Hi I’m Lucy and I have Mental Health Problems

crackers

I have written a lot of questionable things in my time. I once wrote a TV review about a show on Richard III with the headline ‘he got stabbed in the arse, basically’. I’ve written extensively about boobs, bums, online dating, being an idiotic teenager. I’ve sworn too much, been excessively mean about celebrities, and divided opinion; but I’ve never been scared to write or publish a piece, even if it made me look a twat. Until today, World Mental Health Day. Because as much as I give it all big balls on the internet, in real life I suffer from some pretty severe mental health problems. I can count on my fingers the amount of people who really know about what’s been happening over the years, because as most people with mental health problems know, it’s easy to become a master of disguise.

So here’s the truth. No hiding behind fake smiles and excuses and constant protestations that ‘no, I’m fine!’; because a lot of the time I’m not. The truth is that I have pretty much continuously been on various types of medication since I turned 18, nearly 9 years ago. I’ve had problems with panic and anxiety since I was a kid. The various psychiatrist reports over the years have diagnosed me with Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Emetophobia, Agoraphobia, and with elements of OCD. Don’t worry if you don’t know what half of those are; I’ve bloody got them and I still don’t really understand. In essence, what that means is that I’m pretty much scared of everything.

I have panic attacks at the drop of a hat, and I’ve got deep running issues behind them. The usual family stuff; abandonment, identity issues, fear of being left and alone (shout out to all the absent fathers!). I’ve been in therapy on and off for years, and not a lot of it has worked. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) had me running for the hills, as it tried to make me confront the physical stuff before I’d had time to deal with the emotional baggage. Now I see someone every week and we just chat about whatever is on my mind. I’m slowly starting to unpick my past, like pulling a thread on an old jumper, and I’m a lot more aware of why I am the way I am. Things have happened that have led me to fear the world, and I’m relearning that it’s not always such a scary place.

The reality is that my mental health issues have stopped me from living the life I wanted. I couldn’t go away to university. Travelling is hard. I can’t apply for half the jobs I want because I’d just end up ringing in sick constantly. It’s made me physically ill as well; I live with near-constant nausea, migraines, exhaustion. Some days I’m so scared of everything that it’s hard to even shower, or walk the dog. Some days, if I had my way, I wouldn’t even open the curtains. I’d lie in bed, watching shitty American TV shows under the covers, so I wouldn’t have to think. Most days I force myself to get up, because I have to hang onto a shred of reality.

I think I’ve been wanting to write this for a really long time. I didn’t want people to know because I was afraid of being judged or pitied. But I think that now, as I’m about to turn 27, I’ve stopped giving any of the shits. My problems don’t define me, but there’s no point pretending they don’t exist; it’s pretty obvious. Especially when I can often be found hyperventilating behind some bins on a night out, or crying and clawing at myself because I’ve had to go further than the outer ring road. I’ve got an amazing family, and great friends. My mum, dad, and sisters have been unbelievably patient with me. They’ve sat with me and let me sob for my past, the things that I’ve missed out on. I’ve seen my mum’s heart break in two when I was too scared to go back to 6th form; she took two weeks off work and sat in the car in the school car park for 7 hours every day. At first this was all too much for them; but over the years we’ve all got our heads around it.

I’m not saying this is my lot for life and I’m not going to try. I’m going to try very very hard. But even if I do a fucking brilliant job of beating this, it will always be with me. If we were all more honest about mental health (me included), then being carrying it with you would be less of a hindrance, and more of a badge of honour. Because overcoming stuff like this, or even just managing to live with it; that shows bravery and spirit, and it’s something we should all celebrate.

21 responses to “Hi I’m Lucy and I have Mental Health Problems

  1. I once asked a Neurologist if Panic Disorder was mental, or physical….he said “Of course it’s PHYSICAL – you only have ONE brain!”
    It is all physical. We need to stop differentiating.
    There is NO shame.
    Your brain “misfires” which is why you need meds for panic disorder. No different than someone who has thyroid issues, high blood pressure, etc.
    Congratulations – you are not only brilliant, you are brave!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Lucy. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. It was beautifully written.
    Take care,
    -Gibby

  3. A good friend of mine, when asked “how are you” would usually respond “yes”. Most people didn’t notice because we don’t really want to know how people are, whether they’re fine or not… But you’re right, talking about this stuff more helps. It helps someone who really isn’t fine, because they don’t have to deal with it alone and maintain a facade. The truth is that everyone is struggling with something. For some it’s a big, life impacting issue. For others, like me, it’s no biggy to most outside observers who assume my wife and I have chosen not to have children. But we don’t talk about it, we say we’re fine when we’re not and that doesn’t help most of the time.

    • It’s definitely hard to say ‘no I’m not fine’, it’s such a knee-jerk reaction to just say yes so no one has to discuss it. We’ve all got stuff hidden; I sometimes wonder when I see people walking down the street what their thing is. Depression, addiction, loss. I think if we discuss it it takes away some of the shame that comes with secrecy. Good wishes to you, and your wife x

  4. One of us! One of us! 🙂
    It is so hard to blog about your own mental health: “no, I’m not looking for pity and no, I’m not looking for helpful hints.” It’s who we are and it does make a huge impact on our lives and those we love. I’m glad you did this post.

    • It’s like being in a big, slightly bonkers club! the best thing about writing stuff like this is the comrades that come out to support each other. Hope you’re doing well at the moment x

  5. This is amazing, powerful stuff Lucy and has left me in tears. Tears for you, for your family, for anyone who has ever suffered any of what you so eloquently describe … and yes, tears for me. It took me until my forties to understand, accept and admit to half of what you have said here. You should be very, very proud of how hard you have battled, what you have achieved and how far you have come. Onwards and upwards lovely girl xx

    • thankyou so much Bella. So many of us going through the same thing and accepting it seems half the battle. You seem to be doing fab at the moment, which is wonderful! Lots of love to you and yours xxx

  6. Hi Lucy
    Thanks for writing this one, it’s helped me not give in this morning. I’m currently into my fifth week off work with depression, which would be great if I wanted to get out of bed but this morning I’m going to fight with renewed vigour.
    Take care of yourself

  7. Hi Lucy

    Didn’t see this the first time round but just read the blog about your friend and moved on to this. So many of the things you say resonate with me. I was in treatment the whole time we were together on the MA although off meds now. I would say depression is what I have (although definitely not who I am) and I have had treatment every decade since I was 17. I look back on my teens and twenties as the most difficult time where I also battled more generalised anxiety. It got easier for me as I got older although the shock of post natal depression was hard. After two episodes in my fifties I am talking more openly about it but that is easier for me as I am at the end of my career. My son whose uni and early working life have been affected is trying to find the balance around disclosure and secrecy. I admire your courage but you have to live with the consequences of labelling and prejudice.

    Cup of coffee and chat about writing would be good sometime.

    Maybe genius comes with a price

    lots of love!

    Janet

  8. Well done for writing this. A while ago I wrote a blog post for OCD awareness day about my experiences, finally telling the world what I had suffered with for so long. I think that talking about it to other people meant thinking about it to myself, and up until then I’d been the kid hiding under the duvet so the monster wouldn’t see her. It felt as though if I thought about it it would all be real, and I would have that label, “OCD”, stuck to me forever.

    Except it wasn’t. Writing about it, talking to my parents finally, made me understand a lot more about the condition and about myself. Still, it was the scariest bloody thing I’ve ever had to do, so hats off to you, big-time. It takes a whole lot of balls to write this stuff down. It takes even more to release it into the world.

    I hope you’re able to work through and manage your issues. I know my situation is totally different, but it was a real comfort to me when I read about the many personality traits that often leave a person susceptible to OCD – all of which were GOOD things, that I liked about myself, things I wouldn’t change even if I could. Sometimes the things that are brilliant – empathy, curiosity, passion, intelligence, kindness – can leave us wide open to mental health issues. But they are good things, that we can celebrate in ourselves – things we should be proud of. The shitty mental health issues are the parasites that try to hitch a ride. There should be no shame or stigma with any of that.

  9. I just stumbled across your piece by chance, and I’m glad that I did. Though its a statistical certainty that millions of people must being going through similar experiences with their thoughts and feelings (we are all biological creatures at the end of the day), it is always comforting to find someone who is willing to ‘speak’ about it openly. I am a fella who has had MH issues for years and has always ‘burried it under the carpet’. I’ve never discussed it with friends due to worries about alienation and have always just dug deep and soildered on. At the end of the day I know there are people out there who are facing issues much greater than mine, and I dont feel sorry for myself (or want others to feel sorry for me) it would just be nice to live in a World where people understanding that these problems exist and are happy to talk about them without judgement or thoughts that you are ‘mental’.

    • Sorry it took so long to reply to this…thanks so much for reading. Hope you’re not having too much of a hard time with your stuff at the mo. Always helps so much if you have someone to talk to x

  10. Hey there. I’ve just finished watching you on a doco here in Australia talking about the BRACA gene. I was quietly devastated when you got that news at the end and was honestly kind of in awe of the way you handled it. So I randomly decided to google your name to find out if there had been any follow up on what happened to you after that. Sorry, creepy, I know.

    …And then the first result from my search was this blog post. If I didn’t believe in serendipity before, I do now. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder about two years ago. Since then, I’ve read many books, attended some support groups, seen a variety of therapists, and and spent far too much time on various internet forums – all in the hope of being able to gain some kind of insight into this awful illness from the experience of others.

    In all of that time, I have never come across anything that so precisely speaks to my own experience as the words you’ve written in this post. Dealing with this illness sucks – I’d give anything to be able to change it. In fact, I’d give anything to be able change it for you too if I could. But in the interim, reading your post has made it all feel just a tiny bit better for today, knowing there is someone else out there who truly gets it; someone who’s been able to articulate my own confused thoughts on the subject into words – and sentences and paragraphs 🙂 So I just wanted to say thank you. I know this can’t have been an easy post for you to write, but I am so glad you did.

    • This is so, so lovely. Thank you. Crazy that I’ve been on Australian telly! Anxiety disorders are incredibly hard to deal with and I’m really glad it made you feel a tiny bit better. We have to take the highs where we can, because there aren’t always many. And your comment cheered me right up, so thank you again 🙂

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