mental health awareness week – an honest review of myself

Well, it’s mental health awareness week and I thought, rather than pretending to be uber happy in some “look how far I’ve come” post, the best way to raise awareness of mental health issues is to be honest.

And, seeing as the theme is ‘surviving or thriving’, I’m here telling the truth and admitting that in some ways I am thriving and in other ways I am not, I am simply surviving.

Let’s take my appearance for example. I’m eating. I’m eating more than I feel I should, I’m snacking, I’m binging. But I hate the way I look; I look in the mirror and see ‘FAT’ plastered all over it. I want so badly to be skinny but I also eat way too much and I’m too tired to get to the gym most days and I don’t even know why I’m so tired because I’m sleeping well. But I do know why I’m tired; I’m tired because of my depression, it does affect me in the same way any other illness like flu might. And I’m in this cycle because I hate myself and the way I look, so I eat my feelings, literally. It’s horrible and it’s what I need to work on at the moment. At least I can recognise that.

I have phenomenal friends; there are genuinely some incredible people in my life, however there are also not so incredible people in my life. And I have been learning which is which since coming to university. There are people I can just ‘be’ with, we can just sit in my room and mellow out and not need any words. There are people who give me the best laughs of my life. There are people who make me feel important. So yeah, some fantastic people. So, I just have to focus on those instead of the not so fantastic people.

I feel the happiest I have been in a long time and yet also, at times, the emptiest I have ever felt. Most of the time, I’m happy; I think for once in my life I really, truly am just happy. And I can admit for the first time publicly, I am happy on my own. I am content. Content is the best word to describe it because happy does still feel a little too strong of a word to describe myself. I think that’s possibly why I notice the emptiness more, because I’m embracing the fact that I am on my own. I’ve learnt to realise that emptiness, though bad in itself, isn’t always the worst in the world. It can be moved through, you have to admit to yourself that you are lonely, and question what you need to do about it. If, when I ask myself why I feel lonely, I am able to actually do something about it, I will. But, if it’s out of my control, you just have the ride through that wave of emotion. There’s no point fighting it because you just won’t win if there is nothing you can do about it. By “nothing you can do about it” I mean when the loneliness goes beyond just wanting to be in someone’s company, or you can’t be in someone’s company, etc. So, I just go with my thoughts – it’s mindfulness – I have the thought, acknowledge it, and then do what I can with it.

Sometimes it is hard and, right now, some aspects of my mental health are a lot harder than others; but it isn’t all bad. Like I said, for the first time I can honestly say I have moments where I feel true, genuine happiness, even if they are fleeting moments sometimes. For the first time since being ill I can see real hope.

a message about self harm

Okay, so let’s start this off with a massive disclaimer saying this is NOT for attention. This is a PSA to educate people so that others don’t have to keep facing this issue. Also a disclaimer to say I have the best parents and brothers supporting me and this does not reflect any of their views towards self harm at all – they have always been the most understanding and caring people.

Self harm of any sort, whether it be cutting, scratching, burning, fasting or purging etc, is not attention seeking. People who put themselves through that pain regularly are not doing it for kicks. They are not just crying out for help. Sure, sometimes it might be a cry for help as well, but it goes far deeper than that.

The difficulty here is that I cannot speak for other people, so the only real way I can explain this would probably come across as attention seeking in itself. But I’m not going to tell you a personal story which could be construed in that way, I’m just going to explain the general mentality behind self harm. Obviously I cannot cover every detail and these things won’t apply to everyone but I just hope this will open some people’s eyes to the truth behind self harm.

Some people self harm as a release, in order to let out emotions such as sadness, anger, and even in some cases a level of joy. Without this release they can feel trapped, suffocated and scared. Some people self harm to punish themselves and, mostly, this is due to low self-worth which will only be lowered if they are then accused of doing it for something as silly as a bit of short-lived attention. Others self harm to try to feel something, anything, because they have reached an extreme of numbness. And some self harm because that’s just how they cope, and there doesn’t have to be any other reason behind it.

At the end of the day, if you’re self harming instead of committing suicide, you’re that little bit stronger than you could have been and the last thing you need is someone accusing you of doing it for attention. I’d far rather use that as a coping mechanism than give up entirely on life, wouldn’t you? So, why do people make us feel like childish attention seekers when in reality we’re doing everything we can to get by? You are not helping the situation at all by accusing us of just wanting attention, there is no beneficial outcome of that.

Yes, some people do it for attention, for some it is a cry for help. But it is by no means fair to make the assumption that it is attention seeking over a genuine emotional coping mechanism, that is like making the assumption that all people with lung cancer have smoked. Yes, it can be the case but it is not always right and it is unfair on those who don’t fit the assumption and are belittled for it. Eventually, those who do it for attention tend to get the attention they needed and stop, or they admit they were doing it for attention. Whereas those who self harm for the reasons I have mentioned above or any other reason tend to continue beyond just ‘getting that attention’ from people about it. It is not a game of look at my arm of cuts, or look how my teeth have rotted from purging, or look at the cigarette burns on my hand. These signs are not there to be showcased, they are just there on our bodies and we don’t need you to doubly point them out to us and then go on to assume it has all been done for attention. So don’t make that assumption, please. Don’t think that if you come over and give us attention about it we will all magically be cured and never self harm again because that’s not how mental health works. No two brains are the same.