Last week I went to Newcastle, after struggling with my joints and stomach for a couple of weeks, traveling is becoming increasingly difficult and so as you can imagine, I was nervous about the five hour train journey but I really did not want to let it stop me. I took along a crutch to help support my knees which it did. At first, I felt silly for using it and the questions like ‘what have you done to your leg, love?’ Did not help, but with walking and standing for a while, I noticed my knees felt more supported and so I did not feel as silly.
On first arriving in Newcastle, I noticed how friendly the people were, of course, I know that there are friendly people everywhere but I did not see one person who rushed by, who grunted or grumbled at me for taking my time. I am unsure if it was because the people of Newcastle are just most friendly or perhaps it was because I had a crutch, either way I felt more at ease.
I had some free time in the evening and I got to meet up with a friend, who I have not seen since September! It was so lovely to catch up, eat sushi and stroll around the city, I even saw a dreamy ski and so, my heart felt content.
My stay in Newcastle was short and sweet but my journey home was unpleasant. There were a few things that I found Anxiety provoking and the combination of feeling aches and pains did not help. I am very aware of my reasons, or triggers, for Anxiety and panic but that does not mean coping with the onset of a panic attack is any easier. I was not going to mention this on social media or here but the fact that I even felt ashamed to share is reason enough for sharing. I do not want to share more, not right now anyway but my dad was a complete hero and managed to support me even from home.
I love traveling, even visiting new cities here in the UK, and I try bloody hard (sorry for the bloody but extra hard did not express just how hard I try) to not let Anxiety stop me but sometimes it is best for my health to say no, to change things around and make it easier for my mind, this is okay. It is okay that sometimes my health problems stop me from doing things but it is not okay that I feel ashamed that they do.
I am beyond lucky enough that when explaining that I need to move things around, change meetings or even meeting up with friends because of the Anxiety and panic I sometimes feel, those around me understand and are supportive when I do.
That does not mean self-stigma is not there, it is, it forces me to believe,
I am a failure for not being able to do what others can, amongst other horrible things the bully in my mind fills me with but the understanding and support from others makes it easier to manage. I am lucky, not everyone has that, even now, I do not always have it either, some people do not understand and their responses can fuel the already guilt and shame I feel.
Another thing I have realised, I guess something that until now, I have taken lightly, my optimism and positivity always believing that one day I will be, maybe, even today, I am ‘recovered’. Saying ‘I am recovered’ is easy to say on good days, on the days where my mental illness does not effect me as much as my bad days, it is believable but during days like this, I have become increasingly aware of different factors of life that have an impact on my mental illness and my recovery. This too comes with self-stigma and the ‘but I thought you were better’ type comments and perceptions of others do not help. Just because my mental illness and recovery comes with good days and bad days, does not mean relapse and even if it did there is no shame in that. See, even now, it is so easy to not see mental illness as an illness, which is why talking about mental illness over mental health and ensuring we do not confuse the two is so important, I am still learning how to do this. I feel I could go on here but this is quite the ramble.
I guess I would just like to end this post on one note, if someone you know, a friend, a family member or work colleague cancels an arrangement or asks to change a location or time because of their mental illness or health problem, no matter where they are on their recovery, be understanding and supportive, let them know it is not their fault because chances are they already feel bad about it.
If you struggle with any of the things I have mentioned here please know that recovery is not linear, it comes with ups and downs, good days and not so good days but there is always hope and no thought or feeling lasts forever.
Wishing you well and hank you for reading,
For more information on supporting a family member or friend please see: Rethink Mental Illness, Mind, Time to Change, B-eat. If you are a family member or a friend of someone experiencing a mental health problem you too can reach out for support and advice.