Mental health: the road to being my best self

The road to improving mental health
Photo by Emma Simpson from unsplash

One day I hope to be a barrister. At present I am a student at Northumbria Law School. I enjoy reading, creative writing, figure skating, swimming and I really do not like sweetcorn. I am enthusiastic, motivated, confident and beautiful. Dealing with mental health issues has been a major part of my life.

Oh. I also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety and Depression. I am a rape survivor. I lost my sister when I was eight to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I was bullied through school.  I did not finish college when I should have. I had and still have self-esteem and confidence issues. But most importantly I am me.

Dealing with mental health has always been a big part of my life. For the most part it has been difficult to manage and maintain a balanced life. So, achieving the things I set out to achieve was always just a distant dream. I had the people around me telling me I need to focus on myself, do not ‘give up’ and ‘get help’.

I did not want to focus on myself. I already had given up. I did not want to get help.

Starting university and facing mental health issues

When I was just about to turn 21, with a failing relationship, I was just about to start university and didn’t know how I was going to cope. I had lost all of my friends, and had no money. The list goes on.

By the time, my first week of university came round I had been made homeless, my relationship broke down, my student finance wasn’t correct, my confidence was pretty much non-existant and I didn’t know where to turn. At this point I already suffered from depression and anxiety. I tried my hardest to keep up with work knowing it would be too much, I continued and did not ask for help.

Looking back now I realise I was sacred, terrified in fact of people knowing I was not ‘normal’. That I had not been able to ‘snap out of it’.

I ventured into the university library and came across the section where they organised counselling appointments. I did not know the university offered this and I thought this would be the best place to air my problems as far away from home as I could. I spoke to a woman in the office who explained how I could get more than just emotional support from the university. She gave me the courage to realise that I could turn my life around. She got me in touch with the relevant services and offered me advice on how to solve my issue of being homeless, money worries, academic support and being hungry.

It was a long story but finally, in February, I moved into my flat. It was lonely and hard at first but reality set in that for the first time in my life I had something of my own, that I could make my own.

With all the stress I did not realise my body was not acting how it normally should. However, as I had been eating very poorly for six years why would it? I started getting bad stomach pains and having hot and cold flushes. Eventually I decided to visit the doctors where they told me I was pregnant. I was shocked and excited, I did not really know how I felt as I was so overwhelmed. I knew having a baby would put my education on hold but not forever, I was entitled to help. I could go back next year when I had picked up the reins of motherhood and found appropriate care.

The road to coping…and recovery

Again, disaster struck, and I found out that I had miscarried. I thought “only me.” I started decorating soon after to keep myself busy and found out that I had been given the opportunity to re-sit my first year at university and go back in September. AND…. I landed myself a job interview with my local council, which I smashed, and now work there part time. I was over the moon, It was a knock-back that I am still recovering from, but I am coping.

Then Covid -19 made its debut. I coped. I was still not feeling great I could not go to church. I could not see my brothers. I could not see my auntie or my nan. I was reading every book I could find on my kindle: law, sociology, literature. You name it. I had decorated, learned to cook for myself, I could remember and want to take my medication, I had started putting weight on and had prospects to start a new job when I could and go back to university.

Then, I got a Max.

A Max is a particular creature. It looks like a dog. Sounds like a dog. Even smells like a dog. But he is no ordinary dog. He is special. He has the biggest heart, the smartest mind, and the most caring nature. He got me through lockdown, my fear of crowds and enjoys long walks just like his mam. Most importantly he made me forget to keep checking if I am ‘coping’.

Months went on and here we are. I am back at university. Working for my local council when lockdown is not stealing my hours. I actively go to church. I am brand knew. And guess what? I am still coping. I am doing more than coping, I am living, cherishing moments, making friends, and living a life I did not think possible in January and it has not even been a year.

What did I learn about myself and my mental health?

I am a survivor and a a winner. I am caring and wonderful in so many ways that I would not have seen if I did not get help when I needed it. I am not just existing. There are so many people who want me to do well, grow, achieve and be happy. I have learned so much about mental health and the effects it has on every aspect of life. Working on my metal health made me realise that I cannot have the body, life, or success I want if I do not have a plan.

So, I bought a diary, started organising every aspect of my life in advance. I was on time for things more, eating planned meals, planning my shopping, my career, my studies, exercise, meditation and even my periods. I have always been a clean person but never this organised and I loved it. My life became easier. I get excited. I used the resources and services available and I am living a beautiful, wonderful, and prosperous life. I learned things about myself that I never thought I would ever even be capable of.

Basically – I found my inner badass!

Life is good and will continue to be good because I put the work in to be my best self. I do not lose myself in unrealistic goals and projects and have found a way to turn the things I thought were negative into life lessons. I have taken on projects and made a list of achievements that I did not even consider before. I am a new person and so excited for the future and the things I am going to achieve. One of the main things I have learned is that I must look after myself.

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