Today is World Mental Health Day, in case you missed the thousands of social media posts filling up your feed today!
Part of me wanted to just silently nod toward it and move on, however I have now found myself sat in the study room with a big bottle of water, my laptop and a promise to myself to just let it all out.
I tend to say something every year about this day in particular, “look out for your friends” or “speak out”, but this year I’m going full unfiltered, uncensored ramble, because I’ve recently figured that exactly that works best for me. (sorry in advance 😛)
I have had quite the battle with my mental health over the past ten years I’d say. I remember clearly the day I was diagnosed with depression, which came a number of years after I started to feel “not quite myself”, and everyone close to me disbelieved it, with comments like “what do you have to be depressed about?!” being flung at me left, right and centre. But truly, what did I have to be depressed about? At the time I was in college, I’d found my people, studying a course I was passionate about, working with an amazing bunch of staff and I had a great social life. I think that was the moment when I realised that even if everything is seemingly ‘perfect’, you could still struggle.
That was 7 years ago, and I have been on and off medication since. Upon reflection, I’m not surprised that I wasn’t in a good place – I was in debilitating pain almost daily (thanks to undiagnosed chronic illnesses), and I was struggling with my eating (maccies fries and a large diet coke every single day for lunch for two years is not normal eating, despite me truly believing that all was fine at the time). Oh, isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?!
Fast forward to right now, and I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve wrote about mental health with a clear head. In fact, this is the first time in 7 years that I have had a clear head, even if it still fogs up some times.
Which actually seems crazy, pardon the pun.
The past 7 months have been the most challenging for me mentally. 7 months ago, I broke down to my parents and told them about my eating disorder, and how hopeless I had been feeling. A month prior, I had gone to my GP (who was so bloody wonderful by the way) and had a very similar conversation which resulted in an eating disorder clinic referral…of which that resulted in a two year wait. I remember so clearly feeling distraught, I had just, what felt like, told the world my deepest darkest secrets, the world promised me help, and then within a week it was taken from me as fast as I’d got it, which ultimately ended in me sobbing to my parents over a Chinese take-a-way a month later saying “I just don’t like food” (current me would be sooooo mad at past me for wasting Chinese food).
My parents, I adore them and I know that they love me and would literally do anything for me, even if they have a funny way of showing it – I think it’s just a parent thing!
My mom immediately researched where I could see somebody privately, and before I knew it I was in for an assessment at an eating disorder clinic, where I was accepted onto the program.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
The past 7 months have been the hardest of my life. I ditched everyone I cared about and loved and had to be 110% selfish and put myself first, and that was so fucking difficult. I am, however, very lucky to have the most incredibly supportive friends who allowed me to fly the nest, with a space promised for me upon my return.
I have had to dig up some real shitty things, relive the lowest of low moments in my life; face and fight my destructive coping mechanisms (still working on this one, I must admit), open up about my biggest regrets, the moments I am most shameful of and the shambles my life has been since my bad brain moved in and set up camp in my head, taking away sassy, sarcastic, bubbly, irresponsible, kind, loving and ballsy brain that was once there before. I like to think I am pretty close to getting her back though.
Facing your past demons, working through them and letting them go, is the most freeing thing a person can do, I believe. It is so fucking hard but the rewards way out-weight the feeling of guilt, regret and shame of the former you.
I am not the whole way there yet, but I am being realistic and taking each day as it comes. I have worked my ass off in therapy and in clinic with doctors and professionals teaching me how to free myself of my eating disorder and move into a new life.
For the first time in the longest time, I am truly, honestly, hand-on-heart so fucking proud of myself.
Having an off-whack mental health condition is not something to be ashamed of. I am thankful of all of my shame, guilt and past decisions, and I say that with all sincerity. I have learned so much from the person I used to be, and it will all be so valuable for the rest of my life.
I actually think that for the first time in my life, I am looking forward to living, which may sound utterly bizarre, but I have spent however long living in the shadow of the woman that I really am.
Poor mental health does not make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you any less of a deserving human being. When you are ready, put you whole heart and soul into recovery because speaking from experience, it is so damn worth it.
Now, in my case, I have a bit of work to do. I am currently within touching distance of being discharged from the clinic and I refuse to let it all be for nothing. I’m moving on with the things I have learned and I am adapting them to my every day life.
I am being realistic. I will still have wobbles, panics and set backs, but what I have learned over the past 7 months have best equipped me to move forward and deal with my demons.
Never be ashamed, wear your insecurities like a badge of honour and freaking own it. Reach out for help, demand help, don’t just ask. Remind yourself that you are worth it and you do deserve guidance and help.
I 100% owe my life to the medical professionals, family, friends, boyfriend, lecturers, strangers and other patients at the clinic who share a nod and a smile, who have seen me through the worst year of my life but more importantly, into what is becoming the best life that I can and will live in for the remainder of my days.
Speak up, speak out and never, ever be ashamed.
*I would also like to add that if you are struggling, eating disorder specific here, I could not recommend Beat enough. They were there for me to turn to when I felt like I couldn’t speak with anyone else, and have amazing support in the form of recovery information sheets, friendly staff on their helplines (which specialise in general, youth and student), their online web chats and all the information a family member or friend could need regarding what eating disorders actually are (I know this one came in handy for those around me who didn’t quite understand).*
Happy World Mental Health Day 2018,
See you soon,