How much does mental health feature on your radar?
I first became aware of World Mental Health day last year, just after starting my blog, and joining the online blogging community. In my experience, mental health is something that is far often spoken about online, rather than actually in person.
This was originally supposed to be posted on Wednesday 10th, which was actually Mental Health Day. But…life kind of got in the way, and just like with anything when mental health is involved, it’s not always predictable. I debated whether or not to continue putting this up, as I’d missed the day itself; but figured that actually, this is an important topic, and something that needs to be talked about.
Mental health is something that is personal, and affects every single person differently. But this isn’t just a conversation for those who struggle with mental health difficulties – instead, it’s something that each and every one of us should be aware about. Just like keeping our bodies well, it’s as important, if not MORE important, that we take care of our minds.
If you’ve known me for a long time, or followed my blog around a year ago, you may be aware that my plans got thrown topsy-turvy, and my gap year ended up turning out very differently to what I thought it would. Not that that was a bad thing – looking back now I’m so grateful for what happened, and how it changed; and ultimately, what I learnt.
And while I mostly blogged my journey last year, there were somethings that I kept off the internet – for the sake of learning how to deal with them myself, without the world knowing. Because opening up, and being vulnerable, just like I mentioned a few weeks ago, is really difficult. It’s a challenge – because you have no idea how you’re going to be received.
Everyone’s journey with mental health is different, and so when it’s spoken about online, it can be so hard to talk about without making generalisations. What I’m doing here though, is sharing a little of my experience – not to belittle, or make others feel small, but to add to the conversation.
Regardless of what I may want to think (ignoring the reality has been an attempt in the past to cope), it doesn’t make it any less real. This is something that hasn’t really come up in conversation at all since coming to uni – and that makes this post difficult. But I’m going to share anyway – because it’s important.
‘Enough is Enough’
I reached a point in my last year of school, where I had to stop and say “Enough is Enough.” I wasn’t living life to the full, and for the most part, was surviving, but only because I had to. Acknowledging that maybe, I did need some help in all of this, was really hard – but in the long run, has been worth it.
In the first few weeks of my gap year, one of the things I had to get done, was a visit to the Doctors. It’s the kind of thing I put off for as long as possible; because in making that step, booking the appointment, was facing the situation head on. It was acknowledging that something was going on beyond my control – and I needed help.
I should probably add, for the sake of transparency, that this was my second appointment. The second one went far better than the first; I was listened to, and felt like I got somewhere. I know that for so many people, they can go and ask for help, only to be turned away. I feel very blessed that this wasn’t the situation for me; because in reality, I’m not sure how long I would have persevered with it.
Anyway (you can probably tell, even here, how I’m trying to skirt round the issue at hand…and yes, that’s what it’s been like in real life), after chatting with the Doctor, she diagnosed me with anxiety, in particular areas. This was the culmination of what felt like several years of me ignoring what was going on in my head (or at least trying to), and putting back the pieces every time something slipped, and it all got a bit much. Her advice was to get some CBT – and left the ball in my court.
Are you ever aware of something that’s really easy to procrastinate about?
Or just to ignore that it’s on the to-do list, because you really don’t want to admit it?
Yup, that was totally me in this. I had to go see the Doctor for a follow up appointment two weeks later, and she asked if I’d made any progress with finding counselling for myself. I hadn’t even looked at the leaflets I’d been given. Going to the doctor was one thing; but actually seeking out counselling – that felt like one step too far.
So, she decided to set me some homework; she wanted to see me in a month, and by then I was to have sorted something. This is really bad, but it’s the truth – I just didn’t go back. Still haven’t, for that matter (and feel somewhat bad about that).
But, eventually, about 2 months later, I got round to sorting something. I’d decided to seek out Christian counselling – if I was going to do this, I wanted to know that the advice I was getting would be in-line with the truths I believe and cling to. But this meant going privately, and I feel blessed to have found an option that was affordable, but also allowed me to get the help I needed.
Counselling is definitely a weird one. I hated it for the majority of the year.. and only when things were drawing to a close did I feel as if I was getting used to it. That said, with the hindsight and experience of about 8 months of counselling – I feel like it’s important to say that counselling isn’t just for when you’re in a crisis. There’s something really healthy about being able to process, and having someone help you do that. I’m the kind of person who internalises everything – and that’s made processing really difficult.
Anxiety cropped up in so many different areas of my life, it was really hard to know how that would pan out over the year. A lot of it had stemmed from being in an academic environment (and struggling with perfectionism), but last year that was removed. By the end of the year, I felt as if I’d got to the point where I could cope with what was thrown at me, with the odd wobble.
Coming into university, I wanted to pretend that this aspect of my life didn’t really matter anymore, and that what I’d learnt last year would be enough to get me through university. To the point that, when asked on my original matriculation questionnaire, “Do you suffer from any mental illnesses?” (or something to that ilk), I ignored it, and clicked ‘No’. In my head, I wanted to pretend that I didn’t – and what I’ve experienced doesn’t get categorised. I know that other people have it worse – and that destructive thought pattern of comparison came into it. Now, I’ve all but convinced myself that I need to put it on record somewhere…just so that in the future, it’s known.
I guess the next stage, is to talk about now. To be honest, I don’t really know how to talk about the present – because it’s constantly changing. There are good days, but there are also harder days. Moving to university has been strange; and in many ways has left my mind in a bit of a quandary at times. But, what I do know, is that I’m clinging to the truths of WHO I am, and how whatever I may be feeling – those voices do not change who I am.
I’m clinging to the one who is my rock, my shelter, and my refuge.
In the unknown – when I honestly don’t know what each day will hold, I’m trying my best to trust in His plans, His purposes, and His promises.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
2 Cor. 1:3-5
God is the ‘God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles’ – and it’s in Him I put my trust, even if things feel unsteady. For He is the solid ground beneath my feet, and He won’t let me fall.
Mental health is one of those topics that can still appear to be side-lined – or only for some people to talk about. On the contrary – how we feel, how we process, and what goes on inside us is important. If it means taking a step back and recognising that we’re not living the way we should be – because things are harder than normal, then it’s okay to say so. It’s okay to need to ask for help – and try and ask and recognise it before you reach your ‘Enough is Enough’ stage.
Recognising it, Reaching out, and Asking for help, as well as being willing to make a change, is hard. But it’s worth it. It’s a continuing journey; and I’m so glad I’m not doing it alone.
If any of this has resonated with you, encouraged you to speak to someone, or you just want to chat more; please get in touch.
Stories are a powerful way of sharing truth; and starting conversation. I hope I can do just that with mine.
Love and blessings,