In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, we got up-close and personal with BULK POWDERS ambassador, Amy Clement, to talk about her struggle with her mental health.
“At 18, I moved from Northamptonshire to London to begin my degree and since the day I moved I’ve been on a difficult journey with my mental health. I never liked being away from home too much in my teenage years, but this was a whole new level for me that triggered a whole host of problems that I’m still dealing with today, aged 24.
I developed a sort of health anxiety where I was worried something bad would happen to me and no one would be around to help me, I started thinking I’d be the girl who would drop dead with no explanation. I obsessed over Googling things, I went to the doctors every two weeks to find out why I was having headaches or my why stomach hurt, I couldn’t sleep without my little lamp on or without something playing on my laptop. I became terrified of my own thoughts and I just couldn’t relax.
My first year of uni is all a bit of a blur to be honest. I cried a lot, went home a lot, I didn’t sleep much and although I learnt to function, I suffered a lot. My problems continued throughout my time at university and at some point I began having panic attacks. I had to fight extremely hard to get through a whole day. My anxieties became much more general (still often triggered by health issues though) and I was affected much more in a physical sense. My heart would race, I’d feel spaced out, I’d get dizzy, my stomach would ache, I’d have headaches, I’d feel restless, I’d be hit by adrenaline rushes out of nowhere. Looking back, I really wasn’t doing great.
I finally sought help in my final term of third year from the university councillor, after my boyfriend at the time suggested I see someone, she was lovely and it was really the first time I had properly opened up to someone about it. I remember seeing her once a week was really helpful and I felt quite relieved that I was normal and what I was experiencing wasn’t forever. The whole time I thought I was insane, I think I told my mum once that I thought I might have schizophrenia, I felt that out of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue therapy after university because I couldn’t afford it.
I jumped straight into a big job after uni and I was absolutely loving the work. However, my mental health had once again morphed and I was struggling, still. I ended up going to the doctors about my panic attacks, I was often waking up in the middle of the night with them or having them when I was out and about. He prescribed some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and some Propranolol (a beta-blocker) which I took daily (for almost 4 years!) Beta-Blockers essentially slow your heart rate down slightly, they can be used for high blood pressure in bigger doses and things like that.
CBT was excellent and I always recommend it to people who are struggling. It’s a really good way to assess how you think about things, to understand why your body does certain things and to help change the way you respond to situations. It’s a really great tool that is free on the NHS and I’m very grateful for it. There were also some group sessions which I went to, it was nice to see that I wasn’t alone.
By this point I had been out of uni and working for a couple of years: I continued to take my tablets, really got into my fitness and I was enjoying London life! My quality of life was generally much better, my head much clearer, I was no longer consciously worrying about the unknown, but I was suffering badly with panic attacks that would hit me out of the blue. These attacks would sneak up on me and they were honestly the worst things I’ve ever been through. They are fairly indescribable and I wouldn’t wish them upon my worst enemy. All of a sudden I’d just switch, everything around me would feel surreal, I would have to dash out from wherever I was (work, a nightclub, a restaurant), I’d often be shaking all over, my heart would be racing, my eyes would be really sensitive to light, I would hear every single sound and noise so loudly, I would think that I was dying or that’s I was going to pass out. I wouldn’t be able to talk or be around anyone else (I’ve spent a lot of time in toilet cubicles!), I’d struggle to stand still, I would always pace around, trying to calm down, I’d often call Will, my boyfriend, in despair, making zero sense. I’d eventually come around, I’d often forget a lot of what happened, I’d feel confused and drained for the rest of the day. Like totally exhausted.
On a positive note, if I can survive 6 years of panicking, worrying, anxiety and stress then so can you. I recently came off my tablets which has been huge for me, realising I CAN cope without medication and deal with my emotions naturally. I’ve also cut down on caffeine which has helped hugely. I’m in a much better place, I’m in way more control, my worries don’t escalate and my quality of life is the best it’s ever been. I’m hoping it will continue to get better and I’ll get stronger and stronger.”