‘Sleeping made the pain go away briefly, but it still came to me through my nightmares.’

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Content warning: This post details anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Some readers may find this triggering. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

“It was a constant battle between sleeping and staying awake because sleeping made the pain go away, but it still came to me through my nightmares.”

Seven years ago, this was Carly Miller’s day-to-day reality. At 26, she was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from trauma she experienced as a five year old. Only she didn’t know it. She’d never spoken about it. All she wanted to do was sleep.

“I was at the point of having several panic attacks a day, and just crying all the time,” the now 32-year-old flight attendant told Mamamia.

“I couldn’t leave the house as I was becoming extremely paranoid. I was worried people were coming to get me – I didn’t want to see any of my friends and I completely shut myself off from everyone – I didn’t want to do anything with my life.”

It was always Carly’s dream to be a flight attendant, but at that time of her life, completing even the simplest of daily tasks was near impossible.

“I didn’t want to shower or brush my teeth, I didn’t want to eat – all I wanted to do was sleep,” she explained.

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“But the thing about sleeping was that’d I’d have horrible nightmares every time I closed my eyes.”

At her lowest point, Carly’s mum fought to convince her to see a doctor, an idea she pushed back against until she realised she couldn’t go on living that way anymore.

“My mum could see what I was going through day to day, she was nice about telling me to go see someone in the beginning but I wouldn’t listen, ” she said.

“I said I was fine, I didn’t want medication – I never really thought much of what I was feeling, that being down and upset was normal.

“I didn’t want to accept reality, but in the end mum got quite firm and basically took me to the doctor herself which led to a psychologist referral – if it wasn’t for her pushing me, who knows where I’d be.”

Carly was diagnosed with PTSD and began seeing her psychologist once a week. For her, knowing she wasn’t alone in her struggles was the first step in her recovery.

“Knowing what I was feeling and going through was OK and I wasn’t an alien was comforting,” she said.

“Without taking the step to seek help, I would never have been able to become the person I am today. I had no goals or care to be anything in the world, but getting help gave me the confidence to achieve what I wanted from life.”

It wasn’t an easy road, but Carly knows for anyone having trouble with their mental health, being honest about what you’re going through is the best thing you can do for yourself.

“If you don’t deal with your demons, they’ll hit you harder later in life. It’s difficult seeing someone and speaking about it, but you need that person to guide you through and give you the appropriate tools to overcome what it is you’re dealing with so you can live your life.”

LISTEN: Lily Bailey explains to Mia Freedman what it’s like living with OCD on No Filter…

Carly joined the Heart on My Sleeve Movement, a social media movement to support those who have experienced mental health issues. Members are encouraged to draw a heart on their forearm, post a picture on Facebook or Instagram and write about their personal experience with mental health along with the hashtag #heartonmysleeve.

The movement carries a key message: you are not alone and we can help each other get through. Together, we can break down the stigma of mental health by giving it not one, but many voices, rather than shying away from the conversation.

For more information, visit the Heart On My Sleeve website, or find it on Facebook and Instagram.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, seek help from a medical professional or contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or GriefLine (1300 845 745).

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000.

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