Hindsight’s a wonderful thing! Realising where you’ve messed up at work, recognising you were wrong to waste money buying that dress, noticing you shouldn’t have gone on “that” date…!
Identifying how far I’ve come along my mental health journey surprises me more and more as each month goes by.
This time last year (around March 2019) I couldn’t believe how different I was feeling to the year before when I was in the darkest place of my life.
In 2019 I felt as though someone had added a dash of colour in to the lenses in my glasses – everything looked brighter. Now it’s February 2020 and everything is high-vis and I can feel I’m constantly suppressing a smile.
That is genuinely a statement that at one point I didn’t think I’d ever know or experience. Yet here I am, aged 33, smashing my way through life in my own unique (sometimes unglamorous) way, and I’ve realised I’ve done it, I’m actually happy.
The same as someone managing their bank balance – doing everything they can to make sure they stay out of the red - I'm doing everything I can to stay away from bad mental health. And these days I’m doing a damned good job at it [insert the ‘rock out’ emoji here!].
Don’t get me wrong, I still have anxiety and at times I can still be my own worst enemy, but overall, I’m happy [insert your favourite ‘party’ emoji here!].
I'm not surrounded by that dark fog anymore that just made everything feel heavy and a constant effort.
I don't struggle waking up anymore just wanting to sleep my life away because it's easier to sleep than it is to face the day. Nowadays I only nap when I'm hungover! (Not as often as you might think before you say anything!)
I don't know how many days I've slept away in the past, but I don't just exist any more.
I’m still learning to be nice to myself - I don’t deserve the negative thoughts and I shouldn’t project my negative thoughts about myself on to others – they don’t deserve that negativity either!
Being nice to yourself when you’ve spent a life time doing the opposite is not a quick fix but all I can say is I’m trying. I’m genuinely trying to practice what I preach.
I’m trying not to assume so much about what people might think of me (as the saying goes: to assume makes an ass out of u n me!). I’m a bugger for assuming people are thinking I look ugly or just generally having a negative opinion of me. God, low self-esteem is an arse!!
So, I’ve reflected on what that negative thought process has been doing to me – it’s been making me doubt myself when I should have been the one flying my own flag.
In an effort to put myself first I’ve also started saying “no” or simply talking about what’s going on in my head. Speaking openly about how I’m feeling is now my norm.
The old me used to slap on the old poker face and just internally crumble in most social situations. The new, healthier me, declines situations that aren’t my cup of tea and is more confident in situations and happier because of it.
I can’t thank my friends and family enough for being so understanding of this – especially when my anxiety takes over and I end up sending essays of justification to them about why I don’t feel like I can go to something...
The irony – I’m anxious about being anxious.
According to some friends and fam’, my vivacious light bulb seems to have been switched back on. The light was never actually turned off, I think it was on a dimmer switch and I just couldn’t reach the switch [insert your shortarse comments here]. But I’ve had a mess around with my electrics and fitted myself with a sturdy “on” button instead. I might need re-wiring again one day, but in the meantime, everything is working well.
I never EVER want to go back to where I once was - however, I am aware it could happen again. But I think I have a strong support network around me and I know how to ask for help now to prevent it from happening again.
It’s all about communication – we have to talk or it can become a really lonely world and no one wants to be lonely.
Nowadays I know who to go to and for what. Some people are the expert huggers, some are the expert wise owls, some are as sarcastic as I, some are a ball of positivity with the perfect dash of realism, some have their heads in the clouds and some have a crackin’ taste in wine and know not to ask if I want a large glass.
I don’t put all the burden on myself anymore – I’m human and benefit from that human interaction and hand-in-hand with that I benefit from the communication.
Talking with my counsellor, who literally has been and continues to be one of the most incredibly influential people in my life, has let me communicate on my terms, when I was ready. She has helped me find my feet, let me blub, listened, let me be angry, let me be quiet, laughed with/at me and expected nothing from me.
After the first couple of sessions, she could see who I am and what I’m about and she just said to me: “you have to be a counsellor”.
So, I’ve made a decision to change my life and become just that: a counsellor.
I’ve started back at uni, actually entered in to the library this time round, and in two and a half years I will be a qualified counsellor. AND I CAN’T WAIT.
No longer am I sitting around thinking “I need to do something with my life, I’m bored, I’m unhappy, I don’t like my job, mehhh”, instead I’m thinking “roll on summer 2022!”. I’ve gone from being in fear of time passing by, stupidly comparing myself to others for not achieving the same things some of my friends and family are doing to completely and utterly putting myself first.
I'm believing in myself.
I think it’s something everyone should do – allow themselves to be selfish - do what you want to do. Obviously I’m not condoning walking all over people here, I purely mean live the life you want, not the one society can make you feel like you should…
So, Mr Right can feckin’ wait his turn.
I’ve always put other people before myself – in fear of rejection, in fear of not being liked, in fear of being perceived as rude, in fear of not being accepted, in fear of being told off. Just living in a state of constant anxiety. A state that I didn’t actually realise was going on.
But why have I been fearing not being accepted by other people when I haven’t even been able to accept myself?! That’s a whole lot of pressure I’ve been putting on myself!
I still do put this pressure on myself when my old pal ‘low self-esteem’ pops by uninvited. I try to leave him out on the porch but sometimes I think I must have left the door on the latch.
I am as guilty as the next person for appreciating a good photo filter but I’m more interested in living a real life in the moment now rather than living life worrying about hypothetical thoughts.
I don't think I'll ever enjoy sitting in front of the mirror for a couple of hours at the hairdressers, but I am getting used to what I see in the mirror. And I'm ok with it!