Before we kick this post off I better tell you guys a bit about me! I'm Gemma, a mental health and recovery blogger, you...

Depression, anxiety and self-image - My experience - GUEST POST

By October 31, 2018

Before we kick this post off I better tell you guys a bit about me! I'm Gemma, a mental health and recovery blogger, you'll find me over at . I'm 26, from Cardiff in the UK and I'm currently at the start of my own recovery from mental illness.
Depression, anxiety and self-image - My experience
Looking at that photo of me you'd think I'm a confident, happy and carefree person wouldn't you? However, I'm not. Not really. Since I was about 12, I have struggled with depression. Now that was way back in the early 2000's and if you talked about suicidal thoughts as a child you'd be told you were attention seeking and reading too many stories. The problem is, that's not true. The feelings are real, the thoughts are there and before anyone knew it I actually tried to end my life at 13. I guess at those ages it was more so because of the relentless bullying I faced in primary and secondary school. (This was all before social media was a major thing... The best we had then was Bebo and Myspace. Even the phones were rubbish back then.)
Honestly speaking, back at those ages, it was because of the bullying. It made me hate myself, every single detail I would find a flaw with just because I've been told over and over and over there is something wrong with me. I felt fat, disgusting and unloveable. The problem with mental illnesses; for example depression and anxiety. They cling to the negatives, they'll start to loop them and just brush off anything positive. It becomes an auto response to anything. Your family and friends could tell you different but you don't believe it because you've been told otherwise so much that your mind even tells you the bad is true. 
I went through a phase where I would starve myself or make myself sick. (I sometimes still go back to this because it's a learned behaviour but not as drastic as I did back then.) I would look up liposuction surgery, facial reconstruction surgery... anything to fix this issue. This only got worse once I had my own laptop when I was a little older. The only reason my parents never knew was that I was a clever kid who knew how to delete browsing history for my sessions on the family PC.
It got worse for me over the years, everything piling itself up on bit by bit until I've reached a breaking point and am accepting the help. However, there are more reasons why this got worse for me after those ages. It would be more appropriate to check my blog out to know more about what factors made my mental health. This is due to the nature of the subject material.
During the years after that until now? Well, I've never really liked myself. I've had everyone, including partners telling me I wasn't good enough. I had been told I was a 'consolation prize'. I needed to lose weight to be loved, I needed to look a certain way, act in another way in order to even be liked. Now that sort of thing really messes with someone who struggles with their mental health and self-image enough as it is. 
I became very withdrawn over the years until I met my husband. I'd engage in negative coping mechanisms, many of which were taught to me by people over the years. Some of which I found by myself in an attempt to feel something other than the misery, the dread and the emptiness inside of me. A whole load of feelings that became who I was, became my autopilot. They were the only constant in my life and I didn't know how to feel any other way. I still searched for various ways to lose weight, to fix my face. I did a few times during these years trying to take my life again. I didn't see a point in ruining everyone's lives with my existence.
Finding love again when you're that broken is like a fairytale. It's not as smooth, don't get me wrong. I didn't realise how bad I was struggling until 2 and a half years with my husband. However, it still felt like a fairytale. He was my prince charming and I feel he rescued me not only from a never-ending loop of being hurt by others. He saved me from myself, from my constant negativity. He showed me what it was like to be actually happy, how to feel appreciated. How to feel respected, wanted and most importantly loved for I am.
Being loved for who I am... Body size, looks, personality and all. He loved everything. He still does, even though I'm struggling with my mental health. It's an amazing feeling and a strange concept to me even now. I still need reassurance, if I put on weight or even lose it. If I'm feeling like that ugly troll that I've been made to feel like, I need his reassurance. That is what my mental illness and the years of being put down has done to me.
I'm hoping someday soon, I won't need that reassurance. I'll feel great 24/7 not just sometimes when I do a good job with dressing up and doing my makeup. I'll be that confident super-woman who won't let people knock her down. But for now, I accept feeling okay at least sometimes... it's better than what I used to feel like. For now, I'll accept the moments, hours, sometimes even days where my mental illness isn't making me feel like a burden and I should just give up. I'm working on that, I'm working on everything and that's what matters.
How am I working on it?
Well, I'm finally open to getting support since my last recent attempt. It was kind of a wakeup call for me that something is still very wrong with me. I mean I have everything I've ever wanted and yet I still feel that way? Yeah, it's a wakeup call that I'm still struggling.
So being open with getting support, trying everything they do offer to me and working with what I feel works for me helps a lot. I'm under the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and have a Community Practice Nurse (CPN) who I discuss my treatments, any issues and how I'm feeling with. 
I'm awaiting psychiatrist and course appointments and may be put on the waiting list for more support as well as my current talk therapy with New Pathways. I'm open to trying medication if they believe that will help me. I'm even trying to just talk more about how I am and take action where I need to if I'm feeling at that extremely low / crisis state.
I'm even writing my own blog about my mental health issues and my recovery in order to have a more positive outlet than my journal. I'm hoping actually that it reaches others who may feel like I have and stop them from making the same mistakes I did. 14 is years is a long time to struggle without help.
So what can we do about it, how can we fix this?
Sadly, we can't ultimately fix this.
Mental illness happens because of so many different causes and it's hard to stop each and every one of them. Self-image gets battered the same way. Its hard to pin-point every single cause and make them disappear.
A main factor for children and for self-image is bullying and sadly, we can't magically eradicate bullying. (Especially with how prevelant technology and social media is nowadays) The best we can do is battle it and raise awareness about how it affects people. We can get schools to actually clamp down on it rather than just having a policy that they don't actually follow!
So in terms of the mental health (and probably still self-image) what can we do?
We can raise awareness. There's too much stigma around mental health and it's a joke that it's still here on in 2018! People suffer, people need help. So what? Mental health is just as important as physical health. You don't expect someone with a broken leg to not complain about their pain or get up and walk it off... So why would you with a mental illness?
We need to talk more about mental illnesses and the effects they can have on you. We need this taught in schools, we need more people day in day out making themselves heard! We need to encourage people to talk about it, we need to reach out to our family, our friends even strangers who may be struggling. It's not talked about enough and people are dying every single day due to mental illness and suicide. Does that not point out that there's a problem?
Well, If I'm honest with you... If people talked more about it when I was growing up and not assumed that I was 'attention seeking'. Maybe, just maybe I would have actually got help then and not waited until I had a breakdown 14 years later. I'll leave that thought with you.

Keep following for more great posts just like this one! Mumma x

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