My Mental Health Story: Emily Finnigan

Mental Health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year and no one should feel ashamed.

I am a 22-year-old woman who has struggled with mental health issues for years but has only recently been diagnosed with depression & anxiety (February 2019). I don’t really know what particularly started this illness off for me but it started with having low moods, the constant tiredness and having a huge loss of appetite. I didn’t really think much of it at the start, I just thought it was being tired from working 20+ hours a week.

Eventually, I felt myself getting more and more saddened/annoyed at the slightest little thing that shouldn’t necessarily bother me in everyday life. For many months or even years, I kept my feelings to myself as I felt too afraid to ask for any help. Whether that be from family or a close friend.

Every time someone would ask me “you okay?”, I would just easily respond with “yes, thank you” when in reality I wasn’t, I just didn’t want people to worry about me or take their focus off something that could be more important.

I hid my emotions because when I ever mentioned that I was feeling low, I was told to ‘get over it’ or that I would be ok. I found it very difficult to make friends, as I have a lack of trust due to past experiences. I also found it hard to ask someone for help when I feel like I don’t necessarily understand something or even ask for advice when I’m in two minds of something. I was always known as this smiley person who would be constantly laughing or making others laugh, but in reality, behind closed doors, I found it extremely difficult to find the good things about myself.

The scariest thing I found about suffering from a mental illness is the effect it has on every aspect of your life; it’s not just what’s inside your head. For me, suffering with depression and anxiety, I couldn’t find happiness in the little things I used to enjoy doing. More often than not, it would cause me to sit in my room and cry, but usually for no reason at all. I would more often than not seclude myself from everyone else, or I would often find that I would cancel plans due to feeling like I’m going to have a panic attack.

On the 6th of April 2016, I got my first tattoo. To me, a tattoo is something I have always wanted but I also wanted it to be something meaningful. I have always seen this semi-colon tattoo going around to support mental health and since being diagnosed I thought “let’s get this tattoo as it represents me but also shows support to everyone else suffering too”. I have the semi-colon- but it’s also in the frame of a butterfly-  as I like the idea of a butterfly because to me it represents freedom and self-love. Just by looking at my wrist, it reminds me of the good memories I had when I was getting this tattooed, as well as how much of a brave person I was or can be.

Following my diagnosis, I have been able to feel increasingly confident to ask someone for advice or just generally talk about the way I am feeling. Don’t get me wrong there are times when I feel like I don’t want to be a burden upon anyone else, but most of the time I like to just ask for advice whether it being a good thing or a bad thing. When I was diagnosed with a mental illness, I was very lucky to have people around me who did not judge me and did not see me as a different person because of this illness. Also, with being diagnosed I also found out that a lot more people are struggling with mental health issues everyday, more than we realise. Having a mental illness isn’t something we should be ashamed about and something that shouldn’t define us a person, it is something that should be spoken about more and not be a taboo to everyone.

My advice to anyone who is suffering, or feels like they could be experiencing similar emotions, is that please do not block out how you’re feeling. If someone asks how you are, be honest. Don’t let people believe that you are ok when you’re not, because you’ll be surprised at how many people will stick by you and have your back!

If you struggle to tell people how you feel, maybe tell a stranger or a close friend. The worst I did was bottle it up, as it got to the point of every single muscle and bone in my body was hurting and I physically had to ring my mum and tell her I couldn’t do it anymore. I am always here to chat about mental health as I strongly believe that it should be spoken about more.

What I find has helped me calm down is not only my medication- but also just making time for people and getting out of the house. Always surround yourself with people who are going to take your mind off the bad, and always offer your help to people.

Things to remember:

You don’t have to be perfect.
Having a bad day is ok.
Small steps are also progress.
Asking for help is strength.
People love and appreciate you.

Thanks for reading,

Em

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