Thursday 1st February 2018 – Time to Talk Day
Today is a day all about ending the stigma around mental health and to show people that you can talk about mental health absolutely anywhere.
I’ll be completely honest and admit that I’ve been totally naive about mental health in general. I knew about it, but didn’t really understand just how differently people’s experiences were. I’ve got friends that suffer with anxiety but again, I never really understood what having anxiety really meant.
The struggle with my mental health has only become more prominent in the past few years due to my emetophobia and anxiety but looking back, I think I definitely suffered some sort of anxiety during my younger years and I want to share this with you.
I remember my first few years of secondary school – they were hell. After I left primary school, I was so excited to move up to “big school”. I remember making my poor mum buy me a new bag, PE kit, school shoes and alllll the stationary! I remember getting my first journal with lesson planner and making sure that I wrote in my very best handwriting. I remember covering my school books with patterned paper and proudly displaying them on my desk in each lesson.
All that excitement disappeared not long after I joined and that was down to the fact that I began to be picked on.
Ever since I was a baby and right the way through to my last year of primary school, I sucked my thumb. That’s a good 11 years of constant thumb sucking, so obviously it took its toll on my teeth. They stuck out so badly – I still cringe thinking about it. I remember answering a question in my French lesson, and a boy in my tutor told me to “go back to my stable” (I know, DICK). Pretty much the whole class erupted and I remember turning bright red and wanting the ground to swallow me whole. The name calling carried on for a long time, and I remember someone putting chewing gum in my hair in a science class.
Despite the name calling, I made new friends with some of the guys and girls in my year, and we became a very close knit group. I tried my hardest to fit in with them – I tried to wear the same types of clothes, do my hair the same etc. etc. – stupid looking back on it, I know. They were a great bunch of guys and I do miss them a lot – we’re sadly no longer in touch now, aside from the odd ‘like’ on Instagram. I remember having a complete meltdown every morning before I walked to school, and often in tutor group in the morning. I cried for a good 10/15 minutes straight because I was convinced that they hated me. I have no idea why I thought that, because they were always there comforting me telling me not to be silly, but I did. Every time I saw them talking, I’d think they were talking about me, and my brain was constantly trying to convince me that they hated me, that I was a rubbish friend and that they didn’t want to hang out with me because I was ugly. This was my first battle with anxiety.
I can’t remember when or exactly why and how this stopped, but thankfully it did and I began to enjoy school a bit more. Most of the nasty students were in the other half of the year so I didn’t see them often thankfully, and funnily enough, the name calling stopped once my braces were removed.
The anxiety never really came back, that is until my emetophobia began to develop, and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve reached out for professional help.
Last week, I took another big step and told my Mum and best friend about my emetophobia and anxiety. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to do, but I was embarrassed about it. Even though I knew they’d be supportive, part of me worried that they’d think I was overreacting. Of course they didn’t, and the support they’ve provided me has been incredible and I’m so glad I told them.
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling in any way, I want you to know that you’re not alone and there is always someone that will listen to you. Whether that is a family member, friend, GP – anyone, there is no wrong place or wrong time to talk about your mental health and you should not be ashamed. You are so much more than your mental health, don’t let it define you.