MY STORY
"Don't lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It's okay not to be okay"
Who You Are by Jessie J

    THE TRIGGER…    

   
I had been working in fashion for 10 years.  After many ups and downs I was finally in a job l loved, working for a well known brand that I loved, a boss I got on with and with colleagues I loved.  I had moved out of home and was living with my best friend in a lovely flat in Islington.   My social life was going well – though this was an area I always have struggled with – which later on I would discover why. Things seemed better than ever.

I then my boss went on maternity leave and I was left with a new boss; this is where things started going rapidly down hill.  She picked at everything I did, changed my job, gave me tasks she knew I would struggle with and took away all aspects of the job I loved.  I had always had low self-esteem and harshly judged everything I did but she just enhanced those feelings, making me feel more useless than ever.  There are many words I could describe her as, but they would not be suitable to say here!

I had never been a crier and would never dream to cry at work, but as things went from bad to worse I could not contain it.   Everyday I would dread going to work.  I would cry and shake all the way down the never-ending escalator down at Islington.  On the tube I would not be able to breath, and on the walk to the office from the tube station my stomach would fill with dread. This was all before I even arrived at work.  At work I would find myself crying in the stationery cupboard, bathroom or anywhere where no-one would know, but as time went on I didn’t care who saw me. it had got that bad

This was the start of what became a huge breakdown.

After 6 months of trying so hard to work I faced the heartbreaking decision that I had no choice but to hand in my notice.  In the meeting with HR I was crying and shaking.  They could not believe what I had been bottling up.   



It was not until well into my breakdown treatment that I realized I had been suffering from severe anxiety.   Where I felt helpless to do anything about it I then realized I could have done something about what had been happening.  I should have spoken to my GP and got signed off work to deal and get treatment with my feelings and what I had been going through and get help before it escalated to the extent it had.

Leaving the company and ‘family’ I loved was the hardest part to swallow.  But that time came, and on my last day I must have cried a river.  The biggest kick in the face was the fact my boss did not even stand up to say goodbye – this confirmed I had definitely made the right decision.  At the same time of feeling all this upset I also felt the biggest relief – things were finally going to get better. 
Or were they....
    
   MOVING ON… 
SEEKING HELP. . . 

   
Two months of job hunting took its toll.  My confidence was sinking drastically. with rejection after rejection.  My flatmate did everything she could do to help, she set up a work station for me in the flat, checked up on me, gave me feedback on what I had done.  But then without even realizing it, I had given up, spending days on end in bed in the flat on my own whilst everyone else was at work.  When it got to the point of me not being able to leave the flat I knew I had to get some help.
    
    
   
It was here I started seeing my first therapist.  This was my first experience of therapy (aside from a brief support when I lost my grandparents years ago), I did not really know what to expect and the mere thought of it was extremely daunting.  I found it increasingly difficult to open up to her about what had been happening and past experiences – this had always been a problem anyway, even with my closest friends.  She tried to do various mindfulness exercises to relax me, but in fact they ended up doing the opposite.  I was too ill to be able to handle these.  At this point I started scratching.  Not just gentle scratching, but scratching one point until it bled.  This was a physical sign of anxiety, and my first experience of self harm (though I again did not know it). Here I realized that my anxiety soared before seeing her that I knew she was wrong for me but I did not know what to do, or how to change things, my confidence in myself was at rock bottom.

Then out of nowhere I had my first very severe panic attack.  I was in the flat with my flat mate and went to bed.  Suddenly I could not breath and started to hyperventilate.  My poor flat mate did not know what to do.  My mum and dad would take half an hour to get to me and I was turning blue.  This is when the ambulance came.  They managed to regulate my breathing and when I came round they told me that mine was the 8th panic attack they had treated just that evening.  This on its own shows how many people suffer in silence.  My mum came to the flat and it was decided that I should go back with her for the night.

I did not know this was to be the last night in my lovely flat with my best friend.
    

LEAVING THE FLAT

   CHANGE… 

   
The next day I was escorted by my mum to see my GP, as it was obvious something had to be done.  He referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist (without who, I would probably not be sitting here writing this).  He referred me to a new therapist, who I felt comfortable with and he put me on some new drugs.

My new therapist was wonderful.  I felt we creeping to a slight bit of progress.  The one thing I had an issue with was she was telling me to do nothing and think of nothing, to take it easy and listen to my body.  I remember saying to my mum, ”how do I do and think of nothing?”  This was something totally alien to me as I had always been quite a driven person, raring to go.  As a result and to compensate for this and to give myself something to aim I decided to enter a half marathon.  This would be a huge challenge for me, it was in October and I had 10 months to prepare, and of course I would be better by then.

During this period I met up with a very old friend and discussed what was going on with me. She told she knew someone who had gone through similar and they spent time in a psychiatric hospital.  At this moment it dawned on me that plenty of people ‘like me’ go through this and it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Later I realized it was very brave to face up to it, acknowledge there was a problem and seek help.

The next day I was admitted into hospital. 
    

HOSPITAL . . .

   
I am not going to lie.  Arriving at the hospital for the first time was scary.  I had no idea what to expect, the sort of patients I would be in with or what was going to happen.  Even though I knew there was a huge problem somehow it still did not seem to be big enough for me to be in a hospital, it all felt very surreal.

As it turned out a majority of my fellow patients were just like me.  Admittedly we all had very different backgrounds and triggers but overall there was none of the ‘scariness’’ I had been expecting (which of course was fuelled by stereotypes which we are fed to believe are true). 

The structure of my time in hospital had the same components every day.  First thing was an educational lecture, each day was a different subject; anxiety, sleep, how to use CBT on a daily basis, depression, and self-awareness and goals.  Then we had group CBT.  Followed by lunch. Then, a group session of interpersonal therapy.  Last thing in the day was for relaxation, so things like mindfulness and yoga.  One morning a week we also had art therapy, which at the beginning I refused to take part to as it was too close to my design background, but after time I grew to love it and look forward to it each week.  I found a theme of balloons which were featured in every drawing (they were flying away, taking me away, on the verge of being popped or totally popped)

Although I learnt a lot in this time and there was significant progress, I was very drugged up as they were playing with meds to try and find what was best for me.  Because I was so drugged up I could no longer do the one thing that made me feel slightly better – running.

When I was admitted I thought it would be great as I was near a beautiful park and could go running and train for the half marathon when I was not in groups.  I tried a few times but because I was so drugged up I had no stamina and the few times I tried I ended up having huge panic attacks, so that was the end of that.

Another effect of being on so many meds was that I had a huge appetite for sweet things – especially brownies!!! Whenever anyone visited they would bring me some, of which I would eat them all.  A result of this I put on a tremendous amount of weight, I felt out of control.  This also affected my mood and self esteem as I was used to being a size 12 but now was a 16 (at least)+.  I could only face loosing this weight 18 months later when I was ‘better’.


    
I was discharged after 8 weeks.  I had a holiday booked and was determined not to miss it...perhaps this was a mistake.

I was doing fine until a few things happened in a row – my friend from hospital committed suicide which obviously effected me deeply (she was a beautiful and talented vet who had so so much going for her, she just could not see it).  Along with this I had a few distressing events happening very close to each other. 
Despite all this I somehow managed to complete my half marathon – which although I was very proud of there was also a huge come down.  When I entered to do it I thought ‘I will definitely be better by then” but this ended up not true.
I then was deteriorating again so I was readmitted to hospital for a month while they played around with my meds.

I was discharged the week before Christmas which was the best present!!

SCAREY TIMES . . .

This part is very hard  and upsets me to  write about about but is an important part of my journey – a lot of people don’t even know this happened.

   
3 days after being in hospital they decided to try ECT.  The thought of electric currents being shocked through my brain was terrifying.  But nervously the next day I went in for it with my stomach churning.  I had an adverse reaction to the general anesthetic and was ill for a week following so we decided not to proceed – but yet again change up my meds

This time in hospital was probably the most beneficial to me therapy wise but was made harder when people wouldn’t visit me as they didn’t know what to say or ‘needed time out’.  This shock is what I needed.
    

It was an afternoon in January when it happened.  I was on my own in the flat, anxiety at its highest, depression at its lowest.  All I wanted to do was shut out so I decided to take my tablets to calm me down, then (and I never drink) I had a drink, which lead to more bad decisions.  I panicked as I was slowly passing out and then luckily called my dad , who came rapidly and with my mum spent 9 hours in a & e and then I was back in to hospital.

A few days in hospital the reality of what had happened hit me hard – it had not been something I wanted to do, all I wanted was to shut out the pain I was living.