Since it’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ve been thinking about some words I’d previously composed and shared online, the theme being that ‘it is okay not to be okay’. I thought this would be a good place to start a blog post on mental health (as this is one of the topics I’d love to write about within this space) and I can’t think of a better segue into this topic than pouring my own heart out. So here goes…
Around a year ago, I opened up on social media about my own struggles and my experiences with poor mental health, following losing my dad at only 20 years old. Prefacing my words with: ‘This is really daunting to share but if it helps someone else then it’s worth it.’, I vividly remember how terrified and nervous I was as I hit ‘post’. I’d never shared such personal information or expressed my own feelings on Instagram or Facebook before. I really felt like I was baring my soul and exposing my vulnerabilities. But in a sea of ‘perfect’ people living their ‘best lives’, I wanted to put myself and my story out there in the hope that it might help someone else. I wanted to normalise mental health struggles and break the stigma surrounding it. I also wanted my close friends and family to understand what I’d been going through deep down, as I’d never actually expressed any of this to them. I was overwhelmed by the response I received and I was so glad I’d shared. I received so many messages from friends (old and new) opening up to me about their own struggles and it really confirmed to me that I’d made the right decision to post about this.
To be honest, I found the experience rather liberating and cathartic as I’d been bottling a lot of this up and keeping it to myself all of these years. Even the experience of writing it all down and getting it out of my head was therapeutic. I felt quite proud of myself for being so open and vulnerable, but most of all I was so pleased that I was able to help others by making them feel that they weren’t alone and giving them someone to talk to. I hope this blog post can have the same impact, even if it’s just on one person.
In early 2011, my whole world was turned upside down and my life came crashing down around me. I lost my dad suddenly and nothing could have prepared me for how tough life was going to be going forward.
Now, I can firmly say that I’ve come out the other side stronger than ever. But that certainly didn’t happen overnight. Throughout the past few years, I’ve really learnt just how resilient I am and I now know that I can handle whatever life throws at me. That’s such an empowering feeling.
Promoting positive mental health is something I’m extremely passionate about. It’s something that is very close to my heart (for personal reasons and also because many people I love and care about have suffered from anxiety or depression at some point in their lives).
While I haven’t suffered from a diagnosable mental illness, my mental health definitely took a massive nosedive when I was grieving (a process that I simply didn’t have the tools to navigate). I spent years feeling totally lost, broken and empty inside and it took me a long time to find myself again.
Suicide isn’t something I’ve ever actively considered, even at my lowest point in the depths of grief. Although, in that instant when my whole world was spinning and came crashing down around me, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to just make the pain go away. Until this point, I’d never truly understood why anyone would consider taking their own life but in these initial moments (upon realising that he was gone) it all made sense to me. ‘If someone can’t foresee any possibility of future happiness (or even normality/the absence of an all encompassing heartache and sadness), then what is the point of living?’, I thought.
People who have only come into my life in recent years (and also people who’ve known me since before this tragic event) will probably struggle to imagine me ever feeling so low but my nearest and dearest can attest to the fact that my grief totally robbed me of ‘me’. I lost myself and became a completely different person – a hollow shell of my former self. I changed from being someone who was full of life and always happy to someone who was completely withdrawn, reserved and introverted. I was unrecognisable and I didn’t want to leave the house or see anyone. The mere thought of someone mentioning my dad crippled me with fear and panic to the point that I simply avoided most human interaction and social situations altogether. I was terrified that if I let the floodgates open and allowed myself to feel the pain, then I would cry and cry and never stop. It took me a long time to let people back into my world and an even longer time to shake the feeling being ‘on edge’ that came with socialising and spending time with others again (even my close friends and family). Thankfully I’ve found ‘me’ again and I’m so glad my zest for life has returned. I can genuinely say that I am truly happy and in love with life again but it was a long process to get here, that’s for sure.
With all of that being said, of course I don’t know exactly what it feels like to suffer from anxiety, depression or the myriad of other mental health struggles that people battle every day (and I won’t pretend I do). Everyone is different and everyone’s struggles are unique. However, I do know what it’s like to struggle mentally and emotionally and to feel like you’ll never be happy again. I want anyone in that situation to know that it is okay not to be okay. It’s okay to feel the way you do. Your feelings are completely valid and you need never feel ashamed of them. Please know that you won’t always feel this way. It may take a lot of time (and a lot of effort) but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m living proof of that!
They say ‘time is a healer’ and I’m not sure I believe in that per se. There will always be a part of my heart that is broken and that’s not a wound that can ever be ‘healed’. Frankly, I don’t think I want it to be. I’m not sure I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t been through what I have. Despite its broken pieces, my heart has expanded and I have so much more capacity for love than I ever did. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person and I’m always seeking more and more self growth. I know my dad would have been proud of the person I’ve become and I honestly don’t know if I would have evolved into this person if I hadn’t experienced the heartache. Not a day goes by now that I take for granted. Grief and sorrow robbed me of too many years of my life and now I’m so grateful for everything and everyone I have every single day.
If anyone who reads this ever wants someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out. I’ll always be happy to listen, talk or help in any way I can.
Lots of Love