be thinking of me afterwards. There are people I have shared my issues with who were not judgemental, but did not really understand what that meant and started just telling me to relax and not to care so much and everything will be ok, which we all know is not of much help because we are not suffering solely from stress.

Unfortunately, this comes to show that the world we live in is not educated at all about mental health. One of the main reasons to start this blog again was to spread awareness about mental health, because this is what our world needs right now!

We should learn to understand mental health better, to recognise the symptoms early on and to be more compassionate at home, at work, at schools, at social gatherings and so on. Everyone could fall and break their leg the same way everyone could ‘fall’ and suffer from a panic attack and anxiety disorder. No one has a guarantee that it won’t happen to them so please bear this in mind the next time you feel empathetic for the person with the broken leg, but not for the one with the broken mind.

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Be Good!

I recently started reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, which reminded me that everything good, everything different, everything creative comes from a dark, dark place. The darkest hour of the darkest day – the moment we have lost hope and direction is actually some sort of a breaking point. The point of no return when the darkest emotions have surfaced and we are just unable to breathe, to think or to digest is also the point of the greatest enlightenment – the point when surviving means becoming a different person. And becoming a different person does not mean living by a 10-step rule or keeping up with exercise and a healthy diet. This type of becoming a different person happens all by itself, naturally.

Experiencing such a great, enormous, inexplicable pain can make you see, feel and experience life differently, can bring you so much closer to your soul, to your own God, can make you so much more empathetic that you start to see things like you have never before. And this change is so painful and so beautiful at the same time – now you have this great, enormous soul much bigger than the pain you have experienced and much bigger than the world itself.

For me personally a lot of things have changed in my feeling and understanding of the world for this past year. I have started to care much more deeply about the world and everything that happens in it – I feel for all the people suffering, for all the people affected by war and by bad politics, for the nature and the climate change, for the water and food waste in western nations whilst children in Africa suffer from malnutrition and poor sanitation, for recycling… and so much more.

I did not care much about that before I was so badly affected by my mental health issues, I knew that the world was in bad shape, that there was a lot of pain and suffering but somehow I felt as if I was living on a different planet, as if it was happening but it won’t affect me, as if my problems are not really related to the world problems so why should I care?!

Well, I was not exactly right because my problems were and still are mainly related to the people around me. Those people in turn also suffered some sort of a heartache, which made them behave the way they were – destroying everything around them. So as a result of this vicious cycle people on this planet started giving and receiving only the bad – bad emotions, bad talks, bad actions, bad food and so on. And now everyone is suffering, the whole planet is suffering, the air is filled with hatred and frustration. Everyone is so preoccupied with their own problems and battles that they do not even realise that even one person changed for the better is actually a big change for the world.

My boyfriend once told me that my secret dream was to change the world – yes, this is true, but I know that I can’t really change the world all by myself. I now know that changing the world actually means changing yourself and the ones around you for the better – see more good and do more good – donate your old clothes to the people in need; do not make fun of the ones fallen on their knees – you do not know their struggles and you will only make them feel worse; volunteer more – it does not have to be very formal like every Sunday in the soup kitchen, you can volunteer simply be helping someone out on the street, by stopping for a second to think about someone else other than yourself.

Being good does not have to be expensive nor time consuming – the key is in the small acts of kindness.

Eat more, Love more, Pray more – Enjoy life more by being good.

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Remember that everyone and I really mean EVERYONE has experienced pain, suffering, frustration, sadness or angriness to some extent in their life. This means that everyone also has the right to be bad and to want to get this pain out of their chest. But choosing to let go of the pain without feeling the need to spread it to the world so that everyone knows how you are feeling is actually changing and becoming better and kinder to both you and the ones around you and of course consequently to the world.

Guide on surviving emotional breakdowns

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Today is especially rough day… one of those days that I see an escape only in death and as the panic makes my heart hurt I am praying to God to make my heart stop beating and put me out of my misery… just to make it all go away. I have never feared death, I fear the pain, the agony and the suffering you experience while alive. And I know it is not all bad, but some days I just find it incredibly hard to see the good. And I have learned that I don’t need to even try to find the good in those days and the harder I try to fight it, the worse I feel.

One incredibly important part of recovering from a mental illness is letting yourself feel all the misery, feel all the sadness, all the pain …just let it all out and get it out of your system. Every now and then my nervous system gets too fed up with bad experiences and emotions and I just wake up one day, sometimes two, three, four days… whatever is necessary and I just can’t function, I get into this cycle of panic after panic, feeling hopeless and crying all the time. I hate those days, I just feel so awful, so drained, so tired both physically and mentally. But then after the storm I wake up one day and feel much better, I have found new strength and new energy to start the fight all over again. I perceive this as some sort of emotional detox. As we all know our bodies need to detox from time to time and in most cases we feel awful from the side effects. The same applies to our mind and nervous system – they put us into this nervous breakdown while clearing up all the bad stuff.

Everyone experiences nervous breakdowns at some point of their lives. Unfortunately, this happens much more often to people suffering from mental illness, because they have much more emotional build-up to clear than regular people. While ultimately it is a good thing for the sufferer, it can put a lot of pressure on our loved ones. They start to feel bad because they are not able to be of much help in such situations and they feel as if they are doing everything wrong.

So the next paragraph goes out to all the people who are close to someone suffering from anxiety, panic or depression and are a bit unsure on what to do in cases of panic attacks and/or nervous breakdowns (of course everyone is different and not all my points will apply to your loved ones but I hope to give you at least some starting points):

  1. I believe that all mental illness sufferers will agree that the most important thing to feel comfortable around somebody is to feel understood. Of course, for someone who has not experienced mental illnesses first-hand and is not a trained professional can be a bit hard to understand all the irrational thoughts, all the adrenaline and cortisol rushing through your body and what sometimes seems as giving up. But the first thing to understand is that your loved one is not giving up in front of their monster, they are fighting this monster every day and sometimes they just get a bit tired and all the hormones and thoughts fill up their bodies and they go into panic. That is completely normal, that does not mean that the hell broke loose (although it may seem like it) and that does not mean that they have given up entirely. They are just taking a break to flush their system. I know that you want the best for your beloved ones and that you are trying to make everything better but there is not much that you could do at this point. By trying to make everything better and pushing them to be optimistic and not to fall into self-despair, you might actually make things worse, because despite of all the good intentions, they will feel like they are not accepted and loved as they are and that they need to be stronger or better in order for you to love them. I know that you never had this intention, but this is the way it works with mental illness sufferers.

Having said that this sort of nervous breakdowns are completely normal, please bear in mind that it is normal for a few days, but if it is becoming months and more, the condition might have worsened into severe Depression or something else and further medical evaluation might be needed.

  1. The second point that I want to make is that on this type of days the motivational and positive talk and talking as a whole is actually making me feel worse (this is the way it works for me, I will be interested to know how it is for you fellow sufferers in the comments down below). There are certain moments when talking is extremely beneficial for me, but on this sort of events I need more to feel somewhat safe. That might be due to the fact that most of the time I get into these huge continuous panic attacks because my fears seem really strong and large and as if they will definitely come true and I don’t feel like anyone could tell me something that will make the fears go away. But I do feel that I need to feel safe, for example having someone by my side who is just hugging me or taking care of me – giving me napkins for my tears or trying to find something funny to make me laugh. I do believe that it is really important to have someone to prepare you hot, nutritious meal and to make you a cup of tea (peppermint is my favourite because it settles the stomach and the nerves), because all of these emotions and crying can really tire you off and make you feel sick. Having someone there always helps. I know it is hard, but just look at these periods as if you have the flu and just need someone to help you get better.
  2. As I have already said, there is not much to be done to make things better so here is my last advice. I have heard from a lot of anxiety sufferers and I do feel it myself that some pampering always helps to make panic attacks sufferers feel better. Massaging their shoulders, head or feet always helps a lot the body to naturally produce some serotonin and other happy hormones. You could also try to prepare them a bubble bath with stress-relieving essential oils (for example lavender) or light up candles and turn on some stress-relieving music. I know that at those days, they don’t actually feel like doing anything or going anywhere, but you might try to persuade them to go for a short walk in the park or book a pampering day at the spa centre. Whatever you do, try to think of some stress-relieving activities without much people and noise, because they will make them feel much worse.

Mental illnesses put a lot of pressure on both the sufferer and their loved ones. In many cases, having a loved one to support you is one of the main reasons for a person with a mental illness to try to get better and to fight the illness and its symptoms tirelessly every day. Unfortunately, such problems many times put a great toll on relationships and make them fall apart. That is because if you choose to be next to someone battling anxiety, panic attacks or depression you have to be prepared to fight alongside them almost every day. I know it is tiring and it is hard but I hope that it will be worth it in the end when those mental problems are put in the past.

Wish you the greatest of luck in battling those problems and symptoms and please share down below other opinions/tips you have on the topic.

Welcome back!

Hey guys 🙂

I started this blog around 4 years ago with the idea for it to be my online diary. I was quite busy at the time and did not produce much content and eventually I just dropped it.

A few months ago I embraced a completely new chapter in my life – my search for self-discovery, self-love and healing. As the time passed I felt the creativity flowing through my veins again and the need to share what I have learnt with others. That’s why, I remembered my lost online diary and decided to bring it back to life (honestly I have been thinking of topics and ideas for the past 3-4 months but the New Year seemed like the best time to actually do it).

I will start by saying that I prefer to stay anonymous here as I am planning on sharing really personal things that I don’t feel completely ready to disclose to the world openly under my name. Hopefully a day will come when I will be ready to reveal my name but until then please stick with me if you are interested in my posts or just leave the blog without being hateful. Thanks 🙂

In case my anonymity would not be a deal-breaker, I am happy to welcome you all rebels, misfits, dreamers, creatives, princesses, princes, the black sheeps …those who are different, who struggle to come to terms with our reality and to find their place under the sun … everyone who feels that their place is here and that they can get something out of my experience.

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I don’t really know where to start with my story but to make it short for now I will start off by saying that I had a bad childhood because my parents separated when I was very little. They argued a lot and I felt that I should be the adult, the responsible one, who has to do something and bring them back together. My numerous efforts failed (and for the better) but as a fragile, emotional child at an early age I started struggling with feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, separation anxiety, abandonment from my father and many others. During the first grades I was bullied badly at school which made things worse.

As I grew up I tried to capsule these awful feelings and never think of them again and I did succeed until I moved all alone on the other side of Europe at the age of 19. The separation from home and from my mother who has been my rock during all of these awful experiences brought back feelings I did not even know existed. I tried to suppress them for a very long time (I tend to be very stubborn) but then when I finished university and couldn’t find a job for more than 2 years, receiving numerous rejection letters made things unbearable.

I started suffering from severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks and mild Depression. It was extremely hard getting out of the bed in the morning and even worse when I had to leave the house. I lived in a constant nightmare …there is a lot to be told about this experience but I will share more in my upcoming posts on Anxiety and Panic Attacks. In the meantime, despite feeling awful, I was constantly trying to convince my mother and my boyfriend that I do not suffer from a mental illness. Until one day I had the worst fight with my boyfriend – I said things that I did not really think – it was my anxiety and my ego talking – we did not talk for whole 20 hours (we have been together more than 5 years and that is the first time that something like this happened). I was crying the whole night and I woke up a different person. I woke up a determined person, one who has admitted that is suffering and that needs help. That’s the day I decided that I needed to do something about my mental health and started reading self-help books, trying out different techniques and signed up for a weekly therapy. All of this helped me tremendously – I still have a long way to go until I am fully recovered – but around 9 months later it is not that hard to get out of bed or out of the house.

While all of this was happening in my mind, a lot has been happening in my body as well. I started getting extremely painful periods around 4 years ago and a lot of doctors expressed their concern that it might be endometriosis. I managed the symptoms and the periods by taking the pill for the past 3 years but apparently the disease was still there thriving. Around a year ago I was diagnosed with endometrioma – cyst on the ovary. It started growing and it is now more than 7cm. That’s why, in the past year I have been battling endometriosis as well and trying to find a way to reduce the cyst without the need for surgery.

So to sum up, my blog will be mainly about living life as a creative dreamer searching for their life purpose and path, battling anxiety and endometriosis, sharing tips on coping with these diseases, raising awareness on mental health and trying to live life to the fullest despite all obstacles.

Hope you all enjoy it! Welcome aboard my crazy life!