Christina, July 1, 2019

"My biggest piece of advice would be, don't try to understand, just try to be there.”

I am young, I am successful, I am loved, I am alive…

Three months ago I tried to take my own life.

This is something I never thought I would hear myself say. From the outside looking in, I have everything a 26-year-old wants. How did it get to the point where I felt so alone, so unloved, so abandoned and consumed by my negative thoughts that I wanted to take my own life? It didn't cross my mind that I could have been struggling with a mental illness when I felt like the world would be a better place without me; I thought I was being dramatic. I kept these thoughts to myself for a long time and often find myself trying to suppress them.

I am not my thoughts, a concept that I struggle with most in my journey to recovery. I shouldn't believe everything that my mind tells me about myself; how am I supposed to be nice to other people when I can't be nice to myself? I have believed my mind when it told me the most horrible things about myself, yet I often promote self-love and reaching out for help when needed to others.

We are breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health - but that stigma is omnipresent. When I returned to work, I begged my boss not to tell anyone about what happened. I begged HR to let me return full time instead of a phased return so that no one would ask me questions…because despite promoting speaking out about mental health, I was never trusting and confident enough to do the same myself.

This is me, a young woman with my life ahead of me. I have a long way to go but I am so proud of what I have overcome in the last few months. I am not my illness, my illness is not me. I often read articles about mental health when people have said ‘everyday is a challenge’ but for me, it isn't.

It’s so important to remember and recognize that everyone's experience of their mental health is different but that does not make your struggles any less important or any less real.

For me, some days are good and others are overwhelmingly bad. But it's so important to speak out on the bad days. I’ve realised people care, and if I don't choose to stay right now for myself, I need to stay for everyone that needs me - because that is my choice. I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a girlfriend and I am a friend, all these amazing people in my life need me to be strong for them.

Personally, I thought I couldn't open up, I thought no one would understand why I felt this way, because I didn't have an explanation to give those closest to me, I couldn't explain or comprehend why this was happening to me. The most important thing that my loved ones have taught me is that I don't need to explain anything - I didn't choose this illness and most of all I don't deserve it, no one does. It seems that I needed to trust people a little more because I found that those who love me may not understand, but one thing they wouldn't do is judge me - and that was my major fear. 

Support can take so many forms, support often doesn't mean making your loved one talk through everything in their head, but sometimes support is as simple as having someone there. Someone who is free or available when you need them, someone who you can go on a walk and be silly with, someone who can help you escape in a healthy way and remind you that you are worthy and that you are loved.

If you have a friend or a loved one who you think might be suffering, my biggest piece of advice would be, don't try to understand, just try to be there, in whatever capacity that person may need.

Don't take how your friend feels about themselves personally, or feel it is any reflection on you. Their illness is out of your control and more than likely theirs until they get the help they need.

Talking helps, for me that is talking to a stranger, for you that might be talking to a friend, a family member or a mentor, but talk. Things get better. Today I am grateful to be alive, I am grateful to have brought my new pup on a walk, with a clear head, in the sunshine. Things are by no means perfect, but they are better and will keep getting better. 

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