I have always been open to mental illness. I have never once thought it wasn’t real or was just a taboo subject. In fact I have always been a big advocate of mental health and come from dealing with my Dad who had depression and was medicated, I always encouraged those around me struggling to seek help. But I quickly became victim to the classic denial, or perhaps it was I just didn’t understand what I was now dealing with. This is my thoughts on my journey of dealing with mental illness.
I have always been the happy, bubbly type of person. You know that person who is usually smiling even just walking around the supermarket? Yep that was me. However, following my Dad’s accident, on the outside I still looked like that happy, carefree smiling girl. Yet little did many people know on this inside I was struggling and was ready to burst into tears or have a panic attack at any second. I developed an intense fear of my loved ones getting hurt. To begin with, I put it down to just needing time to understand what had happened. I needed to know where my family was, when they were home safe, needing to check in every few hours just to make sure everything was ok. Sure, after finding your loved one deceased in a paddock I think that’s pretty understandable. But I didn’t realise how bad it was getting.
Struggling to sleep or intermittent sleep turned into no sleep. That feeling of needing to check in every few hours turned into every hour. Needing to know where my family was or when to expect them took over my life, and I now needed to know where or what my friends were doing to. If I hadn’t heard from someone or if people were running more than 5 minutes late, I would have a panic attack and think worst case scenario.
I remember one day driving into town from our family home and noticed a tractor sitting in the paddock. My heart instantly stopped and I assumed the worst. I pulled over, got out of my car and started running towards the machine with my phone in hand ready to call from help. As I was climbing through the fence, I heard the machine’s engine and realised that in fact there was a person operating it, and they appeared fine. I jumped back into the car, went to the station and caught the train to work. It was 20 minutes into my train ride when I realised my heart was still racing and I burst into uncontrollable crying and hyperventilating. That’s when I realised I needed help.
Admitting this to my family wasn’t easy. I had a supportive family, one who had been around mental illness before. Yet I never thought it would happen to me. It’s not that I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. I just never thought it would. And all of a sudden I was treading water in waves that were constantly crashing down on me, unable to control those thoughts or panics I originally put down to just needing time.
I saw my doctor, who explained to me by saying “Tayla, it’s completely normal after what you have been through. It is not a weakness”. I already knew this, of course I knew it wasn’t me just being weak. But in that mental state, to me I was very weak, unable to control my thoughts or emotions in even the slightest way. But it was those words that encouraged me to acknowledge I had a problem and started medication.
Within 3 days, I felt myself again. I hadn’t even realised that I wasn’t myself other than the fear and panic. I had more energy, more love, and some of the dullness had started to fade. I was on medication for six months before choosing to stop it. I didn’t stop because I was all better. I stopped because I felt strong enough to work through those emotions and fight them on my own thanks to the medication. It had brought my common sense back to me, my ability to reason with myself.
In no way am I saying if your struggling with PTS or depression or anxiety to go get some pills for 6 months and you will be all better. Because if you think it’s going to be that simple you have a very long journey ahead of you. But speaking to your GP or a counsellor can really help. Medication can help. And that does not make you weak.
Everyday, I still face an uphill battle to tame my anxiety. I have days of extreme lows, and good days. I can go from smiling and laughing to sobbing on the bathroom floor in a matter of moments, being consumed by that tightening in my chest and rapid thoughts running wild through my head. In fact following the birth of my daughter my illness was worst than it ever had been. But thanks to the support of my doctor, family and friends I am able to work through these challenges in a methodical way that enables me to live my life.
I had been living a life of numbness and pain. I still do to some extent but the first step to my happiness was hitting rock bottom and admitting that I had a problem that I could not solve on my own. If you too are struggling with any mental illness or know someone who is, whether its PTS, anxiety, or depression, please speak up. Be strong enough in yourself to admit something isn’t quite right and put into action how it can be improved. Whether that’s by talking to a doctor and needing medication or whether it’s talking to a friend/family member or counsellor. The first step to getting better is admitting it and taking any step forward.
You are not alone in this. Please know that. Even though I say that and I believed it prior to me suffering, at the time it felt like I faced the world alone. But that’s not how it is. If you really believe you have no-one that will listen, there are numerous of call lines, or public services that will support you, will help you and will listen without judging.
So take that step. You can do it! I’m always here too if you need someone who has been there.