Last week was Mental Health Awareness week, and it was really nice to see people talking about it. Mental health is something that I struggle with, and to be honest, it’s so helpful to talk about. I’m only human, after all, and everyone struggles with mental health in some way. It’s not always so obvious either. People tell me a lot that I’m really positive, which I am, but I’m more than that. I struggle with low moods, and when my mental health is in a state, it has a knock-on effect. I’m writing this post too after having a nice mental health day. I’ve been chilling out at home with a cup of tea, and not a care in the world. Sometimes that’s all it takes to put things to rights.
I will admit that writing this post was really difficult; even when I finished, I was so nervous to hit publish. I’m not always great at articulating my feelings but I do really want to talk about this! My mental health journey started in middle school. I don’t remember too much about it, but I remember seeing a therapist for a few months. My parents were concerned about me; at the time though, I downplayed a lot of things. How I felt like I had no friends, how people at school teased me and treated me horribly. I think I convinced myself that it was all normal, so I kept it in. It stopped being so much of an issue as I got older, and honestly hadn’t really cropped up again until I moved to the UK.
I was so busy working that I forgot to take care of myself…
Before I booked that one way ticket, I was living my life in New York, working constantly and trying to maintain a long distance relationship. I had several jobs on the go, so much so that I hardly had any time for myself, and when I did, I was usually sleeping. Looking back, I can see now how detrimental that was to my mental health. I had no time to recharge, to just be by myself. These are certainly things you learn with experience. Working so much also made the transition from New York City to London all the more difficult. I was working right up until I left. Literally, the day before I got on a plane was my last day at work! Totally nuts right?! I packed up my life, hopped on a plane and started my new life.
I went from working constantly to being alone constantly…
And I found it very difficult to cope. I was unemployed, I had no social circle, and I had very little reason to get out of bed. At the time, I didn’t quite understand that I was suffering from depression, and thus it went unchecked. I was all over the place those first few months. I gained a lot of weight from eating my feelings, Mr.Actually and I were fighting constantly because I couldn’t find another way to express my troubles, and I felt like I had no control. The littlest things would make me cry. It took so much effort to get out of bed and take a shower. I had no purpose, no drive, and no creative outlet. That’s when I started blogging, and finally got a job (I had to apply for a second visa once I was here, and wasn’t allowed to work until that came through). Things got better from there.
I had phases of happiness and sadness that I couldn’t explain…
About a year after I started working, I was still having a bit of a rough time. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I could tell, finally, that something was wrong. So I made an appointment with my GP, and we had a long chat. I started crying at one point because I was just so frustrated with myself. My lovely GP referred me to Talk Together Bromley, and after an initial consultation phone call, I was enrolled in a 6 week CBT course. I talked very openly about this to some people, but I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned it here. For those of you who don’t know, CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s a way to help people deal with their troubles by changing behaviors. Doing CBT made a huge difference, and really helped me get a handle on my mental health.
I felt more in control, and more able to handle my mental health
I’ve learned a lot in the past three or four years about what I need to keep myself mentally healthy. It’s more than just coping when I have low moods; it’s also about giving myself time off, about cutting toxicity from my life, about embracing every aspect of my mental health. Self-care is a big thing for me, which I’ve definitely talked about on the blog before. It’s a constantly changing thing in my life. I’ve also been considering counselling to deal with some unresolved issues I have, like my relationship with food. I’m in a great place now, but I still have bad days, like anyone else. The important thing is that I also have the tools to both cope with, and talk about, those bad days. Not only that, but I’m making a conscious effort to look after my mental health, before the bad days even come.
It’s such an important conversation to have, as mental health affects us all. If you’re interested in looking at some other perspectives, here are some other bloggers who have written posts about the very topic:
‘7 Things I Do To Look After My Mental Health’ by Hannah Gale
‘6 Things I’d Tell My Teenage Self About Mental Health’ by The Curvaceous Vegan
‘Self Care Isn’t Always Pretty’ by Grace Victory