It may seem incredibly cliché to do a roundup of the year in late December. But for me, this year has been another incredibly transformative one. So I thought I would share, with the glorious readers of Mental Movement, a few little life lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Our journey to good mental health isn’t smooth.
This has been one of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year. You see, I’ve always seen myself as ‘healed’ but this year I’ve learnt, I am just better at coping. This little lesson came packaged in two fairly horrible spells, one in which my self-confidence disappeared once more, and the second when anxiety came a knocking in it’s strongest form.
I spent my year travelling, not on one big holiday, but on 12 small ones. As my last trip approached, my anxiety was creeping higher. I am not a fan of December and I’m more prone to sadness at this time of year, so as I travelled alone to Frankfurt, my brain wasn’t at it’s strongest. Obviously, my anxiety seized the moment and crept in, and I found myself awake at 3:30 am, in a hotel room, with no-one to speak to, convincing myself there would be a terror attack the next day.
And as anyone with anxiety knows, this isn’t just fear, it becomes the strongest, most prominent thought, a belief that it will definitely happen – one that can feel impossible to fight. But I did, I got up, got dressed, spoke to myself like I would a friend and I faced my fear. However just because I was able to face my fear, my fear did not go. Just like my anxiety, which I have faced and conquered to an extent, it will never go 100%.
Realising this, and that I’m not failing when I have a bad day, has actually made me stronger. If you have a relapse, for a minute, a day, a week, a year, you’re not weak. You’re so strong for continually fighting.
The friends you rely upon will come in all shapes and sizes and often aren’t your inner circle.
My close friends are wonderful, they ring me when I’m down, come to me at a moments notice, and in return, I do the same for them. However I have also found new support groups, I had never previously dreamt of.
Through the MM girls, I am lucky enough to see the support, the love and compassion of thousands of Twitter followers, when I am down and out, a simple message to these people, can bring a flurry of responses, self-care tips, motivational messages and sometimes just someone else to moan that ‘it’s just not fair’. These relationships, these people, who are there for people they haven’t met are some of the most valuable at the times when you need them the most.
I have also been lucky to find new friends through group therapy, who understand me and the way I think. People who make you feel like you’re not alone, even when your brain is screaming that you are.
You may know the things which will trigger you, and do them anyway.
Dating makes me sad. I do not like it. At times, it can make me quite sick. Constant rejection isn’t the greatest when your self-esteem is pretty abysmal. However, I do it anyway. We all know the things that trigger us but often we do them anyway, and that’s fine because we have to find a way to live our lives and fight these things.
I know that if I have a lot to drink, the next day I will feel sad, anxious, alone, but I still drink, because I love an espresso martini. But it’s good to know our triggers, so we can also rationalise the way we feel. In fact, I find it easier to cope, if, when I see people I can tell them I have ‘post drinking depression’, it makes me feel more normal, and is just another tool in my self-care box, it’s a form of being kind to ourselves I guess.
And finally the biggest cliché of all, happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Isn’t that saying infuriating? Still, it’s ridiculously true. I often find myself, feeling alone, wondering why I am down, why I get anxiety, why I can’t meet someone. But then, I also spend so much time, laughing, travelling, reading, trapezing, living a life I truly love. So why is it, that I focus on the things I don’t have or can’t control?
Learning to focus on what I have and not what I think I want, has been my most valuable lesson yet. Take in the moments when you’re laughing, smiling, crying, relaxing, feeling, and savour them.
This isn’t anything to do will ill mental health, this is just life, as the great Ronan Keating* once said ‘Life is a rollercoaster,’ everyone has a comedown, now and then. Everyone gets frustrated when they stub their toe or have one of those days. However, if you can find it in yourself to not dwell on it, to try and choose a mindset which allows you to say ‘that’s ok’ and move on, to look for the beauty in the everyday life, then maybe the bad times will be a little bit brighter.
Now, I know it’s impossible when you’re in the depths of the darkness, but on the days after, the recovery days, remember how strong you are, how anyone who fights a battle is so strong, and look for the little things, the morning coffee, the text from a friend, the pretty sunrise and be grateful for them. For these are the reasons we keep fighting.
Here’s to another year of community, happiness, health and not being ghosted (well, a girl can dream)
*Once a Boyzone fangirl, always a Boyzone fangirl