Opening Up About Mental Health

I’m not one to complain a lot and it’s not often that my cheery disposition disappears. However, I’d like to consider myself as an honest person and that’s why I must admit to myself out loud that my 2019 has so far been incredibly difficult. To say otherwise would be a lie. I really second guessed posting this piece as it’s perhaps the rawest and most real piece I’ve written to date, leaving me feeling quite vulnerable. Unfortunately life isn’t always so dreamy and light and I truly believe that it’s so important to identify and talk about these difficult periods, as well as the great moments in our lives. Despite the highlight reel we so often present to the world, life can be very tough and overwhelming; words that also describe my 2019 so far. Within these first few months of the new year, I’ve been faced with two people near to me being diagnosed with Cancer as well as a family friend whom was living with depression, sadly taking their own life. With one event happening after the other in only the space of a month, I’ve become painfully aware of how fragile life is. I’m not sure if it’s grief, the process of digesting what’s happening around me or both, but I know that this has been one of the toughest periods I’ve faced in my adult life so far. This has been externally evident too by my many mood swings; flipping between feelings of shock, despair, confusion, sadness, anger, helplessness and loss of control. Over the last few weeks I have been searching the internet hoping to find some words of comfort to ease this anxiety that I’m currently feeling during this period in my life. But somewhere between the frustration of not knowing what to google and overthinking, I now find myself here writing this piece. I find it very difficult to write in my “normal” style when I’m not in a clear headspace, (major props to those who can) so in the past I have opted for not writing at all. However this year I made a pact with myself that no matter what happens in 2019, I would not allow life’s challenges to stop me from writing, as I allowed it to do last year when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, for fear of “bringing people down”. I know that these pieces really help me on so many levels and so I also vowed to myself that I would not just write these “real” posts, but share them with others. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and I hope that by writing my own thoughts and feelings down it will hopefully spark others to examine and speak out about their own feelings. After all, if I – a talker, am not prepared to share my thoughts and feelings, how can I hope that others experiencing similar scenarios (who may also be of an introverted personality), to do the same? I need to be the change I want to see in the world, right?

The word “Cancer” is in itself so heavily weighted and emotionally charged. When you hear the word you uncontrollably begin to imagine the worst as a wave of sadness overcomes you, let alone when it’s a family member or two you may know are battling this awful disease. To my surprise, after a few hours of hearing the news that my aunt had cervical cancer, I quickly adopted a logical mindset. I suspect that this was a coping mechanism to provide support to those around me; the human mind is clever that way. I thought to myself: What are the options? What are the facts? What do we know is certain? This would help me prepare myself and my family for what is to come as well as to be in a mentally good place to support my aunt. The next day I found out that my brother’s future mother-in-law had pancreatic cancer. I was grasping at straws, trying to find some light at the end of tunnel, the right thing to say. Meanwhile the pit in my stomach grew dull, the lump in my throat was rising as I was fighting to hold back the tears which if I let them escape in that moment, I’m not sure when they would have stopped. This was all too much and plain unfair to happen at once. The overarching sadness in the room was confirmed by my family’s silence, and if you know me and my family, silence doesn’t come naturally. I only allowed myself to really cry when it was just my boyfriend and I as this moment wasn’t only about me, there were other family members who needed my love and support more than I did in that very moment.

A month soon passed and everyone’s spirits had been slightly raised as treatment was underway for both of my respective family members. Things weren’t great but there was a glimmer that they may be ok. I was sat at my desk at work desperately trying to complete tasks off my to do list before lunch time, when I was then given the tragic news that a family friend had committed suicide. Before I knew it, my legs were carrying me out of the office. I reached for my phone to message and call my boyfriend and a couple of my best friends. Looking back now I know that I was experiencing a fight or flight response. I felt dizzy, sick and my palms clammed up. I had an insatiable need to cling onto life. I felt like running or punching a boxing bag. I imagined quitting my job on the spot so that I could go ‘live’ my life and not “waste” my time on my to do list. It wasn’t a realistic or rational thought to suddenly quit my job, where I am happy and making good progress, but in that moment I was confronted with clarity of what was important to me. At the same time I was also lost for words despite the flood of emotion I was experiencing. One of my best friends had their own history of depression and reliving that period still remains raw for me. She was one of the first people to come to my mind and I felt compelled to reach out to them on so many levels. I also felt like screaming out in anger as I was furious at the cards 2019 had dealt so far. What was the Universe trying to tell or show me? How is any of this fair? How many more things needed to happen before we could all catch a break, I wanted to yell! The strongest emotion of them all was the immense sadness that overcame me for the family friend themselves who felt that there was no way out of their black and dark hole. Who so tragically chose a permanent solution to a somewhat temporary sadness. For the family who were left behind. The only comfort I could provide for myself was the hope that he was now resting in peace and was pain-free. This news also came a few days after Mike Thalassitis a reality TV star from Love Island had also sadly taken their own life. There was so much media coverage about him and the importance of opening up about mental health. I hoped that this provided the same relief and support to my own family friends. I was saddened to learn that 12 out of 16 people every day in the UK who take their own lives are men. Suddenly my want to write and share this post became even more important, no matter how small my blog may be.

Over the last week I have felt guilty for feeling so sad and frustrated at the world, considering that this isn’t directly happening to me but around me. I’ve felt that I didn’t have a right to be upset to some degree. Or at least that everyone else has a much more of a right than me and I should just ‘get on with it’. Trying to find the balance between “carrying on as normal” – the British thing to do and talking about it as much as possible with family – the European thing to do (I’m of Polish heritage if you didn’t know). Over the last month I’ve become so acutely aware and appreciative of life, that all I want to do is to live in the now, soak up every day and appreciate the small things like when it doesn’t rain, that I had a conversation with someone new today and that I am able to and want to still be here both mentally and physically. I’ve tried to continue with my routine as much as possible, whilst making allowances for some breathing and resting space. I’ve made sure that I allocate time to do things that make me happy. To spend time with those who are dear to me. To not deny myself of seeking happiness. To be vocal and honest with myself about how I’m feeling, no matter how confusing or emotionally overwhelming it has been. I am so grateful to those who have been there to just listen, even when they didn’t know what to say.

I’ve also become aware just how resilient and incredible people really can be and I admire the strength I’ve seen from others around me. Should you find yourself in one of life’s inevitable dark moments, I hope you find the strength you may need to carry you. Although life can be at times unfair, it will keep on going on no matter what you do. It doesn’t give special treatment based upon your bank balance, age or status. I hope this post encourages you check in with yourself and others around you; to open the conversation. Sometimes it really is enough just having someone to listen to you, even if they don’t have the answers and when things do get tough, remember that even in the darkest of times there is light. No matter how much you may feel it, you are never alone.

I’ve listed some charities below you may wish to read or to share with a friend. It’s time to break the stigma.

Macmillan

Mind

Samaritans

 

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