Breaking the cycle: An ode to mental health
Hello lovely reader! In light of Mental Health Awareness Month (May) having just passed us, we at Neighbourhood thought that it would be a good time to give you a blog dedicated to mental health.
The month of May is always a time of reflection and appreciation for me as it makes me think about where I have been but also how far I have come. Now, before I babble on about the importance of mental health awareness and seeking help when you need it, I think it’s only fair that I share with you my mental health story. It is messy, a little sad and maybe overwhelming. If you are someone who may find this triggering then please stop reading here. Take a deep breath. It’s totally okay if you are not in a position to consume this content right now. Give yourself a hug and think about what would help you right now. Go forward with love.
For those of you who are still with me, thank you for being here and for making space for me to share this. If I’m being completely honest, I have never completely put it down to paper like this which is a little scary but we are here for growth. Of course there are some things which will remain mine to hold on to but I promised myself that I would be as open as possible here.
My mental health journey started when I was 18 years old. I used to bite my nails a lot and found myself extremely concerned by what other people thought of me. This developed to the point where I started losing sleep because I couldn’t stop playing out scenarios in my head, wondering how I could do or say things differently, desperately wanting approval from absolutely everyone around me. I was finding going to school extremely difficult and my hands would shake a lot of the time due to how overwhelmed I felt. I was deep in a well of what I would later find out is called anxiety. My anxiety at that time meant I stopped putting myself out there as much, stopped participating in my life because the fear of doing or saying something wrong was so deeply paralyzing. As you can imagine, I began to fade away from the people I hung out with at school; I was no longer invited to parties or even just simple hang outs because I had essentially removed myself from everyones view. This unfortunately led to a crushing sense of loneliness. I felt like I had nothing or anyone and before I knew it, I was struggling to get out of bed. I skipped school a lot, I wasn’t sleeping and let’s just say I was on a slippery slope. I felt as though there was a huge weight on my chest which was completely immobilizing. Moving was too much; speaking was too much; sometimes breathing felt like it was too much. After a few months of this the anger started to settle in. I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to just snap out of it. I kept hoping that I would just wake up one morning and not be so sad and defeated. But that morning never came. The angrier I got, the more I felt this need to punish myself. This led to me using self-harm as an escape. And from here it all just snowballed. I wasn’t speaking to anyone, doing my best to hide it from my parents and causing myself so much mental and emotional pain. I felt as though I was doomed to be this sad, “broken” person forever.
So now that you know a bit about my story, I can get into why I am here writing this. I am here because it got better. I am here because I found the light again. And I am here to tell you that if you are ever in a bad place, you can and you will come out on the other side.
Breaking a cycle is different for everyone, but for me it was the day I finally decided to do something to get better. I had recently got my restricted license and decided to drive myself to the doctors. I didn’t know if this was the right thing to do but it was something. As soon as I sat down in front of my doctor and started describing how I was feeling,
she instantly told me how glad she was that I had come to see her. She told me that it was so important to seek out help and that all hope was not lost, which to me, it felt like it was.
I don’t want to go into the particulars of my recovery because 1) I don’t think it’s relevant and 2) I think recovery is such a personal thing and I don’t want my path to be seen as the only one. If you are struggling with any sort of mental battle, you will find your own way to win this war. It is entirely up to you how you do it. But the most important thing is that first step. And that is my bottom line here. Speak up. Seek help. If I have learnt anything throughout my mental health journey it is that conversation is a magical tool for healing. I have had so many conversations about my mental health with people over the last 7 years and there are a few things that I have discovered:
It is empowering. Being able to speak about it and to realize that you have come out on the other side or are making progress towards getting better is such a beautiful feeling.
It is liberating. The second you say what you are feeling out loud, it is no longer just inside your head. It almost loses its power because you have released it from within you and it is now out in the universe.
It is encouraging. You would be amazed how many people have suddenly opened up to me after I have shared my story. By speaking about it, you are saying to everyone around you that it is okay for them to do the same.
It is brave. I mean, this one goes without saying, but I know it is not easy to talk about mental health. That is why so many people suffer in silence. But the bravery of speaking up can lead to many wonderful things such as support and recovery. Be brave.
As a leaving note I just want to say that the journey of mental health really is like a rollercoaster. Some days are harder than others and sometimes you can find yourself slipping back into that unhealthy mental space. I am here to tell you it’s okay. We cannot be perfect. What I tend to live by is that if I am still doing my best to make progress towards recovery and surrounding myself with a genuine support network, then I consider it a win. If I can leave you with one piece of advice it is to start the conversation, whether it is for yourself or others. Ask your mates how they are and really listen. If you need support, voice it; there is no shame in that. Most importantly, give love; to yourself, to your circle of friends, even to strangers. A little love and kindness goes a long way when it comes to mental health. If me writing this has helped anyone or made someone out there feel a little less alone then I am overjoyed. Know that you are never alone and that there are always people out there willing to help, you just have to start the conversation.