- Age – 31.
- Location – I live in Auckland, but grew up in Hamilton.
- Occupation – I work in retail marketing.
- Is or has your mental health ever been of concern to you or others? Why? I suffer from depression and anxiety. At first I thought I was going to feel depressed and panicked forever, and then once things felt better I wrongly assumed that I was cured and would never again feel like that… depression and anxiety are something that will be with me forever most likely and although I may feel better it’s important that I continue to take good care of myself.
- Have you ever sought help for issues relating to your mental health, be it conventional or non-conventional? I first saw a GP about feeling depressed when I was 16 or 17, I was lucky enough that my Mum recognised what was happening and helped me seek help. Many GPs and many years later and I’ve got a really great GP, sadly not all GPs understood or took the time to understand what was going on. My current GP helped arrange for me to see a psychologist last year and although I didn’t continue seeing the psychologist I did take away some helpful tips and advice.
- Have you ever felt anxious or had a panic attack? I do at time feel anxious and I have had what I consider to be serious panic attacks. I’ve learned that when I feel like I’m having a serious panic attack that it’s best to remove myself from the situation if I can… if not I need to use specific techniques to help me get through it. It helps knowing that panic attacks will end, they’re not forever and I just have to ride it out.
- What triggers you to feel anxious or low in terms of mood? Low moods for me are often the result of uncertainty, I lose the ability to simply go with the flow or have no control over the out come. Every now and then I also find myself feeling panicked in large groups of people especially if I don’t know many people because of this in the past I’ve opted out of attending friends birthday parties or other events… which is a shame.
- At what moments is yourself confidence at its lowest? My confidence is generally at it’s lowest when I have to ask with something, I’m not good at math or using excel so asking for help around those sort of things reminds me… I feel like I should know but don’t. It reminds me of a time at intermediate when a teacher asked me in front of the entire class “are you stupid or something” to which I replied “yes, I am stupid“.
- What strategies do you use to cope when feeling anxious or low? When I recognise that I’m feeling low I make sure that I stay active, the worse thing I can do is lay around home alone on the couch. I’ll try and get to the gym, out for a walk or catch up with friends.
- Does anxiety or a low mood have a physical effect on you? When I feel anxious I also feel physically ill, I can actually worry myself into having diarrhoea which is never helpful.
- Do you or anybody you know suffer from a mental illness? I have several friends who also suffer from depression and anxiety, I’m definitely not alone and it surprises me how many other people are also going through similar things. I find without knowing it, that I’m often drawn to people who also suffer from depression and/or anxiety it’s almost like strong but silent support group.
- Do you feel there is a stigma around mental illness? When I was younger I felt like I was alone, and that people would just think I’m crazy. I used refer to my anti-depressant medication as “James” because I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. Generally it still take me a while to share with people as deep down I’m still worried about what people will think. I’m worried people will suddenly think I’m less capable or weak. Every now and then I hear people talking about others being “mental” or “crazy” without really knowing them but simply judging them based on a one-off encounter. That sort of thing upsets me, and even now I’m upset at myself for at the time not saying more to these people for judging harshly. Admittedly though there is a lot is being done by all sorts of people across the globe to break down the stigma that surrounds mental health so we have come a long way of the years.
- What do you think could be done to change attitudes towards mental illness? I personally think a stronger focus on mental health from an employee/employer perspective is needed. Having left an environment where there was little awareness around how the structure, action and environment effected people, you realise it’s easy for certain behaviours and unrealistic expectations to become the norm.
- What piece of advice would you give someone who thought they might be suffering from depression or other mental illness. Help is out there and sometimes in the most unlikely forms. Being honest with yourself and those closest to you will help get the ball rolling in terms of getting better. Don’t give up asking for help because one person doesn’t understand. Keep seeking help until you find the help you need. My current GP is brilliant and did more than simply write a prescription.
I’d love for you to answer these questions too, by talking about mental illness we break the stigma surrounding it.