I wrote this blog over a month ago, but I was too scared to post it! I wondered whether it was too ‘deep’ or perhaps too personal. However, a wonderful friend convinced me that it could be a useful read for others – I hope you enjoy it, and apologies for the delay!
2019 was the most challenging year of my life with regards to my mental health (I won’t go into detail as I have written a couple of blogs about this). I feel incredibly grateful to be at a stage where I am now managing my PTSD and anxiety a lot more effectively, using a combination of therapy, medication, exercise, and having open, honest conversations.
I’m oddly grateful for my mental health struggles. I have gained strength and resilience, and a fierce determination for the year, and decade, ahead.
I have also seen the dark side of our mental health system, subject to brutal cuts, huge demand and dangerously long waiting times. This has pushed me into becoming a mental health advocate, sharing my story and fighting against an underfunded system.
I’m writing this from a pretty good place (mentally, not physically, as I’m currently writing this sitting on a bench just round the corner from Sam’s 99p store). I still experience some intense periods of poor mental health, but they are far less frequent and significantly easier to deal with.
So, my key learnings and general thoughts from the past year are as follows…
1. You can take time for yourself. You SHOULD take time for yourself and stop feeling guilty about it.
2. Saying that… self-care, as a concept, is becoming increasingly problematic.
Self-care has become commercialised, and this commercialised self-care tells us to spend £50 on a face cream or buy a vanilla latte with soymilk.
We need to take a step back and think about what self-care is and what self-care is not. For me, self-care is any activity that has a strong focus on my mental and/or physical health. It isn’t a complex morning routine or a 2-hour meditation session. It’s the simple things; trying to get at least 8 hours sleep, taking my medication, running, swimming, cycling, eating ridiculous amounts of peanut butter.
3. ‘Toxic’ friendships can be avoided/terminated/managed.
Side note – Toxic was Oxford’s word of the year in 2018, and it’s still a massive buzzword. The phrase ‘toxic friendship’ is overused, cliché and quite frankly irritating – but I can’t think of a better way to capture what I’m trying to convey!
These types of friendships can be detrimental to our mental health, and it’s important to remember that not all friendships are obligatory. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’ve had any ‘toxic’ friendships, but I’ve certainly had (and still do have) troubled friendships.
I think this ultimately boils down to respect; if you do not have mutual respect for one another, you may not have a healthy friendship. Some friendships require physical and emotional boundaries, but when you realise that a friend doesn’t respect you it may be time to walk away.
4. On a more light-hearted note, over the past year I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at baking! I make a banging lemon drizzle cake. And a banging madeira cake. AND a banging raspberry bakewell cake. (Thank you, Delia, for all of the above).
I’m not going to sugar-coat it – 2019 was challenging and beautiful and rewarding and terrifying. I’m proud of my achievements, particularly buying my lovely little flat and running a sub 4-hour marathon – but most importantly, I’m just grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful, inspirational people.
Alllllll the gratitude going into 2020!