My Mental Health
Mental Health issues are prevalent in the UK. If you do not suffer from it yourself, it’s pretty much guaranteed that somebody you know suffers from it, even if you do not know. The stigma around mental health issues have opened up more in recent years; more conversations are being had, accurate healthcare is being utilised and it is becoming more acceptable to admit when you are struggling. And yet we are still not fully there. ‘Mental health’ days off work are still frowned upon, seen as weak or self-indulgent. Some still have their aversions to anti-depressants, and applications for jobs still list mental health problems as a ‘disability’ (yes, I have had to fill in these forms myself). The stigma surrounding it leaves many either defining themselves solely through their illnesses, or running from it completely. Both are damaging.
I was 17 when I was diagnosed with ‘severe generalised anxiety and panic disorder’. I always squirmed at calling it a disorder, but it made sense. The order of my brain had been compromised; there was a lack of chemicals causing me to behave and react a certain way. But the connotations that came along with it - I felt isolated, lost, scared, lonely (despite being surrounded by loving family and friends) and there was an element of hopelessness to it as the doctor said to me “this never fully goes away… some days you’ll wake up fine, but 20 years down the line you could have another episode”. So, that was it? If there was no hope of recovering, what the hell was the point in living a life full of constant preconceived danger? I cried to my parents, curled up in their laps like I had when I was a young child. I was completely and wholly dependent on them; my gratitude for having this privilege is endless. My mum, having suffered from severe depression in her early 20s, guided me through this misty road. She showed me the parts of life that were worth living for; she quit most of her freelance work and spent days driving me through the British countryside, taking me for cups of tea and slices of cake, watched disney films with me, but she also made me face my fears. Once I’d turned 18, a room in the flat my brother was living at in London became available. Still dependent on my parents, my mum convinced me to move out. The journey since then has been an interesting one - an exploration of independence, recovery, relapse and adventure.
But this life demands we step into the darkness. To make ourselves uncomfortable if we are to ever live a life worth living. Mental health problems should not hold us back from this, but rather push us towards it. The ‘Self-Care’ movement is pivotal, but sometimes the best self care is forcing ourselves into situations we don’t want to face. Suffering from mental health disorders is so difficult. Every day is a constant battle, and sometimes you don’t have the energy to win, and so surrender to the suffering. My therapist always told me to “ride it like a wave” - although this advice was for panic disorder, which only 0.8% of the UK population suffer with, it can still be relevant to anybody in their life- the essence of it is to accept the emotions you are feeling, to explore them rather than run away from them. As a result, you learn how to listen to your body and its needs, and what’s happening in your brain becomes an ally, not an enemy.
Nevertheless, if you are struggling or you know somebody who is, it is imperative to get help.
Here are a list of resources that are freely available to use:
Samaritans: Call 116 123
Papyrus (for under 35s): Call 0800 068 41 41
For Anxiety: Call 03444 775 774
For Bipolar: Go to www.bipolaruk.org.uk
Mind: Call 0300 123 339
Although a Himalayan salt bath with a Lush face-mask doesn’t automatically make everything better, here are a few things you can do to look after yourself:
Let those closest to you know you’re having a rough time, and tell them what they can do to help you. More importantly - accept their help
Light some candles and read a book - either with the window open or under a freshly washed blanket. Read the words fully, take them in, imagine the scenes in your head
Sit quietly on a cushion and practice some breathing exercises. Put some calming music on in the background and really listen to the music and any noises happening around you. Accept the noises, explore them.
Go to the cinema alone and watch something that will make you laugh or feel good
Listen to your favourite music - I would go for Tom Misch/ Kendrick Lamar/ Pearl Jam/ Foo Fighters/ Beyoncé
Article by Helena Burton - Jones