My Mental Health At 37

a birthday cake with reeces on the top.
My birthday cake this year.

I turned 37 at the beginning of the month.

Not a milestone age, not a particularly memorable age to most but I realised something, well, a few things, about my mental health.

In November it will be ten years since I left Francis Dixon Lodge and finished a year-long programme of group therapy.

I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality while I was there (a diagnosis that was a long time coming).

It was life-changing. I’m not saying everything changed overnight, or that I walked out of the place with perfect mental health but I did stop self-harming regularly, I learnt a lot of ways to cope, and I was no longer suicidal. I spent another year or so seeing an Occupational Therapy, attending coping skills groups and Mind before I met my wife and my life turned another corner.

I’ve self-harmed a few times over the last ten years, but nothing in the last five years or so. And my mental health has not been perfect but considering how bad it was, this is so, so good.

I do feel like ten years of my life went missing between the ages of 17 and 27.

The Beginning

An orange self harm awareness  ribbon

I’ve always said my depression kicked in around 17. A lot was going on back then, I was failing my A-Levels, had a crush on my best friend, my dad was drinking a lot and I was struggling. My OCD was getting worse and my allergies were really bad (my legs swelled up to three times their size and a trip into the fields would swell my eyes shut).

I’ve always equated my depression and my mental health as whole with those couple of years. As if it spiralled down from there.

However I came to the realisation that it probably started a lot earlier. When I was 13.

When I was 13 I was already a socially anxious kid, I had entomophobia and telephonophobia and that was also a pretty bad year. My dad got beat up in front of me and my sister while we were walking home one night with my nan. I caught the measles, rubella and whooping cough, and had an inflamed gall bladder and I was off school for the better part of a year over all. I was becoming isolated at school. I was a free-school meals kid and couldn’t afford to go into town for lunch. My friends rarely stayed in school with me.

And when I was 13, my insomnia kicked in. I rarely slept more than three hours a night until I was well into my twenties.

It occurred to me this week that really was probably the start of it.

The End Of It?

An illustration of a medicine pot.

There’s nothing I can do about the past. I get that. The problem I’ve always had is that I understand myself too well. I understand my mental health problems, the causes, the symptoms, the but that often just means I am my biggest critic.

I know why I am feeling bad, surely I should know how to feel better.

It invariably does not happen quite like that. In fact, the best I can do nowadays is just to ride it out. I’ve done therapy (a few times), changed my medication, sorted my hormones out so that’s one less issues. I’ve got support structures. I know what to do.

But mostly, I just have to ride it for however long it lasts. Depending on how bad things get. I’ve turned down a few referrals to the mental health team because I truly believe there is nothing else they can do for me.

And most of the time I’m okay. And better than that I am happy. Whereas 12 years ago, I was unhappy and living with depression, and severe suicide ideation, self-harm, pica, anxiety, social phobia and the worst of the BPD.

Now I am happy and living with depression and anxiety. It’s a world of difference and that is probably where I am always going to be with my mental health.

And that’s okay.

There isn’t always a cure, but there is often a better.

15 Replies to “My Mental Health At 37

  1. This is a great post. A number of reasons. We think this stuff has a distinct cause or starting point but it creeps in little by little until it’s ‘noticable’ to ourselves. Secondly, your last line is brilliant. I’m stealing it. There is a better. And I also like that you say you are living with anxiety and depression and are happy. My little one has anxiety and I’m working hard on getting her the tools to manage it so she can avoid medication (not that I’m against that, but that’s not a life long solution, management is needed) and be in control of it for her pending teen years. It won’t go away but she can be the boss of it. Great post. #KCACOLS

  2. This is all so true. Someone else has commented this but I agree, the little things all tends to add up until they make a large complicated tangle of mental health issues. It sometimes seems overwhelming to work through them all. And sometimes we just have to live with what we have. Being happier is a big step in the right direction. Glad that you feel on top of things right now, and may that forever be the case! #KCACOLS

  3. I love how you ended this! I’m glad that you’re accepting that life can be better. I believe with each passing day you’ll find it will get better than it was before. Maybe this time next year, you’ll see that you’ve grown leaps and bounds on your mental health journey. Once you know it’s a problem like you’ve learned, it’s definitely easier to handle. I hope that you do have more good days than bad over the next year and beyond! #KCACOLS

  4. A very honest post. I feel very much the same way – I’ve been under mental health care for 17 years now and feel like one of the best things I did for my mental health was accept that certain things were part of me and to look at how to improve my life rather than searching for a cure that didn’t exist, and to look at how far I’ve come from my darkest moments and try to be proud of my achievements. And when I’m really struggling that’s how I try to approach it again – how can I make things better today. It sounds like you’ve come a long way and are a very strong person, thanks for sharing. #KCACOLS

  5. This is great to read. Whilst we can’t change the past having good understanding of it can really help us to accept and move on. Ten years of managing your mental health is definitely something to be celebrated. I am also 37 this year and feel a very different person to the one I was in my teens. I know what you mean about the fact the professional can’t necessarily offer you any more help when you know what they will say but sometimes they can just be there as a support when that is needed. I have to say that birthday cake looks awesome too. #KCACOLS

  6. What an honest, inspiring insight into your life. I myself have been lucky enough not to suffer with my mental health, but close members of my family have. I think coming to terms with its origins gives you some form of closure and helps you to move on with your life. I’m glad to hear how you have turned your life around and accepted your mental health going forward. You should be very proud of how far you have come. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time. 🙂

  7. Love your willingness to be transparent! I think so many of us fixate on the start and the finish of the journey, rather than the best part – the middle! Being aware of when and how and why we stumble is so key in getting back up again, adjusting our sails, and moving further along. Personally, when I get knocked down, I think of Dory from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”

  8. Life really is just about taking it one day at a time isn’t it? That is always my approach to it anyway. I try not to think too far into the future. I always find that a total trigger for anxiety #KCACOLS

  9. The final line is such a great way to end. I think it’s so important we keep talking about mental health in order to support and to normalise. #KCACOLS

  10. It is amazing that you have reached a point where you consider yourself happy with the depression etc. I have just returned to work after a severe bout of depression. I was in a very dark place, self-harm was a big issue. 5 months ago I was put on a list for group therapy to tackle the self – harm and find better ways to cope and then I will go for talking therapy. Until that happens I am trying to keep busy and remember it is just a bad day, not a bad life.

  11. This is actually very positive to know that you can be happy living with depression and anxiety and to see how far you have come and how much you have achieved. #KCACOLS

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