Sometimes, life can be good. And sometimes…sometimes not so much. August up until a couple of days ago had been going pretty well for me, but then I’ve had a couple of harder days and that’s prompted me to write this post.
I suffer from mental health issues. If you ask me about it, I won’t deny it. I have no reason to, nor should anyone else.
If you follow me on Instagram (if you don’t, you totally should, I’m a delight!), you will know that I don’t just talk about my battle with self image and my body love journey; much of my content is focused around my mental health as well. I have spent most of my adult life battling depression as a result of low self esteem, stemming from behaviours developed in my childhood.
For the longest time, I never truly understood how much of an impact my upbringing had had on my life as an adult. I knew that my childhood wasn’t exactly great, and a lot of my unhappiness in life was as a result of it, but I channelled so much of the reasoning behind my depression into my appearance; into insecurity about my size and my asymmetrical breasts. I bought into the reasoning that life sucked because I was some kind of freak, and because I was big, and that if only I could lose some weight, all the things that were wrong in my life would magically fix themselves. I would be slimmer, and then I could get a boob job and be “normal”.
Of course, things wouldn’t simply be “fixed”, because weight loss and having perfect breasts isn’t the cure for my low self esteem; of growing up believing and continuing to believe that I am worthless. Being fat and imperfect was never actually my problem at all…it was a convenient smoke screen to hide the real root cause of my self hatred. But, my feelings about my body were a contributing factor, that cannot be denied, and something that needed to be addressed along with everything else.
The process of learning to love my body, of learning to let go of the belief that the definition of beauty is as narrow minded and precise as the beauty and diet industry would have us believe… it was one step of many in a journey I am still on. A journey that will probably never end, but that I am completely and utterly committed to. I owe the body positivity movement a lot in my desire to be a happier, more confident person. I have bad body image days, sure, but I understand now that my happiness isn’t tied to a number on the scale, or the size of my jeans.
Therapy (Probably) Saved My Life
When I entered therapy last year, I was hitting bottom. I wasn’t quite suicidal, but having been there before, I knew I was getting close. Feelings and thoughts of wanting to run away and end it all had started to creep their way in. I won’t go into the nitty gritty here because it’s very complicated and personal (as these things invariably are), but everything had just started to feel like it had become too much and I didn’t know how to cope any more. I was scared of what might happen if I didn’t start to address what was going on with me.
Therapy might have just saved my life. It was and is hard and at times, so so horrible. I lost count of the number of occasions I sat for hours in floods of tears. I learned all about how low self esteem develops, and what feeds into it for years. It was a relief to get to the root cause of why I basically hated myself and never considered myself or my happiness in any decisions I made. I mourned for the woman I could have been if only I had known it all sooner, and got angry at the girl I had been for so long; ignorant and unaware. Sometimes I still feel this way, but mostly, I am just trying my hardest to push beyond it, because if you spend your whole life looking behind, how can you move forwards?
Sometimes, the hardest thing you’ll ever do in life is confront your own negative opinions and beliefs about yourself, and why you feel that way. To understand the way your brain reacts to things, and why. And what you can do, as hard as it might be, to try and affect positive change.
The important things in life are rarely; nay, never, easy. Facing up to it was difficult, but surviving the continuing process keeps making me stronger.
I am still on my journey. It doesn’t just come to an end when therapy does. If anything, it only properly starts when therapy ends, because then you have to do it without the safety net. And unfortunately for me, a month after my safety net was pulled away, my grandmother died, which sent me hurtling backwards. I still have all the tools therapy gave me, and I think overall, I am still in a much more positive place than I was this time last year. But I have referred myself back to the service. The journey plods onwards.
Mental health is so important, and in this country, I don’t believe it gets the focus it so desperately needs. When I used to sit in the waiting room at my local health centre, all the info-graphics on the table and on the wall tell you that one in four people will experience mental health problems in their lifetime. One in Four. That means every single one of us knows multiple people who suffer in some shape or form, be that diagnosed or not. All of the people who are closest to me are either on medication, in therapy or face to face treatment of some description, or both. Yet, how many of us openly discuss what we experience in the same way that we might talk about having a cold, an upset stomach or breaking a limb? We simply don’t, because mental health still has such a stigma attached to it. I do think it’s not as bad as it once was, but there is still a long way to go.
Provision of mental health care on the NHS here in the UK is appalling. I do speak from experience. Once you actually see a professional it is fine (at least, for me this was the case; I know for others this has not been…I am sure as with anything, this varies professional to professional). My therapist was absolutely amazing and I honestly have nothing but good things to say about him. But the journey to get to him was the complete opposite, because the provision of care is just spread thin. Waiting lists. Administration services that don’t know if they are coming or going. Ridiculously strict discharge policies; more than likely the result of thin on the ground service provision.
Even if you get over the stigma having a mental illness, and try to get help, you then have to deal with a service buckling under the strain of the people already in it.
One day, hopefully it will change and services will be easier to access. Without making this post too political, I know that this is something that always plays a part when it comes to who I vote for because it is something I feel strongly about.
I have had people on Instagram tell me that one of the reasons that they like to follow me is that I am honest. I have good days, I have bad days, and I don’t hide the bad. My honesty in my struggle with both my ability to love my body, and my mental health is inspiring to them in their struggle with their own issues. In all honesty, to become an inspiration was never my goal with my Instagram account; I came across the body positivity movement and was inspired myself and simply joined in! My account is first and foremost for me, I won’t lie about that. It is my outlet, which is the reason why I am honest. But, I am so amazed and humbled that other people take inspiration from it and me, and knowing that pushes me to keep sharing, and to keep being honest.
Sometimes, I feel like a fake when I comes to my depression. I know how to smile, and have fun. I fill my posts with selfies and smiles, outfits and games. Tea…lots of tea; all the things that make me happy. Sometimes, you would be hard-pressed to think that I suffer from low self esteem or depression at all. But that’s the thing; depression doesn’t discriminate. Your life doesn’t have to be shitty for you to be depressed. Mental illness doesn’t pick and choose. I always try and remember this. Just because I have good days…even when those good days outweigh the bad, doesn’t mean I’m magically cured. My own personal reasons for being mentally ill have come about due to behaviours and reactions deeply entrenched over YEARS. It will take me years to break them, if I ever manage to at all. I do everything I can to push past my depression; I am a big believer in faking it til I make it. I do things, participate and live as full a life as possible because I want to live. I WANT to be happy. Sometimes, I am. Sometimes, I’m not. Sometimes, my depression and low self esteem get the better of me.
I promise, you and myself, I will keep talking about my mental health. Because it is NOTHING to be ashamed of.
Don’t suffer in Silence, Please
Please, if you know do suffer from a mental illness, or if you think you might, and you don’t already have support in place…talk to someone. Read up on it. Do something.
I have posted some links below that might prove useful (UK based since that’s where I am). You might think, based off what I have said above, that it’s not worth the hassle of trying to enter the system to access counselling and therapy. Believe me, it is. My experience may not reflect yours; every NHS Trust is different after all. Even with the trouble I experienced, I am still glad I battled through and got the help I needed in the end. Speak to your GP; they’ll be able to refer you, or point you in the right direction of the service in your area.
Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk/
Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talking-about-mental-health
NHS – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx
Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org/