My Mental Health Story – From Feeling Out-of-Control to Steering the Ship
January 7, 2020
Discussing my mental health so openly is nerve-wracking, deeply personal and wholly necessary at the current stage of my life. I feel I need to write it down. Seeing the physical words on the screen in front of me makes it less scary – less intrusive in my mind if I can see them and structure them the way I want. So this is going to be a slightly different blog post compared to what I usually write. However, now that Ben and I have four months of traveling down, I wanted to address the elephant in the room – particularly for myself anyway.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety roughly six years ago. However, I suffered for many years prior from something I didn’t know how to handle or control. It managed to get the better of me many times, the disaster-film that was my anxious life as a teenager which featured various trips to A&E meeting an abundance of doctors, nurses, and therapists.
It hit at about the right time I suppose. I mean, when is it better to be hit with a mental health crisis than when you are studying for exams and planning university applications?
I spent a year studying Psychology for my undergraduate degree at university when I realised that this path I was on was sending me on a road I didn’t want, with my mental health taking a back seat. A speeding conveyer belt of “should do’s” and “next steps” and I wanted to get off. I was inaccurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder during this time – a simple summary of the assumption of a few negligent doctors who didn’t really take the proper time to find out what was really going on.
After leaving university, I spent the next year working various jobs (waitressing, factory work and nursery work to name a few!) in an attempt to save up and travel the world by myself for three months.
Now I’m not going to lie – literally EVERYONE thought I was ridiculous. I was just getting used to my new medication when I thought that it would be a fantastic idea, as a woman of eighteen, to travel solo around the globe, despite not having any prior travel experience – oh and quite a large fear of flying! However, the support from my family and friends was undeniable, and although they were initially worried, they were there for me, no matter how far away I was.
In June 2016 I took off to see the world by myself and had the amazing opportunity to visit five beautiful countries: South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Fiji, and the USA. Over those three months, I volunteered with elephants, learned yoga and meditation, visited hobbits, explored an island paradise and hiked beautiful Yosemite National Park. It was honestly a life-changing experience and helped me to regain some of the confidence I had lost over the years.
Over the next few years, I was back and forth to doctors with new diagnoses (including cyclothymia for some reason?!), new medications and new therapies to try, for example, art therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. But besides the medically-associated aspects, the years were also filled with seeing new and exciting places with Ben, for example, Venice, New York, Canada and Iceland.
Traveling more allowed me to literally expand my horizons which used to be so consumed with my mental health, university, and jobs that I wasn’t truly passionate about. I started a new university degree with the Open University – a part-time degree in Art and Design, which would allow me to simultaneously work and earn money whilst also learning about something I adored. I am now four years into my six-year degree and I am loving every minute of it. I hope to graduate in 2022, knowing for sure that I had made the right choice for ME.
In 2019, Ben and I decided to take off and travel the world, side by side. So far, we have visited five countries and will be heading off again in two weeks’ time to explore the rest of what Europe has to offer, and if all goes to plan, this time next year we shall be in ASIA!
It hasn’t always been easy and there have honestly been times when we wanted to quit where stress, anxiety and “what-if’s” took over. Coping with my anxiety and depression is still a very present issue for me, particularly due to the fact that I am now no longer on any medication for either. That is a challenge in itself. But that is also reserved for another post!
After roughly ten years of confusion, lack of control and misdiagnoses I can safely say that I am currently in the best position in life that I have ever been. I am a remote freelance writer – a job that allows me to continue my travels, working from anywhere and everywhere. I am a photographer – selling my photography to tour companies around the world. I am an art student – studying my passion and cultivating my creative spirit. Finally, I am a girlfriend, partner, best friend and soulmate to the most amazing man in the world who has been by my side on this tumultuous journey for the past nine years.
I am eternally grateful for everything. Happy 2020.