#MyNameIs a healthcare professional with mental health issues. #MyNameIs mental illness.
I am working on a new campaign around healthcare professionals who have mental health issues. To kick off the campaign a group of healthcare professionals have helped create a series of blog posts for me called the “#HelloMyNameIs Mental Illness” series.
Below is the first post in the series, I hope you enjoy it.
“ #MyNameIs Depression and Anxiety.
I am a Mental health Nurse.
My Favourite Animal is a Giraffe
I live in England
It was my dream to become a mental health nurse and be able to support others, just like others had supported me. I started struggling with my mental health when I was 15 and the past 6 years have been a complete roller-coaster. I have been through some of the darkest and worst times which I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through. At times I felt like I wanted to get up fighting, as I felt like it was a never ending battle. However, it’s not all that bad. I have learnt so much about myself, shown myself that I can be stronger than I ever knew, and I have found hope.
Aged 18 I started university, studying mental health nursing, and I can honestly say it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me a purpose, a reason to keep going every day and enabled me to look forward to the future. I’m not going to lie and say it was plain sailing because that is simply not true, and along the way there were some difficult time; but I got through them and came out the other side.
I disclosed my mental health difficulties straight away to my tutor, and I am so glad that I did. The perks of doing mental health nursing was that all my lecturers were mental health nurses, and I couldn’t have felt more supported. My tutor was amazing over the 3 years, checking-in with me regularly and being supportive when I was having a ‘wobble’ and I cannot be more thankful because I wouldn’t have got through those 3 years without her support.
However, disclosing my mental health difficulties meant that I had to face the dreaded occupational health. I’m not going to lie, it was awful. Being referred to a doctor what has the power to decide whether I was well enough to do the course and could have potentially made the decision that I was unable to continue with uni. The day of the appointment came and I managed to blag my way through it and give the ‘right’ answers.
“No I haven’t self-harmed recently”
“My mood is about a 6/7 out of 10”
“Sleeping and eating is fine”
Blaa blaa blaa same old same old.
Throughout my 3 years at uni I can’t fault the amount of support I got, and I am so grateful for that. My tutor was amazing. I had weekly mentoring (which helps you keep on top of your academic work and minimise the impact of your mental health difficulties on your studying), and my unis well-being service were really good and I had someone who I saw weekly and could email for support between sessions. I know people hear horror stories about the lack of support at university, but for me I felt more supported during my 3 years at uni than I did prior to that.
During my 3 years we spent half the time in university and half time on placement. The workload and stress could therefore be very high at times, and having 6 different placements over the course did mean a lot of change and a lot of anxiety; and I probably did struggle more with that than people who didn’t struggle with their mental health, however, I got through it because I was really well supported.
In terms of disclosing my mental health difficulties with my mentors on placement- this varied over the course; due to both how comfortable I felt with that mentor, the placement area, and how I was doing at the time. I had a couple of very difficult experiences where my mentors were less than supportive when I did disclose, however, I also had really positive experiences to where my mentors were really supportive.
During my 4th placement (second year) I had quite a wobble, where I felt really low and anxious and was self-harming a lot and just wasn’t really coping. Between me and my tutor we made the decision that I needed to take some time out of placement (although it wasn’t really a choice because if I hadn’t agreed the decision would have been taken away from me). I ended up having 5 weeks off placement, during which time my meds were changed, which felt like the end of the world. However, during this time uni were really supportive and I was able to return and complete my placement and made up the hours that I missed.
Although at the time I didn’t wasn’t to have to take time out , looking back I know it was definitely the right decision and I wasn’t at the time well enough to look after other people and needed that time to look after myself.
Finishing my final year was very overwhelming. Someone had said to me that the 3 years of uni were like climbing a mountain and that completing each placement or assignment was like reaching the base camps on the way up; and now I had reaching the top. Reflecting on what a dark place I had once been in, thinking that the only way out was to hurt myself and end my life because I couldn’t carry on- and now my dream of becoming a mental health nurse had come true.
I was lucky enough to be offered a job on a ward where I had been on placement, so already knew the ward and the team, which made the transition easier. When on placement on this ward I didn’t disclose my mental health difficulties because at the time I was doing relatively okay, therefore I didn’t feel I needed to, however, since qualifying I have told my manager, supervisor, and some of my colleagues, and I couldn’t feel more supported. The thought of losing my support network at uni always scared me, however, I feel so lucky to be able to say I feel equally supported in work, and know that if I need someone they’ll be there.
I have now been qualified for 6 months, am working full time in a job that I absolutely love, in the most supportive and best team I could wish for. Things aren’t perfect and I think depression and anxiety will always be a part of my life and always in the background even when I’m doing okay. I still have my ups and downs and some days feel a real struggle. However right now, I am probably the most well and content that I have been since I started initially struggling 6 years ago, haven’t self harmed in over a year and am able to say I am proud of myself for how far I have come.
When things are difficult, remember that
‘This too shall pass’
Although when you’re struggling it feels like the worst thing in the world,
‘you grow through what you go through’.
You don’t have to keep your mental health a secret and there is support out there – and if I was to give one piece of advice, it would be to reach out and use it, because in order to look after other people you need to look after yourself x”
I hope you all enjoyed this insightful post. If anyone reading this needs support below are some helplines and websites. Thank you for reading and a massive thank you to contributors of this series.
Look after yourself,
Samaritans – 116 123 The Mix (up to age 25)-0808 808 4994 CALM-0800 58 58 58 Papyrus- 0800 068 41 41