Let's Normalize Mental Health Conversations
This is not your usual skincare or fashion piece. It is a bit more dark and emotional so you have no obligation to continue reading if you don't want to, but I want my blog to be about anything and everything that I valued, and it is something I stand by. Therefore, I want to take this time to talk about mental health issues and hopefully share my experience both personally or through friends to bring awareness, and stop the stigma that still exists around the world today.
Let's normalize this type of conversation into our regular conversations.
Talking to others about mental health issues has always been something I was comfortable with when it came down to helping others understand what it is, consoling my friends and being an advocate for this issue. When I decided to put myself out here to write blogs it was already a very big step for me personally, because many people in my life know that I am a very reserved person and someone who doesn't say much about my personal life. Now that I am here speaking about this personal and sensitive topic, it definitely puts me in a vulnerable position, but I am willing to do so and be transparent about it because I want people to know that they are not alone.
In the past, I was someone who would let almost every bad event and thought get to me emotionally and mentally to the point where I had mental health issues. It was not something I openly spoke about because I didn't want my family or friends to know and worry or let them see this "uglier" side of me, as it made me feel like I wouldn't be the same Janie as I was in their eyes, and they wouldn't know how to react or run off. When you let someone into your world and vulnerability, it's almost like ripping off a layer of skin for everyone to see your flesh. I remember I would constantly have this internal fight to have the biggest smile in the room whenever I could, thinking that smiling and acting more happy would actually make me happier, but it honestly made me feel worse because it was tiring to match everyone's energy. I didn't have the best methods of coping and made bad decisions on how I dealt with pain and stress, which led me to constantly do anything I could to avoid failure in order protect myself.
I would repeat this in my head, even to this day, "Why are you so weak? Your pain is nothing compared to other people." I didn't realize for many years, I consistently undermined my own feelings and emotions and blamed myself a lot for all the bad things that happen even when I wasn't the one at fault. Back then, I would much rather be the one to hold onto the guilt than to let my feelings manifest.
Why do we let ourselves fall?
We're all different. We all have our own demons. Some people have an extremely strong character and mental state so they can see bad situations logically and objectively, while others are more emotional and sensitive or perhaps past experiences put them in a mental state where they feel the way they do. I have to be clear about one thing: no one chooses to be depressed. They can choose to stay depressed and not ask for help, but no one asks to be in that state.
There's no specific answer to what triggers people to feel the way they do. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you're on, your feelings are valid. I used to tell myself that my feelings were not valid because I was afraid that letting out those feelings would mean that I would be judged by other people due to the stigma for mental health issues. A reason was because I was convinced that I was on the less severe side, almost like I was in denial. I compared myself to other people who were in the same boat and didn't realize everyone's experience was different I stretched that scale so far out to convince myself that my feelings weren't valid, only to realized that that was a sign of some type of mental illness.
Always research symptoms or seek for help (hotline, therapist, psychologist or friend) whenever you find yourself in a situation where your gut feeling tells you that something might be off or that these symptoms are showing up consistently and are affecting your daily life. Ask yourself what might have led you into thinking the way that you do, and talk to someone you trust or seek for help. There are many different types of mental health issues and it comes in many forms.
How Can I Change that Negative Mindset?
Ask yourself two simple questions: "Is this how I want to see myself every single day? Is this how I want to feel every single day?"
It took years of self love to know exactly what I need in order to help myself in these situations. I want to share with you my thoughts to let you know that you are not the only one and it's okay to not be okay sometimes.
Me in the past up until 2020:
Constantly comparing myself and my life to other people and putting myself down because I thought I would never be able to succeed.
Constantly building a thick wall between myself and the people in my life - cancelling plans, being afraid of saying no even though I was not in a mood to go out with friends, staying quiet in group settings, being afraid to speak up to people, being a pushover for everything and everyone.
Constantly having panic attacks and anxiety because of the pressure I placed on myself.
Recently in 2020 I thought: "I'm going to be a fresh grad in 2021 who doesn't have a job lined up right after I graduate like many others do." I'm comparing myself to others who are already working and putting myself down for not doing more or not doing well enough to land a job. I kept giving myself reasons to fall into some hole and thought of ways to find comfort there.
Me today in 2021:
I love everything about the life I have and where I am. I have a family and great friends who love me and I am now more appreciative of all the things that I have taken for granted in the past. At this moment, I get to do things I have always wanted to do such as teaching, learning more about fashion and developing new skills. I am proud of all the small victories and the small things that I do that are helping me grow to be kinder and more confident. Yeah, I admit there are days where I am lazy and avoid my responsibilities, there are days where I hardly talk to people and there are days where sitting alone in my room can be lonely.
A lot of people dreaded and hated 2020 because the pandemic changed their life drastically and for the worse, but to me 2020 has also been a time for me to grow independently and mentally. I know that many people will choose to project their unhappiness negatively by putting other people down, but I refrain from doing that because I know what it's like receiving that negativity and people don't realize how that negative projection can bring other people's mental state down.
I taught myself how to face my own feelings head on and to own those feelings. I had the time and space to be more reflective, be more mindful and be more grateful for all there is for me, as opposed to how I would've dealt with situations like this in the past, where I would blame myself for why I am in this bad situation and not do anything to take myself out of it. I used to be the type where I thought I needed a lot of people to keep me company in order to feel loved and supported, but then I realized that at the end of the day, I am my biggest supporter and I only need the people who do care.
You need to start owning your small wins like they are big wins!
Your Past is NOT Your Weakness
Do not ever let yourself think that your past or your mental health is your weakness. Do not blame yourself for what goes wrong in your life - accept that things may not go the way you want and let go. I am grateful for going through what I did in the past because it has honestly taught me some of the most important lessons to be a better person when it comes to treating others. So there is more to be thankful for than to regret. I wrote this blog to tell people that I have my story and I am not perfect.
The first lesson is that it has made me more compassionate and caring when it came to other people's pain because I feel the need to take care of them and watch over them so that they never go through pain alone.
The second lesson is that I learned to never think too much about my first impressions of other people, because who they are shouldn't be defined by our first glance and encounter, but through developing and learning about them overtime.
The third lesson is to be kind and never judge others without knowing them or their story. Far too often we only see things at surface level or people only want to share the best parts of their life while they hide their pain. If we decided to take what we see and gossip or speak ill about them, what does that say about us? There are many sides to a story and it's important consider all sides before making our judgement.
The fourth lesson is that you don't get to judge someone else's pain without going through it yourself. People assume and categorize those with mental health issues to be "messed up and weak." However, these so-called "weak" people may also be some of the most empathetic and understanding people in the world. We shouldn't seal these people inside their box without trying to open it and understand it.
The last and most important lesson, you are worthy of all the best things in life. Try to open your mind and give yourself credit for showing up emotionally and mentally. Appreciate all the little things you do just from waking up and learning to love yourself.
I am not perfect, but as I write this blog, it serves as a reminder for myself to also be kind, to be understanding and to be openminded about everyone's past without clouding it with my own judgements. Believe me, there are times where I still make mistakes and judge too quickly or say the wrong things, but I admit it because I am human. Humans were born to judge but we have the ability to learn how to be compassionate, empathetic and kind to one another, because we are the ones who build the support system for those around us. The reason why there is still stigma is because people continue to see mental health issues as a problem and push them aside without trying to understand why they are feeling that way. Statistics show that each year, the rates of mental health issues within the youth continues to rise and 1 in 5 people experience mental health issues in their lifetime. If we don't bring more awareness or show more compassion to others, the generations after us will continue to think the system has failed them because we failed to build a good foundation in the first place.
To end off, ask yourself: "How was I before 2020 and how am I now in 2021?
(Take this time to write down your thoughts onto a piece of paper)
Repeat this phrase: "My feelings are valid, my worries are valid and my struggles are valid." You deserve to feel the way that you do and here are some things I told myself to feel better and I hope it will help you when you feel doubt about uncertainties:
Prioritize important things in life - YOU, your mind, body and soul and your loved ones.
Tell yourself: "So what! Who cares if I'm not there yet!" The rest of the world is struggling one way or another, we just don't see it. If you do your part, the rest will fall into place.
Do not let the fear and anxiety of judgement get in the way of your moment and your happiness.
Give yourself time and space. Take care of yourself because at the end of the day, you are the only person who can be there for you.
You don't need a giant circle of people who half-heartedly care for you. You only need people who are a constant in your life no matter how many or how little there are.
People's hostility and negative attitude towards you or what you do is a projection of their own dissatisfaction and insecurities in life, it has nothing to do with you personally.
Everyone has their own pain and their own struggles that our naked eye cannot see. Learn their story before you judge.
It's okay to see a therapist, a counsellor or a psychiatrist. By taking this step, you are already doing something that most people can't, and that is asking for help.
Do not let people box you in on a standard and think that is the only way for you to be "perfect." There's no one-size-fits-all for perfection.
Remind yourself that you deserve to fall once in a while, how else will you learn to run? You just need to outgrow the old you, not others. Be grateful and be proud of all the steps you took to get to where you are. If you are reading this, whether you have been or are in a similar situation, you will find your way because you are a fighter. Reach out to strangers or people you haven't spoken to for years because a simple message like "Hi, how are you feeling?" can make someone's day. Trust me, doing that has helped me rekindled so many friendships and learn more about them as a person.
Please feel free to connect with me privately if you ever need someone to talk to.
I will be more than happy to be your advocate.