Let's Talk About Mental Health

IMG_6873.jpg

Some of you may know that this week marks Mental Health Awareness Week. It's absolutely amazing to see so many people talking so openly about mental health and so today I wanted to contribute to the conversation. I've made no secret of the fact that this past year has been incredibly tough for me. Trying to process my grief around losing Blossom, whilst also seeing the rest of my family so heartbroken has required a level of strength that at times has felt far beyond me. Add to that incredibly low moods, PTSD and the return of my horrid little anxiety goblin, and you can probably see that it hasn't been all fun and games around here.

It's only now that I'm feeling a little bit stronger that I can see truly see how unwell my poor little mind has been recently. While the grief I feel is still enormous, the mental fog has started to lift and my natural optimism and positivity has started to return. But for a few months, I felt like a shadow of the person I have always been. I lost track of what was going on in my friends' lives and felt constantly guilty about not being there for them. My confidence took a massive knock - I felt anxious and uneasy at work and was constantly second guessing myself. I lived on a diet of ready meals and takeaways because I had no energy to cook a proper meal and our house was always a mess.

I'm an energetic, upbeat, sociable person, but for weeks on end I would get home from work and crawl straight back into bed. I was forever exhausted from the awful night terrors that prevented me from getting any sleep. I couldn't concentrate on anything for longer than twenty minutes and I constantly felt on the brink of tears. I can't quite describe the haunting sensation of feeling both completely overwhelmed and totally paralysed at the same time, but it's something that makes me shiver to think about now.

I think for me, one of the hardest things was trying to separate what was a natural symptom of grief, something that would pass with time, and what was a sign that there might be something else at play. I couldn't shake the feeling that the very essence of my personality was slipping away and that terrified me. It was lonely and confusing and completely paralysing.

I'm exceptionally lucky to have been raised in a family who speak openly and honestly about mental health, without any judgement or stigma, but I still put off opening up about how I was feeling. I think because I knew so many of the people I loved were hurting even more than I was, it felt selfish to speak up and ask for help. I can see now how silly that was - there is no heirarchy where mental health is concerned, and the only way to start feeling better is to seek the help that you need.

With a bit of encouragement from my boyfriend, I booked a doctor's appointment and discussed how I was feeling with my GP. I saw a counsellor for a couple of months which helped immensely - I cannot stress how much of a difference it made to have someone completely neutral to talk to about everything that was going on in my head. She was utterly brilliant, and while it was difficult at times, opening up to her made me feel a lot less lonely. She also taught me that guilt is a completely useless emotion, and that putting myself first in order to get better wasn't selfish, but entirely necessary.

When I look back now at how I felt in December or January, I feel like a totally different person. I still have bad days where everything feels too much, but I know now that they are triggered by my grief rather than anything else. I feel so much stronger mentally - my confidence is slowly starting to build again and I no longer feel permanently on edge. I know that I still need to be careful not to spread myself too thinly and I am still prioritising self care and down time - I truly understand how crucial it is for my health now.

During the lowest times, writing this blog was one of the only things that came naturally to me. There was something about trying to put my feelings into words and working on something that I had full autonomy over that helped me to slowly start to heal, and I will be forever grateful for every wonderful comment, kind tweet and generous message of support for helping me to feel less alone.

And that's exactly why I wanted to write this post today - because a quick glance at any blog or Instagram grid might portray a rosy, happy life, but that doesn't mean we don't all have our own troubles under the surface. Knowing that we all go through tough times can make life feel a little bit less lonely, and I hope that by being honest about my own struggles, I can contribute to the conversations that will ultimately beat the stigma attached to mental health.