Following on from my first non-travel related post last month I really wanted to write another personal style post. One that is not only an insight into me but is also educational somewhat. So I’ve been toying with the idea of talking about mental health along with some self care tips, and thought why not combine them into one topic with two parts.
So let’s start by talking about mental health.
*Note: the below statistics are relevant to Australia’s mental health and are taken from Beyond Blue and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Did you know one in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime and one quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime?
Did you know one in sixteen Australians is currently experiencing depression and one in seven Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition?
Did you know one in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both?
Did you know AUD$9.1 billion was spent on mental health in 2016-17?
Did you know in the following year 4.2 million people received mental health-related prescriptions in 2017-18?
These are just general statistics, I could go on; the statistics associated with mental health are endless.
In my previous personal post I candidly talked about my fear of failing and the drowning feeling it has on me, and while I was very open in the post it might surprise you to know that I’ve never explicitly talked to anyone (aside from my psychologist) about those feelings.
My mental health is another topic I’ve never really spoken about openly either. I’m pretty nervous to to be honest. Many of my friends and family (and anyone who read my previous post) now know I see a psychologist but I don’t think I’ve ever said plainly it’s because I have, or do, suffer from depression.
During my time at boarding school in England I started seeing a multitude of health care workers. At first my week started with a regular visit to the school doctor every Monday and my week ended with a regular visit to the school counsellor every Friday. Overtime a weekly visit to a mental health care worker was also added to the schedule.
I was 16 and seeing three different professionals because, to put it simply, I was depressed.
Many people think that if you’re depressed you hide away in a dark room and shut yourself off from the world completely, and while this is true in some cases it doesn’t always appear this way.
From the outside world I wouldn’t have looked like a depressed 16 year old; I was still attending all my classes, participating in my extra curricular sports and activities, being around friends and people in general, etc.
But I’ve always been the type of person that struggles to admit when something is wrong and ask for help, so in my mind I had to make sure everything looked the same to those around me because I didn’t want anyone to ask any questions – but I also think I didn’t want to face the reality that I wasn’t well.
On the inside though I felt numb and overwhelmingly sad all the time. I could be standing in a room full of people and still feel lonely. I lost interest in anything I once found fun and exciting.
Depression can sometimes come with other mental health issues too and for me it came in the form of disordered eating and self-harm.
I’m not going to go into detail about either but let’s talk about the latter briefly. I’m sure anyone that has seen me in a bikini or gym shorts has probably noticed I have a number of scars, yes they are from self-harming. I used to be incredibly embarrassed and self-conscious about them; constantly wondering what other people are thinking when they see them, what are they now thinking about me.
There’s one thing I want to bring light to regarding self-harm and it’s the notion of why people do it. I’d say 90% of the world doesn’t understand why someone does it, and that’s fair. I guess the best way to try to explain it is like this: when one is hurting so much internally (which is often invisible pain to the outside world), hurting yourself physically takes some of that pain away. You create one pain to reduce the other pain.
I’d like to make it clear that I certainly don’t condone or encourage anyone to self-harm, but if you are reading this and you’re someone who has a history or is presently doing it then I strongly encourage you to find another way to release your pain. Journal. Take up boxing. Paint. Go to a Greek restaurant and smash plates. Whatever it may be find another way to channel your pain.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t self-harm but has a friend or family member that does, don’t bombard them with questions about why they do it or treat them differently because of it, and most importantly don’t ever tell someone they are doing it for attention.
Maybe they are doing it as a cry for help so what? Instead of belittling them over it give them the attention that they are asking for. Be there for them. Let them know that they can come to you, because sometimes all someone needs is a person they trust to talk to and hug.
I’m sure it would surprise many to hear that eight years on I still suffer from depression, it’s different to the way I felt it as a 16 year old but it’s still there.
I guess in some ways some things haven’t changed because I’m still a little apprehensive to openly admit to people when I’m not feeling my best mentally and instead I put a little smile on my face and try to act like I have everything together.
But on the other hand, one thing that is different now compared to when I was 16 is my willingness to open up about my mental health in times when it’s not affecting me, even if it is by writing blog posts at the moment. I think this is because I now see the importance of talking about topics such as mental health and trying to remove the stigma attached to them – and partly because I can some what hide behind my screen while talking about this topic (it’s less daunting and confronting that’s for sure).
I know the main reason I didn’t talk to those around me when I first started feeling low is because I was embarrassed; I felt like a failure and was suffering something that was too taboo to talk about. Mostly I felt like a burden to everyone, and felt that I’d bring shame to my family.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some days where I feel paralysed; I have zero motivation and energy to do anything, I can’t get dressed, I spend the day lying in bed or on the sofa crying uncontrollably.
But there is one thing I do know: no matter how bad today might feel, the sun will always rise tomorrow.
This is a little reminder I try to tell myself when I’m having those low days, the ones where things feel like they’re a little too much to handle. I’m sure many might think it’s a bit cliché but to me the idea of a sunrise tomorrow gets me through the rough times, so here’s my permanent reminder that I can look down at when I need to.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this post:
- It’s ok to not feel ok,
- It’s also ok to ask for help whether it’s from a friend, family member or professional,
- If you have a friend/family member that is suffering from depression (or any form of mental health) be there for them, reach out to them regularly and make sure they know they aren’t a burden,
- Let’s get rid of the stigma and taboo associated with talking about mental health.
There you have it, the briefest of brief insights into mental health and how I’ve experienced it. Stay tuned for part 2 of this topic where I’m going to talk about self-care and the ways you can help yourself out of those ruts.
Coming soon… Part 2: Self-Care – 100 Things To Do To Make Yourself Feel Good.