*Disclaimer: This post discusses crisis, self-neglect and health conditions that may trigger OCD, health anxiety or other mental health problems and their symptoms. If you are affected by anything in this post, please seek professional support and advice. Please also note that these are my personal experiences and do not reflect other people’s experiences of OCD, health anxiety or social anxiety.
I also want to point out that I am in no way judging people in this post. I can’t stress enough that I am not a judgemental person. I do not mean to offend anyone by writing this as it is my personal experience, but if you are offended then please make this known to me.*
Today’s post is the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write. I’ve wrote many personal blog posts in the few years that I’ve been blogging, but this post needs to come out now. It’s been over two years since I hit crisis point.
It all started in November 2013, as far as I can remember and it spiralled out of control in a few weeks, leading me to crisis point.
As you can see from the title, there is only one other person that knows the whole story – my partner.
Now I’m going to tell you.
*Breathe – let’s do this.*
It all started back when I was in college.
As you may know I was studying health and social care.
It was a subject I enjoyed immensely.
In one lesson, which was all about research, we were asked to research a topic.
The lecturer assigned me and my table with HIV (I wrote it!) I can’t remember what the other topic was, but we had to search for specific things. I didn’t mind looking at first, but then it got into signs and symptoms.
And that was it. The panic started. What if? Have I? I want to point out again at this point that I am not a judgemental person and am not stigmatising people who have HIV. It was my bodies reaction to hearing it said, reading about it etc – that was the judgemental thing.
You may be thinking, how is that hard to write? Well it’s the thing that caused me to go into crisis. It changed me. It gave me the label of having mental health problems. It’s not an easy thing to accept.
Going back to the story… I went to get tested and I broke down in the clinic. I remember the nurse having to speak to the consultant and then deciding I could get a fast response test and then an actual test done to put my mind at ease. I told her that I wasn’t eating or sleeping well over the worrying.
She told me I had anxiety, but it went to the back of my mind as everything was okay.
But the worry didn’t go away and soon I was scared of going outside for fear of contamination. Public transport became a nightmare so my college attendance dropped. I wasn’t feeling well physically or mentally. Coming into contact with people and their bodily fluids frightened me. I couldn’t bare it.
Things eased over Christmas as my mind was focused on spending time with my family.
But the new year (2014) came with a shock and I was triggered again.
Firstly, in January of 2014. I remember having to go to a university in Yorkshire for my social work interview. I wasn’t bothered much until I was introduced to my interviewers. I didn’t take my coat or my gloves off for the whole interview and sat huddled in the chair, nervously answering the questions. One of the people interviewing me worked with people with HIV. Again, I want to point out, I wasn’t judging the interviewer or the people she worked with. It was the word that I was judging. There was also mention of drugs and alcohol and blood. I couldn’t handle it but I got offered a place.
When I got out of the interview I was straight on the phone to helplines and that’s where the calling started.
I also started placement at a local organisation and I feel that it made me feel worse.
I finished placement a few weeks afterwards and it was difficult. I didn’t fail, but there were significant weaknesses that didn’t sound like me at all.
Over the next few weeks, I gradually became scared of leaving my room. That’s how bad it got.
I would spend days in my room frightened of the place I’d grown up in for nearly 20 years.
I felt like I would be contaminated by my own family – and that was hard to take too. It was the same with my partner. It was all a blur and still is because it wasn’t like me at all.
I became a recluse and found it impossible to leave my loft. I remember crying having to go down my loft ladders to tend to my personal care. I found it hard to eat and drink and sleep. It was a nightmare. I rang helplines several times a day out of worry. It’s not a nice image for me to remember.
Things started to get a little better when my dad and sister started to worry. They’d coax me downstairs but I’d ask them to open the door for me. I’d watch my every move meticulously using hand sanitiser. I’d go through a bottle or so every few days. My family didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t even stroke my dog, it was heartbreaking. I was paralysed with fear.
A few weeks passed like this and then I couldn’t take it anymore. I rang a helpline and said I needed help. The woman on the end of the phone said it would be best if I self-referred myself to my GP. It was a big step, but my rational mind told me I needed to take it. So I did.
That’s what started my journey onto my recovery and my informal diagnosis and eventually my formal diagnosis that I received last year.
I’ve come far from those few weeks of crisis. I can now say the word out loud when I don’t think about it. I can also write it too evidently. There are other things that trigger me off now – that make my heart jump and race, but I’m breaking through them.
It has taken some guts to press the publish button as this post will have to remain on my blog. But I’ve done it.
I’m in recovery now though and that’s the most important thing. I still have some of my original symptoms, some have gone and new ones have sprung up. There are bends in the road. It happens.
That’s it. A lesson in which I had to research HIV started my mental health problems.
I’m not blaming anyone, it’s my fault – it’s my brain’s fault for being affected by it.
This is my mental health story and I’m not ashamed anymore.
*And exhale. You’ve done it. The story is out. Now people know.*