I am not medically diagnosed as having mental health issues but I do have my episodes. My mood would take a plunge and send me to tears at random times of the day, for no other reason but an unsubstantiated “blue” or “sadness”. It doesn’t matter if I am out having lunch in a crowded restaurant or in my bed accompanied by the dead silence of night. I would start to cry.
People should recognise that you don’t need to be certified by a clinician as having depression or bipolar disorder or social anxiety to acknowledge that you might not be at the pink of your health mentally. And this is something important that I learnt over the past week, over several conversations and an event (Naked Nights!) on this topic.
You can’t always trace the start of a mental health problem to a specific time or moment in your life. It just sort of happens, slowly, until that one day you realise that, oh shit, you’ve got issues.
Those with poor mental health tend to be people who are the kindest and most thoughtful, or so I feel. (And yes, I shamelessly think that I am one of them.) This is one theory I have. In friendships and relationships, we compromise who we are to accommodate other people, but this only becomes an inescapable trap if done routinely. It eventually undercuts your sense of self and your identity.
It becomes especially painful and toxic to one’s mental well-being when the people who are supposed to be your pillar of support as you are to them take but never return equally. You ask them what kinds of role they’d like to you play in their lives and you strive to be that person, but they never ask how they can reciprocate. Yet you still feel guilty when you don’t live up to their expectations. You self-blame. You’re stuck with ugly thoughts. The self-doubt and insecurity that are not voiced out, they create a spiral that spins out of control, sucking you into a mentally self-destructive cycle that’s hard to pull yourself out from. You learn to live with constant disappointments, but they gnaw at you and give you anxieties.
When your sense of self is weak, social media with its overwhelming (curated) “happiness” is a terrible place to be. There’s a tendency to compare what you lack to what they have and rarely do we look the other way. I have made the conscious effort to stay away, but boy it’s not the easiest thing to do.
I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, who I really am and who I want to be, and Australia is the right break I need to stay away from my everyday environment to help me take a fresh look at myself, at my relationships and at my career. I’m going to reclaim a renewed sense of self. I’m not accepting any projects during this month away, because there’s only one thing I want to work on – myself.