I find it hard to appreciate the present, I always tend to look forwards, always planning my next step or holiday or job but I am also a little bit of a nostalgic person. I love looking back and reflecting so with 2018 merely hours away, I wanted to reflect a little bit on a subject that has taken up a lot of space across my social media this year, my mental health..
A couple of years ago I spoke about my mental health right here on this blog. Although looking back I maybe did not articulate myself as well as I would now, I was honest and vulnerable. Within a month someone who had been a close family friend wrote an angry piece in retaliation to my own. More than anything their words made me question myself and my mind. I have continued to talk and discuss mental health over the last two years, it is too important not to, but now and again before I post or share anything their words enter my mind.
Their words also made me feel ashamed, they made me feel to dedicate the time to explain that over the past year, my mental health has vastly improved. Part of me felt that by admitting to my progress or recovery, my thoughts, feelings and experiences over the last eight years would become void and untrue. In order to work through my understanding of my mental health, to answer the question that constantly plagued my mind, “what’s the matter with me?” I created my own narrative where my depression would be constantly with me but I would not let define me. It would be an endless battle for the rest of my life and if I wasn’t continuously struggling, then I wasn’t really unwell, was I?
But mental health does not work like that, does it? Example, a couple of years ago two of my friends had tonsillitis and were both given antibiotics. One friend recovered and hasn’t had it since, the other got it again and again and so had her tonsils removed. Mental health is the same. For some people you may only struggle with your mental health once, for others it may be a life-long illness. Every body, every person, every mind, every experience is different, it is a dangerous game to impose a hierarchal structure on mental illness.
For the last 7/8/9 years – I have lost count – I have suffered on and off with depression. It shaped some of my teenage years and really clouded my university ones. I have seen a councillor, a therapist and tried CBT(cognitive brain therapy), I have been offered and considered medication, I have knowingly and unknowingly self-medicated through alcohol. I have shed a lot of tears, I have been extremely hard on myself, I have been very angry with myself, I’ve thrown a lot of cushions and slammed a lot of doors. I have had many difficult and painful conversations in private and in public about my mental health.
I look back at these moments now with the luxurious benefit of hindsight and I feel all the feelings. I feel annoyed with myself that my mental health ruined certain relationships, experiences and precious moments. I’m a bit angry with myself for not always seeking help when I should have but I also feel kind of proud. I have now almost found the balance between staying quiet and thus breaking down or pre-empting said breakdown and stepping back from everything in a way that has actually proven to be more detrimental. I realise that the mornings I really, really don’t want to get out of bed and leave the house, are the ones I should. That the weeks where I haven’t managed to have a little bit of time to myself and as a result have got 3 hours of the Real Housewives to catch up on are the weeks I need to give myself a night in. I am working it out.
Over the past year I have been outside every single day, it may not seem like a big deal to some but for me this marks a huge change in my mental health. Even when I had some pretty dark and scary days in my mind I still forced myself outside – it didn’t cure me, but it was an achievement.
I have also had some really lovely honest conversations with those around me and I the wall that I put up is very very low right now, I have also stopped putting pressure on myself to keep up a facade. The conversation around mental health is long, it is draining, exhausting and kind of overwhelming and it seems to be absolutely everywhere but it is so so so unbelievably important.
So in a round about way what I really want to say is it’s really nice to reflect on your past, celebrate your victories, your milestones, your progress whatever you want to call them, enjoy all the moments and remember that like every body, every mind is different.
My bewb cat/kitties on my titties t-shirt is available here