Very often in my work as a psychological therapist, I talk to people about being along a continuum of their mental health difficulty. We all fall somewhere along a continuum of depression, worry, anxiety and stress and we can all move up and down these continua at different times in our lives.
I am no exception to this.
So, on Time to Talk Day I would like to be open with you about some of the difficulties I have experienced with my own mental health.
I consider myself lucky to never have experienced an episode of depression, as I understand how big an impact this can have on the lives of people who experience it. Anxiety, on the other hand, is something with which I am familiar. At the age of 11, I experienced my first panic attack on the night before my first day of secondary school. I had no idea what was happening and all I knew at that time was that I couldn’t breathe and I believed I was going to die. My parents called the doctor who came to do a home visit – this was in the 90s – I’m not sure home visits are a regular occurrence now! Unfortunately, the doctor who came out was quite unsympathetic and told my parents that I was just trying to get out of going to school. I can look back at this now knowing that GPs probably did not have as much training or awareness of these things then as they do now, but that particular doctor’s comment prevented me from speaking to anyone about the problem for many years. I periodically experienced what I now know to be nocturnal panic attacks into my early 20s. Thankfully, I realised the link between experiencing nocturnal panic attacks and my level of stress, as they would often increase around exams, life changes, new jobs etc. Eventually I figured out that they hadn’t killed me yet and that maybe I wouldn’t die from them, after which they became less frequent.
It was when I was doing my training to become a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner some years later that I had my ‘Aha!’ moment! I understood what I had been experiencing for all those years when I was learning how to help other people experiencing panic attacks. It all made sense!
People talked less about mental health issues when I was 11 and I am glad that this is changing through campaigns like Time to Talk. We should talk about these issues so that people don’t suffer in silence, so that people can get the right help for their difficulties and so that nobody feels alone in their experience.
We all move along a continuum of mental health – let’s keep talking!
Written by Louise Aaron