Aoife’s story

Aoife.pngAs a holistic therapist, I work with the four levels of being: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. The balancing of the mental realm is just as critical to good health as the others. Mental health is something that a lot of people take for granted but when your mind is not at peace, it can feel like your world is falling apart. Communication with others can become more difficult and the stigma and isolation can be overwhelming.

As a child, I was outwardly very calm and steady in a crisis. However, I think due to a few events in my early life, I developed a sense of not being safe in the world. This manifested as an inner anxiety that something bad was going to happen to me or one of my family or friends. I could get lost in long trains of thought where some terrible imaginary accident or event would happen and it was often many minutes later that I would come back to my present and current reality.

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In these flights of fancy (or anxiety), I would experience every detail of the incident, and the persons’ funeral and the aftermath. Sometimes I would come back to the present with such a jolt that it really startled me.

As I became an adult and had children of my own I was still in the habit of catastrophising like that when I was stressed. I remember mentioning it to my postnatal health visitor when she was assessing me. I told her that I very often imagined cars and trucks crashing into me as I walked along the road.  She explained to me that it wasn’t a usual or normal way to think and was, in fact, a symptom of anxiety. At that moment I realised that perhaps my general mental health wasn’t as good as I liked to think it was.

When I was a young adult, I went through a very traumatic time around the age of 28. I was in a job that I hated, a long relationship that I was having difficulty ending and leading a crazy lifestyle in order to deal with it all. The consequences were extreme and far-reaching. I know now that I had psychosis for months afterwards but was hiding it well. I never got any professional help as I thought the doctors would judge me (I had heard of this happening to others) and I was worried that it would affect my future job prospects. The only people who knew about it were my husband and closest friends.

After many years, the panic attacks and what I now know to be PTSD flashbacks had really lessened and I was less bothered by the symptoms of this mental imbalance. I still felt very isolated. It was very difficult to explain to anyone but my husband what I would go through in those dark moments and he is still the only one who is close to understanding it. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago I had a big resurgence of symptoms and I was having a number of PTSD flashbacks and panic attacks and generalised paranoia that felt like it could be borderline schizophrenia. I was confused and felt very vulnerable.

Again, I was really unwilling to go to the GP about this. I felt scared about what they would suggest as a treatment or write in my medical records. So I concentrated on receiving healing, meditating and doing lots of healing treatments on myself using Emotion and Body Code (a healing modality that I am trained in). Happily, for the last year and a half, I have been feeling much more stable and I don’t lie in bed every night endlessly trying to make sense of what happened to me. I am calmer, happier and more grounded. I haven’t had any kind of episode for over a year.

I still have recurring nightmares about tsunamis and a bit of a phobia of them, but that’s a whole other story! I am really happy that at present my mental health is stable and I have been able to improve it with holistic tools, although of course, I know that conventional medication can be the right path for others.

What really strikes me, looking back over what has occurred in my life, is the level of shame that I have experienced around this whole issue. Today is the first time I am being courageous and vulnerable enough to “come out of the closet” as someone who has experienced mental health issues. It is sad that we should feel so ashamed of our situations, as I feel that shame is the lowest vibration a person can experience. I have regrets about some of my decisions in the past, and that has added to the shame. However, I think that even if that wasn’t part of the cause I still would have been reticent to ask for help.

Over the last few years I have witnessed many of my friends having varied symptoms of mental imbalance and it shows me that we are all susceptible to these issues. Whether it is anxiety, a phobia, depression, PND, anger issues, dementia, or any other mental health disorder, it is critical that people feel able to seek help and communicate about what is happening with others. It takes courage to identify a mental imbalance in yourself and asking for help from this place of vulnerability can feel very challenging.

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I am very glad that mental health charities and bloggers are really helping to raise awareness of the prevalence of mental health issues and help reduce the stigma attached. After all, the mental and emotional aspects of our being are just as important as our physical well-being. We all have some cracks and crevices in our minds, little short-circuits where thoughts and patterns get distorted. If we could all own those little blips with more transparency, perhaps it would help us to have more compassion for others in mental distress. It can be awkward and embarrassing to share but I believe we all need to push through this prejudice and realise it could happen to anyone of us, at any time. 

This was the first time Aoife shared her story, and I’m so proud of her for doing so and honoured she felt John’s Road to Volunteering was the place to do this. 

If you’d like to keep up with Aoife’s journey, you can follow her on Twitter and via her blog; rheumatoidrecovery.com

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