If you Google me it will come up with a list of my blogs, some JustGiving sites and a book I have recently written. It won’t take you long to work out that I lived with anorexia since the age of 13. A nasty illness that nearly killed me and resulted in me spending a year in a mental health adolescent hospital when I was 17.
Those who know me now will tell you I am a bubbly, cheery, healthy person, probably slightly annoying at times with how much I talk but from the outset everything looks fine. And that’s the way I like it!
It might surprise you to know that there were weeks in 2016 when I felt unable to function. The amount of times I lost all dignity and would silently cry on the tube. Tears streaming down my face as I felt so out of control, so empty and so lost. Or times when it would take every ounce of courage and energy to get to work painting that mask on. Then even more energy to find my way home. The relief when I would arrive home; those nights and lie on the sofa feeling exhausted.
I used to be ashamed of admitting these feelings. And definitely ashamed that I was so close to killing myself.
Why should I be ashamed of this? Or embarrassed to let my mask down?
I recently had the pleasure of going for a drink with Mandy Stevens (for those who don’t know her have a Google! She is one of the most inspiring people I have met.) We sat for hours sharing our stories and learning from one another. To all those looking on we looked like two normal women enjoying a good gossip. As we left the pub she got me to stop and look around and we realised that no one would realise that we had both been hospitalised. No one would realise the invisible struggles that we had gone through. We looked completely normal!
Mental illness is invisible and for some reason so many people feel ashamed about it. I know when I had rough days last summer I would mask on a happy face and be too afraid to tell those even closest to me. I was afraid I had failed everyone round me. However, after that day in June I realised that there is so much more to life. It took a while, but now if I have a bad day I can talk about it. The power of talking or just messaging someone when you are having a bad day or struggling is amazing.
How about you give it ago next time you are struggling? Try and share your feelings! I guarantee it will help you!
And two more things:
1. Having a mental health problem is NOTHING to be ashamed of and does not make you weaker.
2. Next time you are on the tube and pushing someone to get on, or when you consider gossiping about someone or making a snide remark if someone makes a mistake at work or annoys you - STOP! And think about what they might be going through.
Just because they look fine doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.