Today is World Mental Health Day. So I thought I would be brave and open up about my own struggles with my mental health, in the hopes that it helps someone else feel like they're not alone. I know that, at my lowest points, I needed the validation that I wasn't alone, I wasn't crazy and that it was okay to feel like this. This is the blog post I needed at the time.
In my WHY I HATED UNIVERSITY post, I touched on the beginnings of my anxiety. I started having panic attacks (which are absolutely terrifying anyway, never mind when you've never had one before) and became paranoid. I gritted my teeth, started therapy for the first time and continued with my degree. I discovered through therapy that I had/have generalised anxiety disorder, as I worry about everything and anything. Once I left university (without looking back!), my general anxiety lessened. I went off to work at Walt Disney World in the summer I graduated from university and only had one panic attack the whole time I was there. Once returning home, I had the odd panic attack here or there, around things like getting on a plane and feeling like I couldn't escape, in large crowds of people, I stopped going in lifts... I was terrified of feeling trapped.
Flash forward a few years later, when I was a few years into my teaching career. I really struggled. I don't want to get into details (and I don't feel like I can fully share all of the ins and outs!), but basically I went from a confident, outstanding teacher who loved her job to a nervous wreck who felt like a fraud. I somehow managed to get over this in many ways, but the damage had been done. I never felt good enough, despite hearing otherwise. On top of this there were extra pressures, more responsibilities, lots of changes... The best way I can describe it would be to compare it to a rollercoaster. Over the next few years to present day, I would have almost daily panic attacks - crying in my classroom cupboard before school started, pulling over by the side of the road on my way into school when I felt one coming on, looking at the clock all day until I could escape and return to my comfort zone at home. Even though once I was at home, I spent most of my time planning, creating resources and marking... I felt like I had no hobbies and no life.
Just before the pandemic (ironically!), I finally went to my GP to tell them how I was feeling. I was diagnosed with anxiety (again) and depression, and was referred to therapy. When COVID hit and we had to work from home, I felt like a massive weight had been lifted. I felt like I could breathe again. I started my therapy sessions over the phone and found that, although they helped to teach me certain exercises and how to spot certain triggers, they weren't as beneficial as they could have been as I was removed from the environment that was causing a lot of my panic. Although other people's anxiety was heightened as the world was so uncertain, mine lessened drastically. I taught myself to illustrate on my iPad. I gained the confidence to start my own small business. I started filming YouTube videos. I felt like a whole new person, like I'd rediscovered life again.
But then we returned to school. Again, I feel like it's a rollercoaster, as some days I feel fine and remember why I became a teacher in the first place - spending all day laughing and having great moments with the children. But other days, it takes all my strength not to just cry and to fight the urges to escape. Recently, as you may know, we moved house and now I have an hour long commute to school. This obviously isn't ideal, but the house is our dream house and I'm hoping it gives me a reason to leave my current school for a fresh start.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm struggling with my mental health again. I try not to post about it on social media for a few reasons. One is because I would never want anyone to think I was just saying I was struggling to try and get attention (which I have unfortunately heard from someone I thought was a friend!) Another reason is because I try to keep my Instagram a positive, uplifting, nice place to be, and I worry about sharing my struggles on there. The third reason is because I am SO worried about oversharing. Even whilst writing this blog post, I'm unsure if I will actually post it, because it's very personal and also I worry about people I know in real life reading it... Like I said, I worry about everything.
Writing these blog posts and posting on social media is SUCH a good, creative outlet for me. Not only is it a way to express myself in a creative way, it helps to relieve some of my stress and anxiety. Whilst not posting on social media and writing blog posts would probably reduce the pressure I put on myself, it's something I love and enjoy so much that I feel like I need to do this. It's a hobby, and it's something that brings me lots of joy, so why wouldn't I?
I don't know, I feel like I've rambled on... I just wanted to share my story in the hopes that it helps someone else feel less alone. I wanted to get it all out of my brain, to be able to write how I'm feeling, why I feel that way and hopefully be able to move on. It's definitely a journey, not a destination, and it's okay for there to be both ups and downs. I need to learn better ways to deal with my anxiety and depression, which is what I think my next steps will be from writing this blog post.
If you're struggling, then please know that you're not alone! My emails/dms etc are always open, so please reach out if you need help or even if you just want to chat.