As some of you may know its Mental health awareness Week. According to a survey conducted by mentalhealth.org nearly two-thirds of people say they have experienced a meantal health problem, they also found that 4 in 10 people say they have experienced depression and that over 1/4 of people have experienced panic attacks. The world health organization have discovered 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.
I am apart of these statistics, Ive experienced both depression and panic attacks on a daily basis. Im not sure exactly when the pinpoint moment was that it all started or what even started my downwards spiral.. it just crept up on me and before I knew it I was giving up on the things I loved because I couldnt be bothered anymore or because my anxiety was so intense I couldnt bring myself to do them.
I think the contributing factors for my mental health problems was money stresses and illhealth.. it was like a big vicious circle that I couldnt get out. Being a university student money gets tough but when you have to intermit due to illhealth and not recieve your loans and not being able to work to make money it gets even tougher. Eventually my physical health became stable enough for me to return back to work but then because I needed the money I was working constantly and putting my body under stress which in turn resulted in me becoming very ill again.. yep you got it, more time off work getting the minimum statutory sick pay. I am pretty sure that is the starting point but I cannot be sure.
I headed back to university and started my placement on a day surgery unit. I loved this placement so much and found it so interesting. For a while it seemed to improve my mental health because I was doing something that I was enjoying and then slowly I found that I was having panic attacks more regularly, I was struggling getting out of bed and I had completely lost my appetite. I started to make up excuses to my family, blaming my lack of eating on feeling unwell. I would hide my panic attacks and would find myself crying myself to sleep at night.. that was when I could actually sleep of course. It was like my mind would never shut off, I was overthinking everything in my life and making up bad situations in my head that didnt exsist in real life.
After a few weeks at my placement I found it was impossible to bring myself to go into the building, I would drive into the car park and have panic attacks at the thought of having to be around people for 13 hours and having to pretend that I was happy. Working them long shifts was tiring enough but when you have to put on a brave face and act like youre not wanting to cry and shout is exhausting. I found that placement was also starting to affect my self-esteem. Seeing other student nurses learning and coping with it all seemed so unfair and made me feel like I was failure for not coping as well as they were. So I stopped going, started to lie to my family.. “oh they sent me home early”, “I dont feel very well”, “my mentor isnt in today so they sent me home”. I didnt want my family to know how down I was, they were all so proud of what I was achieving at university and proud of how well I was doing that I felt guilty for not coping as well as they thought I was. I stopped all contact with my placement, didnt tell them that I was struggling and ignored all contact from my university.
When the time come I stupidly forged my mentors signiture. I know how wrong this was but I was so scared that I would get into trouble for not attending placement, scared of having to face the way I was feeling and scared that I would lose my place at university. Ive always wanted to be a nurse, everything I have ever done is to help me qualify to become a nurse so the thought of losing it all was terrifying. Obviously, signing someones signiture is a serious offence and it almost cost me my place at university.. luckily they were understanding. It was due to these actions I was forced to open up about my mental health. I guess its right when people say they dont want to open up because of the stigma that is linked to having depression.. nurses are suppose to be able to cope with everything that is thrown their way arent they, so what sort of nurse would I be if I couldnt cope as a student?
I told my university about everything, I told my family and visited the doctors for support. I was put on a number of different antidepressants, some made me feel worse and I would think about self harm and sucide but evntually they found the right tablets for me. I am now taking sertraline which has helped me feel a lot better, I opted not to attend counciloring sessions because opening up is something that I really struggle with. I felt that with the support of my family and the university I have made positive movements. Obviously there are still days when I feel down and drained and have the odd panic attack but they are not as often now and if I am feeling down I know there are people around me that I can talk to. I know I am not alone, and thats why I have decided to open up to you all about my experience so if youre struggling you too will know that you are not alone.