Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day, an initiative organised by Time to Change, a social movement who aims to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Some of you may have seen a few of my recent social media posts and blogs where I have mentioned that I have been having a very low period of depression and anxiety. I also explained in my new year blog post that I wanted to be more open and honest on my blog so Time to Talk Day seemed like the most appropriate time to share and talk and may be help someone else.
I have never gone public with this. In fact I didn't even really know it had a name until I was nearly 30. But I suffered most of my childhood, through my teens and well into adulthood, well until quite recently really. I have emetophobia which is the fear of vomiting - it can include a fear of vomiting oneself in private or public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching or hearing the action of vomiting and a fear of feeling nauseous.
In addition I do have episodes of anxiety, mild depression and insomnia. I also had post-natal depression and I have had anxiety and low mood associated with hormone imbalances during peri-menopause. The phobia is less of an issue in my day to day life now but depression and insomnia continue to plague me from time to time and I am still working on the best ways to deal with it when it does reappear.
But this is me, this is the bit that no one apart from my closest family and friends see, this is the me I usually keep private and if I do tell someone, I am usually met with surprised 'but you seem so confident!' I have also accepted that I am an introvert, that I don't enjoy big events and I don't enjoy too much social media visibility - like changing room selfies!
I am currently in the midst of a particularly bad episode of low mood / depression and so opening up about my struggles helps me cope a bit more and find some perspective. Last year was full on for me with, among other challenges, waving my daughter off to university then the long Christmas and New Year period with two bereavements and an even longer grey January. Thank goodness that is over. On my walks this week I have seen signs of spring.
HaIn the past I've had counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP and anti-depressant medication, I've tried numerous alternative therapies too. I finally got help as I was approaching 30 and I wanted to have children but I was terrified of morning sickness and childhood vomiting bugs. But I did it, I got help, I overcame my fear, I got pregnant and have, as you know, two beautiful children. I did feel quite sick during both pregnancies but never actually vomited, I got through their childhoods and coped admirably with the occasional bug - generally my husband and I had a deal - he did vomit I did bottoms. But actually that wasn't always possible if he was away or at work. So I learnt to deal with it. I had flare-ups though, times when i was worse. I remember when my son was about 7 I had a particular bad episode and when I look back at the photos now I can see how much weight I lost as I was avoiding eating.
I don't think I could ever totally pin point exactly what helped me overcome the phobia or why I had it in the first place. My husband has been incredibly supportive and was instrumental in me taking the first step all those years ago and starting group counselling. If I am honest though probably taking the anti-depressant medication made the biggest difference but I do think that the counselling, homeopathy, and hypnotherapy helped me understand make more sense of it.
Through my teenage years I was pretty misunderstood, I never did the going out and getting drunk thing. And I still don't. I was suffering when mental health didn't get talked about so my parents didn't know and when I did try and tell them years later they did find it hard to understand. I would never ever criticise them for that though. We are very close and they are totally supportive but it was a different era, we know so much more now.
There are also lots of excellent support groups that can help you understand a phobia and make you feel like you are not alone. The Phobia Support Forum has some amazing resources like their article How are Phobia's Created? Having the internet to tap into has made such a difference in understanding and learning about mental health.
And back to the present day. I was really hoping that balancing my hormones with HRT would mean I could come off the anti-depressant medication and I was feeling so well, so positive, that back in September I did come off it. But this recent flare-up would suggest that I am one of the smaller number of women that need HRT and AD. It's so frustrating! Unfortunately GP's will often diagnose (wrongly) depression in women who are actually in perimenopause and need their hormones to be topped up - not given AD, unless like me you had depression pre-45 approx. Hormones first then anti-depressants if you are still not feeling better.
I am currently working on 'designing a life I love' and after this latest episode I realise I have to do an awful lot more to support my mental health, not just pretend everything is okay, then crash! It has been a really rough few weeks but this week I feel I have turned a corner and I am working on some positive actions to find a new purpose to my life. My family are incredibly supportive, and both my sisters as well as close friends have been there for me and I have received some lovely messages via social media.
Walking and talking with friends and my sisters has been the best therapy. As have days with my daughter and date nights with my husband.
I have lots of inspiring quotes on my fridge!
Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.
Feeling confident about myself is more important than how I look.
She designed a life she loved.
Expect nothing, appreciate everything.
And I have my lovely Vision Board (above) in my office which inspires me every day and my new bullet journal to record my goals. I am also using a journal at night to record the positives from my day. I have been doing a Menu and Mind course with a local natural chef and an NLP counsellor, this has helped me loads.
My message - don't suffer in silence, it is 'time to talk' and there is so much help available now. Don't rule out HRT if your symptoms arrived around your mid-forties. And don't let the GP just send you off with a prescription for anti-depressants (remember hormones first). Share your worries with family and friends, you will be surprised to find you are not alone and you will be understood much more than you expected.
Baby steps, this photo will remind me that I can have messy hair and that getting out to walk more often is good for me. I've started listening to more podcasts and audiobooks to switch off my overthinking brain!
Message me or comment below if you understand the struggles.
Other blogs you may have missed and find useful:
Perimenopause and why I decided to take HRT
Menopause and hot flushes
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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