So sorry that it's been a few weeks since I posted - have been very busy.
Also have been running low on guest bloggers - so would really appreciate anybody passing this on to anyone who they think might be interested in writing. All experiences or lack of very welcome!
Just get in touch -
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/letstalkaboutmentalhealth
This week's blog is from Hannah Bradford and covers a few topics that I don't think this blog has touched on yet.
Thank you Hannah for sharing your experiences!
Hannah Bradford is a 22 year old PhD student based in London, UK, experiencing an eating disorder, depression and borderline personality disorder.
I’m so thankful to be able to share my thoughts here on this blog - I really hope my experiences can come in useful to others out there with similar struggles. I was initially reluctant to write this blog post - however communication and speaking out is critical in the fight against mental health stigma, and this was something I had to do if I wanted to make a difference.
My experiences with mental health have been frankly confusing. From the age of 13 I was aware of my low mood, anxiety and disordered eating, when I began purging meals in a feeble attempt to lose weight, self-harming and withdrawing from social interaction. To me, these behaviours became normalcy and continued through secondary school and into university, and I told no-one.
My second year of university was when things started to go really wrong - my purging was no longer controllable, my self-harming escalated and my weight dropped - and then I vomited blood. At A&E I’ll never forget how shameful and embarrassed I felt when the doctor assigned to me noticed my self harm marks and learned of my disordered eating. Her initial reaction was somewhat negative and accusatory - I felt like I’d forgotten my homework or something. She eventually softened but that initial interaction was incredibly frightening and made me feel guilty for something that was essentially out of my control.
I was started on antidepressants, which continued through the next year and a half to little success. By this time I was experiencing rapid mood fluctuations - I could go from somewhat cheerful to suicidal within the space of a couple of hours. Every day I was wary and fearful, knowing my mood could suddenly drop with no forewarning. A sudden switch in medication caused a week of strange ‘zapping’ sensations in my head, my vision and consciousness flickering with a kind of static. It was thoroughly unpleasant and made me really doubt my doctor and my own mental health - what was I trying to achieve and why was I not getting anywhere?
In February of 2016 I took an overdose. It seemed like the most logical thing to do, I didn’t need to think twice - it had to happen. I still can’t explain why I did it - I felt blank and emotionless. With the help of my flatmate I went to A&E and everything came out in the open - my compulsive vomiting up to 6 times a day, my self-harm, rapid mood fluctuations and generally self-destructive tendencies. The medication I overdosed on was cardio toxic so I spent 12 hours hooked up to an ECG monitor in case my heart failed. I was eventually discharged at midnight with my details passed on to mental health services for further investigation. The next day I carried on as normal doing labs and university work. I felt nothing at all - with no reaction to the previous days events.
A month later I had my first appointment with an eating disorder treatment unit. I had official diagnoses thrown at me - Bulimia nervosa and major depressive disorder. In addition, borderline personality disorder was suggested. While initially surprised by the mention of BPD, reading about this disorder further has made some pieces of the puzzle fit together - finally I felt as though things were making sense, particularly regarding the intense mood fluctuations and self-destructive behaviours.
The investigation into BPD is currently ongoing - waiting lists are long and the process is incredibly slow - but I am hopeful that whatever the result, I will have a greater degree of understanding towards my mental health and the tools to keep myself on an even keel.
I take medication daily and have lasting scars on my arms and legs which will never go away - but I am sure that I can overcome this. I have an adorable dog, am a healthy weight and am starting a PhD which I am so excited for - I’ve reached a place where I enjoy being.
The stigma, shame, guilt and misunderstanding surrounding mental illnesses is toxic. If I had the knowledge and confidence to pursue help when I was younger then I may have avoided these miserable experiences.
Poor attitudes and complacency towards mental illness I have learned can be incredibly harmful - when I was in secondary school I explained my low mood, suicidal thoughts and disordered eating to a mental health professional who was entirely unconcerned about my worries. I’m going to reiterate - I was a minor, trying to get help from a professional - and my concerns were rebuffed. To my immature self - they were evidently not problems and I should just live with it. This is not ok - and I know others are experiencing similar damaging attitudes.
I really hope that putting my experiences out there can help someone realise that the things they are living with are not trivial, despite what others may say, and that their concerns are valid.
Mental health is so poorly understood and from my own experiences I really believe improvements can be made - for both the general public and healthcare professionals.
Communication is essential to getting help, and by removing the stigma I hope more and more people will have the chance to reach out.