Its Mental Health Awareness Week and whenever these sorts of things come around, I feel an incredible amount of pressure to create content based on it. Unfortunately though, I have’t had much time or mental space to allow my thoughts to flow, so I apologise that this post is coming to you pretty late in the week.
Although I talk about mental health daily off my own back, for some reason when I have to (or feel like I have to) talk about it, words often fail me. I’ve basically been umm’ing and ahh’ing for days on what to post about today. Trauma? My eating disorder? Depression? There are so many avenues to mental health that I want to talk about, but my heart is saying ‘talk about your mental health improvements’, so that’s what I’m gonna do!
For the past month or so, I’ve felt like I’ve turned a huge, GIANT corner when it comes to my mental health. If you didn’t know (you probs do lol) I have previously suffered with anxiety, depression, self harm, and eating/body image issues. And in the summer of 2016 I was diagnosed with PSTD and an eating disorder. Its been a long ol’ slog to reach the point where I’m at right now, and although its been bloody hard, fucking hell has it been worth it.
I’ve been completely rock bottom, staring at an empty open river, thinking about jumping in. I’ve sat in bed crying for hours, with a blade in my hand willing and willing for my thoughts to stop. And I’ve purged my meal up straight before a dance exam, because I didn’t want the examiner to think I was fat. My mental health at one point completely dominated every aspect of my life. It drained me but drove me at the same time, and although I was so unwell, my demons became my best friends. It’s only in the last year since beginning therapy, that have I been able to really face my problems and shed the grey cloud thats been following me around for as long as I can remember. If you’re interested in my journey with therapy so far, then please read this post.
So the improvements you ask?
Well, I’d say that I’ve emerged myself in recovery and I’m managing my illness well (smashing it if I’m honest). I have my down days, don’t get me wrong, but 95.% of the time, I feel free and light and like I can achieve anything. I’ve worked out my triggers – stress being a HUGE one so I am prepared for a wobbly week if I have an intense workload, and if I can eliminate things that cause me stress I do. It feels so good that I love myself enough now to put myself first and make my health a priority. I don’t feel overwhelmed with my issues and trauma anymore and that for me, is a HUGE accomplishment. I’ve learnt to communicate how I feel to my family and friends, so they understand what I’m going through and in turn can support me when needed. I’m also not angry anymore. Well, maybe a lil bit lol, but its not consuming like it once was. My childhood trauma was SO hard for me to accept and because I couldn’t really place the blame anywhere, I ended up feeling angry and bitter and like the adults in my childhood owed me something. But along my journey I realised that holding on to things that make you feel bad, is damaging and more often than not, you must learn to let them go.
Another improvement is with my food. My eating disorder plays out in binge eating, but with an anorexic or restrictive mindset. I had developed an unwell relationship with food because I used it as a way to cope with suppressed thoughts, feelings and trauma. Now that I’ve processed all that trauma, my eating has become a lot more positive and I’m beginning to eat more intuitively. Don’t get me wrong, I still have unwell thoughts around calories and carbs etc, but I replace them with loving kind thoughts like ‘I’m eating this because I fancy it’ or ‘I’m eating this because I deserve lovely food’. I’m eating more varied and I’m eating the foods that I once wouldn’t allow myself to – cereal being one of them. Frosties are so amazing aren’t they lol? All in all, I’ve accepted my illness but I now have the tools to differentiate my thoughts between Grace (me) and bitch (my eating disorder).
The final improvement is realising that self care is absolutely essential in leading a happy life. I can’t even stress this enough but falling in love with self care has pretty much saved me. I obviously had therapy on top, but when I’m alone and in need of support, leaning on self care has got me through the toughest of days. When my depression was at its peak back in 2010, I couldn’t shower or brush my teeth. Sleeping and lying in one position for hours on end was literally all I had the energy and mental capacity to do. Nowadays, you’ll find me doing weekly face masks, booking in for massages, saying no to work when I just need to chill and preparing myself food everyday because I deserve that sort of treatment. Self care is a small thing to most people, but for people like myself, and other mental health sufferers, it can honestly be a lifeline.
And there we have it my beauties. The proof that it DOES get better. It just takes time, resilience and unwavering belief that you deserve to be happy. Truly, happy.
If you’re in a place right now where you can’t help but think ‘this is my life forever’, then I’d like to say to you this;
This isn’t your life forever – I promise you. This is just a difficult and shitty stage where you feel vulnerable and sad and maybe you feel nothing at all, but one day you will see that all of this is making you stronger. All of this is making you a kinder, more compassionate person and you will help others with your story. When you have the courage to walk down the road to recovery – you will realise just how incredible you are. Whether its therapy or medication or something else that will help you, you have fucking got this. It won’t be easy, in fact, it will probably be the hardest thing you ever do, but its worth it and when you find the thing that heals you, utilise it. You’re not your illness and your mental health issues do not define you, they’re just a part of you. Please don’t feel guilty or ashamed even though its easier said than done. And when its all too much for you, take care of yourself and speak to someone. You’re loved, you’re deserving and you are the epitome of bravery. It gets better.
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