I've been putting off writing this post for a while, for two reasons: firstly it is quite an intense topic and I've always wanted my blog to be an escape from the real world (to an extent) and secondly, it seems as though everywhere you look there's someone with anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. I didn't want this to just be 'another post about mental health'. But after thinking about it for the last few months I've finally realised that maybe it's good that mental health is everywhere at the moment. It's getting the acknowledgement that hasn't always existed and it's becoming more normal to speak about. I also realised that as much as I want my blog to be an escape, it still has to be real, and essentially that means being open, raw, vulnerable and hopefully brave. Brave so that someone reading this might get something out of it.
My story isn't necessarily one of great fascination or trauma. Anxiety has just been a part of my life since I can remember. The fear of being left behind, of being alone in an empty world, of feeling forgotten. I struggled with these as a child - not because I was actually alone or didn't have a family who loved me beyond belief. But purely because that's what anxiety is; a fear that's not really there, but is there enough to make sure you are aware of its lurking presence.
I am definitely, definitely, definitely, not an expert on this subject, but having lived with anxiety and the history of mental heath that runs in my family, has made me aware of certain things, and today I am finally going to share my thoughts on here.
Speak to People:
One of the hardest things to do is to try and deal with the overwhelming reality of any kind of anxiety, depression, or mental illness alone. What I've learnt over the past few years is that most people you speak to have dealt with some form of it as well and it's actually always surprising when you realise that you are less alone than you think. Speaking to people about what you're feeling, experiencing and going through is one of the most liberating and therapeutic feelings.
I've been having this conversation quite a lot lately with one of my best friends, Robyn. She is one of those people who you think nothing could ever bring them down, because they always appear so strong. But like I said, you are always surprised by who is on the same journey as you. Anyway, she said something very profound to me when I told her I was contemplating writing this post, but feeling very *anxious* about it. She told me that those who matter already know. The abundance of truth in this statement is what gave me the final nudge. (Regardless that I'm publishing this on the World Wide Web, if anyone has anything unnecessarily nasty to say, it's a reflection of them.)
That is probably one of the biggest lessons I've learnt - to speak to people and to listen to what their journeys are as well. There is so much to learn and so much humility to soak up from listening. We need each other.
Be Kind, for Nothing in Return:
The trickiest thing about mental health is that it cannot be seen. We are willing to move mountains for the physically injured, but the minute you can't see something, it doesn't exist, so surely there can't be anything wrong? Wrong. Just because you cannot see something doesn't mean it's not there. (it's called walking by faith!) I feel like this makes it even more crucial to just be kind, all the time. We don't know what people are going through, what battles they are fighting, and sometimes something as effortless as a smile could be a light someone needs.
What has been happening in the world lately; all the terrorism, the hatred, the pain and suffering, is something else that Robs and I have discussed. It seems as though there's a lot of negativity and ugliness that is slowly infiltrating every little space, but actually all this hatred is opening up space for love. So much love. Because the more people try to break down the world and all those who believe in humanity, the more the world is resisting and opening up to love, acceptance, to forgiveness and kindness. So it doesn't matter that there are human beings who have forgotten how to love, because there is a stronger force behind those who are willing to remind them how.
Speak up About it:
Up until now I have been afraid to tell the world (or mine at least) that yes, anxiety has been a very real part of my life. It is frightening to let people know that you are vulnerable, but if you don't share your story with people who are close to you at least, it will always have a hold over you. Through speaking, we become stronger. Through sharing, we allow the possibility of helping others, to become real. All of these labels: depression, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, anything else that may be close to your heart, are only negative if we allow them to be. When we tiptoe around them and cause them to remain taboo, that's when we fail ourselves. I will be the first to admit that it is SHIT SCARY to speak about. It has made me feel uncomfortable, weird and not in control. But I've learnt (and I am certainly still learning) that when we open up about our uncomfortable truths, we grow, and we manage to stop hiding behind whatever silly facade that's held us down for so long.
If mental health has ever been the reason you haven't done something you've always wanted to, if it has been the reason for you declining invitations somewhere, or if it's just stopped you from living and enjoying your life because it's constantly there in the back of your mind, I promise you I understand. And I can guarantee that I am not the only one who does.
I definitely believe mental health issues are more common then ever - because the world we live in is competitive, nonstop, greedy and plain hard to keep up with. There is no doubt that we are too hard on ourselves in every aspect. I believe that we have to try harder than ever to look after our minds and well-being. We have to be kind to others, but also kind to ourselves. This is why owning your state of mental health is my last point. If anything, take responsibility for the way you feel and allow yourself to feel it. Be proud of the little things you accomplish, seriously. (and the big things obviously) Find people to talk to about it. Whether you feel completely out of your comfort zone speaking about it, or completely at home... I can't tell you what a difference it will make to know that you can share this with someone who understands, or even just listens.
At the end of the day we are all humans and none of us properly have our sh*t together. But fortunately, that's really okay, and it is not something that should make any of us feel unworthy or abnormal. If I could give the eight year old me any advice, it would be to not hate myself for having anxiety and to just love the fact that I feel so much. I would give eight year old Lauren a hug and tell her to own it (I can't promise she would completely understand what I was talking about though). So if I would do that to eight year old me, doesn't 21 year old me deserve the same?
What are your thoughts on mental health?