Stephanie and Dee put their wonderful heads together to create this mental health blog project for people to take part in. The goal is to show that no one is alone in suffering from mental illness or learning to live with their struggles. I wanted to take part because mental health is something that is so important to me, and something I work on everyday to make my head a better place to be. The thing I have found most useful in this journey is realising that I’m not alone, and that there are so many amazing people out there for support and friendship.
1. Age: 24
2. Location: Auckland
3. Occupation: Public Servant
4. Is or has your mental health ever been of concern to you or others? As a child/teenager my mental health became a worry to my parents and teachers. As I was growing up I was still learning how to cope with life and all of its challenges (okay, so I’m still learning) and at times I suffered from depression and resorted to self-harm. Nowadays I am definitely better at recognising when life is getting too much and putting in place strategies to help me move through each hurdle but anxiety and depression can still arrive at my door when I least expect it.
5. Have you ever sought help for issues relating to your mental health? As a child I saw a variety of counsellors and psychologists, some of which were amazing and taught me some important life skills, others who did nothing but make me feel like a lunatic.
6. Have you ever felt anxious or had a panic attack? Anxiety is something that I experience pretty regularly, especially before a big social event or a day I know is going to be stressful and intense. Its scary to feel your mind and body freak out, your heart race and your hands shake, and that lack of control is the hardest thing to deal with.
7. What triggers you to feel anxious or low, in terms of your mood? My triggers include lack of sleep, social situations that I don’t feel I have any control over (aka most of them) and stress (whether it be real or just perceived).
8. At what moments is your self-confidence at its lowest? Self-Confidence is one of those elusive concepts that I am definitely still working on. Its at its lowest when I’m sick, when I’m involved in negative relationships or just when my brain decides to bring up old “truths” I learnt as a child that put me in a vulnerable, negative state of mind.
9. What strategies do you use to cope when feeling anxious or low? My strategy for dealing with anxiety is using mindfulness and relaxation. This can be as simple as making myself to take a few deep breaths before walking into a social situation or reminding myself that the negative assumptions I make about certain things are just that, assumptions, and that it is my responsibility to reconsider certain things that change my perception of the world around me. Ultimately I have found that techniques which give me more control and responsibility over my mind help me to override the corrupt thoughts that cause my anxiety and try to produce more productive thought habits.
10. Does anxiety or a low mood have a physical effect on you? I definitely feel my mental state manifest in my physical health. When I am in a negative state of mind my body responds by getting sick and/or tired. This makes perfect sense because the human body is not designed to be a in a constant state of stress or anxiety and the chemical effects of this can be massive on your physical health. All the more reason to make my mental health the number one priority.
11. Do you or anybody you know suffer from a mental illness? I have a close family member who is currently suffering in a pretty extreme way from a mental illness (and mental health has always been a part of my family history) and its harder for me to see it in someone I love then to deal with it myself.
12. Do you feel there is a stigma around mental illness? There is definitely stigma, even just in the way work environments give people sick days for when you have the flu but people are made to feel guilty or weak for taking days off when you simply can’t face getting out of bed. For people who have never experienced the paralysing ability of a broken mind, this can be hard to understand and this lack of understanding is a common cause of stigma.
13. What do you think could be done to change attitudes to mental health? Awareness. People shouldn’t feel ashamed of their mental health issues, the same as you wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg. People need to realise how important their mental health is, to the same degree that our physical health is seen as important if not more so. Awareness is so key, both for those who suffer from mental illness to make sure they know there is help available but also for those who haven’t experienced mental health issues and therefore may not understand its impact on others.
14. What advice do you have for anyone suffering from mental illness? My advice is that everyone is different and there is no one solution to mental illness so be experimental, talk to others and get tips on what has helped them in their journey. Then devote time and energy to trying these solutions until you find things that work for you. Make sure you do use the support of those around you and ask for help when you need it. Realise that there might always be bad days but you can get better at moving through these bad days and facing tomorrow. Focus on the positive’s in life because there are so many once we start looking. If you are suffering from mental illness speak to a professional to make sure you have the best tools available to help.
If you need someone to talk to call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 and seek help, because no one has to go through life and all of its challenges alone.