As part of Mental Health Awareness week, I’m publishing a series of blogs telling the story of someone. This could be someone who suffers or someone who’s trying to help others.
In this one, I talk to someone who suffers not only with anxiety but also fibromyalgia, something that causes great pain. She also has had an incredibly traumatic past.
This is the story of Jane.
Would you like to say a little something about yourself?
I have fibromyalgia along with other chronic illnesses, but fibro is the main problem. It is usually triggered by a physical or emotional crisis
Mine was abuse.
As a child, sexually by a brother, then in a relationship sexually, emotionally, and physically. I was in said relationship from 14 to 26 years old. The loss of my mother almost 7 years ago caused my second ” breakdown”.
How did you notice the first symptoms of having mental health issues? Was it something you picked up or was it something that was pointed out to you?
I started shutting down during arguments, I couldn’t speak, and that made him worse. I found myself locking myself in my tiny box room, in the dark, curled up and rocking. As a child I used to hide in the airing cupboard.
Did you find it was more of a way to avoid conflict or because you felt you couldn’t communicate?
My counselor said it was my anxiety causing it….just total shut down. It definitely didn’t stop conflict, if anything it made him worse, as to him I was ignoring him, so it usually earned me a pasting.
When did you start getting help with the anxiety issues? Did you find they helped?
After mum died, I saw a counselor from Relate. It was initially for grief, but I poured everything out, and I recently went back, as I was struggling with pain. She made me see that none of what I endured was my fault, I was the victim. It has helped me a lot, and I don’t feel guilty anymore.
People react different ways to counseling but it sounds like it’s really helped you out. Was there anything in particular with your counseling that you found helped you the most?
To start with, just having someone to listen and not judge or be involved helped. But she had training, and made me see that I wasn’t ever in the wrong, no matter what had happened or what I felt.
That’s cool. How do you feel you cope with your anxiety now?
Anxiety is not so bad….I can go out on my own now, I wouldn’t go anywhere without my husband or my daughter. And I don’t get catatonic now. I still wake at night with a racing heart, but that could be due to autonomic disfunction caused by EDS.
If I do have an attack I try to get my head in a book.
You mentioned before that you suffer with fibromyalgia. I know a couple of people with it and how it affects them. Would you like to explain what it is for anyone who doesn’t know?
Yes. It is a miscommunication between the nerves and the brain. It gives you pain for no reason, and also doesn’t switch off when it should. So you get an injury, and months or years later it still hurts. We also feel pain roughly 3 times stronger than non fibro sufferers.
It causes cognitive impairment (fibro fog) and fatigue. And we don’t go full cycle in our sleep pattern, so we don’t get deep restful sleep
I can imagine that really can have a major impact on anxiety and the like. How do you try to cope with it all?
I have spend 15 years juggling medications, from antidepressants and anti epileptics, to opiates, mindfulness, CBT, physiotherapy. I am now on a drug called tapentadol (palexia), and along with antispasmodics and drugs for related conditions, I have a handle on it.
Do you have a good circle of people around you who help?
I have my husband and daughter, and a very good support group on Facebook. One of my neighbours has same condition, and I have a few neighbours who understand, or at least are sympathetic and will help if I need it.
What would you say to someone who’s experiencing mental health issues?
To not be embarrassed about it. See their doctor and get the help they need.
Thanks for that. And do you have anything you’d like to say in closing?
Mental heath problems are not a weakness. Society should stop expecting sufferers to pull themselves together.
Thank you Jane.