What it's like to live with mental health issues

My mental health issues began at around the age of eight.

To be honest, I had no idea what was going on, but I’m sure my parents did. I found myself becoming very close to my mother as she looked after me and reassured me. As I got older, this support continued, but lessened as my mental health issues became less of a problem. However, when I had my breakdown at seventeen and I was struck with severe anxiety and depression, suddenly, my reliance on the relationships around me was as great as ever.

Even though I was a teenager, I felt like I had reverted back to being this 8 year old girl. When you’re suffering so severely with mental illness, it’s hard to feel strong enough to take responsibility for yourself, no matter what your age.

Moving out to university has meant I've had to learn to take more care of my mental health. Moving away and being independent leaves you no choice but to battle your mental illness with more independence each day. Undertaking tasks such as going to the doctors, picking up my own prescription and booking counselling, for example, have all helped me grow in confidence.

When you’re suffering so severely with mental illness, it’s hard to feel strong enough to take responsibility for yourself, no matter what your age.

I know that if I want to keep looking after myself and improving, then I need to be able to battle things on my own. But it’s a learning curve - and the help of people around me is proving invaluable in helping me learn to get better. Knowing that people are only at the end of the phone is a big comfort during times of struggle. Skype, too, has proved a really good way to stay in touch as it's the closest you can get to seeing someone in the flesh. In a similar way, if I feel comfortable enough, I know travelling home is always be an option. I'm learning that it's all about putting the effort into maintaining these relationships to make sure they stay strong.

Support can come from other sources too. While at university I've also formed new relationships with people whom have been very understanding and have also helped me in absence of those I am close to from home. At the same time, I know I can also turn to those trained to help with my mental health.

Looking after your mental health by yourself isn't always easy and it’s not a skill that can be learned quickly. It takes small steps to ensure that you can look after yourself and to make sure you’re not pushing yourself to an extent that will be damaging.  But I'm glad to know that, if I am finding it difficult, I can also rely on my friends and family – even if I'm many hours away.

Amy blogs about mental health and anxiety on Relief From Anxiety. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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