Stigma: 'A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person: "the stigma of mental disorder"'

If there's a word you can think of when mentioning mental health, it is definitely stigma. In fact, this is the main issue when looking at mental health. Many people are really scared of saying anything about their mental health incase they will be judged. This often leads people to danger.

Firstly, there are laws out there which protect people from discrimination, such as the laws about mental health that can be applied in the workplace. However, as you might as well know they aren't always followed. So what else is there? These laws are there for your safety and protection and if you feel you are being mistreated  you can always take it to a tribunal. No one is allowed to make you feel worthless, especially in the eyes of the law.

Secondly, there are many organisations out there that are trying to get rid of mental health as a 'taboo' subject. The most important campaign is 'Time To Change'. You may have seen the adverts on the TV and videos on YouTube, which I advise you check out if you haven't already. There is also a pledge wall which I have signed, along with stories and how you can help - even more resources to make you realise that you are not alone! Anxiety UK, is a great charity too along with childline. But if we're looking at stigma, then 'Time To Change' is the one to look at. 

Stigma is a massive issue when it comes to mental illness. I have had great issues when trying to explain my anxiety and people either not listening, not thinking it's a big deal and just brushing it off as if they don't have to care. But, generally people have been supportive.

In terms of my family, they have been very accepting. They haven't punished me for it, or been ashamed of me. I think this is because I have a very good relationship with my family, but also there are others in the family which suffer from mental illness too. They also saw me suffer before their eyes. With anxiety, it's hard to hide anything. I never really told them; I guess they just knew and/or found out. When they did find out, they didn't treat me any differently. However, there are some members of my family which struggle to understand, which can be aggravating. However without them, I have no idea what I'd do. They have literally saved me and I can never thank them enough for it. Whatever you do, you must talk.

Through my anxiety, I have realised who my true friends are. I have had some friends who I never thought would help me out, but they have been the best. Most have been supportive. They've talked to me about it for hours, sent me school work and helped me in any which way they can. However, I have only told very few of my friends. I hate to say the reason why, but I guess it's because of the stigma. I'm worried about what they will think and if they will tell others. I've also had many people ask me why I've been off so much from school, but I just tend to reply with 'I have a few problems' or 'just because' or 'when I'm better I will explain' I think it's such a sensitive subject, and I rather keep it close.

I never thought my teachers would be so helpful. My Mum and Grandma sent the school cards!  I expect, most if not all of the teachers don't understand my situation and they could easily just say I couldn't be bothered or remove me from the school, but they have been amazing and I can't thank them enough. Whether you like school or not, your teachers will have an impact on you for the rest of you life and you must understand that they are there to help you. If you feel you can't talk to your parents, then talk to your teachers. My teachers have been wonderful by organizing separate rooms for my exams, sending work home, calling me, checking if i'm okay in lessons; the list is endless! The thing I've been most grateful for is that they've talked to me. At the end of lessons they've asked how I am, that they're here if I need to talk and so on. One of my teachers even spoke to me about the stigma. He said 'This first thing you think people are going to think of you is crazy, but that's not true at all.' 

What I'm trying to say, is that yes there will be stigma and it definitely hurts because you know that you cannot help it. But the thing is, it's because people don't understand and this is why I'd really like it to be taught in schools and the workplace. But you have to understand that you are bigger and better than anything anyone can say to you, and you've got this. If I can do it, so can you. I've been to darkest places of life, and I'm slowly getting there. So don't give up, and don't listen to the rubbish people reel out. It is extremely painful and angers you immensely when people say inconsiderate things about your health, but understand you are stronger. Secondly, I know you may be worried about the stigma if you talk about your health, but believe me it's not as bad as you think; there are people out there to support you and it's never as bad as you presume, just look at the support I have had! Yes there have been a few people that have decided to say something, but you're better than that. Do not let the stigma worsen your condition  You must speak to someone, whether it be your family, teachers, friends, or even me. You will be better off with the support.

Why do I have anxiety?

Anyone suffering with anxiety, depression and any other related illness will ask the question 'why do I have this?'

I've asked this question about anxiety; many times. My therapists have tended to say that we mustn't look at the past, but the present. However, the main point that has been repeated to me, is that you may never know. I can understand that this isn't the answer we were all hoping for, but it's a very complex matter.

Some people can identify a time in their life which sparked off their problems, such as a parents divorce or a loss of a job. However, for many people they will never be a hundred percent sure, or just have no clue.

What's always been told to me, is it tends to be a range of the things that build up until we go 'bang' which in this case would be the anxiety.

I've always been told that there is no point dwelling on the past, as we must focus on the present to solve the current situation. It would be true to say that you could sit with a councillor and trawl through the past to find when it all happened, and perhaps find a trigger. However, this would be a hard task for some.

What should I do when someone is experiencing a panic attack?

It's all well and good having information of the condition, but what happens if you are faced with someone having a panic attack?

1. Preference - As mentioned in a previous post, it's a person's personal preference as to what they want when experiencing a panic attack. It may be useful to bring it up in conversation, what the person prefers when they are experiencing a panic attack.

2. Diaphragm - The best technique that I can advise is to breathe. When someone is having a panic attack give them the ability to breathe. By that I mean, show them how to breathe. There's a technique known as diaphragm breathing. You must breathe in for four seconds, hold for two, and breathe out for six. Get the person who is experiencing the panic attack to copy you.

3. Reassurance - When someone is experiencing a panic attack, some can feel the extremes such as the feeling that they are going to faint/die because of the lack of breathing and control. You need reassure the person that everything is okay and that they will be fine. This will help the person to calm down.

4. Do what they want! - When someone is having a panic attack, they can become disoriented, have feelings of sickness and be lightheaded. If they ask for something, such as a glass of water then go and get it for them. The person knows what they need to help them to resolve the situation.

5. Causes - Often there will be something that has triggered the panic attack, so the best thing to do is get them out of there if they haven't already done so themselves. For example, a panic attack may have occurred due to the person being in a crowded space. Therefore, the person needs to get outside of the venue, or away from the crowd.

These are a mixture of tips from personal experience, professionals and others. I hope that these help. Remember to stay calm and that the person will get through the panic attack. There are loads of other tips on the internet, if you feel you need more. It's always best to be prepared!

What is my experience of panic attacks?

The first panic attack I ever had was on GCSE results day. I was so nervous. On the way to the venue where I would collect my results, I completely freaked out and couldn't breathe and started crying. I just assumed it was nerves and it passed as soon as I got into the venue.

As the months past, these panic attacks began to be a regular occurrence - before driving lessons, before my hypnotherapy sessions, catching transport, going into a shop, applying for jobs, asking for something and eventually going to school. I've had so many panic attacks when going to school, It's ridiculous.

Even though I have experienced loads of panic attacks, there are a few that I can remember really clearly. Despite the panic attack on results day, another one I can clearly remember is when I went to apply for jobs. Applying for jobs is hard enough with anxiety, let alone someone who severely suffers from it. It was going quite well in confidence terms. I was in the mall and I went into several shops, but had little luck - either they weren't taking on or I was too young. I managed to hand in some and applied to others online. I had been into so many shops and been rejected. Many anxiety sufferers will understand that this increases your anxiety. I went into one shop that surprize, surprize wasn't taking on and I stepped outside of the shop and started to panic. I couldn't breathe, then I was crying and slowly everything became a blur. Luckily I had support which could calm me down and helped me to breathe. 

I remember clearly, I was planning to go to a Rizzle Kicks concert, but just like all of the other opportunities, I often didn't go through with them and just stayed at home. I really didn't want to go. The thought of all of those people and the thought that I couldn't escape was overwhelming. Before I went out the door, I got into a panic. I couldn't breathe and was crying again. This time I really couldn't breathe at all, and it was so scary. However, with the help of the support around me, I managed to calm down and actually enjoyed myself.

A final example I can think of is when I was about to catch a bus with my friend. She was coming round to meet me, but the problem was that I hadn't told her about my situation. Again, I had the usual symptoms; couldn't breathe, was crying and generally tried to get myself out of the situation. I felt really ill. However, as soon as my friend came round, I managed to control myself. 

These panic attacks were getting out of hand and was making my anxiety worse. Therefore, it was decided that I was to see and hypnotherapist - it's not as scary as you think! With time, my panic attacks slowly decreased and I learnt to understand the feelings which helped me to be in control. 

I hope my experience of panic attacks can reassure you that you're not alone and that what you're feeling is only typical. With help, panic attacks can be solved.

Tips to get out of the darkness

Today, I thought I would focus on anxiety and feeling down. One thing to remember with recovery is that it can be two steps forward and one step back. My recovery has been going really well with the only major problem areas now being school and driving lessons. However my anxiety flares up severely before those events and I often ending up feeling really awful.This usually isn't because of the event itself, but because of the physical and mental pain I always have to face or because I couldn't go through with the event and feel as if I have been defeated.

I've come up with some tips to help. These tips can be used anytime that you are feeling down:

1. Heaters & drains - people can be classed as either givers or takers. The givers are the heaters and the drains are the takers. As a first step in improving your life you need to look at the people around you. At a time when you are feeling at your worst, you need to focus on yourself and only have positive people around you. Write a list of people in your life who are heaters and drains and start to get rid of the drains. It's definitely not easy, but when you're so fragile it's a must.

2. How do I get out? - you need to write or create a mind map about how to get out of this situation you're in. What will make you feel better? A few on my list are to eat healthy, sort out my heaters & drains, and join a club amongst many others. My anxiety isn't going to make it easy, but I can try.

3. Be positive - I know everyone says it. Positive thoughts will change your outlook and it's true, but sometimes your situation means that you can't. But again write a list of everything you're looking forward to. A few on my list is a possible holiday and possible law work experience. Not only will it make you think of all the things to look forward to, but hopefully it should keep you going for a little bit longer.

4. Write a bucket list - I know many people who have had depression have said to write a bucket list. You're not allowed to die until you have completed this bucket list. You can be as imaginative as you like. A few on mine is to meet Elly Jackson (from La Roux) again, and to make this blog successful.

5. The little things - sometimes we get so consumed in our problems, that we forget how lucky we are. Make a list about all the things you enjoy in life such as the birds singing in the morning, cups of tea and so on.

6. Get lost - we need to spend time on our own. When a situation gets so bad, you need to escape. Play a computer game, read a book, go away for a week, listen to music, dance to music and even go to sleep if that's what will help. 

As you can probably tell I have an obsession with lists. Mind maps are pretty cool too. They help to clear my mind. I hope that these tips will help with any difficult situation you're in. Most of the time when we think we can't get through something, we do. Think about all of the things you've achieved so far.

The next post should continue the anxiety series.