Lost time, no post eh?
I feel like I have been very remiss this past year leaving you all with less to read from Observations of a Fictional Girl yet this has been because the real girl behind the words has been incredibly busy. Therefore even when I've had awesome ideas, started drafting them etc. I just haven't been in the right mindset to actually put them up.
But here we go, 8 months since my last post and I'm briefly back. It's Mental Health Awareness week and given that this year of doing my Masters has been a time where I've been forced to examine my wellbeing more than ever - it seems apt to post now.
If you guys have been following my blog for a while, or know me a little bit, you'll know that mental health is a kind of key theme for me, one of the main passions of my life as well as the defining thread of it thus far.
If I'm honest my mental health is something that has ebbed and flowed during university despite the most intense period of my depression being before I arrived at university. The end of my high school experience was dominated not only with the typical stresses of exams, university choices and the anxiety of the new but counselling, managing my self harm and bulimia, trying to weed out my suicidal thoughts and learning to love myself again.
University, despite the anxieties of not being able to make friends, not being good at my course, missing home, was amazing. I felt more in control, able to respond to my own triggers when my mood started spiralling, made great friends and able to be myself.
Admittedly there were times over the past four years where this progress has been tested. Moments of unexpected trauma, increased periods of stress, concern for the future etc. have all thrown things off balance. Reminding me as ever that recovery is not a linear path, and that's okay.
This year has come with its own set of challenges, both with financial upheavals, heavier workloads and feeling like nothing I'm doing is good enough. Whilst being the happiest I have been in a long time and had incredible opportunities, I have also struggled more with my own wellbeing.
I'm not going to lie there have been times where this has scared me. Where I have felt that my mind has been operating on two different radio stations. One side encouraging, confident, calm. The other self-deprecating, out of control, negative. The dial for the latter has been turned up way too many times of late, blocking out the part of me which knows that it doesn't need to be listened to. It's a hard balancing act. Especially when you add deadlines, tiredness, stress, insecurity.
But I am incredibly lucky to have friends - both near and far -, family and boyfriend that have been here for me in the times where I feel most like myself and those in which I can't remember who I am. This has kept me going even when I forget what helps me feel better.
I think one of the hardest things for those of us who are in touch with our mental health, who encourage people to look after themselves, to practice self-care, is to look after ourselves.
We extend so much time - rightly - asking others 'how are you?' that we put our own wellbeing on the backburner. But we can't truly look after other people without looking after ourselves first. We might just need some help along the way in doing that.
I can't begin to count the number of times I have responded to the question 'how are you?' with 'fine' or 'ok'. Brushing off concern because sometimes I feel how do I even begin to get into the many confusing emotions in my head, when I don't even understand them. Yet I appreciate the concern even we I can't explain my mental state :) I appreciate hugs too.
Yet what I'm suggesting is not we stop asking others how they are, because that is really important, but to ask ourselves how we're doing. To not just practice self-care, to not just share our emotions with others (because sometimes these are both difficult) but to ask ourselves how we're doing.
To not just let pressure build up to the point where we can't handle it but to practise compassion, to check in with how we're doing, not just putting our own needs on the backburner. You are important. Your wellbeing is important. I am important. My wellbeing is important.
So, take time to investigate how you are. Write it down. Meditate. Watch tv and let your mind wander. Use an app to chart things. Do whatever works for you. But schedule time to check your mental health. Even if you still can't vocalise it you're acknowledging that your emotions are valid, that they are worth taking time over! And they so are.
It's time to stop berating ourselves for feeling bad, seeing panic attacks or low moods as setbacks but as part of an ongoing journey, to recognise our recovery doesn't have a timeline, and that our wellbeing should be our number one priority not our grades, not replying to messages on time or keeping all our commitments: our mental health.
I'm going to try and ask myself 'How are you?' more often, and actually take my own advice for once. And I'll keep on asking you guys too because we still aren't at a place where mental health is discussed as a common thing and we've got a long ways to go to raise awareness for mental health in general.
In the meantime look after yourselves folks :)
Much fictional love,
Song of the post: Zero to Hero - Hercules Soundtrack