Life · Mental Health

The Truth About Living With Mental Illness.

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For a long time I used this blog as a platform to write about my life. It was a place of freedom. It was a space where I could write down the uncensored and vulnerable musings of my experiences, to share a little piece of my world with others. Then, last year, I had to step away. I had to stop sharing my opinions, views and experiences on this blog because of the profession I chose. I had to distance myself from the online world, due to my words being misconstrued and misinterpreted by others. My voice was silenced. But now I feel ready to share again. Starting with the truth about what it is really like living with a mental illness. If you are offended by swearing or uncomfortable about the topic of mental illness, then you better look away and find another blog to follow because shit is about to get real. 

If you break your leg, the immediate reaction you receive from others is sympathy, empathy and understanding. They want to know what happened, how long your recovery will be, is there anything that they can do and will your leg ever be the same again. You get a chorus of “Oh, you poor thing, it must really hurt.” People gather around to sign your cast, send you get well soon cards and hold on to you as you wobble your way through recovery.

If only mental illness was treated in the same way.

The shitty truth is. We still live in a world of stigma and denial, a world where people are forced to believe that the only way to deal with mental illness is to shut up, cheer up and take a pill that will numb how you feel. It is unbelievable that despite the fact that 1 in 4 human beings on the planet are suffering with a mental illness, it is still shunned as an unimportant inconvenience and the bottom of everyone’s priority list. Why is the idea of being mentally unwell so difficult for us to talk about?

Well, whether you like it or not, I’m going to talk about it.

I’m human. We are all human. We are supposed to feel, think, do and be. We are emotional creatures. We all cry, scream, smile and laugh. We all feel guilt, jealousy, happiness, anger, loneliness and sadness. We all want to love and be loved. Life is a mixture of darkness and light, good and bad times, achievement and failure, love and pain. We all struggle at some point in our lives. So why do we still fall silent when we hear the words ‘mental health?’ Why is there still a wall of secrecy that people feel they have to hide behind? Why do we still consider a connection to Wi-Fi more important than the connection to ourselves and others? Why, in this modern society, can we be surrounded by people but still feel alone?

Lets start at the beginning of my mental health journey… Anxiety came first. At the age of 18, I developed an anxiety disorder – GAD (general anxiety disorder). It was the beginning of a difficult journey for me, years of panic attacks, mental breakdowns but also many mental breakthroughs. Then, a few years later, my anxiety made a friend, called depression.

Living with two mental illnesses was like standing in the middle of a pair of scales, waiting to see which side tipped first.

I could feel hopeless, useless and unmotivated one day and stressed, manic and agitated the next. It can sometimes feel like I am fighting a losing battle but most days, I find the strength to win. It took me a long time to accept that I have two mental illnesses. No one wants to believe that they are sick. No one wants to be anything less than perfect in this fucked up society that we live in, I was no exception. Only when I actually accepted that what I had was an illness, something beyond my control, something that was universal and not only affecting me but millions of other people, that’s when I started to believe that no matter what, I would be okay.

I have found strength in knowing that I am not alone in my struggle. I surround myself with people I know won’t judge me, they hold me as I cry, listen as I pour my heart out and release the fears and worries that weigh me down. Those people know who they are and without them, I don’t think I would still be here.

Living with a mental illness is hard, living with two can sometimes be unbearable. There is no sugar-coating it. It’s fighting with yourself every single day. It’s trying to silence the negative voices in your head. It’s trying to get through the day without crying. It’s analysing every word of a conversation and worrying about it weeks later. It’s laying awake at night not sleeping or staying in bed and sleeping too much. It’s hoping and praying that things will get better.  It’s fighting for a reason to stay alive.

Do you want to know what the hardest part of living with mental illness is? Keeping it a secret.

When people ask how you are and you respond with ‘I’m fine.’ You’re not fine. You just don’t want to burden those around you with your pain. You don’t want people to judge you. You don’t want to feel the stigma of others. It shouldn’t be this way… but unfortunately it is.

Living with a mental illness is like living in a cage that you can’t escape. It’s messy and complicated. It’s also fucking painful. One day I can be on top of the world, smiling, laughing, sharing positive pictures on my Facebook feed and the next, I could be crying hysterically, clutching my chest, forgetting how to breathe.

My disorder is not a decision. I am not choosing to feel this way.

Sometimes it takes all of my strength to get through the day. My biggest achievement on a bad day might be having a shower and getting dressed. Over the years, I have learned that running away, hiding from my own feelings, smiling and pretending I am okay to please others, only makes my illness worse. The most important lesson I have learned is:

You can’t stop the waves from coming, but you can learn to ride them.

Now, I ride the wave, I feel every emotion no matter how strong it is and wait for the storm pass. I speak up and no longer feel ashamed. I am choosing to blog about my struggles, I am choosing to write poetry about it, I am choosing to be a mental health ambassador to not only help others but help myself.

The only way we will see change is if we fight for it. It was time for me to speak up. Be one voice among the many that will play a small part in that change. 

Opinion

Society Has Killed The True Meaning Of Beauty

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Society has not only changed the way we look at the world but the way that we look at ourselves. We live in a society driven by advertisements and media. From a young age we are bombarded with images of the media’s perception of beauty. We never learn the real definition of beauty. Instead we have computer generated airbrushed images forced upon us, our TV screens filled with advertisements for beauty products, they persuade us to buy makeup to cover up our natural beauty.  Our perception of beauty has been distorted by the media and it is only going to get worse. The idea of beauty will never be the same, the damage has already been done.

There are thousands of young girls out there right now, flicking through the pages of their favourite Vogue magazine, hoping and wishing to look like the girl on the cover. It’s wrong. At that age you believe that the images on the cover are the definition of perfect. I know this because I used to be one of them. I was obsessed with the idea of looking like the young celebrities that were the same age as me but were twice as beautiful, with airbrushed skin and fully made faces, I, like many other girls believed it was what they actually looked like. Obviously as I grew up and I discovered the truth but it doesn’t stop the influence that the media has had on my self esteem.

Society would probably say that I am not beautiful. They would say that my eyes were too big, my eyebrows were not perfectly shaped and I had too many curves to even consider being a model. But that’s not true. I used to believe these misconceptions about myself. I would loathe myself in the mirror, wishing I looked like the young celebrities and actresses that I admired. Now of course I have become comfortable in my own skin. Yes, my eyes are big but they are also my best feature. My eyebrows might not be perfect but I have grown to accept them and as for my curves, I like them too. It makes me feel like a woman. Being a size zero is nothing to be proud of.  I recently saw a post on my Facebook news feed of a girl showing off that she finally fit back into her size zero jeans. She was perfectly proportioned before but now, her legs look like barbie legs. It’s ridiculous. No one should be striving to be a size zero, it’s  unhealthy. Surprisingly, a large percentage of men actually say that they prefer curvier women. So eat that cookie girls, it isn’t going to make you fat.

Something that also concerns me is the way that women present themselves in today’s society. They not only believe that makeup and fake tan will make them beautiful but they believe that dressing provocatively is the only way to receive male attention. Of course sex sells and the media knows this all too well. Exposing cleavage, pouting at the camera and wearing leotards and hot pants. This is what the women of today think is sexy. It’s a sad realization that the days of women respecting themselves is officially over. What happened to the image of women such as Marilyn Monroe? A classy, curvy and attractive woman that is still admired today for her natural beauty. One of her most famous quotes states that imperfection is beauty. But why is it every woman is constantly reminded of her imperfections? How are we supposed to be powerful, confident women when all we see is negative images of what beauty is and what beauty isn’t?

I believe that everyone is beautiful. I believe that I am beautiful. That isn’t me being conceited. I believe that I am a beautiful person. I may not have the prettiest face or the smoothest skin but I have a beautiful personality. I know this now. It has took me a very long time to accept myself. But what about the women that can’t accept themselves? They fall into a downward spiral of self-loathing and low self esteem. People are surprised by the amount of young girls with eating disorders. Are you really surprised? With images of what beauty ‘should’ look like forced in their faces, how are they ever going to feel comfortable in their own skin? What little girls don’t understand is the girl on the front cover of Vogue that they admire, that has pins for legs has been edited tirelessly on photo shop after the actual shot has been taken.

I am blaming society for poisoning our minds with their toxic image of beauty. Beauty cannot be defined. Everything is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful. The colour of the sky, the way a flower blooms in the spring and the image of a rainbow – all of these things are beautiful. Everybody believes that the world is beautiful but why can we not accept that every person is beautiful too? Tall, short, fat, thin, freckles, dark skin, light skin, curvy, green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair – everyone is beautiful. People will call you ugly but it is society that is ugly, not you. I am going to live my life believing that I am beautiful, I don’t care what anyone else thinks because life is too short to believe that you are worthless. Unfortunately, that is how society makes us feel – worthless. Society has killed the true meaning of beauty.

Taylor Swift hit the nail on the head when she said that ‘Beauty is sincerity. There are so many ways that a person can be beautiful.’ Never believe that you are not good enough. Never look in the mirror and say I hate myself, I am ugly or I am worthless – you’re not. You are beautiful. Believe this and you will live a beautiful life. We live in a society that only embraces their vision of beauty but there are many visions of beauty. Like a spectrum of colours we are all different and we all have our own identities. Don’t let society kill your definition of beauty. See the beauty in the little things, see the beauty in other people and most importantly – see the beauty in yourself.