Mental health awareness is a big thing right now. Every time I hop on Facebook there are statuses, blog links and even memes about mental health. I won’t say I’ve never posted one. However, while in general I don’t keep the condition of my mental health a secret, I don’t talk openly about it openly either. I will talk about it for a minute here, if you don’t mind.
I have always been an extremely anxious person. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I worry about every tiny thing, imagine crazy impossible scenarios, and have to reassure myself constantly. Even just taking a signed permission slip to school when I was young was nerve-wracking. When I was really young, I went to the school counsellor. Mostly we talked about how I hated school. My attendance was pretty poor, although my grades were great. Looking back, I’m not sure those counselling sessions were helpful at all, because I now realise I hated school thanks to my anxiety, which wasn’t picked up on back then.
After we lost our sons I started actually focusing on my mental health for the first time in my life. I was formally diagnosed with severe anxiety (also depression), and fully realised just how deep and how far my anxiety went. I went to psychologist sessions. I wanted to get better.
I do feel like losing my boys was in a way a catylyst for some of my mental health issues, or at least the diagnosis and treatment of. As I said, I have always been anxious, but while I was pregnant with them my anxiety really peaked. Because, while pregnant, the worst case scenario was no longer “the permission slip fell out of my bag so I miss out on the field trip”, but the death of my sons. The last week before their death was particularly anxiety-ridden for me, mostly because my doctors had told me my boys were more at risk after 36 weeks gestation. I was genuinely anxious something bad would happen and I wouldn’t even know until it was too late – because you can’t see inside your belly you know. I spoke to my doctors about this fear, and I guess I was passed off as an anxious first time mum, which is in truth exactly what I was (although my anxiety did run a little deeper than that).
This put me back so far in terms of my anxiety. My whole life, I have spent reassuring myself that all the “worse case scenarios” in my head are so improbable and that it was irrational to be so anxious about them. My whole life, I have (mostly) been right. Almost none of those scenarios have ever happened. And then my boys died. The crazy, impossible scenario my anxiety had conjured up in my head actually happened. And it was the worst possible one to come true. Can you imagine that? I have fought to convince myself to ignore that anxious voice inside my whole life, even when my boys’ movements slowed down and we started heading to hospital I was thinking this was just another one of my anxious moments. I was trying to convince myself it was all going to be okay. To be so devastatingly wrong just fuelled my anxiety even more.
The reason I don’t talk about my mental health often, though, is because I don’t want to use it as an excuse. My anxiety (and more recently, depression) is sometimes the reason I don’t want to leave the house, but I will not use it as an excuse not to. Today has been a bad day, and it’s not because of my mental illnesses. It’s because today, I let my mental illnesses win. Tomorrow, I will fight harder. In the end I am not my mental illness. It’s all down to me.