*photography by Matthew*
Welcome back, loves!
Today’s post is a little out of my comfort zone; it’s very personal and even for me (possibly the world’s biggest oversharer) it’s hard to admit to some of my feelings in this post. Grab yourself a cuppa and get cosy, it’s a long one…
Recently I’ve just felt very off. I have felt anxious, stressed, really down/upset and just not myself. Nothing has happened to make me feel this way, in fact my life’s never been better, but every part of me has been struggling. When my mental health is low, my physical health takes a hit too – I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat as I should and I don’t have the same umph in me that’s usually there.
A stye appeared under my eye and I know it was because I’ve been feeling so stressed out and letting things get on top of me. It wasn’t until this stye appeared – well, I knew it was coming as I could feel the skin under my eye feeling dry/tight – that it clicked how crap I had been feeling. Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more in some ways, yet it took a physical symptom for me to acknowledge what was going on.
This post is based on my thoughts and feelings, and a lot of that comes from my personal experience. I think as millennials, the topic of mental health is often talked about in the way we think it should be talked about, yet people don’t truly understand the ways in which it can affect a person. Generally speaking, we are understanding and inquisitive about the subject, but there still IS a taboo of talking about it. When something tragic happens everyone is quick to say they support people suffering with any form of mental illness, yet in reality friends dismiss your feelings and tire of hearing about what you’re going through. It’s very easy to feel like a burden, or like what you’re feeling doesn’t matter because someone has it worse. I feel like I need to say, categorically, mental health is not a competition. It does not matter if someone is going through something ‘worse’ – your feelings matter, your thoughts matter, you matter. I’m all for putting my own experiences out there – as scary as that is – on the off chance it may help someone else, and I hope that this post is received in the way it’s intended; with kindness.
As hard as it is to explain, I felt like for a few days I was me. Happy, giggly, too-loud me. Then, without warning, I suddenly felt like that ‘me’ is no longer there, and I start to worry about everything. The worrying then leads to feeling stressed out and like I have a lack of control. I know I can’t control everything – to be honest we can control very little in life – but I was unable to think rationally or see things from a different point of view. I felt very at a loss with myself, nothing was making me feel better for longer than a couple of hours. This is especially hard for me to understand because I am a worrier any way – I’ve said this before but my grandma always tells me not to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders – yet I do day in, day out. The feelings lasted on and off for about a week, but it really is so disheartening when you just can’t make sense of why you feel so down. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t down at every minute of the day. If, for example, I didn’t tell the girls at work they would have been none the wiser, but it really is so draining when you just can’t get out of a funk. It starts to affect your life in ways you may not see at the time, and something ridiculous like taking a shower becomes a chore.
It may sound silly or child-like, but the best way I can think to describe it is that a little dark cloud just kept following me around. Sometimes I had my raincoat and umbrella ready, and even though I knew that little cloud was there – down pouring – I could weather it. Then, other times, my raincoat and umbrella would be quickly taken from me and I’d be left with nothing to protect me from the storm.
I generally am a very happy person, and even when I’m feeling a little down or anxious I can hide it and just get on with things. Even when I’m in a bad mood – warranted or not – I’m very good at not letting it show. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, it’s just pretty much my default setting. I really can’t hide it from my boyfriend though, he knows in a second if something isn’t right! I apologised to Matt at least once a day for the past week for not being my usual self, and every single time he told me he loved me and I had nothing to apologise for. Sometimes he needs to lean on me a little bit, and sometimes I need to lean on him a little bit, and I love that we have such a good balance. I know I’m so lucky to have such a great man that I can rely on when I need to, and I can’t stress how much I appreciate everything we have in our relationship. This has been something that makes this a whole lot easier – he is understanding and helpful and does everything he can to make me feel better, whatever that may be at that time. I really think it’s so important to lean on someone when you need to. I spent years hiding how I truly felt because, honestly, I didn’t think anyone would understand, then even if they did, I thought they wouldn’t care.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I love spending quality time with my boyfriend more than I can put into words, but I really bloody appreciated it this past week in particular! Falling asleep and waking up with him each day I knew that everything would be okay; that niggly feeling in the pit of my stomach felt lighter each time, I had a sense of comfort and slowly I started to feel better. I was trying so hard to find the good things in each day; to enjoy what I could because I knew I wasn’t feeling completely myself and at any moment I could start feeling down right miserable again. To be honest, I don’t know if this is a good or bad way to view it, but focusing on all the good in my life did seem to help. Let’s be honest, it really is the little things that mean the most anyway. Those little things I know I’m guilty of sometimes taking for granted; relaxing in a hot bubble bath, kissing and cuddling Matt each morning and night, eating a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (the best) on my lunch break, belting out Ariana Grande whilst driving. I’ve learned if you hold onto the good things, the bad things don’t seem so bad.
I sometimes find it very hard to speak to friends when I feel like this; when I should lean on them I push them away as I don’t want to put things on them – this is counter productive and doesn’t help anyone. Another thing I’ve noticed is getting and/or keeping in touch with people can be very hard for me, and I don’t understand why to be able to explain it. I don’t want to have conversations, and I shut myself off – completely unintentionally – from things I don’t have the energy to deal with. I feel like I can be on auto pilot; getting ready and going to work, coming home and feeling exhausted from putting on a (mostly) happy face all day. Matt and I are usually out all the time – going for dinner, exploring a new place, even just going shopping, and as my energy levels were at zero the things I usually love were the last things I wanted to do. Instead we’ve spent lots of time over the past week snuggling up watching Netflix, cooking and just enjoying being together in our little bubble – that was exactly what I needed and those kind of moments were when my raincoat and umbrella were firmly in place.
One thing that made me feel worse was social media, and the fact that everyone else seemed to be feeling, looking and doing great, when I couldn’t fit into that mindset. I’ve touched on this in previous posts, but I really feel like social media can have a negative impact on our mental health and it’s something we all need to be aware of, and take responsibility for. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles circulating the Internet on this topic. I feel like we all know the correlation between social media and poor mental health, yet we continue to allow ourselves to fall deeper into the hole. I am not a jealous person at all, and although I’ve definitely compared myself to others in the past it’s not something that would make me feel down on myself. This past week especially, I’ve felt jealous of silly, ridiculous things, like so-and-so having a perfect life and always seeming so happy. Nine times out of ten I don’t know enough about said person to know if that is true or not; and even if it was true I really shouldn’t be feeling jealous in the first place. I stopped scrolling through Instagram as much, I didn’t open Facebook for days (I mean, it’s pretty boring at the best of times) and I didn’t mindlessly read Twitter. Stepping back from all of the social media rubbish that sometimes fills our brains helped me so much, and I could truly live in the moment.
We’ve all heard the ‘people post their highlight reels’ spiel more than a few times, but it is key to remember this if you’re scrolling through feeling like everyone else has it so good compared to you. The reality is we all feel a little bit down or miserable, to different extents, on a regular basis. It’s okay to feel this way and it’s okay to talk about it. I know this probably seems a little ironic, given that I blog about surface level things generally speaking, but I’m human too, and I hope that this post shows life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, even if I often wish it was.
The funny thing is because everything that was making me feel down was essentially in my own head, I just suddenly felt better. Nothing happened to lift my little dark cloud I’d been carrying around with me, it just went. Things seemed less stressful, my heart wasn’t going 100mph, and when I let my mind wander throughout the day I no longer felt sad, overly worried or anxious. I still have super dry skin under my eye, caused by the stye right now (cute, right?) but that’s it – if I hadn’t confided in my boyfriend and our families I would have just sailed through it and came out the other side without anyone knowing. That’s mainly the reason for this post – I want everyone to be able to share their thoughts and opinions and feelings with whoever they feel able to, it’s so important to reach out and I’ve learned that so much recently.
I think it’s important to say to any ladies reading; we can get feelings similar to what I’ve mentioned above linked to hormones and/or our ‘time of the month’. I take a mini-pill, which means I don’t get periods but I absolutely do feel the effects of ‘PMS’. This highlights my point above that until a physical symptom prompted me to take some kind of action, I ignored the mental symptoms. Just because I don’t have periods doesn’t mean my body doesn’t go through hormonal changes – I know some people will wonder why I’m sharing this; it’s because I know this will be the same for other women. If this is you – please know you’re not alone and feel free to do whatever it takes to make you feel better. (Long hot bubble baths are always the best for an instant cheer up!) How I’ve felt this past week was nothing to do with this, but it’s important to acknowledge that we have so many things going on in our lives and I really want to reach out to other ladies feeling a bit crap. Sometimes PMS and associated feelings can last a day or sometimes it can last a few days – but I think it’s so important to realise that as women we have so many hormones making us feel ‘crazy’ – we’re absolutely not! We are strong and doing a damn good job, wherever we are in our lives.
I am always here if anyone reading this feels like they need to talk; you can find my contact details here, I’d be a friend if you ever needed one. My number one tip is to talk it out; to your partner, your friend, a parent, a colleague; anyone who you can trust. I’d also suggest to take time for yourself – this post highlights a few little ways I like to unwind and may give you some ideas.
However, if you’re struggling in any way with your mental health and feel like you may need a little extra help, there are always professionals you can reach out to. Charities like Mind and the Samaritans are very well known and there are so many ways to get in touch if that is something you need.
Thank you so much for reading – I’d truly love to know your thoughts on this post. I hope that if you’re feeling anything like I have been recently you can feel the virtual love and hugs I’m sending your way.
Lastly, I’d just like to really thank my boyfriend, Matthew. He’s not only my boyfriend and best friend but he’s also my rock, and he makes life more fun every day. Matthew; I am grateful beyond words for everything you do, everything we are and everything we have. I love you baby.