Let's talk about mental health. Let's start with mine.
I am here to let you guys really begin to think about mental health just as much as you do physical health. Think about it, you look at blogs and magazines about how to get a ‘flat stomach in ten days’ so let’s start looking at blogs with titles like ‘how to feel more positive in everyday life in ten days.’ Let’s open up to our friends about when our mental health dips, rather than covering it up with being physically sick. Let’s spark the conversations on how to learn about each other’s mental health experiences and to create a loving and accepting environment to do this in. I want to be the Carrie Bradshaw of mental health – but with a lot less sex and a lot more psychological theory behind it. This is something that I think is so important, because in order for the future generations to benefit from better mental health, we need to normalise it. And no, I don’t mean romanticise mental health, but to be real about it.
So as a result of this it would only be fair if I opened up about my own personal struggles I’ve had with mental health to set the example. This is something that I do on my instagram and facebook mental health and wellbeing page which you can check out at the bottom of this post. I like to call it #TalkAboutitTuesday where different people talk about their experiences with their mental health, their protective factors, their risk factors and what they have learnt. I know it isn’t on a Tuesday – but I couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling and start to share some of these stories with you. I will not just be posting about this, but I want to begin to post about mental health in different industries, such as music, social media and many more to come. I can’t give away too much too soon!
So without further ado, here is my story (so far) and please know this is not easy to write about. However, after writing about it and posting for the first time about my own personal mental health on social media platforms it felt liberating. I had written down how I had struggled, and in the same post I had been able to speak about how it didn’t beat me and how I look at it from a different perspective now. If this is something that people would be interested to do please drop a message on either of the social media pages, as the more people we can get to share their story the more people who will realise their story isn’t that rare. Not everyone has mental health illnesses, but everyone has mental health. Mental health can dip, mental health can stay the same but it’s vital we talk about it sooner rather than later.
When I was a teenager looking back I had a ridiculous amount of self-esteem issues that really did affect the quality of my life. Which makes no sense, as I have grown up with a family who love me so much, and are my best friends. I often had distorted thoughts about not being good enough, and that I was always going to fail. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and would really beat myself up for not being up to my own standards. So, when I got to university - this worsened. I was constantly consumed by the thought of not being able to do the work that was set. This was to the point that around my first year exam period I suffered with panic attacks that felt like the whole world was going to swallow me up. I wanted to quit university, even though it’s something I wanted to my whole life. Luckily, I had a great set of friends around me that did not let me quit. I think if I didn’t have such a good support system at that point, I would have moved back home and continued to mentally beat myself up about quitting.
Fast forward to the end of my first year and it’s summer. I experienced the first death of a friend. It made me question everything, and my anxiety came back ten times more. It was a really tricky time in my life; I had no love or respect for myself, to the point where I was accepting people treat me like rubbish because I thought it was what I deserved. I went down to a size six due to not thinking it was important to eat and to fuel my body, but to go out all the time instead. This is not me saying that a size six isn’t healthy by the way, but I did not look like a healthy size six. I didn’t like staying in or relaxing, because I didn’t like being by myself as I would begin to overthink. I masked all my anxieties and breakdowns really well in terms of still functioning. To my family and friends, my anxiety used to present itself as irritation. I would give attitude for them asking simple questions, and can honestly say I wasn’t nice to be around at times. This has improved over time but these are not things that I am completely at peace with yet.
I feel growing older has really helped me come to terms with who I am as a person, as the older I get the more I learn to appreciate myself. Also - as I get older, the amount of tools I have equipped in my tool box that help me feel good and to keep me balanced mentally increase. As the year went on, I kept passing my assignments at university and my confidence began to grow. I did Forensic Psychology, so I read a lot more about methods and techniques used to improve mental health. This made me become really mindful of my own. I began to gain weight due to more healthy eating habits, and I felt like I started to appreciate my family again. I also started paying attention to how my tribe influenced my vibe and cut off a lot of toxic friendships. I started to identify how much stuff I had got myself through and that I was stronger than I thought. I began to spend time by myself, and not hate it – meaning that I didn’t mind staying in and relaxing. I don’t fully love myself yet, but I love who I am becoming.
My story is direct proof that why self –love can improve the quality of your life. I am very aware that I do not have as much exposure to mental health as some people. But, this isn’t a competition. Everyone has mental health; everyone has experiences of it to some extent. This is why it is so important to expose it for what it is. I am lucky enough that I had quite a lot of protective factors around me - even though I was in a dark place at times, my family and friends wouldn’t let me stay there for long. If I didn’t have such a strong support system, I think it would have got worse and ended up as a mental illness. This is an on-going journey, and I still do have the occasional panic attack, or I do have days where I just want to stay in bed for a week, and not speak to anyone. These are all things I’m going to carry on learning about myself, as the more I understand about myself the more I can understand my emotions and behaviour. But for now, here is what I like to call my risk factors and my protective factors. For people who don’t know what protective factors are these are things that stop my mental health from slipping, this can your coping methods, your family/friends, your job, your pets or even your plant. The things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning, and that give you good vibes. Risk factors are the opposite; these can be things that happen that cause you to be more at risk of deterioration of your mental health.
My protective factors:
-Climbing. I promise I will talk about this on an individual post very soon. It’s amazing for mental health.
-Family and friends.
-An interest in psychology which means I’m always reading and trying out new methods to help self-regulation and mindfulness.
-I live with three other people so I come home from work and I have people to socialise with.
My risk factors:
-When I spend too much time away from my friends and family (I live in Leeds but I am from Liverpool)
-Not getting enough sleep.
-Having a lot of spare time on my hands where I can overthink.
-Hormones. I’ve always found it quite different when my hormones in my body change to be able to self-regulate. When I have tried different contraception it has caused major dips in my mental health.
I hope this is something that sparks a few discussions, and gets people talking. Not everyone is ready to talk about their experiences, or ever will want to. Each to their own, everyone’s journey is different. However, for the people who are I hope we are ready to be those protective factors for the people who don’t have many.