Healthy lives for young people
Wellbeing

Mental health: Alex’s story

Alex, 24, shares his experience of how mental health problems have impacted him and his life.

I first experienced mental health problems when I was 9 years old and have battled it everyday since and I probably will have to everyday for the rest of my life. However, the impact and severity varies day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute.

In this blog post I feel I have to be realistic about my experiences and what the impact of my mental illness has had on my education, social life, health and family.

Firstly the impact on my education has been massive, it has affected my learning as I was out of school for nearly 2 years when I was 9, I missed out on the transition from primary to secondary school which definitely set me back academically, I also missed out on the limited sex education we had and other crucial life skills. I somehow managed to get back into school with the support of the SEN department and barely scraped through my GCSEs and A Levels to get into university which was a huge achievement in itself. However half way through my second year of university I had a major relapse in my mental health and had to quit my course.

My mental health problems and especially my anxiety has impacted on my ability to cope in social situations thus maintaining and creating friendships and relationships has been incredibly difficult. For vast periods of my teenage and young adult life I was very isolated and lonely. However things are improving massively on that front through recent therapy I have had, though it is still very much work in progress and every new situation is a complete learning curve for my own development.

My health has also been impacted by my mental health problems especially from antidepressants that I have been on. I have experienced many side-effects including dry mouth, tiredness, nightmares, weight-gain, inability to sleep as well as sexual health related problems. A lot of the sexual health side-effects are still not talked about in anywhere near enough depth and are often just avoided completely due to stigma, yet they are some of the most common and debilitating side effects. These side effects can include loss of libido as well as in people with penises problems around erections and ejaculating and in people with vaginas problems around the inability to reach an orgasm and lack of vaginal lubrication. The experiences I had were one of the main reasons why I became interested in sexual health and began my involvement volunteering for Brook. Thankfully I am now on a combination of antidepressants which has limited side-effects and it is helping me a lot.

It is not only myself who has been impacted by my mental illness, it has affected my family massively, with my parents basically being my full time carers during my whole teenage life and recent relapse. As so much time and care was spent on supporting me, it has affected family life at home especially in regard to my sister. But we are probably in the best place for a long time and I hope that continues.

This probably has sounded like quite a bleak blog post, but there isn’t really anyway to sugar coat my experiences, this is only a tiny snapshot of things and I could write so much more. However what I can say is that through many strategies and tools that I have gained through intense specialist therapy and through medication that I am, over the past year I have come a long long way and despite every day being a battle, I am continuing to make major progress in facing my mental health problems!

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