How I Began My Self Healing Process
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Mental Health Awareness week raised a lot of questions in my mind, after I saw the sudden influx of social media users - mainly friends - take to the internet to share confessions and stories regarding their own mental health. Close friends admitted to having had depression and until now, hadn’t spoken publicly about it in the fear of rejection or the assumption of being ‘attention seeking’. Strangers published posts addressing their anxieties, whilst family members shared their worries and stresses about the world and societies we live in. It was astounding. All of a sudden people I knew nothing about, I felt were a lot more relatable.
I found myself reading these posts and instead of thinking ‘ah the poor girl' I thought ‘YES! Well done you. Well done for joining a party of people who are ready to discuss and eliminate the taboo that is mental health’. Because for so long, that’s what it has been. An undiscussed, undisclosed, uncomfortable subject that many try to avoid due to embarrassment or social judgment. Until now.
There was simply too much that I wanted to say on the subject for me to just want to stick a picture on Instagram and quote, ‘Yes I was depressed too, big shock there’. There is just too much that I wanted to express and so I’ve written this post, not to tell you all how I also suffered, but how more importantly, I got better.
I developed depression after my parents went through a very unexpected and quite horrible divorce back in 2011 - 7 years ago can you believe it. I was 18 years old and struggling in my final year of college due to all the anger and upset I had swirling around my confused and adolescent mind. I still don’t know how I managed to pass my exams, but I think the idea of failing my education and potentially ruining my future had somehow overcome my desire to sit there and do nothing.
I moved to Birmingham City University and in my first week I lost another man in my life; my wonderful Grandpa Tony. After grieving two incredibly impactful life events, my little universe seemed to spiral into complete turmoil and without having to express the extremities of the depression I was experiencing, I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to graduate at all. I didn’t feel like I had the support network that I needed there, away from my family and living with strangers who (at the time) weren’t much of an aid but more of a hinderance to my negative emotions.
It was shit and it was hard but I persisted because I was lucky enough to have a handful of people that noticed and did want to help (one being my amazing mum who endured 2am phone calls when I couldn’t sleep and convinced me not to drop out when I was ready to give up).
In my second year of uni I made the decision to join the Erasmus Programme - a student exchange that allows selected pupils to study in another participating country - and I moved to Italy to study fashion at the Politecnico Di Milano for six months before returning for my third year. I hadn’t told anybody at this point about my mental state, simply because I didn’t understand what it was. I thought I was just rightfully sad about what I was experiencing all around me. But it was this particular trip that enlightened me and brought me to the realisation that I needed help.
I found myself occasionally unhappy and down, but I would take my iPod and wander the magical streets of Milan until I felt so engrossed with it’s enchantment that I eventually felt better and waddled on home. Exploration was my little seed of happiness and anytime I felt sad, I could plant that seed and feel enthusiastic again. It was the happiest I had been in two years and I knew that travelling more could only ignite that spark to burn longer.
When I came back to Birmingham after my time in Italy, everything came rushing back. The anxiety, the self loathing, the uncontrollable outbursts of anger and anguish, the tantrums, the night terrors, sleep paralysis, the stress, the attitude, the lack of concentration and worst of all; the overwhelming desire to sit and indulge in it all. I later realised that this period of time (around October 2014) was my absolute rock bottom.
After coming scarily close to not handing in my dissertation, I successfully graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Business & Promotion and began a full time job working for an awesome designer label in Selfridges. It was my dream job for a little while, and I began my freelance content writing with a local creative agency so that I could begin saving for my future travels. I moved in to a flat with my boyfriend at the time, and it felt like I had temporarily overcome my depression. But all I had really done was change my job and move house. Which, as many of you may relate to, just isn’t enough to keep the demons at bay.
My mental state suffered immensely through this year also, I tried counselling and self help groups, began keeping a ‘dark diary’ and eventually found solace in learning about mindfulness. I bought books and I studied websites, listened to TED podcasts and began speaking with others - I opened up and told my family, close friends and even my work colleagues so that they could all pitch in and help when I needed it. It was a huge weight off my shoulders and ultimately the greatest step I could have taken.
Personally, I didn’t find counselling that useful. I would sneak out of the house telling my housemates that I was going to the gym and instead I would sit in the university counsellors office and cry for 20 minutes as he nodded and asked me ‘so how do you feel about that?’ - very cliche I know. So after an initial six week cycle I sacked it off and turned to myself for help.
After some inspiring research and articles that I found on https://tinybuddha.com/ I began with asking myself, in this scenario, what would my answer be: Imagine that you are 100 years old and lying on your death bed surrounded by your wonderful family. One of your grandchildren says, “Grandma, did you live a good life? what did you do? are you going to leave us happy with how you lived?”. You’re probably going to reel off all the countries that you travelled, the whirlwind adventures you embarked on, the weird, the bizarre, the dangerous, the exciting… what you learnt, what you achieved, the work you created, the people you influenced and who influenced you. Perhaps you even saved a life, or had someone save yours.
When I was in the midst of my quiet suffering and indulging in all my anxieties and sadness, the one thing that powered me through progression was the idea of answering this question. Was I going to sit there and tell my theoretical family about all the times I had wept for no particular reason? Or fallen out with my family for not understanding? Will I tell them about how I bunked off school to sit and cry in a locked bedroom for hours? Of course not. Was that the legacy that I would leave behind? Was that the person that I wanted to become forever? A crumpled mess wrapped in a duvet feeling sorry for myself? Hell no.
I wanted my spark back.
So I wrote down a list of all the things that I desired to be, the feelings that I wanted to feel…Brave, strong minded, independent, powerful, spirited, courageous, intelligent, imaginative, successful, enthusiastic, beautiful, positive, inspiring, ambitious, vibrant, funny, outgoing, adventurous, creative, talented, transcendent… HAPPY.
I then wrote a list of all the things that made me feel this way; all the small insignificant things and all the great empowering things - from exploring new cities to putting my pants on the radiator on a cold winters day (because let’s be honest, nothing beats the warm fuzz of heated cotton on your bum cheeks). I pinned the lists to the inside of my wardrobe so that every morning when I went to get ready for the day I could think about all the happy things in this world that would leave a smile on my face.
Meditation, artistic hobbies, escapism through film and reading and making savings goals ready for my travels all helped me to rebuild the personality that I felt had slowly left me. Then, I quit my job, moved back home and booked my flights (along with my best friend) to begin what was going to be the biggest adventure of my life.
Healing is a slow process, but one you have to bare with in order for it to be rewarding. This may not be how everyone wants to work, but it worked for me. The minute I stopped drowning myself with sadistic or unhappy thoughts, was the minute I moved baby steps in the right direction. I have been travelling now since May 2017 and I don’t plan on stopping until I feel like I want to. That’s the beauty of it, it is as free or as constrictive as you want it to be.
I have been able to throw myself in and out of situations I never thought possible or achievable, I have met and conversed with amazing, talented people from all over the world and I have stood at the foot of great monuments, mountains, temples, beneath starry skies and by unexplainable natural phenomena that have left me so bewildered and curious that I have simply moved on from my own troubles.
I’m not suggesting that everybody has to pack their bags and island hop around The Philippines like I did, it’s about merely illustrating what it is that you desire, no matter how big or small the objective is, and beginning the healing process by making it happen. Once you start to identify what gives you that buzz, or that enthusiasm for life again - harness it. Utilise it. Let it help to bring you back into a positive and determined mindset. I still have down days as everybody does, and I still get social anxieties, but the difference this year, to who I was last year, is remarkable.
I am here for you, if you want to talk, if you want to listen to my stories or if you just want to let someone hear you. I feel that the main stigma around mental health is that each individual who feels some kind of pain assumes that it is only them. You are not on your own, most people will experience a period in their time where they feel lost and some will feel it for longer or feel it heavier than others. Nobody can sit there and claim that they know how it works or compare their losses to another’s.
In order to help our fellow humans become healthier, I believe that being honest in what we vocalise and being compassionate towards others is the only way we can communicate our options. If every person who reads this and sit and think for a minute about their loved ones, how much they mean to you, how much this planet means to you and how much you want to live in order to be there for them, then that’s already one little happy thought that you’ve had today.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it may enlighten at least one person, as the articles I read enlightened me.