So why a craft shop with a mental health message? Well I have a story to tell…
Since I was very small, Anxiety – although I didn’t know it then – was a part of my life. From pulling out my hair, to blushing when the register was called every.single.lesson.
I didn’t know that I had a mental health problem. I thought it was just me. Mental health problems happened to other people.
Not people like me. I was happy. I didn’t have any trauma growing up.
So I pushed aside these feelings and physical symptoms and got busier and busier until I couldn’t focus on it anymore.
I first started to realise the nondiscriminatory nature of mental illness when a good friend of mine admitted to suffering with depression. We couldn’t get our heads around it; she smiled, she was pretty, she did things, she didn’t LOOK depressed – so how could she be? At this point, I thought that if she could be, then maybe I could too. I even booked a session with a counselor but couldn’t bring myself to go in the end – I emailed them and told them that there were people in “greater need” than me. I pushed the thought down and got on with it, I made myself even busier to not have to think.
A few years on, I had graduated and trained to be a maths teacher. I won the prize in my year for outstanding contribution to teaching, and had completed two very successful years in school. But at the start of my third year, something changed.
I began to get scared about leaving the house for too long. I started to withdraw from my friends and took out my horrid mood swings on my poor boyfriend. I didn’t listen to the signs that my body sent, and kept working, ignoring and pushing down the worry, the dread and the constant questioning. I kept working and working, harder and harder so that I didn’t have to deal with my own mind.
But my body had its own ideas. I couldn’t function properly anymore, I was fainting, weak and nauseous, dizzy and fatigued all the time. Skin complaints, stomach pains and food intolerances galore. Mentally, I noticed that this year I wasn’t bonding with my classes at all, I didn’t have the energy to learn their names and I certainly wasn’t planning inspiring lessons – I was just …coping.
This of course led me to become even more anxious – I had always been good at things, and now I was just doing the bare minimum to survive. This wasn’t me at all.
The final straw came when I had what turned out to be my first “proper” panic attack. My arms went numb, every time I breathed in I felt like I was going to be sick, and I started crying. I was terrified.
I went straight to the doctors, and told them all about it. I asked if they thought that I had Generalised Anxiety Disorder and they agreed. And that agreement was such a relief! I worked with therapists, have worked out which medications and activities help and which ones hurt and now I feel like I have control again.
I have always crafted but this shop helps me in two ways:
1- personally, keeping my hands busy and having something to DO when I get home or have down time keeps the demons at bay, and my hands from devil’s work.
2 – I was incredibly ignorant of mental illness and was horrified by the myths that I believed about it.
Mental illnesses take on average between 5 and 10 years to be diagnosed.
So let’s talk, let’s help and let’s promote.