"I know they aren't real"

As I sit here writing this blog post, I have a man standing by the corner watching me. I've just looked again and he is gone. Now I have two hands squeezing my collar bones. I can feel the anxiety building in my chest and flowing through my arms. This is the reality of being on my medication. These are visual hallucinations, a side effect I suffer from. Along with constant nausea and cold sweats. Today I had to leave a lunch early because I was so ill and couldn't stomach any food. Luckily I had one of my favourite humans with me, who could calm me down when I started to panic.

People ask me "Why don't you just take your medication Stef? You know you need it". Well, visual hallucinations are scary. Nausea and running to the bathroom are embarrassing. Wondering if I am going to feel this way forever or if it will eventually pass. Will it last for a few hours or a few days. Looking at the tablet and starting to dry heave because even the thought alone of swallowing it makes me feel sick. All of this happening in the moments before I start my day and take the medicine that although does the above also makes me feel more level. However, when I answer the question I respond with "Oh you know me I forget" or "Yeah you're right". There is only a select few people who know the daily struggle and understand it.

I know the medication makes me feel better in the long run. I know that the hands and the man I see are not real. I also know I will do whatever it takes to keep up my mental wellness. I remind myself of this when it happens. I come back to my body and breath. I ground myself. Instead of becoming judgmental or upset with myself. I become curious. The brain is a wonderful organ. Without even realising it, the brain sends out signals to the body so it has these bodily reactions or manifestations. I use these experiences to learn more about my illness, more about side effects and also take it as an opportunity to LISTEN to my body. It often tells you things before our mind's have processed what is going on.

To anyone else going through the same thing, listen to your body and come back to your breath. There is no way to sugar coat it. It can suck. BUT sharing our stories and experiences with each other reminds us we aren't alone and makes it that little bit easier to deal with. TOGETHER we can help change the way society views people with mental illness and people who take medication for mental illness. It may seem like a long battle but it is definitely worth it.

We've got this.

Live, breathe, embrace;

Stef

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Tenille Westerhout