"I'm Fine." -Masking Mental Health Issues

I hesitated before writing this as today, on World Mental Health Day, it seems everyone is coming out to say they suffer mental health issues. I didn't want it to seem I was jumping on the bandwagon for self-promotion purposes.

Then I decided that the reason so many people were publicising their own battles with mental health was because it is so common you will definitely know at least one person who has felt suicidal in the past, or still does. They, like me, would probably say they are "fine." when asked how they are.
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I have suffered periods of depression on and off throughout my life.  Often, but not always prompted by a stressful situation. Actually it can strike at any time - even during my wonderful trip to Venice this year I had periods of feeling not quite right, not really there, not part of what was happening around me. It's an odd, unpleasant sensation.

madmumof7 in venice

I first agreed to try antidepressants after the birth of my fourth child when I was coping (not coping) with recovering from surgery, caring for a newborn and trying to find out what was wrong with my 1 year old son. Oh and looking after our two older children.

It turned out my son was really very poorly so I spent my time dashing between home and hospital exchanging just a few words with my husband who did the night shift at hospital and worked during the day while I spent the day in hospital and came home in the evening, toting my newborn.

Currently I take a low dose of antidepressant partly to minimise the unpleasant skin sensations caused by Fibromyalgia, partly to help me sleep and partly to keep my head above water.

Some days however I still feel like I'm drowning. I suffer panic attacks and heart palpitations and find it hard to cope with anything above and beyond getting up and existing, all while trying to run my own business and a large busy family. Some those family members have their own anxiety issues so sometimes I have to put aside my own issues, stuff them right to my inner core and support them. It's not easy.

I try to keep smiling although that smile, those jokes, that cheeriness often hides an internal howl and the bitter taste of unshed tears.

I try not to let my anxiety and depression show but sometimes it comes out in a snappy retort, forgetfulness, an apparent lack of interest in my friends and family's lives and issues and the odd complete meltdown in  the privacy of my own home.

Things have been particularly tough recently following the death of my beloved step dad and a diagnosis of Lichen Sclerosis (which I wrote about here) which has transformed my life, in no way for the better. It's a painful, revolting and embarrassing condition and I don't manage a single day without it being an issue for me.

If you've been offended or upset or frustrated by my behaviour be aware I really don't mean to fail you. I'm just trying to exist. Verbalising the actual words "I can't cope" sometimes helps at home but I can't imagine ever saying those words out loud outside.

I posted on my Facebook wall today that it's OK to not be OK sometimes. It's something I'm only just  realising as a truth and going forward I'm hoping that will help heal the feelings of guilt and failure I often feel.

I'm generally a people pleaser and it doesn't feel natural to say no sometimes, to retreat sometimes and to put myself first. But If I'm to survive life with some serious and grim autoimmune conditions, anxiety and depression I am going to have to.

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