Accepting you need help.
So, I haven't really been posting on my blog in a few months, and I have been questioning whether to talk about why.
I have always been someone that acts as the therapist of the group, I spew out advice like its second nature but never follow it myself, I preach positivity and happiness but only do that online. I do things like blame anxiety on being a stress head and blame depression on just a bad day. Mental Health is something I have always taken so seriously in everyone around me but never myself. I think it's something to do with my pride and not wanting to seem weak. I will accept I am struggling but never accept help. But, if I get treated for Crohn's without being ashamed, why shouldn't I get treated for my mental health too.
Nearly dying is pretty traumatising, starting a life changing treatment all alone in a hospital is painful and being diagnosed with incurable autoimmune disease aged 18 is unthinkable. It's not the sort of thing you get taught how to deal with. So, what do all people do when they don't know how to cope? They repress, smile and say everything's okay. When I got home from the hospital for the first time, I put on a brave face, everyone kept looking at me and wondering why I wasn't breaking down. I didn't really understand either, I felt all the emotions but I was so desperate to just be okay, that I fooled myself. But brave faces crack and eventually everything you pushed away will come back.
After I got on a solid treatment plan for Crohn's and started to get my life back, I didn't have the physical challenges anymore. It opened the floodgates to all the emotional barriers I refused to accept. And within a week I was a total mess, constantly in fear of getting sick, I was getting triggered when I was driving by ambulances that passed me, having panic attacks, constant struggles with insomnia and even if I was in a room of people I felt like I was still alone. I noticed how badly it was impacting me, people looked at me with worried expressions all the time and I found I wouldn't actually leave my bed for days at a time. My family decided I needed to do something about it and so I got a therapist. I have never had any kind of therapist, or even admitted I was struggling to anyone professionally. I mean it took me until I was almost dead to tell someone I had Crohn's Symptoms, so it's safe to say I had to be forced into therapy. After going through assessments and tests I was diagnosed with severe Anxiety and Depression along with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. It was massively hard to accept this as I have always been a happy person who is sociable and loves life, so to suddenly hate everything and wish you weren't here, made me feel like I was living in a stranger's body.
What I have learnt from accepting I need help:
Both strength and weakness have a place in everyone, being weak doesn't make you any less of a person.
I used to say that asking for help makes you strong, which I still stand by, but I now realise, admitting you're weak and are not in the best place is arguably more important. I have a massive fear of failure and have learnt through therapy that I crave acceptance and approval, so to me admitting my flaws feels counterproductive. However, by being vulnerable to someone and showing your deficiencies allows you to have room to improve and work on yourself. Proclaiming your own fragility will result in strength. They come together as one, in order to reach a level of courage you have to go through the pain of weakness, acceptance and motivation.
Time is just a journey, it is not a limit.
I have been in therapy for quite a few months now and to be quite honest I don't feel much improvement, at first I thought there was something wrong with me, maybe my brain was just permanently damaged and I was always going to feel like this. But after some searching I came to the conclusion that like with everything, life doesn't have one answer, it's not always going to be smooth sailing. If there was a simple fix then therapists wouldn't exist. Big things like being diagnosed with a lifelong disease or losing a loved one will never be easy, and you will never stop feeling the pain of it, but that doesn't mean you won't still have highs. Life comes with lows and highs, you have to climb over each mountain.
It is so hard to see when you are on the start of a hill that life will be okay again, only when you have tackled life and pushed up the top of the mountain are you able to see the journey back down. There are a million mountains, and you will have to climb them all, sometimes you will fall and you will struggle but that is the beauty of a journey, and the blessing of time. There's no end, it just keeps going. Time doesn't limit you, you should never feel like you're letting yourself down because it's taken you years to get over one mountain, you should be thankful for the ability to have even more time to keep trying.
Stop rejecting pain and start embracing the emotions.
It is the body's instinctive response to not want to feel pain, whether that be physical or mental. You will unconsciously respond by putting your guard up, rejecting all emotions and closing down. But pain begs to be felt, it has to be allowed in order to get it to go away. Repressing does not get rid of it, it saves it or later, giving it the chance to fester and worsen. It sounds horrible but when you feel a panic attack, when you feel the memories coming up, the stress coming up, embrace it, allow it to take its course, keep breathing and relax as much as you can. When the stress has calmed I always reflect on the cause of it and how I dealt with it.
I realize now I am still writing this retrospectively as if I am out of the worst of it, maybe to try and protect the positive image I create of a strong fighter online. But I am actually in one of the worst places I have been in for a while. I am trying Prolonged exposure to try and deal with my struggles from my flare up, I am finding it incredibly hard. I find journaling to be extremely helpful, which is why I decided to do this blog. Writing everything down each day helps me to unknowingly track my progress. When I think I am doing terribly and not improving I like to reflect on my worst days to prove to myself that it may be slow but I am gradually getting there.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your own mental health seriously, you are the most important thing in your life, so please look after yourself. Now I know the backlogs for therapy on the NHS are ridiculous, I just happen to be lucky enough to be covered to get it privately by my dad's work. But if you're struggling just tell someone, whether that's a friend, family member or a helpline, it is so important, because without you even noticing you can lose control. Sometimes its the people that seem the most happy and positive that are struggling the most, so be there for your friends, check in on them and they will be with you too.
CROHNS AND COLITIS MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINES:
The strongest thing you can do is to admit you're struggling, there is so much help out there for Crohn's patients. Do not suffer in silence.
Crohn’s and Colitis UK Helpline: 0300 222 5700
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): is a talking therapy that starts by accepting that Crohn’s or Colitis won’t go away.
Antidepressant medicines: Around 3 out of 10 people with Crohn’s and Colitis take them to manage depression or anxiety
CALM: is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat. 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Everyone struggles with Mental Health battles and it is not something that you should do alone.
MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINES:
Samaritans: To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123
Luce :) x