Mental Health Awareness

This week is mental health awareness week. Mental health is still such a stigmatised topic often leaving people feeling weak, vulnerable and embarrassed, some even fear what might happen if they acknowledge that they may be struggling with their mental health. I hear so often that people with a physical health condition worry about opening up about their mental health because they worry that their physical health would not be taken as seriously, and I can fully understand this.

Having lived with physical ill health for so long it takes its toll on my mental health but I never realised quite how bad things had become till recently. For me the focus has always been on prioritising my physical health and getting that under control and my mental health was barely acknowledged because some of the physical issues were life threatening. As part of severe asthma care I have seen psychologists each year but it was always very asthma focused.

The struggle going on inside cant be covered by a smile. The eyes portray the emptiness, loss and isolation.

There is something sad that I am only now reflecting on my mental health because it is mental health awareness week. This is something that I need to reflect on more regularly and check in with myself. On the outside I try to remain happy, optimistic, and live like nothing is bothering me too much but the reality is that I have not been happy. I have been lonely, isolated and some days scared for what the future holds, wondering if this is what my life will be like permanently with no real purpose apart from trying to keep my health stable.

This past 18 months has challenged me in ways I never thought possible not just from a medical stand point but friendships have broken, people have moved on, people who I thought would be there for me like I would be there if they needed me are not. Of course my oldest friend is there with her boys to cheer me up when needed! Apart from that it tends to be me and Ghillie most days just the 2 of us, he is loyal and knows when I need him. I had lost myself, my days were the same all day everyday, I really couldn’t find any purpose, I was just existing. I wished someone would have ask me if I was ok as it is far easier to answer a question than to voice how you are feeling outright.

In March this all started to change. I started to find a purpose, a focus and something to work towards. Having always been very sporty I desperately missed it but I would find myself not able enough to play able bodied sport but also not disabled enough for parasport. I was in a sort of no mans land that was until I saw a social media post about a new wheelchair rugby league team in Edinburgh. I knew if I did not message them there and then, I never would and would have remained in the isolated state I was in.

It sounds a bit cliche but since joining Edinburgh Giants Wheelchair Rugby League my life really has changed for the better. I didnt realise quite how bad my mental health had got. While you are living through a struggle you don’t see what you are like from the outside looking in but now I see such a change in me and others have too. I now feel like I have something to look forward to each week and something to work towards. When I get in that wheelchair I have a freedom, that I don’t get anywhere else. I don’t need to worry about my ability to keep up or have things adapted. I also don’t need to worry about falling or making sure my foot is flat to the floor before I take my next step, or worry about triggers for my asthma because it is all indoor. My biggest concern now is the blisters on my hands from the wheelchair.

I now have goals I want to reach and have been able to do some adapted exercise on a recumbent bike or the arm bike. I am not sitting watching rubbish TV day in day out. I have discovered that I do need to plan in rest and recovery even though what I am doing is not much in comparison to the exercise I did before my health declined. Joining the Giants has also meant I am around people who understand what it is like to have poor health and the struggles we face. New friendships are being formed and I am so grateful to the Giants for this.

I cant tell you how happy I am, my day to day routine has more structure now because mentally I am in a better place. I do still feel bogged down by my health and wonder if there will ever be an end to the daily fight against my body. I am sure there will still be times where my mental health does overwhelm me but the Giants have been such a positive impact on me.

For now things are too too bad, I feel stronger and feel able to address some of my demons such as events in April 2022 which I have not been able to do without getting upset, angry and then shut down. I hope that once I have dealt with this I will feel like a weight has been lifted.

Giants is not the cure all but it has been the catalyst to start the change I needed.

I am also so proud that I am the vice captain of the Giants Wheelchair Rugby League team which I feel gives me a responsibility to do all I can to ensure that I am the best person I can be, so that I can support the team alongside Coach and the Captain. Being part of Giants has opened up a part of me that was buried as I never thought I would be able to do any sport again despite sport being such a huge part of my life before.

I am excited about what the future holds there will be challenges but I have optimism and strength to over come them. So for me the Giants has been life changing. There are no words that I can use which will do justice for the impact Giants has had.

My advice for anyone who finds them in a situation like me, reach out to others who have chronic health issues as they will be able to give you tips and tricks as well as activities that may be possible for you to take part in. I would also encourage you to check in with yourself, I have been putting things in my diary so that I have a dedicated time to stop and take note of where I am and how I am. If anyone has a friend who does have a chronic health conditions and have been having a tough time, or you have noticed that your friend is not quite how they used to be then ask them how they are, be specific with you questions, don’t just ask how they are as inevitably their response will be “fine”.

Ensuring you mental health is not too bad will allow you to fight for your physical health too. There is nothing wrong with struggling, everyone will at some point in their life. It should not have the stigma attached to it like it does or the worry as well. The worry that if you need medical help they may see that you have poor mental health and will put that as the cause for your poor physical health.

Ultimately wether it is physical or mental everything falls under health and should be treated as such.

Please look out for those around you and just check in with them from time to time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s