My Story | Mental Health Journey

My Story
From the age of around 8 or 9 I remember being bullied at school. I was a bigger child as I hit puberty age and maybe due to things at home I gained more than a few pounds and had some puppy fat. I remember being teased and bullied in my teenage years, constantly being thrown insults, mainly about my weight and my appearance. As I got older I threw myself into drinking and partying, trying to pretend that what people thought of me didn’t matter and that I was fine. I didn’t want people to know that I was not okay, so I kept going, being the fun party animal, the loud personality so I could cover up my weight issues. This was a cycle for me, trying to be the fun one, drinking 5-7 nights a week, basically eating whatever and whenever I neglected myself and my health and I was in a cycle of gaining more and more weight, and being more and more unhappy.

I first got treated for depression in 2010 when I hit rockbottom, but the stigma around Mental Health was so bad back then that I refused counselling, took my medication for a few weeks before stopping them and just repeating the cycle. I was terrified of what people might have thought if they knew, so I went back to bad habits.

It all started up again in 2015, when my symptoms rocketed and I gave up my career as a makeup artist thanks to extreme anxiety and depression. I was also at my highest weight (19stone!) and was miserable. I was so self conscious, with my self-esteem at rock bottom. I was constantly having panic attacks and I felt like I couldn’t cope anymore and had nowhere to turn. I finally pushed myself into seeing my GP, and even in the appointment I couldn’t get the words out, so I ended up writing down how I felt, my symptoms and just crying.

I was then again put on medication and referred for counselling which I forced myself to attend. I was literally so petrified of going and showing how ‘weak and crazy’ I was that I was going to cancel, but thankfully I pushed myself to get the help I needed. After finishing the course of counselling, she referred me to see the level 3 wellbeing counsellor and again, I was petrified and forced myself to go.

In that episode of treatment, I got taught techniques of mindfulness, and also dealt with some traumatic incidents from my past. I didn’t really get my proper diagnosis till the end of the treatment cycle when I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphia.

Now Body Dysmorphia has many symptoms and can be easily masked. I was getting treated for extreme anxiety and depression which play huge parts of the disorder and so it was agreed that I would start a new episode of treatment to specially tackle my Body Dysmorphia in the next 4-6 months.

When I finally started treatment episode number 3, a lot of things had happened in my life. I had quit my job, been dumped by my boyfriend and started a health and fitness journey which has lead me to where I am now. I had lost around 30lbs when I started the treatment and I actually felt miserable. I didn’t realise how much Body Dysmorphia was taking over my life and I was so wrapped up with my demons I couldn’t see anything else.

I have spoke about it previously here, but I felt like there was a devil or monster inside of me. The constant voice inside your head telling you how grotesque you are, and that you are worthless. These are extreme emotions and words but thats literally all my mind was filled with. Writing this now, remembering how strong those feelings of disgust and hatred about myself, the body that kept me alive makes my heart break. The destructive illness has plagued me for over a decade and its only now that the voice inside my head has begin to soften.

I felt like the extreme distorted views of myself were so real, and how could it be an illness when I was fat anyway. How could I be tricking myself when I was overweight. I felt like I deserved all the comments from the voice in my head, and that if I got smaller, lighter, that it would go away and I would be happier.

Around one in 100 people in the UK have BDD, although there may be more, because those with the condition often hide it.

I hid mine with safety measures that I made to make myself feel ‘safe’ and ‘protected.’ I felt like if I said all the mean things first, then no-one could say them and hurt me with them but in reality I just hurt myself. I use to wear massive baggy shirts and tops, I never walked through doors first or walked in front of people. I was terrified of people seeing me from behind, as this was the area I distorted most. I researched surgery after surgery, weighed myself daily, and got addicted to exercise. I felt like all these behaviours gave me control back, in the time where I felt like my life was completely out of control. I was consumed by thoughts of my appearance and how to change it for more than 3/4 of my day, and would take any rejection that came my way and put it down to how I looked. I felt that if I lost weight and changed my body I would have got that job, or that guy, or be more liked.

With the support of Pete, my wellbeing counsellor who I had my treatment with on the NHS. I got better. I started to understand my disorder, I started to fight that voice in my head with the techniques and support he provided. I realised that I was a fighter, and survivor and he showed me that I could achieve what I wanted too.

Whilst having my treatment, I pushed myself to meet new people, go for new opportunities, I raised money for Mind Mental Health Charity, completed a personal trainer course and became qualified, I took flights to unknown countries by myself. I did photoshoots and overcame internet trolls. I want to fully thank Pete for this, as without him I would have quit and given up, with that voice telling me I wasn’t good enough.

I am happy to say that it does get better and the voice does soften, but I still have days where it creeps back in. It can be incredibly cruel, and make my self-esteem plummet; not only with how I look but with who I am as a person or my abilities.

‘You are disgusting’ the voice screeches in my ear. ‘You’ll just fail anyway so why bother trying’. It’s like having a demon sitting on your shoulder, just waiting to tell you I told you so when you fail. But he’s becoming a stranger to me now, and we only bump into each other on the odd occasions.

I’m getting better at managing the voice now, its becoming softer. I acknowledge it and then move on, doing my own thing and having the amazing support of the fitness and health community. With Mental Health issues and self esteem I want to be more open, I want to share my experiences so people know they are not alone. Suffering with Mental heath issues can be extremely isolating, and it can make you feel like your the only one suffering. I promise you, there is always an ear to listen, no matter who or where you are.

If we can all be a little more aware of what people are or could be going through, together we can change the stigma around mental health and make the world a little brighter together.

I am incredibly honoured to be apart of the #BehindTheFilter Campaign which you can read about here.

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