With next week being Mental Health Awareness Week, this month’s focus at YPI is Mental Health.
Over the years, I have come to see how vital it is to take care of my mental health, after putting both my mental and emotional health last to focus on my education and career goals in particular. Dropping out of university was one of the best things I did to look after my mental and emotional health, having acknowledged the toll it was taking on my me – I was drained completely.
I also realised the importance of mental and emotional self-care when I discovered that self-harm was a mental health issue. I had been self-harming for a number of years before I decided to share my story on this blog, which was when I first grasped that it was a mental health issue. I had no idea that I was so emotionally distressed, but as I got help, I knew that I never wanted to cut myself again.
However, the impulse to self-harm has been rearing its ugly head a lot recently, and it has taken every fibre of my being to stop myself. My mental and emotional health have been on shaky ground over the past year, particularly during recent months. My mind is battling against itself, trying to tear me down while I try to boost myself up – it is exhausting.
Sometimes I have been able to interact with others wearing a smile that had been carried with me, particularly when hosting YPI events, as I want to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and loved. On the other hand, there have been occasions when I’ve struggled to muster up a smile or positive interaction, with me only attending an event because I do not want to let others down.
Most of the time, people have had no clue that there was something wrong, because I don’t like anyone to know I’m struggling. I’ve got a terrible habit of suffering in silence, because I don’t want to be a burden or to feel pity or I don’t believe they’ll understand, but mainly because I cannot bring myself to talk to people about what I’m feeling.
The truth is that internally, I am distressed often, fighting to find strength and do what needs to be done. There are nights when I do not sleep well, making me more tired than usual – I am genuinely tired almost all the time. Getting out of bed has become increasingly difficult for me, with it feeling like torture on some days. I’ve lost count of the times I have cried myself to sleep, or cried on my bed, or had to stop tears from flowing in a public place.
And no matter how hard I try to stop it, my mind finds itself comparing me to others or comparing the turnout for their events to mine, making me feel a hundred times worse about myself and lessening the value of the work I’m doing. I then begin to berate myself, believe that I’m not good enough, turn into a crying mess and want to give up on my purpose.
I get into a tortuous cycle, annoyed with myself for comparing myself to others and frustrated by the pain I’m feeling, because my problems are tiny when you consider what others are going through. The internal battle starts again, which takes it out of me, leading to me breaking down more times than I care to admit.
Suicidal thoughts have crossed my mind often over the past year, especially as desperation increases for my mind to shut down so that it will stop trying to bring me down. I try my hardest to think positively, tell myself good things and pray, but it does not stop negative thoughts from worming their way in.
So much has happened not just over the past year, but over the past two years, and I have rarely given myself time to process, recuperate and recover. My heart has taken poundings from a number of occurrences, and my mind has been whirring with the many things I am trying to make happen.
My third, and probably most successful round of counselling, also came to an end when my grandad died two years ago, which I think had a significant effect. I was making real breakthroughs with her and finally allowing myself to let certain barriers down – I could not deal with building up that sort of trust with another counselor, as it took months to reach that point with her.
I also have enough self-awareness enough to know that I have quite bad PMS, which seems to be worsening and occurring throughout the majority of the month, giving me just over a week of feeling uplifted and motivated. I know I probably should speak to the doctor about it, because I want to take care of my mental health.
There are days or evenings when I will take time out for myself, simply because I cannot face what I need to get done. I try to get myself speaking to my sister, so I don’t suffer in silence, and I’ll tell people when I’m struggling if I feel I can. I also pray, because it is only God’s strength and support that have prevented me from cutting myself.
Good mental health makes me the best version of me that I want to give to the world, but I am struggling with that right now. However, I do want to get better and I will, because I am a fighter. If any of you reading this are struggling mentally or emotionally, remember that you are not alone. Feel free to reach out if you want to talk or vent. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @ShanqMarie on Twitter and DM me.
Join the conversation as we talk Mental Health at The Kickback next Tuesday from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B.