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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Mental Health Awareness week Day 2: Family

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, with a theme of 'relationships'. I'm going to be publishing a blog post each day talking about different ways in which relationships with various people (or groups of people) impact on my mental health. I've struggled with depression for years now, and my journey has been shaped by relationships and interactions with others.
Today, I'll be writing about my relationships with my family.

When everything started getting really bad, I was quite far away from my family. They were at home in Wales while I was in the south of England. When I phoned to say I'd been diagnosed with depression, I'm not sure it hit them what was going on. Only when I'd dragged myself to the end of my placement and went home did they see the depth of my illness. It was a huge shock to them all; at this point I'd not started any counseling and my sole treatment was a low dose of citalopram. I was pretty much non-functioning; far from the happy child they used to know.

I think it hit my mum the hardest. Both my dad and my sister were at work all day so it was left to mum to look after me, and she saw just how bad things were.

In yesterday''s post I mentioned how much I hid everything, but at this stage I wasn't able to at all. But once again my fears weren't realised, and my family threw themselves into helping me. They moved my bedroom to the ground floor so I could be nearer them during the day when I was struggling to get out of bed, they even looked up the best colours to use on the walls when they painted it (Orange accent walls with light brown on the others is apparently good). When mum found out I'd been bingeing on sweets she started keeping a bag in the house for 'bad days'. When that became too frequent she tried me on raisins instead (which did actually help; I was pretty self-destructive, but nobody is 'eat a kilo of raisins' self-destructive... That was an unpleasant day or two...). They set me up with a little fish tank with some Zebra Danios to have some little friends I could watch and talk to to zone out. And of course they drove me to and from all manner of psychiatrist/doctor appointments, and welcomed legions of strangers into their home when the in-home crisis people were coming round.

Most of all, though, they were there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on, they worked relentlessly to make me feel even a tiny bit better, and despite me being virtually unrecognisable from who I once was, never once stopped caring, never once stopped loving me. It was never easy to deal with how I was treating myself, mentally and physically, but that didn't stop them.

All along, I asked them not to tell my other relatives. Nobody's that good at keeping secrets though, so in time it all started to come out. I wasn't just met with sympathy and care, but with empathy; so many had first or second hand experience of what I was going through. They all understood. I had seen myself as this outsider, a weird self-loathing abnormality, but when I started talking about it I found that that just wasn't the case at all. They understood, they cared, and they all did everything they could to help.

I'm already noticing a theme with these posts; I tried to hide how I felt for fear that I would hurt, damage or upset anyone who found out. But once they saw what was really going on, friend, parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, it didn't matter who, they were all there for me. They never stopped caring about me, and being able to be open with everyone about everything really did speed up my recovery tremendously. It's easy to wrap yourself up in 'what if, what if, what if...' if you don't ever challenge that.

My family were always there for me growing up, for all the good times, and they kept being there for me no matter how bad it got. I'm looking forward to them being there in the good times to come.

***Please comment with any questions, or send them to me privately if you prefer! I'll be doing a Q&A post at the end of the week but I'm currently without any Q to A! ***

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