While mental health is a topic close to my heart, I had absolutely no idea (for some strange reason) that World Mental Health Day was approaching. In fact, it was last week. When I woke up on that Monday morning and realised that day was The Day, I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to say. As someone who is trying to weave activism into my work as a beauty blogger, I often find myself pondering over the question of whether I should post about a topic on the day the world has designated to talk about it, or just speak as and when I feel. Year in and year out, I see captivating posts on World Mental Health Day that pull on my heartstrings, but for me personally, I don’t like the pressure of being told when to speak and what to say. I’d rather say something more poignant later on than something concocted out of rushed thoughts; plus, so many people do it brilliantly on the day, that I really don’t need to! However, what’s most important is that we all recognise that, for many people, World Mental Health Day is every day, especially since the pandemic began.
Since March, I’ve been shielding due to COVID-19, but while I’ve thrived in many ways during lockdown, after an already challenging week my grandad died two days ago. As I held his hand and said my final goodbye and “I love you” after he’d passed, I, amongst many other thoughts, reflected on how much my life has changed over the past few years, and how, despite the sadness, I now manage painful situations relatively well. He was the epitome of the notion Let’s Talk About It And Then Do Our Best To Keep Going As Positively As We Can, and while, understandably, I’m feeling quiet and exhausted, I had written a piece not long ago about my experience with mental health that I’d planned to post tonight, and I know he’d want me to carry on and upload it. It’s a great story with a great ending, and one that he was proud of.
“Everyone on Earth, they told us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”Michelle Obama
Over the past four years I’ve battled with my physical health, and with that, on top of having a tough time growing up, by the age of 19 my mental health was shattered. I was exhausted, and couldn’t believe how much my life had derailed from the path I thought I’d have taken. Through coming off the ‘life treadmill’ so suddenly and forcefully, my head shifted into having a different mindset: Where I once constantly dreamed excitedly about the distant future, I had months upon months where I came face to face with reality. For the first time, I had too much time on my hands to think, and this lead to an undeniably difficult period of reflection, analysis and evaluation regarding the difficulties I’d faced over the years, but had always pushed to the side and never dealt with.
All while trying to cope with a physical illness, I was concerned for my future and consumed by the past. I always knew I was a good, kind person who would one day be fine, but who just needed the space to heal and rebuild. However, I regularly felt as though I was being wrongly misunderstood and critically judged by those looking in.
Now at 22, I look back at that difficult time of my life as a period of self-reflection and discovery, not just as one of doom, gloom and uncertainty. Through having the time to address the past and how it was affecting my present, I created a very positive, yet balanced, future headspace for myself that I’m living within right now. Even at such a young age, I feel as though I truly know who I am, and that, despite all the ups and downs and bangs and crashes, is the greatest gift I could’ve ever given to myself.
I never understood people and human complexities particularly well until I became the person being misunderstood, and I couldn’t have ever imagined the pain and hurt that is felt when that happens. I view my hardships as an ability to be a good friend, and to know how to handle difficult circumstances with more ease, as and when they arise. I feel as though I can offer more insightful advice and hold other’s hands through their trials and tribulations, with understanding, support and care.
Everyone carries around a hidden history, and that deserves both tolerance and a bucket load of respect. I am not broken, damaged or difficult; I am smart, courageous and compassionate. Know the power you hold from your experiences, and use that to help make the world a more kind, supportive and safe place.
While I want to talk more on my blog about the difficulties that I’ve faced over the past few years, I recognise the importance of living in the present moment and looking excitedly, with optimism and hope, into the future’s possibilities. I believe that talking openly about mental health and past struggles without judgement or criticism is vital for our society, but equally, I hope that people who read this feel the magnitude of what I’ve just implied: While I’ve faced immense obstacles, I’m now living in a time where my headspace is more excited and positive about the future than ever before. During the past few months, I’ve begun to feel a sense of freedom that I’d yet to experience in my, admittedly short, lifetime. I really hope that if you’re struggling right now, reading this will make you feel more secure and hopeful about the future.
As always, lots of love, T x