To celebrate the launch of our new mental health awareness and advice column, which begins in June, allow us to introduce Mindfully Micha. As one half of the writing team behind the regular new feature, Micha will use her lived experience to interview mental health champions in the city, as well as bringing awareness to helpful events, organisations and campaigns in Nottingham...
Who’s Annie you might be asking? Who am I ? Well I’m Micha and I have mental health. We all have mental health though, right? I mean sometimes we refer to it as wellbeing, or emotional wellbeing… you know, so people feel a little more comfortable. I used to do that - hide things that were going on with my 'wellbeing' so others felt comfortable. Meanwhile, there I was feeling the complete opposite… with Annie.
Annie is my anxiety. Yes, I actually named something I struggled with. I say struggled, but I mean I still struggle. However, I’ve gained more acceptance which, ultimately, has helped me gain more control.
Anxiety was Annie back when I didn’t like telling people my body was some kind of blood rushing, sweaty palmed, heart beating mess anytime I was faced in a social situation.
“They can tell Micha, they can see you're anxious,” said the carnival of chaos in my mind, ultimately making me more and more anxious until I wanted to change direction, run and hide in a duvet for a few days. I didn’t get it, I don’t think anyone got it. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? None of us get it. Lots of people now have it, and of course there are a few stats that give an insight as to why, but in reality, we don’t have a bloody clue.
I knew why I struggled. Anxiety played a huge part of my PTSD diagnosis, along with a pick-and-mix social panic cocktail of various other pleasant things, like that time I had a tremor. Yep, those were the days. When I speak like this, the intent is not to minimise how truly horrific it can be to struggle with these things. There were days I thought it would quite literally be the end of me. But then one day, I stopped caring. I stopped caring if people thought I was weird because I had a diagnosis, I stopped listening to random child’s gossip that I'd “had a break down” or even that “I was ok really”. But it was hard, I didn’t know who I was, and all people could talk about was who they thought I was. That's if they were lucky enough to see me, because leaving the house was like climbing a mountain some days.
But the point is I climbed it then, and I climb it now, and the journey has given me the opportunity to speak to other people about the rawness of life - and in meeting with others, I have become empowered. Eventually I stopped referring to my anxiety as Annie, and started responding to people who asked “why is your hand shaking so much” with “because I’m anxious about some social situations, because I have PTSD”. Not because I wanted to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but because I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to be the unapologetically me that I'd hidden away, that I was wrongfully ashamed off. It's hard to admit that there was a time where I stigmatised myself, when I now campaign against it. But it’s a pattern I'd picked up from those that, at the time, surrounded me. The day I finally accepted that this was who I was, everything got that little easier.
It didn’t come easy, but nothing good ever does. But a major contributing factor was peer support, and being in company of people that had similar experiences to me.
You can read Mindfully Micha's first mental health awareness column in the June issue of LeftLion