It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – Something of which I feel extremely passionate about. I’ve never really had an issue about talking about my mental health. As I’ve got older, it’s became a lot easier to explain it to people.
I’ve suffered mental health issues for as long as I can remember. From as young as 10, my mum would get phone calls from my teachers, telling her that Natalie never smiles and looks down. I would get picked on for the most stupid things, from my receding hair-line, to my school shoes. In high school, I was pretty thin. I would hate to get changed in the changing room for gym class. Kids would try and squeeze me through railings to see if I could fit, I was that thin.
At the age of 16, I grew very depressed, for a number of reasons. Exam stress. An obstructed, tough childhood. My dad getting back in contact after 10 years. The only thing I could control at that point in my life was my eating. After being admitted to hospital, and absolutely hating the hospital food, I was diagnosed with Anorexia, Bulimia and Depression. My lowest weight was just under 5 stone. People telling me constantly to ‘Just eat’…That used to drive me crazy! Until you’re in that situation of wanting to have that body that you dreamed of, you will never understand how lonely that path is. No one understands that mindset you’re in.
I was given counselling, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I was given dieticians. It was a nightmare of having that constant feeling of being watched, just to make sure you don’t throw up your food or become so depressed that you do something silly. I did used to self-harm, a lot. Again, for me it was an escape.
The main thing that clicked in my mind to change my eating habits, was not the chance of dying, but seeing the affect it had on my loved ones around me. It wasn’t just me that was suffering. It was everyone else, watching me suffer. I slowly started to get my eating back on track and now I am a health weight. I am still pretty slender, but I am very comfortable in my body now.
However, the mental health issues didn’t stop at 19 (When I fully recovered). At the age of 20, I developed severe anxiety and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, otherwise known as emotionally unstable personality disorder. Basically I constantly scrutinise my body image, can have up and down moods constantly, go long periods without wanting to see or talk to people. There are various amounts of symptoms. My anxiety evolves around transport and crowded places. I can’t really explain the reasons why, as I am still trying to understand it myself.
I have had panic attacks in the middle of the street, on buses. It’s pretty horrendous. It affected my relationships with my boyfriend, friends, family. Every day tasks seemed near enough impossible.
This year, I made a huge decision to completely combat my mental health and get it under control. I do not want people to recognise me as the girl with BPD and Anxiety. I am like everyone else, but the way I now view my mental health, is that I look at the world in a different way. I am on medication and actually taking it, rather that not wanting to be ‘stuck on medication’. I see a therapist every month or so. Or I go to my GP whenever I feel at a particularly ‘Low Point’. They give me breathing exercises and techniques on how I can get my anxiety and mood under-control.
My transformation this year has in my eyes, been mind-blowing. I got on my first plane, just last week! Which with my anxiety is something I never thought I would do. I am doing extremely well at work. I used to have an anxiety or panic attack nearly every day. I barely have them now.
If you want to get better, the only person who can do that is you. Yes people have helped me, which I am grateful for, but I am the person, who spoke up and realised that I needed to change in order to move forward in my life.
It’s so important for people to speak out about Mental Health and to motivate and inspire people to get the help they need. Why let your mental health control your life? It doesn’t have to control you! You settle with it…combat it!