Monday, 27 March 2017

Let's Discuss: Mental Health

I know it gets better but sometimes it's hard to see it!

With the popularity of Netflix's new show  13 Reasons Why, I though there's no better time to write this post that I've been putting off writing for a long long time.  

The issues that the show brings up, and what I'm about to discuss are extremely important topics to talk about.  I'm hoping that with more people being open in talking about mental health, the less stigma there will be surrounding it!  So without further adieu, here's my story, I hope this might help someone out there! 

Netflix's 13 Reasons Why really resonated with me when I binge watched it on Netflix last week.  I seen so much of my teenage self in Hannah Baker and many other characters in the show.  And I'm not long out of school yet, and I remember the struggles associated with being a teenager.  Sometimes it can be tough, trying to make friends, figuring out who you are, who you like and who you want to be can take a lot out on your mental health.  Top that off with school work and drama that never seems to be far away in school, and its a recipe for destruction.  I know that's how it felt for me back when I was in school.  

Feelings of depression, anxiety, inadequacy and uncertainty.  These are the feelings I felt the most throughout my secondary school years, at the height of my battle with mental illness.  I turned to self-harm more times than once to try and cope with the fluctuating feelings of somewhere between nothing at all and everything all at once.  Thankfully I can say I now feel nowhere near as bad as I felt back then, and I can cope better and spot the signs of my mental health deteriorating quicker. However some of the feelings I've felt lately are still a little to close for comfort.  This year is my final year of college, and over the last few months feelings I haven't felt so strongly in a very long time have been raising their ugly heads up again and it scared me.  

I think it may be due to the pressures I put on myself to be "the best" I can be.  But it's also got a lot to do with the stresses  everyone faces in final year.  And honestly its feeling uncertain, and always second guessing myself that I find most difficult to cope with.  I've been bogged down for months with final year projects and dissertations, and the stresses have many times taken a toll on my mental well-being. 

Trying to apply for jobs, like everyone else, I have been stressed out thinking: what area do I want to work in; how will I pay rent when most places are only offering unpaid internships; will I have to move back home; will anyone even want to hire me.  Other things like where am I going to live, am I going to stay in Ireland, or will I move away, and who will I leave behind if I do have also been stressing me out. 

The pressures I've been putting on myself lately are similar to the pressures I felt during my secondary school years have once again been taking a toll on my mental health.  I've had more days than I can count where I just wanted to give up and not go on with it anymore.  I've had days where I've cried loudly and for so long and began having panic attacks again.  I've had days where I've just started to cry for no real reason other than the fact that I'm stressed and overwhelmed by everything that's happening. 

All this stress and uncertainty has caused me to begin feeling anxious and depressed again at times, and made me feel like it all just wasn't worth it and that I should just give up.  However, something I've learned over the years, and something 13 Reasons Why showed brilliantly, is that there is always more life after the bad times, and the bad times aren't the end of the world.    

Still, even now (and back then) I often think that I don't deserve to feel the way I do, because I'm lucky I have a great life, and great people in my life.  My parents are overly good to me and help me out with everything they can, my friends too, and I know a lot of people that don't have the same level of support that I do who might see my thinking as being irrational.  But something everyone including myself needs to remember, is that mental illness doesn't tend to be rational.  

Recently a friend told me how bogged down she was by everything that this year has thrown at her, and told me that we can be in this together.  Having someone say that out loud made me feel better.  But that was short lived because then I started to feel bad because I know I still have less to worry about than she does, but I felt like I wasn't coping as well as her.  

I don't know if anyone else does this, but I constantly compare my situation to other people's and make myself feel worse because I feel like I have less to deal with, but cope with it worse than the people around me.  Even though to them, I'm probably the one who's coping well with everything.    

When I'm in a good head space those thoughts are far and few between, and I'm able to calm myself down and tell myself off for thinking that way.  But with so much going on in my life over the last year, it became increasingly more difficult to stop myself thinking in this way that is so detrimental to my mental health.  Something that bothers me a lot is that I know how to be positive and how to shake the negative thoughts and feelings, but sometimes my brain chooses to overlook this and concentrate on the bad, which is not good for anyone.  

Because of this and other things, this year I have tried to be a ray of positivity and happiness for all my friends, and be as happy and helpful as I can be.  I know from previous experiences seeing other people happy and knowing I've contributed to that in turn makes me feel happy. By helping other people see the positives, it reassures me that there is still things to be positive about.   And I get this weird sense of self-gratification knowing I've brightened someone else's day, even just a little. 

I also felt the need to do this as a way of giving back to the people who have helped me to become stronger as a person, and more capable of dealing with my mental illness.  I feel like finally I can help others to hopefully never feel the ways I have felt, and if they do feel that way to be the person who they can talk to and help them through the bad times so they don't ever feel alone.  I think I do this because I know all too well how it feels to feel depressed, and anxious and scared and alone, and I wish that no one else would ever have to feel that way.  

The message that I really want to get across in this blog post is that life is hard sometimes, and sometimes things affect you strongly and make you feel depressed, scared, uncertain and anxious.  But that's not any reason to give up.  Keep pushing forward, keep working hard, and keep doing your best and the rest will follow.  

Sometimes you need good people around to bring you back up when you feel like you've been flattened by the weight of all your worries.  I'm lucky that I have some of the best people around me that help me everyday, even if they don't know it.  Like the way that I feel the need to make my friends feel happy and see the positives, even if I can't.  Helping them see this, in turn helps me to see it too.  

I hope this post would reach people everywhere who have ever struggled with their mental health. But even if it helps one or two people I would count that as a victory!  To people who are in work, college or school and feeling overwhelmed by the workload they have to get through I want you to know that you are not alone.  I've felt so alone at times in the dark cloud that mental illness shrouds you in, I know it can be hard to feel like there's anyone at all out there who can understand you, let alone help.  

But any problem you're having can be fixed.  A problem is only the end of the world if you let it be.  Sometimes that's hard to see that, I've been through it, I know it gets better if you work at it.  It takes a lot of work sometimes, and you really have to pull yourself up by the boot straps and work hard at being happy.  

When I was in secondary school I thought the Leaving Cert and the secondary school drama's like who's with who, and what this person said were the be all and end all of my life.  I was wrong.  Yes these things seem important when you're going through them, yes that fight with your best friend feels like the end of the world, yes failing that test makes you feel stupid, but they're not the end of the world I promise.  

I think as a teenager, it can sometimes be hard to put into perspective what is important and what isn't.  I also think it can be so hard to stand up for yourself or others out of fear of not being cool or being seen as weird and a loser.  I had those fears all the time back then, I saw, said and did things that likely hurt other people, just like what happened in 13 Reasons Why, and I never really considered the consequences.  But looking back now, I wish there were things I had said and done differently that maybe would have brightened someones day, just like what I really needed back then. 

If people were able to become more considerate of others, and see that we all struggle and we all go through hard times, but helped instead of looked on, I think it could benefit everyone.  Life gets better, back then I thought I'd never get out of my small town and go to college or make any new friends because I had no confidence and thought I wasn't a likeable person.  But here I am four years later, almost finished college, after leaving my hometown, and making some of the best friends I ever could have found.  

It can be hard to see sometimes, and dark thoughts can cloud your mind and skew your judgement, but it really does get better.  It can get bad again too, but you have to remember that it does get better, and a negative attitude helps no one.  

I want people to know, any problem you're having, any struggle you're dealing with can be helped.  If you can talk to someone, anyone.  A friend, a family member, a doctor, someone you've just met.  Honestly I think everyone needs to make themselves available to talk to someone in need, and lend an ear.  Just voicing your problems halves the weight they put on your shoulders. Sure things might not get better instantly, sure there might be set backs along the way, but if you end it all you never give yourself the chance for things to get better, or to feel happy again.  

Find out what works for you to imporve your mental wellbeing, and stick to it.  Be it medication, meditation, exercise or talking.  There is a remedy out there for everyone, and your situation can be helped, as long as you look for help, and are willing and ready to receive it.  

With the level of suicide in this country being one of the highest in Europe, I hope this post can show people that it's okay to not feel okay sometimes.  That everyone has times of stress and sadness, but not getting the help you need when you're feeling that way is not okay, and suicide is not the answer.  

Find something that brings you joy, and happiness.  Be it art, running, yoga, swimming, reading, talking, walking or writing.  Having an outlet to put your feelings into can give you an immense sense of relief. 

I know it's cheesy but to anyone reading this blog, I am here for you.  My email address is on my blog, my social media too.  If you feel like you have no one and you can't cope any longer, please feel welcome to reach out to me.  I may not be able to fix your problem there and then, but I promise I will listen, and I promise I will care.

If more people could make a pledge like this, to just listen to other people's problems, and really hear them out, I think it could help.  I'm sure it can.  That's all I've ever wanted when I feel that way, and if you've seen 13 Reasons Why, you'll know that's all Hannah Baker really needed.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you do, it has lessons in it that I think everyone could learn from.  

Please don't turn to suicide no matter how lost, uncertain, anxious, depressed or otherwise you feel.   I cannot stress enough how it is NOT the answer.  You don't even understand how many people care about you until it's too late and you can't see it.  I've seen too many great people lose their lives that way, and seen the sadness of my friends and family that losing that person brought.  Please, I beg you, you can get through anything, be strong.  

Being happy is hard sometimes, but trust me being depressed and anxious and hiding it is a lot harder. IT GETS BETTER, I PROMISE!  It might be hard to see it sometimes, but I promise you, help is available, happiness is for everyone, all you have to do is remember YOU ARE AMAZING AND YOU CAN DO THIS!! 



If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental illness,  or is at risk of suicide or self-harm here are a few places that offer help and support.  Stay safe and don't be afraid to ask for help, if one person doesn't listen keep looking until someone does. You are worth it.

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