I won’t lie, I’ve had to google whether it is more grammatically correct to say be kinder or be more kind, which isn’t great for someone who a couple years ago was pretty good at eng lang a level. And now I’ve just read that word so much it’s starting to look weird and lose its meaning in my head. Anyway.
Today is World Mental Health Day and I have to admit, as much as I love that there is time and a day dedicated to breaking stigmas surrounding mental health and opening up the conversation, I can also find this day bittersweet because I watch on as people share quotes and retweet posts about how you never know what someone’s going through, to never judge or be nasty to someone because it could really damage their mental health. But this lasts for one day, and then I watch as some of these people then contradict themselves and the caring, considerate personality they’ve showcased on their social media accounts, because they will then do and say things that they know full well can and will affect someone’s mental health negatively.
Last year on World Mental Health Day I was suddenly, on the day, spurred on to write a blog post about where I was at with my own mental health at the time, which wasn’t in the most amazing place. I realised today was WMH Day again, and realised it could be time for an update of sorts. And it’s probably best that you hear from me now that I actually am better and all good, not like last year when I was still in the thick of it.
The overriding thing I’ve learnt over the past year and a half is to be kind. To really, truly be kind. It sounds like a cliche to say be kind, you never know what someone’s going through – those classic social media posts again. But the fact that it’s one of those statements that just gets shared online to receive tons of likes and shares almost makes it lose its meaning, and it shouldn’t. I’ve truly, truly learnt the meaning of that statement after watching people who preach about mental health online turn around and basically bully others.
I get that it can be something that is potentially easier to preach than to practice. When you’re in a situation when you’re treating someone in a way that can be damaging to their mental health, you might not realise how damaging your behaviour can be. For example, nasty comments can be easily brushed off by one person, yet to another can make them feel worthless and have a nasty effect. If you’re the type of person who is the former and has usually only encountered people who just brush comments like that off, it could be difficult to understand that someone may respond in the latter way to you saying nasty things about them. Or maybe they’re someone who usually wouldn’t care but because they’re going through a particularly tough time, those things actually are getting to them for once. This is why the be kinder thing is so important, you don’t know how badly someone will take your negative words and actions towards them.
It’s one thing saying, but it’s another thing to actually do. After my blog post last year, I can’t tell you how many people reached out to me to let me know that they’d always be there for me whilst I was struggling, that I wasn’t alone and that I could talk to someone. When you’re so low, hearing people say those things to you is your lifeline. It gives you belief that everything will be ok again, and that you were just in your own head about it but there are people who do care and are willing to help you out and help you recover. However, I also can’t tell you how many of those people then weren’t there for me at all. So please, don’t tell people you’ll be there for them if you won’t. Or tell them you’ll be there for them with certain conditions – when you’re not working, if they tell you first what’s going on for example. It’s far, far better to tell the truth and be realistic than give someone false hope when they’re at such a low point because when you then let them down, their low point gets lower.
And when I was struggling the way I was a year ago, I was so paranoid that I couldn’t just tell someone oh I’ve had a really bad panic attack today, I don’t wanna be alone can we talk or can you come round or something. For me, I had to find an excuse to speak to them or see them, then once the conversation was going I felt comfortable enough to be like actually ok I called you because I had a really bad panic attack and didn’t want to be alone. So I get that not being direct enough could have hindered me, but if you’ve promised to be there for someone you get that chat going or you go and see them so they can then speak to you about what’s going on. In short – don’t say these things if you won’t follow through.
I can absolutely pinpoint people breaking those promises as one of the reasons that my situation then got a lot worse than what I told you a year ago today. It can be hard to find a way out of a difficult time, but even harder when you think you’re on the way out and get kicked back down again. I like to hope that I can provide some living proof of not only why you should be kinder to others, but of the fact that it will get better. It might take a lot longer than you expected but I promise you, I’ve done it twice in my life now – aged 12 and aged 19 – and it really does get better.
I said it last year, and I still have some of it internalised in me. I preach all this about mental health and breaking the stigma, yet the stigma is still strong enough to always make me scared to share these things online because of judgement. I don’t believe that there is any one ‘type’ of person you’d assume to be struggling with their mental health but as I said last year, whenever people find out that I’ve struggled so bad they find it surprising. And because of that, I get too scared to admit how bad it has been because I don’t want to change that perception of me if it’s already something that surprises them. Last year I spoke about my anxiety and panic attacks, but I didn’t want to speak about the depression because I thought that was a step too far, too much to share because it was too deep and awful. But I want to prove to you why you’ve got to be kinder, and why it will get better.
This is something I am still a bit worried to share on a blog that anyone on the internet can see (like, will this cost me a job one day? will this make me lose people?), but did you watch Jest Nelson’s documentary about her mental health struggle after everyone bullied her for her weight and looks? There’s a moment in it I’ve popped in here where she speaks about something that I did too, and she articulates the exact pain I felt. Mine wasn’t because of comments about my looks, but the same feeling that the pain I was in and was put in would never stop, the way she was being treated by others would never stop, and the fact that she couldn’t continue to live with the pain anymore after trying and trying for so long – she takes the words out of my mouth. Last November I got to the same point, I knew I couldn’t live with the pain anymore, so like Jesy I (obviously poorly, thank fuck) attempted an overdose too. Luckily, unlike Jesy, I wasn’t home at the time so didn’t have a whole under the sink cupboard full of things to use. When it ultimately didn’t end up working, the realisation that I had never hit a point so low where I made such a deliberate attempt like that and was prepared to just do it and see what happened and not care if the outcome meant I no longer lived was almost enough to make me realise that I wasn’t going to give in any more and was going to do whatever it took to recover, because fuck ever feeling that helpless again to resort to that.
This is something I have for months always dreaded anyone knowing, but then this Summer when I went for catchups with people I hadn’t seen in a while and explained my shit time to them, I was able to drop it in conversation so casually almost without even realising because I’m now so far past this and so recovered that I feel ok to say it. And it does make me feel guilty that the people, friends and family who were truly there for me last year when a lot of others weren’t, don’t know this and didn’t know this. But it’s not something I can just drop in casually like oh yeah by the way, last year when I was going through that rough patch I tried to kill myself. Imagine that out of nowhere. But after seeing the clip in Jesy’s documentary where she speaks about her attempt, which was so similar to mine and for such similar reasons, it all just came out on one of my more personal and private social media accounts a few weeks ago. And really, when the people who I care about knew – the people who were really there for me and kept me going even without knowing it – I didn’t really care who else knows. I mean I kinda do. But trying to break that stigma here.
I can promise you now though, that feeling I had on that day is something I have not felt in months and months and months, probably not too far off of a year. It did take me probably until this Summer to fully recover from everything that happened and everything I felt and experienced, but I can’t tell you enough if you are struggling that things will get better, so it’s worth sticking around to see it happen because imagine how satisfying it feels for me now to actually have forgotten what it feels like to have a panic attack multiple times a day, to have forgotten what it feels like to be in pain and at the end of my tether thinking I’d never recover.
One thing that still hurts to know, is that people can hear a story like mine, or like Jesy’s, or anyone else who has struggled, and they’ll be like awh that’s so awful nobody should ever be made to feel like that. But again, their actions won’t always reflect that. If there is one thing that super low point taught me it’s that I had to get better at being kinder to people too, trying to ensure that I never made anyone feel the same way I felt. I know when you’re young it’s easy to be naive and mouth off and get caught up in some things that you don’t realise can have a damaging effect, but I am twenty. There is absolutely no reason to ever be a bully past the age of 18. How are you going to be a grown ass adult showcasing playground bully behaviour to those around you? There’s having bit of gossip or a valid, negative opinion, but when this crosses the line of becoming a personal and nasty comment about someone, especially something they can’t change or would find difficult to change, that’s when it becomes bullying and is when you need to stop, check yourself, and be kinder. Follow that classic rule, if it’s something they can’t change in ten seconds then don’t say it, whether it’s to them or to someone else.
Only until very recently did I become grateful for the experience of last year. Usually I welcome hardships as a way to become a stronger person and learn a few valuable life lessons, but up until a few weeks ago last year’s struggle was one I’d actually have rather not experienced and I would’ve preferred to just be a little more naive and a little less strong. But I changed my mind. Learning to truly be kind and to not judge and bully others is worth it to make sure I’d never make some one feel the way I felt, even accidentally. Because in most cases as adults it’s probably usually more accidental. It’s taught me to put my mental health first, if situations have come up where I can see myself being made to feel the way I felt a year ago, I have removed myself in a way that I’ve hoped has caused as little damage for everyone involved as possible. I’ve learnt that it’s so important to ask for help and the thought of doing so is so much worse than when you actually do it. I’ve learnt that the people you want to surround yourself with are the people who won’t judge you or change their perceptions on you for having such a low point. I’ve learnt that therapy is so fun and amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who has even considered it, even if you aren’t struggling with your mental health but just think it could be a good idea. I literally love it, I couldn’t recommend it enough and I actually look forward to it. I see it as having a PT for your mind rather than your body.
It was such a tough time that you’ve got to take the only positives to come out of it – all these things I’ve learnt from it. And why stop at just me learning it? I may as well share what I’ve learnt with you so you don’t have to be put through a hard time just to learn them.
Whether there’s anything you’ve struggled with, no matter how big or small you see it, I hope you can take something from this and use me as your proof that it’ll all work out and improve and get better, and in a while you’ll forget how it ever felt. I hope you can learn to prioritise your mental health but to also consider others’ and just be kinder. Try to see things from other people’s perspective to understand why they could be doing something you don’t understand or agree with. Refrain from making any comment that could actually have an impact on someone. Be honest with people and where they stand with you. Don’t make false promises. Let’s all just try and be a lil kinder, not just on World Mental Health Day but all the time.