learning

Mental Healing

If I am ever asked to describe myself, being open and honest is my instinctual and subconscious response. Why? because it is a part of me that I feel proud to acknowledge. A perception that I have fixed together from various social interactions and my own built-up version of myself. This is a part of me I want to thrive, so my actions reflect that.

So why is it that there are times when I am not open to others about how I really feel, or that there are times where I am not even honest with myself? Is it so much a coincidence that this behaviour worsens as my mental health flatlines, and I can only find solitude by shuffling apologetically into my very own toxic tomb, instead of going ahead and doing what I perceive myself to be best at?

Truth is we all believe we are more than what we are, and that is not a criticism. Humans are prone to natural optimism and that extends to our self-belief. We take risks in life accompanying this philosophy that if we believe, we do – something society has driven into us from an early age. But when my mental health starts to crumble around me, this optimism disappears and any risk-taking isn’t for the better. I can feel my hands tightening the ropes I placed around myself.

And that darkness is something I want to discuss.

I know this sounds a little out there, but my truth is, ever since I was a child, I could feel it – a black void-like sadness. As a childhood goes, I had a good one, but certain experiences conditioned my mind to feel severe lows.

Having a strong emotional intuition is probably a natural form for a child to take, but to be able to feel and understand the meaning behind them, or the consequences just didn’t feel right. I felt like I was on a level with adults more than children at times. Of course, I was still a child and I still didn’t fully understand things because they were new to me, I was just really quick to recognise patterns.

It was this innocent confusion that lead me through to my teenage years. And it was only then, that I realised I wasn’t fully in control of my own thought pattern.

To add context to this black void-like sadness, I have many memories of increasingly dark moments. One, in particular, was an 11- year old me sitting on a swing in a park. I was alone, staring out into the sea and I wanted to jump into it rather than deal with the idea of starting high school without anyone I knew. My best friend and her family had moved to Rothesay too, so I knew, that really I wasn’t alone. But to deal with the loneliness in those moments was too raw and too much to bear. I would have rather died than face up to my insecurities. At least that is what my mind told me at the time.

I felt it was important to share this, because for me moments like this come in waves, and it has been an on-going battle. I could go for a year without one and then out of the blue, I am triggered. If I am overwhelmed or feeling down anyway, I am potentially triggered. It is confusing and difficult, and I understand that many people will probably have similar experiences. So I thought I would be open with things I feel ashamed of, about negative patterns that I followed through to adulthood, and that I have never really been able to explain other than just having a ‘down day’.

I have never been diagnosed so we could call it depression, severe anxiety, even bipolar disorder. Instead, I distinguish these negative pulls as my dark days and that alone is terrifying enough. Labels only recognise the issue, and I am on a path to do more than that now.

I would consider myself to be quite a strong-minded person but since late autumn of last year, all I could feel was numbness. It felt like I was carving through the walls of my own head, trying to get to grips with what this all meant.

It got to a point where I was beginning to lose sight of what was real because my mind kept fogging out. I was forgetting conversations that happened the night before, sometimes even moments before, I couldn’t retain anything other than the screaming in my head for me to do something.

During this time, I was still a capable functioning human being, caring about others, socialising, worrying about money, about friends, about everything but myself. I had almost often forgotten how to feel my own emotions or be myself in even the best environments, places I once loved.

I tried to break the mould but nothing was working. I wasn’t enjoying anything, not even myself. And that was hard to bear.

Eventually, it got to the point where I started to decline invitations to my friends birthdays and gatherings because I was worried they would ask me what was wrong, and I wouldn’t be able to answer. To make it worse, even if I wanted to go out I couldn’t. I was so financially unstable I couldn’t afford food. I was at a point where I could no longer carry my burdens let alone focus on other people’s.

That night was poignant to me because that was when I realised I wasn’t okay. The numbness had gone and now I was just really scared.

People are very good at painting a deception for others, in order to drive them away from how we really feel. Somewhere along the line, being honest with myself, sharing my feelings with my family and friendship circle began to feel like a burden and I knew I had reached the end of patience with how things were. I was ready to take responsibility and change my pattern.

For the second time in my life, I sourced help and contacted a charity that specialised in counselling.

So Monday’s became my new torture. But at least everyone was proud of me. There is a silver lining in everything right?

My counsellor was the best I could have hoped for, she was warm and friendly and she was the best combination of serious and sassy. She reminded me of my friends and she made me a cup of tea. Something I didn’t particularly like, but she made it comforting and worthwhile.

Every Monday at work, my stomach would do somersaults because I knew I was going to finish soon and then I would have to deal with my feelings – and sometimes a lack of.

At times, when I was there, It felt like an interrogation, a question would catch me off guard. I would walk home and cry because I had responded instantaneously in a way I didn’t want to accept.

Other times I would walk home and cry because it felt good to have someone want to help unlock my potential when I was convinced I had none left.

All in all, she built me up again, she confirmed that a lot of self- doubt, a lot of these moments were hard to deal, almost impossible situations and I began to understand that I had a right to how I was feeling. A right I had believed was no longer mine. She started teaching me different techniques for communicating my feelings verbally.

I started to understand how important it was for me to be heard, and how mutated my thinking process had become. It did me the world of good.

Monday’s became okay. I was nervous, but less so because I wasn’t as scared. She pushed me to maintain my hobbies or start doing things I loved again. I did so reluctantly at first just to prove a point. But as time went on, I started noticing things that I have subconsciously turned a blind eye too.

As the month’s rolled by, I was feeling proud of what I was achieving every week, and my counsellor could see that. She heard about my writing, so she asked me to write, and I went home and I wrote a blog post called Promises to keep.

I make it sound so simple, but to me, this was a major stepping stone. I had not been able to write during a truly dark moment before. So to be able to feel hope during rather than after, it was unbelievable. It felt like a breakthrough.

Today I feel grateful for who I am, and I am grateful for the good people in my life, always looking out for me, as I do for them.

I may not be rolling in it. I may not be on the path that I expected to be on at this stage. But time is a blessing. I am fortunate to feel free, to speak freely and to be me. And that is enough. I know that now.

A few months ago, a good friend once caught me on a really bad day, sobbing quietly in the stockroom at work. I was crying about many things at that moment, but mostly at the death of my beloved grandma. He didn’t ask what was wrong, but I still tried to explain myself. He went back to work, and I felt ashamed for being so vulnerable.

He came back up the stairs, obviously taking some time to think of what to say, and instead of talking to me about it, he reminded me that I was still young and I had all the time in the world. It was simple and true, and it was enough of a nudge to throw me out of myself.

I was entitled to feel sadness and feel overwhelmed of course I was, but I was allowing myself to slip back into a negative thinking pattern so easily. I decided to be honest with myself and tell myself I can cry about this, but I should also be happy and keep being myself as much as I can too.

It is good friends like him that keep me grounded. And I know now I am much better at doing the same.

 

 

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Reflection

Throughout my life, I have reflected on my actions, my choices, and my feelings, and today is no exception.

Towards the end of university, I thrived off the simplicity of success and the feeling of working towards a common goal. My aim was to graduate with honours. Of course, this was a desire that everyone had, that was the point of it.Yet surprisingly, in the beginning, I didn’t. See the truth is, I expected to fail, even though I have already gotten so far. I doubted my ability, my intelligence, and I battled with my own negative outlook. But university changed my way of thinking.

In the beginning of university my natural reactions to most things were primed by a negative mind. I was clouded, so whenever something good happened, say for instance, getting results back and sharing them with others, I would feel embarrassed and awkward. When I quietly announced to a friend over a table that I got a B in my portfolio, I watched their reactions, their smiles and I would smile back with an apologetic look on my face. Why, because I wanted to shout and jump about it, but gloating wasn’t my normal way of doing things, I was embarrassed for allowing people to feel excited for me. I was being fussed over and instead of feeling grateful for such a positive reaction, I looked for anything to turn around and enforce my negative opinion of myself and my achievements. It was so bad that I would take congratulations from lecturers with a pinch of salt, go home and think about how I could have done so much better.Simply Because I truly believed I wasn’t good enough. I was so deep into my own self-loathing, I couldn’t comprehend positivity, and that is a truly terrifying thing.

But the thing was, the people in my life didn’t cater to my darkness like I wanted, they smiled and cheered, and egged me on. The issue I was faced with was that my self-doubting was so bad, my sense of judgement of progression and achievement was seriously clouded. But university gave me my guts back, and the friends I had and made along the way pushed me to celebrate the small things, and most importantly my boyfriend changed how I saw myself, loved me no matter. And so, I reflected some more.

See, like all humans, we reflect on our actions, our feelings and our patterns that we develop. Over the years, I accepted that feeling ashamed about wanting to be better and successful was just a response, driven by past events to my own inner issues. I accepted that I was reinforcing my own idea about myself, and it started to become clear, that I saw myself differently to everyone else in my life. I was always quick to celebrate other people’s achievements but I had finally begun to feel proud of my own. University and the people within it gave me that. I started listening intently to those words, watching those reactions and changing my own perception of myself. I felt like I was finally in control.

As I went through my final two years of university. I took on board the constructive criticism from lecturers and let it guide me. I put myself into situations I would never have dreamed of. I worked for Sky News and threw myself into an internship at a publishing house I wanted to work for. I wrote about something that interested me and got it published. I chose a difficult and interesting topic about reporting on trauma for my dissertation, I interviewed very successful people in the business and didn’t feel unequal. I did these things because I believed in myself and listened to those who believed in me too. I did these things because I wanted to be the best of myself without the negative outlook.

On reflection, if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that we continue to grow – up and better – all at once, and the challenges we face are sometimes obstacles we place before ourselves, because we either don’t know any better, or we haven’t allowed ourselves to be better. But with a bit of reflection, we can all get through this, challenge ourselves to be the good within and not what we are told, but who we are and how we feel.

Diary post #1

Before you instantly judge me for being so personal, let me raise my small tiny hands up to your face and stop you right there. Need I remind you that we are all guilty of being personal on Facebook, so much so that we practically go out. Y’know, like “ooh Facebook look what I had for lunch.” – Instagram’s photo of mediocre food to Facebook  (yes I am terrible for it) or “Hey Facebook, how’s your day been?..actually I don’t care, here’s a minute by minute reconstruction of when I nearly got hit by a car on my extra exciting journey to work.”

…Besides, I’ve misplaced my diary and my Microsoft Word has expired.

I’m not going to start this with so there’s this guy because that is the way my 12-year-old self would write and yes, I may still look that age, but I’m turning 20 this year, so let’s not. I’ll start this with a more serious tone.

I would like to have sexual relations with him…like all the time.

Hahahaha, joking!

That was a lie..I do, I really do.

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Anyway, it’s not about sex this time, i’m not looking for just sex. (Bet you’re all like, ‘interesting was she before?..what a slut’)  I wasn’t even looking for anything until I realised that’s what I wanted. Does that make sense? I think time to myself was what I needed, and I’m glad I listened to my friends and family and took it. It wasn’t a huge amount of time – just a few months. But everyone is different and it was enough for me to become my own person again, reevaluate and remind myself of my goals and my ambitions, remind myself that I’m not all bad and find a way to like myself again – I learned to embrace the positive things about myself and my life. And somehow it ended up with me cooing frantically over this guy, because according to my brain, he’s a positive influence in my life. Woops!

It wasn’t like I was spending my days actively searching for another relationship. I was investing my time learning how to be with myself – I was concentrating on improving myself and my flaws. I wasn’t on the prowl for a new boyfriend because as much as I love relationships I also enjoy being single – So I’ve learned.

But then once my mind was clear and I was more self-aware of my emotions, I kind of accidently fell for him. Funny how that works, it always seems to happen when you aren’t paying attention.

To be honest, I’ve always liked him, since we first started talking. I felt an instant connection with him, and it’s rare for me to come across that. I have come across a variety of different connections with people over the years.

  1. The connection that I have with my family.
  2. The connection I feel with my closest friends.
  3. And then there’s the connection you feel with someone, an ‘instant connection’, a strong chemistry between the two of you, a sort of deeper understanding of one another.

It’s difficult to explain, but that’s how I feel when I’m with him. I can literally feel the chemistry bounce off of us, and It sounds ridiculous but I get the feeling he feels it too. Could it be a lot of sexual tension, probably. But I also think it’s more than that. I like him on a much deeper level, I like him in a way I have never liked anyone before. It’s different, and I’m open to the idea of it because I know that if it does ever happen, it’ll be good for me. And not in the sense I’ll be in a relationship again and it’ll get me out of the single life, NO. Because quite frankly, I don’t mind being single at all, I just mean that I know that it feels right, and that if the opportunity came along I would gladly jump aboard..Literally too 😉 because I know I would learn a lot from him and maybe that’s what this connection is all about. Maybe he’s wandered into my life for that exact purpose.

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