How people treat you, is on them. What I choose to accept is on me
How people treat you, is on them. What I choose to accept is on me
Where do I start with my journey and my battles with mental health? It’s been such a long journey and one I didn’t even know I was on, until it became too much.
I never talk openly about my journey not because I’m ashamed of it, but more because I see the stigma it can carry daily and the impact that has on myself and others. But today, today I think it’s time to step out from the shadow and talk – it may just help someone.
At the age of 25, I found myself escaping a physical and mentally abusive relationship (something I had been in for 7 years) I had it all, the house, the family, business and I was engaged, and I had to leave it. I had tried for 7 years to continue, to be strong and hold my family together. It took a few years to build my life back up, but during this time rather than talk about what had happened, I decided I was FINE! I got my head down, I worked really hard, I had to rebuild my life for me and my family, and to do this I had to switch off. Work became my go to place; I threw myself into work and I was very successful because of that. I built an amazing career around me and my family were happy and safe, and I had built that on my own. Everyone was always so amazed at how strong minded I was, nothing ever phased me, made me cry, made me happy – I was just focussed on succeeding.
But then 6 years later, my world started to crumble around me. My career and family were great, but I suddenly felt alone, I felt as if it didn’t matter what I did or how successful I was, it wasn’t enough. I started to take things personally, I would get upset and worried over little things people said. If I had 10 compliments and 1 bad one, I would focus on the bad one. It would eat me up to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I would overthink every possible conversation between us and try to find the reason why that person hated me so much. I was 100% focussed on what people thought of me and not on what I thought of myself. I started to get into a panic, over things I wore and how I looked. I struggled with my weight, I was obsessed that I had to be skinny enough, I had to be pretty enough – but I wasn’t. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, it made me feel sick to the stomach at what reflected back.
My life felt like it was over, how could I cope being alone the rest of my life, and also how could anyone ever love me if I was this awful, ugly, weak person. I had become so mentally weak, I didn’t know who I was, I had always been so strong, I had overcome such an horrific time in my life, but yet I couldn’t just be ok in “normal” life. I would then hate myself for being like this, for being weak and pathetic. Yet still, every day, I got up and I went to work, I put on a brave face and pretend I was great. If I ever mentioned to someone how I felt, I would be dismissed or just told ‘don’t be silly, you are lovely’ or ‘how can you be alone?!’ I felt I was becoming a pain to people.
I would work late hours, because the thought of coming home to face the reality of being alone and my demons, destroyed me more. I would often get in the car and just drive and drive for hours, so that I didn’t have to come home.
This went on for at least another year, maybe two, close people around me – I pushed away, I couldn’t let anybody see how weak I was. I’m the strong one, I’m the one that keeps it together, I’m the person you need a crisis. I cannot crumble. But I did, and crumble I did, I could no longer fight the thoughts, the horrific thoughts consumed me, they controlled my emotions, they made me believe that no matter what I did, it would never be good enough – I would never be good enough. I didn’t trust anyone, I thought everyone must talk about me. I remember sitting on the floor in my living room one day, there were no tears, because I couldn’t cry. I was numb, there was no point in crying anymore. This was my life and why would anyone want me around. When I’m weak, no good, ugly, not skinny enough, always focussed on the bad things, always talking about the bad things, going over and over with friends and family about how my life is so bad. They would be so much better off without me, without having to see my name on the phone pop up, without having me bring them down with my problems. If you have never been here, this is the worst spiral of thoughts to be on, because you cannot argue with your own thoughts. You can only accept it to be true. Not many people going through this spiral stop at this point. But for some reason I picked my phone and I called my mam – I sobbed down the phone about everything. I broke, this strong, independent woman (who never needed anyone) broke. My mam forced me to get an appointment at the doctors. Next day I went, I remember going in and apologising to the doctor for wasting her time as I’m just being silly. As I tried to explain, I broke down in tears, I couldn’t get the words out. She was amazing, it was, in reflection, the best choice I have ever made, to walk in there and just say what I felt. I was diagnosed with both depression and anxiety.
It also became clear that after 3 months the medication I was prescribed, wasn’t correct as it wasn’t helping enough. Thankfully the doctor identified this herself as I assumed that meds should just work. But, because I had to go back for regular check-ups, she identified it wasn’t doing what it needed.
This was over 5 years ago now, and since then, I have had medication and therapy. I am no longer on my medication. But that isn’t because I’m all fixed, it’s because I have learnt through therapy and great support how to identify my triggers. I have worked through my issues as best I can. They are still there, and they do creep back in. I know how to take care of me and that has taken losing a lot of people around me, people who didn’t bring any benefit to my life. Looking at all the successful things I have accomplished and seeing them for what they are. Learning to be at peace with myself and knowing that my mind can be good and bad but training it to see the good and push away the negativity, does help. I also now live by “how people treat you, is on them. What I choose to accept is on me’ I also remove anyone from my life who doesn’t add value to it. I have encountered some selfish, awful people and those people I would keep around; Now I know my mental health is more important than what anyone may think of me.
Now it’s very easy to say, it’s been caused by the mental abuse I suffered, but the truth is… it played a part but what my main problem was – I tried to be too strong, for too long and my mind couldn’t cope any longer. I built a wall around me and nobody could get in and I couldn’t get out. I pretended to be ok, I pretended I could do this on my own.
Now I reflect and see all that time I thought I was weak, was the time when I was at my strongest. Because not only did I have to deal with day to day life, I also battled with my own mental health. I would add, that whilst I’m in a much better place now, it’s something I will have to live with and learn my triggers. Understand that it’s absolutely okay to look after me and my mental health.
Whilst I think it’s amazing to talk, and just reaching out that day, changed the rest of my life. I also know how important it is, to reach out to others and check they are ok. To not dismiss someone who is struggling with something that may seem insignificant to you. Because sometimes it’s actually the little things that tip us over the edge in the end, because the battles we have been facing become so big, that a small thing is actually the catalyst.
Charlotte would like to raise awareness around mental health and supports If U Care Share. please take a couple of minutes to look at the fantastic work they do around mental health.
If you would like to contact Fine and Dandi in regard to Charlotte’s journey, would like to get involved with Fine and Dandi or would like to share your own journey then please contact us.