By Freddie Cocker
To be honest, I feel a bit weird writing this article. After 20 years since I started having mental health issues, I’ve finally been able to get an official mental health diagnosis from a qualified professional.
However, the last thing I’d want to do is announce it in some trivial way akin to when a football player gets signed on Transfer Deadline Day: “BREAKING NEWS. WE’VE GOT A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS FOR FREDDIE COCKER. WE CAN GO LIVE NOW TO EAST LONDON FOR MORE…”
In the years I was suffering, I was told by a host of different people that my mental health issues either weren’t real, I was attention-seeking, exaggerating, being selfish or “just worrying too much”.
Since I shared my story almost three years ago, I have become aware of the controversy around people (especially a mental health advocate like me) self-diagnosing. I wanted to avoid doing this.
Unfortunately, given the current pandemic we are living in at time of writing, I also knew the NHS waiting times to be assessed would probably be quite long as I’m not in the highest area of risk.
This is the state of the system we’re in. I understand it and accept it although of course I would want it to improve and change.
Given the current strain the system is under, I didn’t want to place any greater burden on it.
I also felt a significant amount of guilt as in order to get closure and validation for my own piece of mind, I went down the private route and paid a significant amount of my own money to secure it. After having this uncertainty, I couldn’t wait anywhere between 6 months to 2 years on a waiting list to be assessed.
I completely understand most people cannot do this and their financial situations are such that their only option is to go through the NHS.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to go through this process and get a clear diagnosis for my mental health.
I’ve been diagnosed with mild to moderate anxiety which affects me in three areas of life: social, health and sexual. This can take the form of panic attacks, overthinking and rumination, with the latter two things which I feel I have got under good control recently.
Although my anxiety has in the past been very intense and crippling, I do not have anxiety about every facet of my life and to a large extent, I can function pretty well alongside it in day-to-day life, therefore I do not have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
I have also been diagnosed with mild to moderate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This takes the forms of mental triggers linked to being bullied and some sexual anxieties which are possibly linked to being sexually assaulted. I cannot say for certain as I don’t know myself yet. Nightmares are also a weekly occurrence. At their peak in the past, I have had two or three a week where I am back in school. At their mildest, I can have one a week.
In the nine years I was bullied I also experienced and lived through a severe period of depression. I am not depressed now but I am vulnerable and vigilant to it happening again. I have often described my depression as a cancer living inside my own head. I can clearly visualise what it looks like. At the moment, it feels appropriate to describe it as dormant, rather than in remission.
I also learned that perhaps I’m not as fucked up as I thought I was. When you’ve been through such hardship as a child and teenager, believing you were the only person going through these mental health issues and thinking they were some warped teenage rite of passage, I guess the temptation is to naturally believe your issues are perhaps worse than they really are.
The good thing is that I realise that now. I feel a huge amount of validation and clarity that I can use to move forward with my life.
Hopefully as the years go on, these issues I live with can be overcome to the point where they simply become baggage rather than things I will never be able to gain control over.
For now, it’s one issue or step at a time.
Freddie Cocker is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Vent.