This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which is a campaign set up by the Mental Health Foundation. This year the theme is relationships, so we're going to be posting comics we feel are helpful on our Social Media and will also be discussing and sharing our experiences with mental health and relationships.
Laura is the other half of Sad Ghost Club. She does most of the business and social sides of the company. Here she's written about her experiences with different relationships and Social Anxiety.
Although I've always suffered from it, it took eleven or so years for me to be diagnosed with Chronic Social Anxiety and I only started going to therapy when I was 24. Due to this, my Illness manifested into other forms, such as Dermatillomania, food phobias and physical illnesses that still affect me to this day. I had quite a lonely childhood and teenage years due to the people and relationships I was surrounded by. I feel it’s incredibly important to have supportive and encouraging people around you for a more healthy mental state.
These are usually a no go for me. Meeting new people causes me terrible anxiety, which I’m able to manage better now. When I was younger, however, it would often get to the point where I was so anxious I would throw up. I now approach new acquaintances with caution and am usually the one sitting in the corner not speaking and people watching, which I am usually quite content with. I do enjoy being in social environments most of the time, I just don’t like the attention being on me.
I’ve had amazing friendships and awful friendships. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve been called “crazy” or “mental” by people who I thought were my friends. Thinking back to when someone said to me “Just cheer up, you’re boring when you're sad” fills me with rage, but at the time I was consumed by guilt and just wanted to please them. It’s only been during the past couple of years that I’ve realized the effects of people’s words and what they did to me. I now have friends that respect me and don’t look down on me. They celebrate my achievements, like going to one of their events, or eating dinner at their house, which are both things I have really struggled with in the past.
My Social Anxiety is a taboo subject within my family. Since mental health has become a big part of my job it’s become much less of a taboo, but the subject of conversation is usually changed quite quickly.
My family dynamic is an interesting one. As I’m quiet, I get talked over a lot and talked down to. Being brought up around this, I thought this was completely acceptable. It wasn’t until an outside eye pointed it out to me, that I then realized how it affected me.
I'm married to an amazing man called Brendan. Before him, I’ve had several mentally abusive relationships and partners that have just not understood my illness (I also didn't understand my illness at the time).
Brendan’s the one that encouraged me to go to therapy and has seen me at my best and worst. He respects me for who I am and has helped me grow and become the person I am today. Things aren't perfect though. I was always told once you find your match, that’s it. You've made it and you’ll never be alone again! This is not always the case. I’ll always have social anxiety and no matter how much Brendan tries, there will still be times where I feel alone. There are also times where he can’t be there for me; he has his own emotions and his own struggles that I need to support him through. It’s tough – but we’re learning something new about each other every day and am grateful to have someone so wonderful in my life.
There are still times where I let people take advantage of my anxiety and everyday is learning curve but I have come so far and am so proud of where I am now. I'm not always perfect but how do you grow if you can't learn from your own mistakes?
If you want to share your story or explore more around relationships and mental health, search #MHAW16