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"This is just the beginning..."

written by Rhiannon 17/08/2017

Although I still have no diagnosis, my journey with mental illness began as a child.

I was always socially anxious after witnessing traumatic events as a child. My Nan kindly brought me up, but I was always a troubled child... I was seen as a trouble maker at school - that was after being bullied. Maybe if somebody had picked up on my mental health in school my life would have been very different.

As I got older I fell into the trap of taking recreational drugs as a way of escaping real life. A series of traumatic abusive relationships followed and my path has never been smooth. I tried to turn my life around after discovering yoga and worked in care giving for over 12 years, but my poor mental health never left me. Even when I was teaching yoga, the anxiety or depression was always there.

It’s very rare I ever feel completely free of it. A word, a glance and I'm instantly scared, like a small frightened rabbit. My social anxiety is debilitating. It rules me, it owns me. I know I'll never be free of it - I have to fight small or large battles every day, just to try and stay sane. My worst fear is being sectioned. I'm constantly afraid of it, for some reason.

"I thought I'd be fluent very quickly - but with social anxiety how do you get out and talk to people on a daily basis? Well, you just don't. So it's very, very small steps."

When you get that feeling of losing your balance as you fall down some steps, and then regain your balance, you feel safe. More often than not,  I’m trapped in that split second where you are terrified. I am up and down like the weather - I never know when it's going to get me. I can be in bed for days, too scared to open the curtains. Unable to wash, cook, clean. It's debilitating and exhausting - it's 24/7.

After trying to end my life last year, I am now trying to rebuild my life.

Although this is my first blog - I want to continue to write as often as I can - I want to mainly concentrate on writing about my struggles with learning the Welsh language. I thought I'd be fluent very quickly - but with social anxiety how do you get out and talk to people on a daily basis? Well, you just don't. So it's very, very small steps.

I've been learning Welsh for 5 years, but because my mental health is so up and down my ability to attend classes is very changeable. I remember one of my first lessons, I was so enthusiastic and I had been practising all week. I was (as the tutor said) really enthusiastic and doing really well, but then someone in the class, when they got a question wrong, said to me "Well, we're not all swots like you.”

Bang, it felt like being punched in the face. I'm going to a language class, to learn a language and I've practised it, and now I'm being punished. I left the class, went to the toilet and instantly cried. The ensuing paranoia of working with that person in class never left me. They actually left the class and I was relieved that they did. It was one sentence but it had affected nearly two years of my life.

I'm a member of The Welsh Language Society. They "are a group of people who campaign for the Welsh language and communities in Wales, and recognise that the campaign for Wales' unique language is part of a wider world-wide struggle for minority rights and freedoms."  Being an activist is very important to me. I hate any form of oppression; but how do you fight for something you love so passionately when you can't even get out of bed?!

As it stands - it's now 3:40 am. I awoke terrified after a nightmare and thought this would help. I've been wanting to write a blog for Time to Change Wales about my mental health and my struggle to learn Welsh fluently for a long time. This is just the beginning...

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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