With a large cup of coffee I’m sat downstairs in my house, waiting for 9am so I can get in my car and drive to work without having to sit through anxiety inducing, stressful traffic that comes as an added extra when you live in a city. Traffic – annoying for everyone, provokes my anxiety so much that I’ve often sat in my car at a standstill, with what feels like the world crashing down on me. It can feel as though there’s not enough oxygen; traffic triggers and agitates me so much that I’m often left battling with myself to not cry – I don’t cry that often, so this makes me hate traffic even more. The thought of sitting in traffic this morning is pretty intimidating, more so as I’ve had a rough night’s sleep.
When I woke up at 5am, after falling asleep a few hours before my mind was spinning with ideas for projects, there was no off switch. Before I fell asleep my mind was a whirling, overloaded mess, my mood was awful and my thoughts certainly weren’t on my side. But what I am fighting to remember this morning is that the past few months have been incredibly difficult. I struggle to reflect, or make sense of things, and often I just go full speed ahead, rather than pausing and processing thoughts, feelings and events.
I woke up incredibly upset and frustrated at myself, my dreams had been continuously reminding me all night of everything that sucks in my life, so by the time I woke up I was exhausted. I’m exhausted after a stressful few months, I’m exhausted after an awful night of sleep, and I’m exhausted because of lots of upcoming, and very present stuff that’s happening in my life at the moment. I don’t have time to reflect, or to recover, I don’t have the energy to focus on my mental health. For some reason I’m fighting all the efforts my mind is making to force me to deal with things, I’m blocking everything out and I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t know how to ask for help when I don’t know what help I need. At the moment I don’t know how to turn to others for support.
Today is World Mental Health Day, with the theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health,’Dignity in Mental Health-Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All.’
“Every 40 seconds somebody somewhere in the world dies by suicide, and the young are disproportionately affected. Providing more people with basic Psychological and Mental Health First Aid skills will help to decrease the rate of suicide. Psychological and mental distress can happen anywhere — in our homes, in our schools, in the workplace, on the transport system, in the supermarket, in public spaces, in the military and in hospital. Psychological and Mental Health First Aid is a potentially lifesaving skill that we all need to have.”
– World Federation for Mental Health.
(Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE JP President World Federation for Mental Health)
For me, raising awareness of mental health and being able to signpost others to support is a huge part of my life, while I may not be trained in delivering psychological support or mental health first aid I do know how difficult and intimidating it can be trying to ask for help. It took me years to finally reach out, and I do at times still really struggle to ask for support, so I strive to help others as best I can. This year’s World Mental Health Day theme hits home a little harder, with some of the focus on trauma and how this can impact our mental health.
With World Mental Health Day focusing on psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress I am encouraged to reflect on my own experiences. The past few months have confused me in terms of my mental health – in the past I have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety and Depression. However, they have all come from different doctors. When I was in hospital my diagnosis was different to that of the Home Treatment Team’s diagnosis (though this may be normal?) Either way, one thing I do know is that there’s been some events in my life that I definitely consider to be ‘traumatic’ – events that, as much as I don’t want to them to still affect me, really do impact my daily life. I get very embarrassed and ashamed when I speak to others about how these events still impact me; I wish that it was easier for me to accept that I’ve lived through trauma, and that I’m still struggling with this.
For me the impact of trauma is sleepless nights, nights filled with horrible dreams, anxiety and incredible frustration to myself. Slight things can trigger me, whether that’s rain, the mention of certain places and people, and even things in the media. The media has certainly developed (in a positive way) the portrayal of mental health, and traumatic events, however it can still be very difficult for me to consume. When I’m really tired I find it very difficult to block things out of my mind, and I find myself struggling to push back memories, and even the thoughts of “what could have been,” “it’s all my fault” and so forth. Even though the traumatic events I have experienced are in the past they are still (annoyingly for me) very much in the present. With the support of others things have become more manageable, however I still do really struggle at times. Which is why I fully support the advocacy and discussions that start through occasions such as World Mental Health Day.
There are events taking place all around the UK (and the World) today, you may stumble across some, most universities and organisations are taking part in raising awareness. You can find information on events by simply searching World Mental Health day online or using the hashtags: #WMHD16 #WorldMentalHealthDay on Facebook and Twitter.