So today is #timetotalk day from Time to Change, who are asking everyone to take 5 minutes to have a conversation with someone about mental health. It can be a family member, friend, colleague, or a child or young person you work with. Even a member of the public at your bus stop or in the coffee shop! (Of course if you do that, be careful how you go.) Basically, it’s time to end the stigma around mental health, and the only way to do that is to talk about it, and not see it as something to keep hidden and be ashamed of.
Not sure where to begin? Well the site link above has lots of tips and ideas, but let me start. My name is Jenny, and if you’ve read my blog before, you probably know a little about my own journey with depression and anxiety, and my quest for positive mental well being. If not, then I’ll give you an overview.
All through secondary school I was bullied, and had hardly any friends. My self esteem was almost non existent, and I genuinely felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy. My Dad died when I was about 9, then my Mum’s partner, Steve, who had been more of a Dad to me really. When I was about 14 my Mum started getting ill, and was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I became a young carer; helping around the flat, sorting out disability forms and studying for my GCSEs. Through all of this I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about my problems. I was feeling so lost, and down, but I didn’t want to bother my Mum with my issues when she was going through so much, and there was nobody else to turn to. In 2010 I moved to London for university, as Mum made me promise not to put my dreams on hold to stay in Bristol and look after her. Through it all, I carried a huge weight of self doubt, feeling like I wasn’t good enough most of the time, and a lot of anxiety with making friends and meeting new people.
In November 2012, 5 days after my 21st birthday, my Mum sadly passed away. It was the push that toppled me over the edge and into a spiral of feeling like nothing was ever going to be good again. I got mad, I got so anxious about dying that I couldn’t sleep, I pushed away my grief and replaced it with drinking lots, getting with guys, and generally not taking care of myself. Those were dark times, and I all but cut off a lot of my friends, not telling them how I was really feeling as I felt like I should be ‘ok’ now that weeks, months had passed. I think that my grief bought up all the other demons that I’d been desperately trying to push down for years, the insecurities and worries, and feelings of inadequacy which had been making me a mess for too long. I had to reach the bottom before I could begin to climb back up again, and that’s exactly what I did. After a couple of months of trying to continue with my degree, I made the tough decision to defer my final year until the autumn, and give myself space to deal with my emotions.
It’s been 2 years and 3 months since my Mum died, and honestly it’s been a rocky road. There were times when I felt like I’d never be ok, when everything seemed kind of pointless and stupid. I spent days, weeks in my pajamas, crying and watching YouTube videos and eating junk food. However I’ve got to a point now where I honestly feel like I am only becoming better than I ever was before it all happened. By facing up to everything, and not letting it beat me, I have come out the other side stronger, and determined to help end the stigma around talking about mental health and well-being!
I have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem, only experienced what I refer to as very poor mental well-being. I know that it is incredibly different for those who need medication, or counselling, and I would strongly encourage anyone to seek help if they feel they need it. The thing that I am trying to promote is the idea that everyone, yes everyone should be actively encouraging good mental well-being in themselves and those around them. Too many people don’t talk about their problems, as they feel it is a sign of weakness. Of course you are entitled to privacy, but bottling everything up is really unhealthy, and can lead to so many problems. Take it from someone who has lived through it, if you don’t talk to anyone about the things that are really getting to you, they will just get worse and worse, until one day everything just sort of crumbles.
So right here, today, I am making a pledge. If you have something bothering you, and you don’t know who you can talk to about it, please feel free to send me a message/comment. I was, and still am, so incredibly lucky to have some amazing friends who stuck by me through the dark times, and who I know are there for me no matter what, and I them. If you don’t have anyone like that, or you don’t realise that you do (like I didn’t for far too long, that’s a post for another day!) then you can feel even more miserable and alone. I started this blog as a way to get things off my chest, and also to share with the world in case anyone else was going through a tough time and could resonate with my story. That message holds even more true today, so please, talk to me if you need someone to listen. That’s what today is all about after all.
I am also going to be doing a series of posts talking in more detail about some of the issues I’ve been through that were linked to my mental well-being, and how I have (and still am) working to overcome them. If just one person takes something from my blog, and it makes them feel even a little bit better, less alone, or happier, then I count that as a huge success.
It’s Time To Talk, will you join me? Take just 5 minutes to have a conversation with someone today about mental health. You never know the impact it could have.