Thursday, 10 October 2019

My Year in Breakdowns

Around this time last year, I got my perfect job as a bookseller in Waterstones. I was fully aware that it was only a seasonal position, but I wasn't prepared for my reaction to being let go at the end of January. 

I have struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager, and have been on medication since I was 17. So, as you can imagine, I've had a few breakdowns before. 

This one was different.

I lost all sense of purpose in my life. I had graduated university a few months before, and after deciding to take a year out to work, I was left without any schedule or tasks to complete. I applied to multiple jobs, and all either rejected me or didn't reply at all. 

Then, something scarier happened.

My OCD evolved. 

My obsessions have always been easy to track. Work, school, the number 4, and a few other things. But suddenly, without any warning, my brain began to worry about my physical health.

I was convinced I was dying.

For anyone who has OCD, you will know what I mean when I say this thought consumed every waking moment of my day, to the point where I couldn't even bear to get dressed because I would be scared to look at my body in case I found something that shouldn't be there.

This, added on to my usual daily obsessions, destroyed my life.

The only thing I wanted to do was to pack a bag, get on a plane, and never come back. 


Seeing me struggle, my mum knew we needed to take action. I have had therapy on the NHS before - and though I adore our national health service - it was not a success. I had to wait 6 months or more even for a phone call assessment, and I knew I couldn't wait that long.

Then, my mum had an idea. She knew about this women's centre in our city that offers counselling, so I emailed them with my story. The next morning, they replied with an appointment for the next day, and after meeting my therapist she scheduled 12 weeks of sessions, and suggested since I was into writing that I join the women's creative writing group.

This women's centre changed my life.

Every week, I had a schedule! Creative writing on Wednesdays, and therapy on Thursdays. I was still applying to jobs, but slowly the interview offers starting coming in, and slowly the need I felt to run away and jump on a plane subsided. The women in the creative writing group were of all ages (from 30 to 80!) and even though I was the youngest, I felt so lucky to be there and listen to the lives of all those wonderful women. We even had a real lecturer from one of the city's universities teaching us. 

In this 12 weeks, I applied and got into my Masters degree, got a new job, wrote thousands of words, did my first public poetry reading, and made friends from all walks of life.

I still have bad days. I still wonder what if I had got on that plane? even just for a split second. 

But I don't want to run away anymore. I want to run towards all of the opportunities that I have been so grateful to receive. 

My mental illness does not control me. With the help of therapy, new medication, and my family, I am able to control my mental illness in a way I never thought possible at the start of the year. 

And you will be able to do the same. I promise. If you are struggling, reach out, because you never know who is there to help until you search for them. 

My name is Hannah, and I have anxiety, depression, and OCD. 

My name is Hannah, and I am a Masters student, writer, daughter, sister, and girlfriend.

I am not defined by my breakdowns.