Following a challenging period at the beginnging of 2017 when my mental health took a complete and utter nosedive, I started to become really interested in understanding different aspects of health, mental health and ways that individuals can work towards finding the things that best support them in their own journey to feeling well.
I, like a lot of people, have been surrounded by challenges with mental health for most of my life whether that’s my own, family members’ or friends’, or from online communities and wider discussions around the topic.
Following an anxiety diagnosis and prescription for medication, I wanted to try out other ways that might help me to feel better able to manage my emotions. I was open to at least trying most things that might help me as I believe it’s important to invest that time and energy into yourself and your own happiness.
I thought I might share some of the things that I tried, whether they helped me and what I took from different experiences. If you’re struggling with your own mental health this might help to give you some ideas of things you could try to help improve your wellbeing but, as always, this is just what I experienced and you should always talk to a professional and find your own individual path to manage your mental health.
I visited the Doctor
This was huge for me at the time, but I know it was absolutely the right thing to do. Admitting to a professional that I wasn’t okay was the first step in me actually acknowledging that I wasn’t okay, rather than burying it under a joke. It helped me to recognise that the feelings I was having weren’t because I was a faulty human, but because I had a very recognisable illness.
I adopted a cat
This might seem like a bit of a curve-ball but honestly, it’s one of the best things I ever did for my health and continues to be a huge source of happiness for me. Adopting Poe (my little three year old black cat) immediately gave me something else to focus on every morning when I got out of bed. Just looking at him makes me smile and it’s a feeling that never goes away.
I stepped outside of my comfort zone
When you realise that your comfort zone, in fact, isn’t all that comfortable anyway, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to just give something a go. I can be pretty shy, it’s just part of my character, but I realised that nobody could make me feel worse than I was already making myself feel so I started saying yes to things like meeting new people, going new places and trying new things.
I started reading
I wanted to stop wasting away my time scrolling online and instead focus my mind on something that I enjoyed. I rekindled my love for reading but also found a whole new interest in self-help books and insights into the medical world. It provides me a valuable, interesting distraction that doesn’t leave me feeling deflated.
I started writing
And so this blog was born! I had always been too nervous/embarrassed/anxious to set up a blog. I thought I didn’t have anything to say and that nobody would want to read it. However, I realise now that writing is a great tool for me. I enjoy the process and it helps me to feel that I have achieved something. If someone reads it and likes it at the end, well that’s just a bonus!
I started talking
I feel like I started talking about my challenges with mental health and haven’t stopped. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a slow, gradual process – and often a painful one. I still feel the apprehension around talking about mental health but now I realise it’s nothing to be ashamed of, most people have some connection to it and also I’d much rather be a part of the movement helping to change the conversation around mental health.
Getting better can hurt
The process of ‘getting better’ or at least learning how to manage my own mental health is not always easy. It’s not linear and you’ll never be completely ‘done’ learning or growing. A lot of becoming ‘well’ is also about recognising what’s hurting you and changing it. It might mean leaving people behind, admitting things you don’t want to, accepting difficult truths and pushing yourself to make the changes that need to happen. It hurts, but I like to think of it as part of the process of growth and that, in the end, it will be worth it.
Sometimes the changes are easier than you think
I have a tendency to expect the worst of a situation (catastrophising, anyone?) so it also means that I often expect the ‘answer’ or the thing that could help alleviate the problem to be a HUGE, impossible task. However, when I stop to think logically about what I can do to improve a situation it’s usually nowhere near as challenging as I first thought. It’s always the first step that takes the most effort.
You have to let go
Letting go of who I think I am is the only way I’ve been able to move towards who I actually am and who I want to be. The more I let go of who I thought I was or thought I should be, the more I learn new things about myself and realise I am brave enough to try new things.
What have you found useful in your own journey?
Managing your own wellbeing is such a personal path and may come with a lot of trial and error, but learning from others’ experiences can be a great way to find out what does and doesn’t work for you. Let’s chat!