Mental Health. Let’s talk about it.
Quick side note. It’s kind of sad that I have to write this sort of thing, but just a little disclaimer to say I’m not seeking for sympathy or attention. I WANT to be another blogger talking about this, because it needs to be spoken about. How do we kill the stigma of mental health otherwise, ey? I’m a blogger with a mental health condition, just like anyone could have in any profession. We need to raise the conversation of mental health without feeling like we’re striving for attention because the truth is, we aren’t. This is when it becomes toxic. It makes people feel like they can’t speak out because if they do, they’ll get told they’re seeking for sympathy or attention.
I’m coming on here to write a blog about mental health to start a conversation. To be more open with the world as I feel like we tend to shy away from that when it comes to our mental state. I want to be as open about my mental health as I would be with discussing a fractured ankle if someone asks. This is not a “sympathy post” nor is this a way of “seeking attention” this is me, a 21 year old girl, talking about what she’s going through to hopefully show others they are not alone, they can speak out and feel like mental health is just a normal conversation, because it is. Right. Rant over, let’s get into it shall we?
So, where have I been, you ask? That’s what I’ve been asking myself lately. It’s hard to talk about mental health when you feel like you’ve lost yourself, especially when you’ve been up and down for many years.
But here I am, using every inch of energy I have inside me to write this to hopefully help you and also myself. I’ve never talked about anything this deep or close to my heart before, so bare with me.
Now, I’m not going to sit here telling you everything that’s gone on in my childhood, my teenage years or even what’s going on currently as to be honest, we’d be here for forever and a day, and I’ll be putting Penguin book publishers out of business by the time I’ve finished with my million and one stories. But what I want to get out of this blog is to help you if you’re going through a bad time, whether that be realising the effects of depression and the fact it’s not forever or even just realising you’re not alone.
Something that may surprise you all, is that I’ve been diagnosed with depression since I was 17 years old. One of my many “talents” is being able to look extremely happy on the outside when in fact, I can be quite the opposite on the inside. So if you are an old school friend that may read this, you might be shocked as I’ve always been known as the loud, happy, bubbly one that made everyone laugh but although that is me at heart, I’ve learnt overtime that it’s also a coping mechanism.
Sometimes, you may question your coping mechanisms if you’re constantly putting on this personality to hide your true feelings, it can make you wonder if this happy person you’re portraying is even you at all. The answer is always yes. In fact, you have to remember that you being able to make others happy is such a huge positive, it shows happiness still exists in your life. You just have to train it to come naturally and crucially accept that we all have low days, even extreme low days and hey, guess what? That’s ok. Keep making people feel what often times you don’t, happy. Accept it and know that one day you will be happy too.
We create this assumption in our heads that we need to feel 100% ALL of the time otherwise we’re not human but that’s not true at all. Wallow in your ice cream, cry if you need too, we all need to be less afraid of sadness. That’s something I’ve realised over these past few months, that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it but I’m trying to get better. You see, any time I feel sad, I just panic. I freak out, my brain gets worse throughout the day and the black dog gets bigger. So, my advice would be to try and embrace the feeling of sadness. As silly as that may sound. Listen to sad songs, put your favourite film on that makes you weep, everything takes time.
And the good thing is, there’s no time frame in life. You don’t have to have everything together, everyone has their own timeline, people move through life at different speeds and just because someone may be a little faster than you, doesn’t mean they’re any better than you. How boring would it be if we all did the exact same things at the same time, where’s the fun in that? I want to attend my friend’s wedding at the age of 50, I want to congratulate my aunty getting her first degree at 65, I want to help my friend move into her first house at 30, I want to help my brothers new career change at 82, there’s NO time frame. Noone has their life together all of the time, we just try and make it look that way to others, I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just a human thing?
Positive thinking is something I really believe is a game changer when it comes to managing depression. I’m not great at it yet, but I’m trying. It’s all about stopping your brain when a negative thought enters, breathing for a second and thinking hard about how you can change that thought to be positive. Like here I am telling you I don’t have my life together one bit. I’ve got no job at the moment due to a nightmare of an apprenticeship (that’s a story for another day), I’m the lowest I’ve ever been and I don’t have a clue how to achieve my dream job. But what I do know is, I’ll find a new job and I’ll get better, as the good thing about hitting rock bottom is the only way is up.
One thing I know when looking for help is that waiting lists are a joke. Please don’t feel discouraged or lose hope though, you will get seen to eventually. In the meantime, seek out help from others. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a neighbour, someone who acts like your nana but isn’t, just someone you feel comfortable to talk to. There are also great organisations that want to help you, like Mind and Samaritans.
Being open can be extremely difficult as you never quite know how to start the conversation and you may feel like your reasoning for feeling sad is silly, inadequate or not a good enough reason but it is. Even if your reason for feeling sad today is because your favourite jumper is in the wash and you wanted to wear it, your reason is valid and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling that way. We all have our days.
Your doctor is going to be really important to get you better (Shock, believe it or not sometimes an apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away) so make sure you’re with a doctor who is helpful and supports you. I actually changed doctors so that I felt more comfortable and you should too if you feel the same way. This led to me being able to conquer my worries and begin treatment on antidepressants.
Antidepressants can be daunting. But they shouldn’t be. It took me 3 years to be convinced to try them, mainly because I was worried I could become reliant on them and never truly get better. But that isn’t the case at all. With the help of my doctor, I’ve been helped to realise that treating depression without antidepressants is like treating a broken leg without a crutch. It’s just going to be more painful and take longer. Just like with a broken leg, they won’t remove the cast and send you on your way, there’s physio and treatment to make sure the leg is fully functional and can support itself without the need for a crutch. They do the exact same thing with antidepressants. Now my experience so far has been ok. The medication takes the edge off some days and has actually given me enough energy to write this blog. However, its a trial and error situation which is why your doctor is so important in your journey to better mental health. Accept you need help and your days will get brighter.
Even though I’m not in the best frame of mind, I’m still trying to push myself to do things like this, as I’ve realised after taking some time out that focusing on my photography and blog keeps my brain busy. So hopefully, if you’re not feeling great, seeing me trying to push myself might motivate you to do something you enjoy too.
Just like flowers, our brains can blossom and they can wilt. I read that depression can shrink our brain. I know… crazy, right? I like to think that it shrinks just like flower blossoms would without water, which causes us to become forgetful and irritable. When I thought of it like this, it made me feel a lot more at ease as I thought, “well, it’ll grow back again!” and it will.
So how do we water our own brain and get it to grow, like blossom does in Spring? Well, I’m still trying to figure that one out but here’s a few things I’ve learnt so far that may help you too.
- Time. Time is a massive healer, whether it’s taking time out for yourself and working on you or even just taking time to accept your feelings and making little changes to feel better. You’ve got to remember, time can heal physical wounds just as quick as it can with your brain.
- Opening up to friends and family. I know it’s easier said than done but opening up to friends and family could help and trust me, I have family members who were less than understanding at first but help them understand it more if they are a little difficult, you may be amazed at what you can change!
- Do things that make you happy! So, personally for me, music and dance play a big part in my life, it’s what makes me the happiest which is why I’ve somehow convinced my best friend of 21 years to join dance with me. My therapist recommended doing something that I can look forward to every week so this is me trying haha!
- Keep yourself busy. Although having time to unwind, re-evaluate and become more self aware is hugely important. After some time, I realised all the sitting around was making me worse. So whether it’s reading a book, learning a new skill or exploring a new hobby, it’s important to keep your mind busy the minute you feel ready to get back on the bandwagon again.
- Block negativity out of your life. I know it’s hard to do but even just little things. For me, I’ve learnt to not go out with people that don’t value my happiness as much as theirs or listen to sad news. What joy is that going to bring in my life? So it’s all about knowing your worth and that these little changes can benefit you a hell of a lot.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, you are you for a reason. There’s no one else quite like you. They may have the same t-shirt as you but they’re not you. Social media plays a big part in this as it’s hard not to compare sometimes when we live in such a digital world and we’re surrounded by highlight reels but you’ve got to remember, social media is like a digital scrapbook. Everyone’s sharing photos they want to look back on, they’re not sharing their bad times because who would wanna look back on that? And psst, you can unfollow the accounts that don’t make you happy, with just one click!
There is so much more I can say about mental health, so this definitely won’t be the last time I talk about it. I can’t stress enough that I’m still not 100%. In this current time, I’m still seeking help from a therapist who is helping me see the world a little brighter, but obviously some weeks are better than others. I hope this blog finds you well and I truly hope this has even given you a little insight into knowing you’re not alone.
Be selfishly you and love yourself for it.
All the love,
Your friend, Becca x