Recently, especially after #worldmentalhealthday on 10th October, I have noticed an increasing amount of people opening up about their own personal battles with mental health.
Popular YouTuber Zoella wrote an amazing blog post about how she’s managed to take control of her anxiety and, as a huge influencer on younger people, especially teenagers whose lives are far more centred around social media than mine ever was at that age, has encouraged young people to speak up if they think they may be suffering with a mental illness. I absolutely share this view – speaking up about it, as hard and terrifying as it may seem at the time can, and will, make things better.
I also came across another blog post, where the the author, Kelly simply can’t come to terms with the fact that anxiety is a valid excuse. Because it is. It’s as real an excuse as a migraine, as sickness bug, as a cut. It causes physical pain to the sufferer and when I was reading this blog post I was hoping that the further through it I got – the more positive it would get.
But Kelly just continued to put herself down – continued to express how she didn’t feel as though her anxiety was a real form of illness. She spoke about it as a secret – something she hid away from everyone else because she was ashamed about taking anti-depressants and embarrassed that is was stopping her from completing everyday tasks – such as attending lectures at school. I wont go into too much detail as I’d prefer you to read it yourself.
I remember feeling exactly like Kelly. My anxiety presented itself fully during my first semester of first year at Uni. It nearly caused me to quit altogether. I hated it and how it was forcing me to feel. I call it ‘it’ now because over the years I have learnt that the anxiety is something separate from me – something I have complete control over and something I know is completely in my control.
But I remember feeling the complete opposite to how I do now. I remember sobbing to my Mum when she suggested I speak to a therapist. To me, at the time, having therapy meant admitting I had a problem and I didn’t want to be a ‘mental person’. I can’t express how wrong that thought is now and how much I want to be able tell my past self that having to have to talk to something doesn’t mean your mental or giving up. It means you’re recognising that you have a problem, you need help and you want to help yourself – you want to fight it.
And bloody hell did I fight. And it was, and is, by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do. And will probably ever have to do. Therapy though, is something I would tell everyone who has either ran out of options or thinks that speaking to someone completely impartial may help, to at least try. It wont work for everyone, but in terms of my anxiety – I needed to talk it out. I needed to get things off my chest that I had subconsciously been burying for years and years. It was terrifying and so upsetting and so so difficult. I hated it, dreaded going to my sessions because I knew I’d just cry and cry and cry.
But that’s because the form of anxiety I was suffering from was connected to things in my past that I just hadn’t been able to make peace with. I have now, I’m not ‘cured’ but I have coping mechanisms that were drilled into me that I now don’t even realise I’m doing. My therapist, Lisa, is my guardian angel :).
Practice makes ‘nearly’ perfect in my case. I’m well aware that my anxiety will never completely disappear, but that’s ok. It’s ok because I can completely understand, like I said before, that anxiety wasn’t and isn’t who I am. It’s something that happened TO me – it is a mental illness that I suffered with and managed to, with time, take care of.
Anxiety is a bitch. Mental illness is a bitch. But you know what beats a bitch?
Facing it and owning it.
It affected my closest relationships and it was so so horrible knowing that something that was happening to me was also causing upset to those closest to me. I thank my lucky stars every day that I had such an amazing and supportive family and circle of friends around me who cared so much and wanted me to get better as much as I did!
But I also knew, when I was feeling like that, that the actions being caused by my anxiety were irellevant – they weren’t needed and when I actually sat down and really thought about it, I began to understand that I was totally able to control this – it just needed time. Dedication and time. That’s not to say that it happened straight away, hell no. I forgot all the time – the anxiety completely took over and I was unable to distinguish what was ‘me’ and what was the anxiety – I was unable to trust my own thoughts and feelings. It was the most terrifying time in my life and I sure as hell know I never EVER want to be in that place ever again. ‘Blips’ (I like to call them) have happened a few times over the past few years, but each time I’m able to recognise them more quickly and face them head on, rather than undo all the hard work it took to fight it initially.
Talking about it is the only way, from my own personal experience, that mental illnesses can be fought. Obviously with other forms, as well as anxiety, physical changes also need to be addressed… but they all start by opening up your mind to the relieving truth that a mental illness isn’t you – it’s something thats happening TO you and is something that can be totally controlled and defeated!!!
After seeing the ‘Man Up’ campaign being shared across social media surrounding mens’ suicidal rates, it makes me want to scream even more how important it is that the stigma surrounding mental health is eradicated for good.
Each year, 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health issue. 1 in 4!! Why is something so common so hidden and hushed from society!? Recently, from the help of influential people, and weeks and days being dedicated to talking about mental health, it has become more widely talked out. But the talking has to encourage people to take the talking further and use it to help themselves.
You can only help yourself. You have to look after number 1. Life is fucking great but letting a mental illness control and have a negative impact on your daily life is no way to live. Some people can, and do, just have the power to ignore it. Others people completely crumble and let it control them. There is not ‘scale’ with mental health – its personal and only you know in yourself, when and how to help yourself.
Easier said than done, right? Right! But with dedication and the determination to fight the easier, in time, it will become.
I wanted to write this down because it’s bloody important. Even if no one takes anything substantial away from it – I hope I have at least planted a seed in someones, anyone’s mind about mental health – a seed that encourages them, in any way, shape or form, to talk about it and help erase the awful stigma that has previously silenced the conversation that should be shouted about.
We got this <3
It wont be easy, it’ll be bloody hard. But once you’ve cracked it, it’s yours.
Peace and love xxx
(Art by Daren Newman)