Monday 2 October 2017

Hidden Away: Are you Okay?

Chelsea discusses the challenges of dealing with mental health and coming to terms with accepting help.

- Chelsea Shurland

I have contemplated many times about whether or not I should post this. It opens people up to my world and some of the painful things I have experienced, but I have decided the time is now. The time is now because I want to inspire others to get help and to also share their stories. The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to share your stories and to also show that I am just like you.

I first started experiencing terrible nightmares five years ago. I put it to the back of my mind and thought of it as just a stage that I would get over. No one sees your dreams so they do not know what terror you have experienced during the night. It is almost hidden and secretive; only seen through tired eyes or wry smiles throughout the day. This is like most mental illnesses. Some are more noticeable than others but for the most part people assume you are fine. That was the inspiration for the naming of this post (Hidden away: Are you Okay?) If you are physically unwell it is written across your face or perhaps all over your body with spots or lumps. On the other hand, most people are unable to spot mental health illnesses as it may be hidden away.

So let me continue with my experience… a couple of months ago, my dreams came back again. These dreams were flashbacks of abuse I experienced in my childhood. I was stuck in a rut of negative thinking, negative habits, thoughts spiralling out of control….the list is endless. However, I just put it to the back of mind until one day someone asked me if I was okay. ‘Are you okay?’ They asked. Then tears started streaming. It was then that I decided to seek some sort of help.

This was then followed by three and a half weeks off work whilst I tried to figure out what was wrong. Why couldn’t I just feel better mentally? Why was no one in my house noticing I was upset? Would people think I’m over reacting? Would people believe me? These were the questions I kept asking myself but I just couldn’t figure it out so I decided to go to my GP. I didn’t think he would be able to help but I just needed it and to my surprise, he signed me off work and referred me straight away to the wellbeing team. I felt a sigh of relief but still uncertainty, as I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know what to say to others or how they would receive the information. On my sick note it just said “depressive disorder”. I didn’t feel like going into details of why I was feeling the way I did, so I just said I was unwell.

I went for a whole week without anyone in my house noticing if I was okay which made me feel even more anxious to say how I was feeling. I just wanted someone to ask me “are you okay?” This is no way intended to attack my friends and family but rather to draw attention to how simple phrases such as “are you okay” can make a difference to someone’s day. Simple phrases like “are you okay?” or “have you had a good day?” can really make a difference in ALL situations. Without using these phrases in daily life, no one was able to notice that I was suffering silently like a large percentage of individuals with mental health difficulties do.

As a result of that, I just want to encourage those who are suffering silently or experiencing difficulties to take the step to get help. To those who are on the other side, be aware, be supportive and be patient. We all experience difficult times in our lives and one day you may need someone to say “are you okay?” This hasn’t been easy to do as I am quite a private person but nothing great ever comes from a comfort zone. I want to help others so I hope this helps you to be brave, get help and inspire others too.

Hi my name is Chelsea Shurland and I was born on the sunny island of Barbados. I am 23 years old and I am currently a student at City University London studying Counselling Psychology. I wanted to write for Student Minds as I have realised that one of my purposes in life is to inspire and help  others within the mental health sector.

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