Mental Health Awareness Week: mental health in the modern world – Angharad’s Story

My last post was about stress and stress management for me as someone who has done my time struggling with anxiety. Without realising it, or maybe it was a subconscious thing, I had tapped in to the main theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. 

On World Mental Health Day I looked at What Mental Health Means to Me and so I couldn’t do that perspective again, so that made me stop and think. For a long time now I have wanted to look at mental health from the perspective of men and women across different age brackets to see what their experiences have been, as a millennial woman I think my experiences are well documented so far on this blog, but what about men my age, women younger than me, women who are middle aged and men who are now considered OAP’s? I spoke to some people who are part of my life in varying degrees and who I know have had or still have times of struggling with poor mental health and asked them if they would speak to me about their experiences. I have been touched and honoured at how open and honest people were when sharing their accounts and it has been truly eye opening and I hope that you might feel the same, but beyond that, each person I spoke to felt that sharing their experience with me and the readers was worth something important if it reached just one person and helped them in their own struggle. 

These extracts contain flashes of peoples lives and I think that they need the space and time to sink in in their own right and so I will be posting a different interview each day for Mental Health Week 2018. The interviews took on various forms to suit the person I was interacting with best, I have done some minor editing to help with format and flow but they are from the hearts and minds of the people sharing them. These were the three questions that I focussed on to encourage their stories: 

When do you think your struggle to maintain good mental health started and when in relation to that did you realise how it was effecting you? 

What was the societal norm for your generation and gender and how have societies changing views made you feel about your mental health? 

How do you manage your mental health now and if you could say anything to yourself in the worst bout of your bad mental health, what would it be? 

The first interview was with a very lovely lady, Angharad is 18 and this makes her in the later years of generation Millennial. There is a lot said about this generation concerning pressure and temperament and their mental health within the mainstream media, it is said that they are the generation that have always known technology as it is now, screens and instant access to information and this is one of the aspects that have be blamed for the fragility of the youngest generations mental state. I really don’t know how true that might be, but I know how much it can effect me when I spend hours scrolling through pictures of other people on social media, or even dresses on models on shopping apps and even such instant and unlimited access to world news and politics and it isn’t good for me at all. I have often wondered what life feels like for someone so young (because apparently I think of myself as ancient now) in this fast paced, aggressive, beautiful, competative, conflicting world that I know I struggle with at the best of times. So here are the very candid answers from Angharad, it isn’t always easy to speak about these experiences and I am extremely grateful to her for doing so. 

When do you think your struggle to maintain good mental health started and when in relation to that did you realise how it was affecting you?

I started having panic attacks quite young when I was 11 years old, at first it wasn’t that often that they happened and I didn’t necessarily see the link between them and my mental health or even recognise what they meant. As I got older the panic attacks became more frequent and began to effect me more as I was bullied and the stress of the bullying effected my exams and my day to day life. I am someone who has high expectations of myself and I always have done, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed as I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I think that I only realised how bad my mental health was and how it impacted my life as a whole when I was in lower sixth, I was being bullied by not my peers but I felt by my teacher and it meant that I was in a place that ended up with me going to counselling.  So six years after my first panic attack I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. 

What was the societal norm for your generation and gender and how have societies changing views made you feel about your mental health? 

Concerning mental health within society I always found anxiety was something that was spoken about openly and that it was OK to say you had it. However when you told someone you had depression, it was as if you told them you just killed their cat and when you said you were on antidepressants it was if you’d told them you were crazy, and they instantly stepped back a bit like you were contagious. There was such a stigma about depression that it made me hide the fact that I had it for a while and that made it worse. I was lucky enough to have a family that really understood about mental health and depression so they made me a lot more comfortable and open about it, unfortunately I have found the older generation (post war years) tend to be a bit dismissive of it all as if they don’t fully understand it or want to talk about it in the open. 

Now views have thankfully changed as a result of mental health campaigns like Heads Together or Mind and people being open on social media about mental health (I Don’t Mind) and this gave me the confidence to be open about it, I also realised that by speaking out I might be able to help others and show them that just because you have poor mental health, you aren’t crazy or weird, that it is OK to ask for help when it’s needed. 

How do you manage your mental health now and If you could say anything to yourself in the worst bout of your bad mental health, what would it be? 

In order to manage my mental health I go to regular counselling sessions as well as being on antidepressants. These are the most effective methods for me, but everyone is different. I also have tricks or methods to lift myself out of lows, they are things such as using a creative outlet like playing my guitar or sketching and I also often go on walks when I’m stressed as it helps clear my head. Lastly, I find that by surrounding myself with a group of people who I trust and who understand my struggles with mental health helps because if you need a bit of help they are there to support you when you need it the most. If I could say something to myself when I’m at my worst it would be to go for a walk and phone a friend. I don’t usually want to talk to people when I’m on a low but I know it helps so I try to do that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.