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To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, Stacie-Mai blogs about how the stresses of everyday life have impacted her mental health and how getting outdoors running and walking her dogs saved her life.
Stacie-Mai lives with her wife and two pet Chihuahuas.
My depression and anxiety has peaked and troughed at various points throughout my life since I was a teenager, my Dad passed away when I was 12 and I couldn’t grieve properly at the time because of a difficult family situation.
"Nowadays, it’s often the stresses of everyday life which have the biggest impact on my mental health."
Two years ago, my mental health got really bad. I had just started a new job with the ambulance service, but became physically ill only a few weeks after starting my new role. I was passed between nurses, doctors and other GP services, trying to find out what was wrong. My GP told me I was fine, so I carried on working but it turned out it was my appendix. I was upset, frustrated and in a lot of pain.
This, on top of a new, high pressure job was quite overwhelming. Eventually my appendix was removed, but my own wellbeing had been impacted quite significantly due to the stress of the whole thing.
I had around three months off work but was stuck on my own without any visitors – my wife was working too, so we didn’t see each other much.
"I wanted to be working, but knew I needed to take some time for myself."
Although I eventually went back to work, I had to take a few more periods off work due to stress. There was a support service for people working in the ambulance service and I really appreciate my colleague’s support, but unfortunately there is not enough help for everyone.
While working in the control room I would sometimes receive verbal abuse from worried callers. Often it’s just people venting their concern, which I understand, but words can be just as painful as violence, especially when you’re already stressed or feeling particularly low. Unfortunately, because of the stress, in June 2017 I stopped working for the emergency services and began working as a peer mentor instead.
"Sometimes it feels like as soon as you sort one stressful situation, another one pops up."
Although I love my new job, I had a 30 mile commute to work each way. At first I accepted it, but soon having no time to switch off and relax really began to take its toll. I have been off work since December, but hope to go back soon.
In January, my wife and I moved into a house closer to work. The process of buying a house is stressful for anyone, it was particularly difficult to get a mortgage – when my anxiety is heightened, I have a habit of impulse spending.
I also found trying to access mental health support in my new area really stressful and complicated. Of course, being off work has added to the stress of it all, as my wife needs to work harder than she already does to cover the bills.
When I’m feeling really stressed, whether that’s work, studying, housing issues or my relationships, I go off in my own world with my two Chihuahuas, I don’t know where I would be without them. They both recognise when my mental health is bad and respond by being super affectionate.
"There have been times when I’ve felt like I was better off not here, but I couldn’t leave my wife or my dogs. They have literally saved my life."
Getting outdoors helps me better manage my mental health and I know running is good for me, but having the motivation to go out and run can be incredibly hard. I sometimes find just getting up and washing difficult, let alone running.
However, I’ve set myself a challenge and will be running Simplyhealth’s Manchester 10k on 20 May. It will be the first time I’ve done anything like this, but what better way to get through Mental Health Awareness Week than by committing to a challenge and sharing my story to help others to open up about their mental health problems. I have goals in life, a list of things I want to do and a plan of how I am going to get there. Achieving these will have a positive impact on my wellbeing.
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