I remember back in July saying to a work colleague that I didn't feel right, mentally. That I was pretty sure I was heading for a breakdown.
Being supportive, and not really knowing the extent to how I was feeling (or not feeling) as I do tend to hide those feelings away and not share too much, they said "No you're not, you'll be fine".
Two weeks, approximately, after that I was signed off work for a week initially, with stress, depression and anxiety. Signed off for a second week as I couldn't bring myself to face my colleagues. I didn't want anyone to know the reason why at first as not only did I feel ashamed at getting to that stage, I knew they wouldn't understand. I went back to work for one day and although feeling ok when there, I went home broken. Crying from 8pm until the morning. Going in to work and then being sent home again after telling my manager I didn't think I could cope with a full day.
I ended up being signed off work for another 3 weeks.
A month off work and feeling like I wasn't alive at all was really hard. I cried a lot, and I didn't know why.
I pushed myself to go out, to see friends when they asked to see me, although all I really wanted to do was to hide away and not see or speak to anyone at all.
I felt like I was failing in every area of my life.
It's one of the hardest things to go through. I don't tell people the extent to how I was feeling, because people don't understand. They don't know what to say. But also, because it's my battle, no one elses and I feel better...I guess...by keeping it to myself and not letting anyone else in or letting it become part of someone else.
I knew I would get comments about being off. About how I didn't look ill. About how I seem fine and post happy posts on Facebook etc, but then that's the whole thing about depression, stress, anxiety...mental health. You don't necessarily look ill. And if you do post about being down, feeling worthless, feeling like a failure, not being able to cope, then you are an attention seeker or need to "get over it".
I've been back at work two months now and have days when I feel tired after only an hour. I've realised that I have an incredible passion for my job and that passion and the amount that I care can get overwhelming.
Then I have days and weeks like the past week...where I wake up early and get into work early to get jobs done. Where I change plans and appointments to help out on my day off. Where I enjoy a long, and tough 11 hour (no break) day.
The experience of being signed off for 5 weeks in total made me almost go against everything I have ever said before. I was completely contradicting myself.
I've always said I am not ashamed or embarrassed about my mental health issues because it isn't a result of drinking or drugs. It's just a chemical imbalance or whatever.
Yet here I was, taking time off and not wanting to see anyone or wanting anyone to know what was wrong with me.
I unfriended everyone from work on Facebook because I didn't want them to see that I was posting statuses about being happy when I really wasn't. Or if I did post about being happy it was because for a short amount of time I had a moment of feeling good and wanted to share it.
I all of a sudden felt ashamed.
I all of a sudden felt embarrassed.
This wasn't me. This isn't the person I have been for the past 17 years. I've always managed to fight it and although it has been tough in the past it has never been to the point that it made me feel ill.
I felt mentally ill and completely drained.
I still doing feel completely out of the other side. In fact I think there are more days of feeling low and of struggling but I know I will get there.
I am making an effort and I am chosing to be brave and to not let this win.
I am being honest about why I was off work. I am going into work and telling people straight away if I am having a bad day. I am going to my friends or to my mum if I am struggling.
I keep reminding myself of how much I have been through the past 17 years, and the past 2 years in particular.
Reminding myself of how strong and how brave I have been.
Reminding myself of how it's ok that I will have bad days and want to lock myself away and shut myself off from the world.
Reminding myself that I can find the strength to fight when I need to.
And reminding myself that there is a reason I have the word "brave" tattooed on my arm.