There is a certain stigma that follows mental illness, especially where I come from. Having mental issues are seen as phoney and shameful. I think in a lot of ways society fails those with mental disorders because of these stereotypes and the momentum of ‘just suck it up’.
In truth, mental health is much broader than your ‘typical’, ‘average’, ‘popular’, ‘common’ or ‘more known of’ mental issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders or more serious illnesses like narcissism, schizophrenia etc. Mental wellbeing is not a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow bridge that everyone without a mental disorder magically crosses.
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” -Source
I made myself a promise, that I would be open about me seeking out help because I did not want to feel ashamed of my issues. I did not want this to be something that I will forever have to fear of coming back and biting myself in the ass. Why should I be ashamed of reaching out for help?
No one shames cancer patients, you do not see people pointing fingers at someone with a cast on their leg. Can you imagine Nelson from Simpsons just pointing a finger at someone leaving a hospital with a cast on their leg going ‘ha ha’? Seems bizarre, right?
That is exactly what it felt like leaving my therapist’s office after the first initial assessment session. To briefly explain, NHS gets very little funding towards mental health so I had to be assessed to determine whether I was really as ‘fucked up’ as I was claiming or if there are more serious cases that deserve to be treated first. And in theory, I am the ‘fucked up one’.
After my assessment session, began the wait of actually receiving treatment. My wait stretched out from April all the way to October. I’ve been told that is a pretty average wait time. 7 months. During these months, I made a conscious decision of telling as many people as possible, that I was starting therapy. The way I would tell people sometimes, I admit, was in a very self-degrading way by dropping a sarcastic joke and making myself feel like shit in the process. Thankfully, for the most part, people have been understanding and some even encouraging, besides my mother, whom I told first and her response was along the lines of “you will be wasting your time but you are a grown up”. Thanks, mom.
I can’t really explain what exactly it is that I am dealing with, there are a lot of current issues and a lot from my past and it all is sort of jumbled together. My therapist put it as ‘trying to match my outside with my inside’ as for the most part, I come across bubbly and obnoxiously loud. What I will say, when I have low periods, I become unmotivated (to the extent where I do not even want to shower), uninterested in everything (I just get into a mind-numbing funk of YouTube), anti-social, ridiculously tired etc. I go through very stark highs and lows all the time.
Something I have decided on is I do not want a ‘diagnose’ as I am afraid to let it define me. I am content with knowing I need help, there is no need to put a label on it. I know what you are thinking and I know what some of my symptoms suggest towards, but I want you to take that thought and shove it up your ass, because I do not want to hear it.
During my first session, I had to complete some sort of self-assessment sheet to track my progress throughout my journey and that was the first time I teared up (one of many, the average was every 15 mins, in case you were wondering). I knew I was dealing with all these things and I recognise the emotions and feeling I have about myself and my life, but seeing all that negativity in one sheet of paper just made my insides crumble. There is something about changing your perspective and that certainly was a defining moment for me.
I have set myself therapy goals in my little diary that I have just started writing. I do not write journal entries but rather few notes here and there, memories or thoughts that I want to discuss in the next session. My main goals are learning trust and working on my self-esteem not just on a physical level (i.e. stop criticising my looks and body) but also mental (for example, having confidence in my skills) – strengthening my core confidence. I would like to say find self-love again but I think all these wannabe lifestyle coaches and youtube gurus have destroyed the meaning of self-love.
Unsurprisingly, mental wellbeing is about your actions, behaviours, and habits. Humans are creatures of habit, so it is important to create habits that benefit you and your wellbeing rather than continue self-sabotaging. Here are a few things that I have started doing in hopes to help myself get out of this pit I am currently in:
- take a shower every day;
- do some form of exercise outside even if that means walking into uni;
- read the news, stay interested in the developments of areas I am interested in;
- follow my physio recommendations and strengthening exercises so I can go running again;
- make my bed every morning;
- go to bed early and get enough sleep;
- worry less;
- forget about how I look and focus on creating a sustainable routine and positive habits;
- force myself to spend time with my friends or at least ‘catch up’.
As I go further into my journey some of these might change and the list might grow longer, but for the most part, this is what I am trying to stick to for now. Most days now I have to consciously make myself do these things, but I am hoping with time these will become habits and feel like part of my day-to-day life. I feel it is also important to note, that I am not a professional and I am not saying that issues can be solved by simply making your bed every morning. I am an example of just that. What I am suggesting is positive changes that could overall benefit your life alongside professional treatment.
Updated once the post was written before publishing: I discussed this with my therapist and she actually referred to this as ‘building my resilience’ and ‘looking after myself’. There you go, it’s useful and recommended by at least one professional. She did note, that what I find beneficial for myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually or intellectually) might differ from an individual to an individual, so take this with a pinch of salt.
So here’s to spreading kindness not just with the world but starting with yourself. Be kind to yourself.
P.s. Here’s some food for thought:
1. Patrick Roche’s ‘Every 40 Seconds’.
“This is speaking louder than the stigma and hoping someone will listen.”
2. ‘I Jumped Off The Golden Gate Bridge’.
“What I am about to say is the exact same thing that 19 Golden Gate Bridge survivors have also said, the millisecond my hands left the rail it was an instant regret. And I remember thinking no one’s gonna know that I didn’t wanna die.”