This post was written in 2017, but its an important one to share for Mental Health Awareness Week. The more we can share our mental health stories with honesty and vulnerability the better. Here is my mental health story.
I lost my mum at 16 and dad at 19, this resulted in a huge shift in what made me me. My stability and security was gone, my home, my roots, my financial support was all gone. My late teens were filled with mental health issues that I can only recognise years later. I didn’t have any help or counselling after my mum died. It was 1993, these kinds of things didn’t exist, or if they did I wasn’t told about them. I was just expected to get back on with normal life but I WAS 16 and motherless.
I became angry, would self-destruct and I chose alcohol as my drug of choice; binge drinking has always been a coping mechanism, until memory loss for most of my adult life. I chose food and have been a binge eater again for most of my adult life. Eating and drinking clean in 2016 changed this pattern.
I also developed a coping mechanism of running away. When I hit 18, I ran as far as I could from my home town of Penzance, Cornwall. I moved 320 miles away to university in London as I had got myself into too many horrid situations following the death of mum to stay in Penzance. I ran, never to return. Start a new life and forget the past.
Then my dad died
Then my dad died at the end of my first year at university. Had I brought this upon myself, had I over thought about my mum dying, worrying about my dad and then he died? Much of university was self-destruct mode. I slept around, I drank too much and experimented with things that are not good for you. They were wild years where all I was trying to do was forget that my parents had died. And that I was the only person (so it felt) in the universe whom this had happened to.
At one point at university a close friend shouted at me to get a grip, ‘Lynn you are a bitch’ I remember her saying (thank you Julie). There was a very low point where I remember sitting on my second floor flat and thought what would happen if I jumped. I talked and cried to my personal tutor who recommended counselling. I spent a year talking to a university counsellor about my feelings and depression about my parent’s deaths. It took four years and the death of two parents to get the help I needed.
My Career was impacted positively and negatively
As life progressed my mental health issues changed. My career was an interesting one. I had good academic results (how I got the grades with everything going on I do not know) academically and confident so landed a great graduate job and subsequent career. I would start a job all motivated and enthusiastic. But it would wane and I would get bored, changing roles many times.
Most companies were cool with this as when I was on form I was brilliant. I made huge changes and made all the companies I worked for lots of money! I worked for Tesco for 5 years during my 20’s, I moved roles three times in those five years. When I lost the plot at work, a caring boss took me under her wing and organised life coaching for me, all paid for by Tesco (thank you Jo).
Whenever things got tough I would run from a company. My last role at Tesco was an amazing job but I had some HR issues with a person in my team. He resigned but then tried to raise a tribunal against me for constructive dismissal. His efforts failed, but it rocked me. I couldn’t hack it at Tesco anymore so I left, on good terms, with an agreement. But I ran. Just like running from Penzance to London for university.
When I left Tesco part of my leaving package was that my private health care continued for three months and I spent time every week with a cognitive psychologist, who gave me much needed tools to help manage my seasonal affective disorder which was diagnosed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
I struggle with winter. Really struggle. I am normally fine until maybe the end of November, this is good as I am fine for all my boy’s birthdays in October and November. December is a difficult month. Everyone expects you to be happy and sociable in December, but I am not. I have missed many nights out, many Christmas parties because I am not feeling it, or I am too down to go out and talk to people.
The blues last until holiday time which is normally April/end of March. Around the time of my birthday. January and February are horrid months, but I start to come around in March as the flowers start to blossom, the sun comes out and it warms up.
I have experimenting with a few strategies to cope with my winter blues, after all, three months of depression is not good. A whole quarter of the year. I spent £100 (£100!!!!!) on a special SAD light (why do companies rip you off when you have something you want to fix), I invested in nutritional supplements like milk thistle, magnesium. I have tried hypnotherapy life coaching with my friend Heather to try to get me through it.
This year my depression (only) lasted three months, when the previous year it lasted five months so I did make an improvement! I have never taken anti-depressants. I seem to have a deep-seated view that they should be last chance saloon, something to do with my sister telling me so when I was young I think. Maybe they are the solution for those three month, or maybe we need to dash off to Spain for Christmas and New Year to the sun?
Living in the now
I can reflect on my life, and my subsequent reactions and can see where things were bad and where things were good. I have turned to life coaches and counsellors several times in my life. Friends have often acted as counsellors and life coaches as well! I feel like I am coping better now I am older and wiser.
I want to say to anyone reading this post who have suffered from mental health illness, get some help. Talk to someone you trust. Do not let it fester in your head, spiralling you down and down into a deep depression. Write a journal, hey why not start a blog. Getting the thoughts and feelings out of your head via the written or spoken word is so powerful.
Here is a list of organisations that I know can help you with problems mentioned above.
Grief Encounter – a charity for child bereavement
NHS Page full of great advice on how to find counsellor’s in your area
Step Change – Debt advice
Citizens Advice Bureau – Debt and consumer Advice
Heather Hall hypnotherapy – Cognitive hypnotherapy