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Mental health awareness week


The 14th - 20th of May marks 'mental health awareness week'. A week where people share their own struggles with mental health and bring awareness which is exactly what our society needs, however the only problem is that these conditions affect people all year round and not for just one week. So my worry regarding this, is that its great we're all talking but once it's over, the talk stops and those suffering go back to feeling alone again. So we have to remember to think about and talk to the people who suffer with their mental health every day of the year.

In my opinion the most important message to get across for this week is that, everyone we meet may be fighting a battle we know nothing about, so it's incredibly important to always be kind. Mental health illnesses are invisible which means they're very easy to disguise and even though a certain person may always be smiling it doesn't mean there can't be something deeper within. We should always keep in the back of our minds that someone could have more going on than what meets the eye and not to just assume that because they look like their happy that they actually are. 

Stop just assuming loved ones are always okay and check up on them every now & again. There might be something they're holding in and waiting for the right person to talk to about and by you simply saying 'are you okay' or 'how are things with you' might help them to have the courage to share something they're going through.

The fact that mental illnesses cannot be seen makes it very difficult for people to understand. I believe that as a society, if we can have a greater understanding of mental health it will help to remove the stigma it carries, and a lot of the reason it carries a stigma is due to the fact people cannot see it. We have no problem with physical conditions because we're able to see a person in pain or see their injury, so I believe if there's a better understanding of the invisible conditions, there will be the same level of respect.

For me I think mental health awareness week should be the start of a year long conversation, where we discuss these conditions all year round and not just for one week. To talk about your struggles with mental health always and share how you got through them. Be kinder to one another because you never know the battle people are facing on a daily basis, and to remember to call or text your friends and family to just check their okay, because for someone who is having a hard time, it can mean everything.


No longer ashamed

For years my mental illness used to riddle me with shame, I ended up isolating myself from so many people because I was too embarrassed to explain how I was feeling. I would only ever share my thoughts with the people I could really trust and I would hide it all from the rest of the world. I wanted as few people as possible to know because in the society we live in, it isn't socially acceptable to have a mental illness and if you do, you're considered a weak person because of it and for me weak was something I was so determined not to be.

For some reason, humans don't seem to be able to look past a title such as depression, bipolar or an eating disorder and that titles just the be-all and end-all. They fail to look deeper into a person and see that there's so much more to them than their condition, they just get put into a category and judged because of it. What those titles fail to describe is that person is kind, generous, loving, thoughtful and strong. The title just describes the condition, but not the person suffering with it.

Our society makes those affected by a mental illness feel that it's something they should be ashamed of. In my eyes, the problem we have is that all mentally ill people are put in the same box and as soon as a tragic accident happens the press repeatedly exploit mental health. The problem then lies with society not being able to separate the mentally unstable from those who just suffer from a mental illness. The big difference is control. A person like me who has bipolar shouldn't be considered the same as a person who goes on a shooting rampage because they have lost control of their bipolar. I am in complete control of my mental illness and just because I have the same condition as someone like that, doesn't mean I should be put in the same category as them.

The perception mental illness carries is that those who suffer from it are unhinged or deranged. Which yes, someone who is not in control of their condition could be considered to be 'not in their right mind'. However, with the right medication and the correct therapy a person can be a perfectly functioning human being who will cause no harm to the world and should not be categorised as 'crazy'.

The problem those who are affected by mental illness have regarding stigma is that most people don't take the time to understand the particular conditions, so many people say they don't understand depression but never try to learn how to. That's the most frustrating thing of all, people simply do not try to understand and as long as that carries on there will always be a stigma around mental health.

The best advice I can give to anyone living with any particular mental illness to rid themselves of the shame and just to start talking more, I truly believe the more we all talk, the more those who aren't suffering will understand. For a condition that cannot be seen, talking is the only way we will ever get anyone to understand. Starting to write for me was also a great help and it may seem strange but the best way to stop feeling embarrassed is exposing yourself and your story to the whole world. To me, there's nothing more beautiful than someone who is unapologetically themselves.

The letter I wrote to myself to get through the dark days

When suffering from any mental illness there will be days which are especially difficult to get through and it's useful to have methods in place which can help to lift your mood. The same method won't help every time so it's vital to have a few different tools you can rely upon, methods such as meditation, exercise, talking with loved ones, writing down your thoughts, getting outside.

 I'm a very stronger believer that we must be able to save ourselves and that we cannot rely on others to survive and this is why having reliable tools like those suggested are critical. For me, what I used most was a letter I wrote to myself which I wanted to share to help others to be able to write something similar for themselves. I'm extremely grateful to be able to say that I haven't needed to use this letter for a long time but in the past, it helped me out of some very dark places.

"So you're reading this letter because you feel low, helpless and you can't see much point in this thing we call life. However, you've felt like this before and you will feel like this again yet every single time you get through it. Your record rate is 100% and that isn't going to change. You may have an overwhelming feeling of sadness right now but it will pass, even if it lasts a couple of days there's always light at the end of the tunnel.

When you're happy your mind feels relaxed and at ease, you smile, laugh and feel positive. When your feeling low you can't imagine being able to get back to that place, however, it is possible and I want to remind how far you have come. The battles you've been through and that you've always come out the other side. This is just a bad mood, it's not a bad life. You've been through much darker. So please remember this mood is only temporary, every mood we feel is temporary but the dark ones just hurt more.

I want you to find something you can focus on, something to aim towards or just something to keep you busy until this mood passes. If it's something in particular, that's getting you down then write about it, put pen to paper and get it all out. This always helps. I also want you to write down 10 positive things in your life and keep reading over them. The majority of the time its about changing your mindset. At the moment your feeling negative so we just need to switch that.

Most of all I want to take you to a place where you can feel some peace, even just for a minute. I want you to think of the times when your singing in the car with Toby, arriving somewhere on holiday, watching a sunset, wandering around a garden on a sunny day. Whatever feels good right now, take yourself there and let it consume your whole body. Stay there as long as you need and stay until you feel more relaxed. Use this tool and revert back to that feeling of calmness at any point.

Remember no matter how alone you feel right now you have so many people around you who love you, so please don't push them away. Remember that you've got a dream fiance, family who all care about you, a group of really good friends, a beautiful house and a great business. It may not feel like much to you right now but those little things, are really all that matters in life.

You're a fighter. You've done this before and you'll do it again, this will never ever, ever beat you. No matter how bad it feels you always get yourself out of it, so just keep reminding yourself that. Take it day by day, hour by hour, just one step at a time and you'll get there. You will find your happiness again, just give it time."

No rainbow without a little rain

What I’ve learnt through my experiences is that in life, it can’t all be sunshine and in order for there to be a rainbow, there must be some rain. One of the biggest challenges that took me a long time to overcome was accepting my journey for what it was and to not look at it as though I had been hard done by. I have had a lot of hardships in life but that isn't to say I'm any worse off than any other person because of them and the key here is the mindset. A positive or negative mindset will determine your whole overall outlook on life. The way you look at the challenges life has given you essentially sets the premise for the type of life you will live. 

The important thing is to change our thinking from 'this is so unfair' to understanding the positives that can be taken from the experience. In my case, instead of looking at the challenges I've faced as cruel or unfair, I look at them as experiences that have helped me to learn and grow. I really am thankfully for my struggles because they helped me to discover my strength and I know if it wasn't for those battles, I wouldn't be half the person I am today.

There are many things that we can take from our struggles, personal growth, learning experiences, unknown strength, a better understanding and appreciation. If we can realise that there’s always something positive to be taken from a difficult situation, I think we would all generally live happier lives.

So many people go through life feeling like they're so hard done by and have a terrible life when really there’s always someone worse off than us. If you think about it, anyone living in the first world is better off than somebody and it’s important to appreciate the little day to day things more and realise how lucky we really are. People with little to nothing are often a great deal happier than someone who has a lot and it all just depends on the person's outlook on life.  These people will appreciate their life and what they have a lot more than those who have more, which essentially leads them to live happier lives. Don't dwell on the negatives and the difficulties you've had, learn to understand and appreciate what you have achieved because of them.

The real point to be made in this post, comes from the truth in the saying that there's no rainbow without a little rain. Sometimes in life, we have to go through dark times in order for us to really truly appreciate the happy ones. Without a little darkness, we would never appreciate the light as much as we do.


What a suicide attempt really feels like

Suicide is and will always be an incredibly difficult subject to talk about, however, I truly believe the more we do, the bigger the difference that can be made, which essentially means more lives are saved. Suicide is a complete taboo subject that so many are terrified of talking about, whether a person is feeling it or its someone you know that may be, so many of us are too frightened to discuss it. After experiencing suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts, I know that our biggest problem is the fact people can't understand it because for anyone who has never felt depression to try and comprehend why anyone would want to take their own life, seems impossible.

The most vital point I have to make is that for me and for many others, suicide wasn't me wanting to actually die. What it actually was, was me wanting to no longer be suffering in pain. The pain that's like a dark cloud that's always hovering over you, no matter what you do it's always there. The unbearable pain of depression is indescribable and suicide feels like the only possible way to escape it.

What’s important to know is that if your a family member of someone who feels suicidal or makes a suicide attempt, it isn’t their fault. Please never blame them for this because that person does not mean to nor wants to cause you any pain but for them, it feels like the only way out. The strange thing is, is that actually, all that person really wants is to be happy. People just assume those suffering from depression or those who are suicidal make a choice to be sad but the reality is that it's actually the complete opposite of that. 

When I was unwell the one thing I would forever repeat was: 'I just want to be happy'. I didn't want to die, I just wanted to escape the depression I was suffering from and free myself from the pain I was in. I understand it can be confusing for people who have never experienced depression but let me tell you it's far more than just feeling sad and if suicide is the only way of ridding yourself of that pain then ultimately that's what you feel you have to do.

For those who do sadly lose their life to suicide, as a society, we need to establish a better understanding of it. Instead of judging them or describing them as selfish, its vital that we must realise that person felt they had no choice, and they felt it was their only way out. Of course, I know the pain their family and friends will suffer is unimaginable but I also know the pain of that individual was far greater. We should never judge another person who takes their own life or consider it a wasted life because it was their choice and although its incredibly sad, they are now free of that pain that they were so desperately trying to escape.

On the flip side of this argument, I don’t condone suicide in any way. I accept it and respect that it was that individuals decision but it doesn't mean I agree with it and the reason I say this is because I've been there. I've been the lowest you can possibly be and I've managed to get through it and come out the other side. It's the most difficult thing a person can ever probably do but it's possible. Some may disagree with me and assume I never suffered like others, to be able to be at the stage I am now, but to argue that, I openly admit I made multiple suicide attempts in the time I spent suffering. Years went by with me barely leaving my bedroom and staring at the walls because I was so depressed and didn't know what to do with myself, all of which that lead me to suicide. Something which I don't believe you can be any lower than. 

So my message to anyone feeling suicidal right now is that you MUST talk. No matter how hard it feels right now and how much hurt it can cause, you must talk to the people around you. These people will keep you safe, they will watch your every move and they won’t leave your side but when you manage to get out the other side, you'll be so thankful they did that. It's a very long, very difficult road to recovery but I truly believe if I can do it there's no stopping you doing it too. Seek help from doctors and psychiatrists and whatever you do never stop fighting because I know you can do it and you can one day find true, genuine happiness like I have. 

For anyone who knows someone dealing with suicidal thoughts, my message to you is to always be kind to them. No matter how angry and maybe disappointed you may feel, love them with every bone in your body and make sure they never feel alone. Get them the help they so desperately need - even if they don't want it because it could save their life. Don't be frightened to speak about their suicidal thoughts, it will help them to share, no matter how hard they may be to hear. To anyone who knows someone who has made a suicide attempt but failed, please never be angry with them, the guilt they will feel themselves is enough to warrant needing anyone else being angry with them. Most all of never, ever give up on them.

Samaritans:
116123 (UK)



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