Tuesday, 21 June 2016

An open letter to anyone who's struggling

Dear reader,

I'm so sorry you're struggling right now. I know how it feels, I understand. Not fully, because I'm not inside your head, but I do understand to an extent. I understand how it feels when you think no-one cares, and no-one understands. And of course, because of this, you feel incredibly alone. I mean, you could be in a room full of people, and you'd still feel so, so alone. And that's one of the worst things. Because even though people do understand, no-one can fully understand what goes on inside your head, and it makes you feel even worse.

What is your head telling you right now? Is it telling you that you're fat and ugly, and you don't deserve to eat? Is it telling you that no one loves you and no one wants you around? That you're better off hurting yourself and you're better off dead?

Your head is a liar. All the negative things it's telling you are untrue. Your head can be a manipulative, horrible place to be and I promise you, you are so much better than that. It's okay to recognise you aren't doing well, or you're struggling. It's good to recognise your thoughts and feelings, but please don't let them drag you down. It can be so easy to get caught up in the negative thoughts, that they can drag you right back down. And even if it does, you pick yourself right back up and push on. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. It's really really hard. It's so hard to carry on living when you're tired of fighting your thoughts constantly. You're tired of eating, drinking, walking, talking, even breathing. Everything just feels very hard. And because it feels so hard, it makes you not want to carry on. You just want to curl up under your duvet and sleep until all this passes. Or even worse, you want to sleep and never wake up.

Then come the self-destructive behaviours. Your head starts to tell you that you deserve to hurt yourself, no-one is ever going to love you anyway, and that you're worthless. And you hate yourself because of it. I have everything. I have a good family, good friends, I'm not poor, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear. You start to think this over and over again. There are people worse off than me! I'm just being pathetic. The thoughts go round and round in your head until you can't take it anymore, so you turn to self-destructive behaviours. Just this once. But it's never just this once though, is it? You said that years ago.

I promise you this will pass. I know you're probably thinking, everyone says that and it hasn't gotten any better! I'm just another one of those people, right? But I was like you once. I used to get so mad at the people who told me "it'll get better". I hated them and I thought they were lying to me. But they weren't; I just couldn't see it at the time.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm no where near recovered, but slowly but surely, I'm learning to love both myself and life once again. When I get dragged down, I pick myself back up, dust myself off and push through all the negative thoughts. Because now I've realised that I'm so much better than my thoughts will ever be. I'm not saying that they've gone away, they're still there. I've just learnt how to cope with them. It is possible to recover, and I'm living proof of that. Like I said before, I was once like you - I had no hope, and I certainly didn't think I could ever recover. And because I felt so hopeless, I didn't want to live anymore. However, with the help of professionals, my friends and family, I've realised that recovery is really worth it.

Just think about it for a second. Forget about everything, and just think about this:

A life of misery or a life of happiness?

Recovery is definitely a life of happiness. It won't be like this all the time - there'll be times when you want to give up, when you hate the world, and when you want to relapse. But there'll be more good times than bad times. If you decide not to recover, because it's "not for you", then you're going to live a life of misery. You're going to be a slave to your illnesses until you decide that you don't want to be one anymore.

Life can be such a beautiful thing, but you have to experience it first! There are so many life experiences and opportunities out there, and you can do anything you set your mind to. Whether that be travelling the world, swimming with dolphins, volunteering. A n y t h i n g. 

Recovery is waiting for you, waiting for you to take that step between where you are now, and getting better. It's going to be one hell of a journey, an emotional roller coaster even, but if I can promise you one thing, it'll be this: it'll be so worth it. 

You're going to have bad days, you're only human after all. But the day that you tell yourself you want recovery, and that you don't want to be a slave to your illnesses anymore, is the day that your life truly begins.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mental illness is not a competition

I'm so sick and tired of seeing people "compete" over who is the most mentally ill. I've mainly seen it over social media, and more times than I would've liked to. You'd think that those individuals would know how hard it is, right? Not only how hard it is, but how debilitating and life changing it can be. I, for one, know how awful being mentally ill is, and if I could snap my fingers and get rid of it, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

There are so many different mental illnesses, that I couldn't possibly name them all; personality disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis, anorexia, bulimia, the list goes on. Each and every person who is mentally unwell is fighting their own battle, day in, day out. So why do some people feel the need to turn it into a competition? It seems as though it's about how many times you've been inpatient, how bad your self harm is, how much you eat, etc.

I hate how having a mental illness has turned into a competition, because we should be supporting each other. It seems as though you can't talk about how bad you're feeling or that you're getting worse, without someone saying they've already been inpatient and they're only 14, or that they've been inpatient several times. You can't talk about self harm without someone commenting on how they've had loads of gaping wounds and needed stitches, while all you do is punch walls. You can't discuss anything in relation to food or weight without someone mentioning they've gone days without eating, or they've already had the NG tube 3 times. There's always someone who points out how many times they've been to A&E, or how many encounters they've had with the police.

It seems as though you can't talk about your mental illness without someone pointing out that they've had it "worse". It shouldn't matter how bad your self harm is, or how many times you've been inpatient, or even if you're receiving help. It's no wonder people don't like talking about being mentally unwell because there's always someone who doesn't think your sick enough because you're not underweight, you've never tried to kill yourself or you've never received medical treatment for self harm. I've seen people say to others "you've never been inpatient, you're only diagnosed with depression, you aren't that bad". There's an attitude of "well you aren't as bad as me so get on with it" surrounding mental health, and it has to stop. No one knows how much a mental illness affects someone because you aren't inside their head. One person with the same illness may keep it all inside, whereas another may verbalise it or act out.

No one should have to worry about whether they're "sick" enough, because if you are suffering from a mental illness, or if you just don't feel quite right, then there's something wrong. It doesn't matter whether you're diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, ocd, or a personality disorder. It doesn't matter how many times you've relapsed. It doesn't matter how bad your self harm is.

It doesn't matter.

People should be encouraging others and supporting them in their recovery, or at least supporting them with what they're going through, and not belittling their problems and making them feel worse. At the end of the day, everyone that suffers from a mental illness is unwell. Comparing how "serious" someone's mental illness is compared to someone else's, or belittling their illness, isn't going to help you find happiness.

My piece of advice is this:

Go at your own pace.

Don't listen to others when they say you should be recovering at a faster pace. Because you never know, that may set you back even more. Go with what you feel comfortable with. Recovery isn't about how fast you go, it's about how much progress you make.

And one more thing:

Don't compare yourself to others.


Recovery is a journey, not a destination. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Is the internet really a bad place?

As everyone knows, the internet nowadays is a massive thing, and it's used for a variety of reasons. Shopping, paying bills, completing school work, and keeping in touch with people via social media. There's no doubt about it, the internet can be a horrible place. More often than not you see news articles on grooming, stalking and sexual exploitation; either these have been committed and an individual has been arrested, or they're arrested on suspicion of it.

There are numerous websites and campaigns, such as the NSPCC and ChildLine, who are there to help prevent grooming; they advise parents and young people on how to stay safe whilst using the internet. However, these websites and campaigns don't stop it. Even with all the advice and help out there, including visiting schools and teachers advising pupils, it's still happening. Parents whose children who have just started using the internet don't think that this could be a problem, because "nothing would ever happen to my child". This is very untrue and when a child starts to use the internet, parents should talk to them about how to stay safe online. But even when advice is given, it doesn't stop this from happening. Take my experience, for example. When I first started to use the internet, my parents had a talk with me about internet safety; who not to talk to, and when to know to come away from it. So after this, I thought nothing could happen to me. I started to use chatrooms, as many of my friends were at the time, and started speaking to different people. Most of whom were older than me. Me being naive, I didn't think this was a problem. However, my parents soon found out who I had been talking to and what they had been asking me to do - it was essentially grooming. I'm lucky it didn't go any further, and it stopped when it did. It could have escalated into something much bigger.

Ever since then, I've been wary of using the internet, especially social media. Not only does grooming/stalking occur via social media, bullying does also. My parents have always taught me never to speak to strangers over the internet, because you never know who they are. And this is accurate - you could be speaking to someone who you think is your age, however they may be faking who they are and could be much, much older than you.

So, is the internet really a bad place?

It's only bad if you make it bad.

I have always stuck by that saying. If you make the internet a bad place, then of course it's going to be bad! Parents always tell you to never speak to people you don't know online, because you never know what may happen. However, what they don't tell you is that through talking to people online, you may meet people that become your best friends.

Through a recovery community for mental health, I have met some incredible people, some of whom have become my best friends. I couldn't name everyone who I've met online, because the list would be endless! However some have been there for me more than ever and I couldn't thank them enough. I've met people who suffer from a variety of mental health problems; depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, psychosis, the list goes on. These people are so important to me, because they're the small majority that understand. They don't say, "I understand" because they care or they feel sorry for me, they actually do understand. And although they may not understand fully, because they're not in my head and they may not suffer from the same illness as me, but to some extent they do. They know what it's like to have to battle with your own mind 24/7, they know what it's like to feel alone even when you're in a room full of people, and they know what it's like to want to both live and die at the same time. I've witnessed mental illness break these people down; I've seen them utterly defeated by their own mind. Not only this, but I've seen these people bounce back stronger than ever, ready to fight their illness/es. These "strangers" are always telling me that they're there for me, any time of day or night. They've seen me at my best and my worst. They've seen me happy, smiling and laughing. But they've also seen me when I'm having breakdowns and running away and hurting myself. Some of these people have even had to call the police for me, because they're terrified that this time I'm going to go too far. Let me tell you one thing:

I couldn't have survived without them.

I couldn't have survived without these people by my side. Without them, I don't think I'd be alive right now. They've supported me through my best and worst times, and not once have they left me because I'm "too much" or they can't be bothered. They've encouraged me to seek help when I needed to, or they've sought help for me. When adults warn you of the dangers of the internet, they should also tell you that you could meet your best friends online, because I have. Some of these "strangers" have now become my closest friends. Even though they may live hours away from me, sometimes the other side of the country,  I've created memories with them. From phone calls, FaceTimes, inside jokes, creating nicknames for each other, to actually meeting. Yes, a few people from the internet I've met in person, and I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling it is.

I can't thank my internet friends more, for sticking by me in my journey to mental health recovery.

Sometimes the people who are thousands of miles away from you can make you feel better than the people who are right beside you.