for better mental health

Me, my family, and mental health problems

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 Frazer

Frazer blogs about his own experiences of anxiety, his sister's bipolar, and how he dealt with losing her to suicide. Frazer is a 27 year old Hospital Switchboard operator who moved to Canterbury for University and has happily stayed there since.

I used to get anxious about everything when I was younger, going to school, leaving to go in the car somewhere, going to the shop to buy sweets was even a hard task at times. I was and still am a constant worrier, this combined with anxiety and nervousness was a toxic combination which lead me to be permanently exhausted most of the time. Every day going to school was just what I would describe as an anxious pilgrimage. I would struggle to eat breakfast as I was so anxious about going to school, then I would feel a sudden urge to go to the toilet to release anxiety and would feel a tad better. I permanently had butterflies in my stomach and always felt on edge. School trips would cause me anxiety as I was naturally a loner at school due to my anxiety and pushed everyone away that wanted to get close to me. I would dread having to get on the school bus for trips knowing everyone would be laughing and joking and I would be the sad one sitting on my own very anxious and lonely. I managed with much exhaustion, stress, worry, nervousness and anxiety to get 10 GCSE’s at good grades, unfortunately to the detriment of my mental health as I was anxious about every single exam I had to take. I was very proud that I managed with my mental health being the way it was to get these grades.

"I would struggle to eat breakfast as I was so anxious about going to school."

After leaving Secondary School with a good set of GCSE’s I went on to Sixth Form. At this point my anxiety reached a level that could only be described as debilitating. People thought I was rude as I was just so quiet, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to people I was just so anxious I couldn’t. I clung on to people who had also been to my secondary school like a sponge, it was evident I was a loner I was always on my own and this really affected me. I didn’t also know that I had an unusual type of diabetes when I was at Sixth Form so I was permanently exhausted and I didn’t know why I was so tired all the time, I also suffered excruciating nerve pain in my leg but didn’t tell anyone so was struggling mentally and physically. At this point I was suffering from hyperhidrosis under my armpits and nothing could help it. Hyperhidrosis is a condition whereby you sweat excessively for no apparent reason. It can be under the armpits, on the forehead or any part of the body. The smell from this excessive sweating was horrendous and my clothes would be drenched in sweat it was just horrendous. I was in a dreadful state and knew I needed help but couldn’t bring myself to go to the doctors. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when my sister Rachel suffered a spinal cord injury in 2009.

"I was in a dreadful state and knew I needed help"

Rachel suffered her spinal cord injury from falling off a balcony in London as a result of a bipolar manic episode. Rachel was unaware that she had bipolar until she suffered this injury, it was a cumulative result of many things. It was the most horrendous thing that has ever happened to us as a family. Over a period of 8 years everyone saw Rachel regain her mobility with lower limb paralysis, it was an emotional rollercoaster for us as a family seeing Rachel in pain on daily basis. I would get anxious going out with Rachel in a wheelchair thinking everyone was staring at me. Unfortunately, often I would avoid going out with Rachel in the wheelchair as I found it too anxiety provoking. I think Rachel found this very difficult to understand however I tried to explain to her it was nothing to do with her it was my own mental health and paranoia that made me feel people were looking at me. At this time as I have said previously I started at Sixth Form in Suffolk and many people were gossiping and speculating about Rachel as she was quite well known by many people due to her amazing personality and nature. This affected me so much I didn’t tell anyone at Sixth Form anything at all about what happened to Rachel a lot of people who talked to me stopped talking to me. It was just awful. I felt horrendous and at my lowest point ever all I wanted to do was sleep.

"Rachel was unaware that she had bipolar until she suffered this injury"

As a result of this injury Rachel appeared in a BBC1 documentary narrated by Stephen Fry talking about her experiences with bipolar disorder and how she suffered her spinal cord injury. She also became a peer support worker for Mind and started a mental health blog which was seen by many people around the world. She loved her time at Mind, doing peer support work but the nerve pain from the spinal cord injury became too much too handle for her and she unfortunately took her own life in 2017. Her death impacted on us all as a family, at the time I had already had four years of psychotherapy and I had a further two after Rachels death.

"Her death impacted on us all as a family"

I did seek medical intervention and help at University in 2011 and I can safely say that it was the best decision I have made in my life thus far. I registered at my local GP in Canterbury and the GP put me on 20mg Citalopram. This changed my life within a week I was doing things differently, I was talking to people I would never normally talk to, it was like a missing piece of the jigsaw. Over time this was increased to 40mg and I am still on it to this day. I had the best three years at University and met so many amazing people that I am still friends with now. I have travelled around the world and appeared on TV on three occasions including Tipping Point where I won £2400. I even found the confidence to appear in the local media, complaining about my waste collection when I was a student, I then went to work for the company, and have since continued to be in the news regarding exercise and diabetes related things.

"It was like a missing piece of the jigsaw"

As well as psychotherapy and medication, there are some other things I find helpful to my wellbeing. For me personally sleep, eating healthily, and exercise are all very beneficial for my mental health. When I am tired my anxiety goes through the roof, we all know what our bodies are like. Everyone’s bodies are different. Finally, it is important to talk about one’s personal problems, which has been very beneficial for me.

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