My Journey, 2 Years On.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and as always, I’m always slightly apprehensive and reluctant to talk about it because I believe it should be spoken about every week but, if this opens up a conversation then that is amazing and more than I could have ever wished for. I want to urge others to speak up, talk about how we feel, and let everyone know you are not alone.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I talk about mental health, anxiety and I guess food struggles in particular, quite a lot. I know some of you will know all about my journey but I wanted to dive deep into that this week because feeling alone in those thoughts is the hardest place to be and if I can make someone feel less alone, then I’ll have achieved what I set out to do when I started opening up both on here and on IG 2-ish years ago.
Before I go into more detail, I just want to add a little disclaimer. If you feel as though this post (or my IGTV) might be too much for you right now, that is totally okay – please do click away and perhaps read or watch it at another time. I’m also going to include some references and websites in the description – I urge you to use these support pages and platforms. I have in the past and they’ve been tremendously helpful.
So, my journey like all journeys, isn’t straight forward. I was trying to piece together a timeline but it isn’t linear and some parts are a bit of a blur. I’m not going to hone in on the hard parts because that isn’t helpful to you or me, so what I want to talk about are the times and moments I realised I needed a helping hand.
One thing I want to say from the get go is that needing a little bit of extra support does not make you weak or a failure. And for so long, I didn’t want to seek help because I felt I’d failed my mind and my body. The reality is that speaking out actually makes you strong and it makes you the winner. You have put yourself first and you’ve decided that you are going to win and beat that illness.
My mental health started to decline when I was around 15/16 and coincided with an eating disorder. I think I spent the first year or so pretending it wasn’t happening because the illness had totally taken over my mind and ability to focus or rationalise thoughts, feelings or situations. I didn’t understand what was happening but as I got progressively more ill, I fixated on the one thing I could control which for me, was food. This resulted in shrinking myself, my body and my worth.
I’d feel happy at certain moments but that would be overtaken by overarching feeling of guilt, sadness and heaviness that I couldn’t shake.
There were some days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt physically unwell all the time and honestly, my mind and body were giving up on me. I felt nothing but numb, dull and like ‘the Amy I knew‘ had disappeared. I remember one of my Mums friends saying the sparkle in my eye had gone out. And when I was with my friends, I wasn’t actually there – I felt vacant.
I think there have been two defining moments in my recovery – the first I’ve spoken about before and that’s the moment I decided that if I didn’t choose recovery, I might not make it. The second was around 12-18 months ago.
Getting help for an eating disorder was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I still to this day, would choose recovery every single time. I based my happiness on the scale. I based my worth on a scale and nothing was ever enough. I never felt like I was enough.
When I was in recovery, I was on anti-depressants and since then, I’ve been back on anti-depressants twice. So three times so far in my lifetime – and I’m 25. But I’m no longer ashamed to admit that because I chose and am choosing to beat it.
I’d describe my anxiety and depression as this overarching sense of guilt, sadness, worry and energy. And this energy had nowhere to go. It would just keep building and building until eventually I’d just loose it. Being on anti-depressants and speaking to professionals existed and still does exist as somewhere for this ‘energy’ to go.
Another place to ‘expend this energy’ is exercise. When I was at my worst with my ED, I used exercise in all the wrong ways and basically as a form of punishment. Fast forward to now and I can honestly say, I do it for the way it makes me feel NOT how it makes me look.
That feeling of getting stronger or faster. And it serves as a constant reminder that I am so lucky and privileged to be able to exercise in ways that make me feel good.
This time last year, I wasn’t in a great place and my life changed. I could feel that dark cloud starting to re-appear so I took control. I asked for help. I put myself first (something I’d not done in a while) and I decided that I would recover for a second time for no-one but me. I’m forever indebted to my family for never giving up on me, my friends who have answered the phone at 2am and listened to me repeat myself over and over, and to the doctors who reminded me that I would get through it.
9 weeks ago, our lives changed. Our perfectly curated routines were flipped on their heads. I really struggled for the first 7 days. Getting out of bed was hard. But I (tried) to put into practice what I’d learnt. I leaned on others around me and I promised myself I’d do everything in my power to get through it.
- I took and still take every single minute, hour, day as it comes.
- There will be hard days.
- There will be days when it feels like your world is coming to an end. But, it isn’t because you are SO much stronger than you give yourself credit for.
- You are NOT your thoughts.
- Focus on what you enjoy, what you love and dive deep into those feelings.
I’ve also learnt that if you try to constantly fight what you’re feeling, you’ll end up burning out. Instead, acknowledge it, accept it but don’t let it define you. Ride the rollercoaster and be brave enough to know you will come out stronger.
I still have days when I find it really bloody tough. Days when I still cry to my mum, sister and friends. Days when food still troubles me. Days when those anxious flurries build like car-seat heaters but, I’ve worked so hard to free myself and my mind of that stagnant energy and those self deprecating thoughts.
Your time and energy is too precious, too expensive and too important to be spent on things, people and behaviours that don’t serve you.
You can rebuild that friendship with yourself. With conscious effort, awareness and so much self love. Chose to put your mind and your mental health first. Not just this week, but every week,
Samartians – Taking action to prevent the crisis.
https://www.samaritans.org // 116 123
As always, I am here to lend an ear and offer advice where I can but I’m not qualified as a therapist or nutritionist. All advice and thoughts are based on my personal experiences. Thank you for understanding.
And one last thing, I believe in you and you should too.