living successfully with a mental illness

May 02, 2023

living successfully with a mental illness

I have been certified!!

Yes it's true I have a mental health illness. Well, a couple actually. I am sharing here with you what it is like to have a diagnosis, and then having to live with it.

I have PTSD. Yes, that diagnosis shocked me as I have not been to war, and in my naivety about mental illness thought that was the only way one acquired PTSD. Apparently I was wrong. You can also get it from any traumatic incident in your past. See here exactly what PTSD is.

I also suffer from depression and anxiety... quite a nice little concoction. I also had post natal depression with my 2nd and 3rd children (I have 4). So, quite a lot going on there. 

The first time I was diagnosed with PND i found it quite a difficult thing to take on and own, but once I had accepted there was something wrong and started medication and counselling, I eventually came back closer to the person I had been, prior to children. I'm aware that I will never be the younger me without the stresses of children. 

I have seen a lot of councillors and psychiatrists over the ensuing 30 odd years and have been on medication for my mental illnesses for over 15 years now. Coming off them has never worked for me and I have been advised that this just may be my life.

Mental illness for me is a chemical imbalance, and with these drugs I can function as well as anybody else. I can make a coffee, concentrate, make plans, budget, and leave the house. These are the things I struggled with when I don't take the meds.

I still experience anxiety and mini panic attacks, but have mostly learnt to manage them through breathing and some other focus tools. I don't always even know the reason for some of these anxiety attacks but do know I used to get a lot of anxiety around body image and food.

The body that I am learning to love and often the cause of my anxiety or panic attacks.

I have been working on these triggers, and am doing really well in these areas. I am working on helping society see all bodies as beautiful (accepting mine) just as they are, and that food is not a reward or punishment and not good or bad! All in moderation 

I do make plans to do things and genuinely want to do them, spend time with friends etc.... but then the thought of being social and in a social situation becomes too much. I look for ways out which is due to my head and not because I don't want to be with my friends having fun.

All of this year I have attended everything I have planned unless I have been unwell and so for me this is quite an achievement (my close friends will know of these struggles). I do also have the occasional times where I struggle to even get up, but I can have a conversation with myself and push myself to get up and do the things that help me start the day well

  1. Get up
  2. Make my bed
  3. Shower 
  4. Leave the house (even for a walk if not an office day) 

The beautiful bekeane pop - up shop which I'm so proud of.

I have been able to start and run my side business Bekeane activewear and hold down a very busy job as a Change Manager. All whilst managing a mental illness. In fact, most wouldn't even know I had a mental illness. Those of us with mental illness become very good at the mask. I have an A and a B mask and many rarely see the B mask - the raw hot mess. The A mask is professional and always smiling and always says she is good, as it is far easier than the truth sometimes.

I'm not saying it's easy, and I do have really tough days. But none as tough as when my PTSD is triggered. I very rarely get triggered by that now, but any shouting or people yelling at each other, or threatening violent actions will do it!

I have learnt that it is nothing I should be ashamed of or need to hide although I have hidden it for most of my life. Ashamed that someone intelligent and seemingly level headed also has a mental illness that can be overwhelming. 

I do a few things to really help my mental health and for me those things are:

  1. Take my meds
  2. Spend time at the beach
  3. Going on walks or hikes
  4. Time with friends laughing
  5. I have started journaling what I'm grateful for (I will share this in another blog)

I am writing this and sharing more of my B face to show and share my story, my experiences with living successfully with a mental illness, and what might be possible for others. 

Me living and enjoying life - hiking the Camino de Santiago 

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