Hello! As part of the Sharing Wellness campaign, staff members have been encouraged to discuss what keeps them well. I decided to write this blog post about my own experiences and what helps me to keep well.
It’s only been in the last 2 years or so that I’ve started to pay close attention to the things that really do help me to keep well. When I was about 16, I convinced myself that I preferred time on my own to being with friends and would often turn down invites to social events because I thought it was better for me. I’m not sure the exact reason for this but I think it was probably a combination of being a hormonal teenager, moving from school where I knew everyone to a much larger 6th form college where I knew very few people and being hurt by quite a few of my friends, who I naively thought would be my best friends forever.
Unfortunately, this approach of choosing to be on my own only served to make me feel lonelier than ever.
I lived abroad for a year whilst at university and I chose to live in an apartment on my own because I thought that I would be happiest on my own. It’s only reading back through my old diary entries that I’ve realised just how unhappy I was, to the point that I was probably depressed but just hadn’t allowed myself to recognise it. As someone who overthinks EVERYTHING, all those hours spent on my own left my brain overloaded with worry and unable to cope. It got to the point where I just wanted to come home and quit my degree, I honestly couldn’t see a way of me being able to finish it. If it wasn’t for my amazing family and friends supporting me, then I would have just given up and flown home.
It’s taken some time but what I’ve realised now is that I actually love spending time with people (!) Meeting new people, spending time with friends and just generally chatting to everyone I can, is what actually makes me feel great. Much to the embarrassment of my partner and younger sister, I actually try and chat with people everywhere I go, whether that’s at the supermarket with random people in the freezer aisle or sat next to people on the train – I am unfortunately one of those annoying people who will make remarks about the weather in the hope that someone will chat to me!
That’s not to say though that I don’t still enjoy time on my own…I love reading and getting so completely lost in a book that I forget where I am or having my headphones in, listening to music. But what makes me even happier, is talking to people after I’ve read the book/listened to the album... even if they don’t want to hear my recommendations, I’ll still try and talk about them to anyone who will listen!
Another thing that is super important to keeping me healthy and happy, is spending time with my family. As a family, we’ve had quite a tough year and nothing makes me happier than being able to spend time with them, even if that involves us just sitting around in our pyjamas watching rubbish television.
I think it’s completely normal to have worries, but when I feel that those worries are overtaking everything else and becoming irrational, I like to sit and write them down in my diary. Writing them down so that I can physically see them helps me to see they are either completely irrational or manageable problems that can be solved.
I’m in no way an expert on the subject of mental health, but the one piece of advice I would give to people, would be to really pay attention to what it is that makes you feel great and don’t be afraid if this changes/isn’t what you thought it would be. A lot of people say that they always feel great after they’ve been to the gym but personally, I find the gym the most boring place ever and I always leave feeling rubbish and fed up (I actually once went to the gym, got as far as the vending machine, bought a chocolate bar and left again… that was probably the only time I actually enjoyed going to the gym). I would much rather just dance around in my house on my own like I’m 12 again and as embarrassing as that might be, it’s what makes me feel good so I will continue to do it!
I had considered leaving this post anonymous but I think it’s hugely important to talk about mental health to help break the stigma, so I’m very happy for people to know that I have struggled myself.
Talking about it is the only way to normalise it!
Thank you for reading.