When I started my blog back in 2014 as a young and unwise lass to the world of mental health, I never thought for one second that this fashion and beauty blog that I created one rainy, cold May afternoon would quite frankly change my life forever. I never thought for one second that my little space of the internet where I talked about all things beauty and fashion could one-day change so dramatically.
Forgive me if I sound pretty dramatic, but it truly has changed my life for the better. I suffer from OCD, depression, panic attacks, emetophobia and health anxiety. On top of the daily struggles of these illnesses, one of the things that I struggle with the most is talking to other people about it. I bottled everything up for years, and when things got really bad, I snapped.
I didn't feel comfortable talking about my mental health struggles with those around me. Don't get me wrong; I love them dearly, but that fear of rejection, stigma and discrimination constantly loomed over me like the dark clouds on the May afternoon back in 2014 when I created my blog. What would they think of me? How would they react? Would they truly understand? These were the questions spiralling around my head.
I feared that my family wouldn't take me seriously. That it was just 'a phase', which I would grow out of. I thought my friends would just think I was joking around or maybe even doing it for attention. They wouldn't understand what having OCD really meant. Maybe they would think that I thought I was OCD because I am organised. Although I am, that definitely doesn't make me OCD.
So with no one left to turn to, I started blogging about what I was feeling and my experiences. I worried about being too personal at first, or that people might not even care, but as I got into it the words felt more and more natural. Never for a second did I think that I would EVER receive the love and support that I did. Through blogging about my mental health struggles, I have helped inspire and support many others going through similar situations.
I have found myself part of an unbelievably supportive, loving and caring community. Who I'm able to be honest with, support others and get the support I needed through the hard times. I found people that I could talk to, who truly understand and care about me. Who don't think I'm claiming to have a mental illness for attention or will reject me as soon as I start talking about the tough stuff.
Not only have I managed to help myself and others who suffer from mental health problems, but I'm also doing my bit to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness and change people's perceptions of what mental illness actually looks like, something I'm very passionate about. By blogging about mental health, I'm able to help make others feel less alone, in a world which doesn't fully understand mental illness yet. Blogging about mental health doesn't just benefit sufferers, it benefits everyone. I help fill in the gap of education about mental health that the education system fails to fill in.
But the support extends far beyond the virtual world. Blogging about mental health in the virtual world has helped me have paramount conversations about mental health, in person. Blogging gave me the confidence and continued support I needed to talk openly about my mental health with my college tutor and teachers, to get the help I needed, during my studies. Without starting a blog, I honestly believe that I would have carried on suffering in silence, believing that I was the only one suffering from this awful illness which robs me of my freedom and independence.
When I told my college tutor about my mental illness, I didn't expect that he would understand. I thought he would just dismiss it. He probably didn't have a clue about what living with OCD is really like. Little did I know, that he spent the last year dealing with and supported another student with chronic OCD, just like myself. You will be beyond surprised with what people know about mental health. Although there are no guarantees that the outcome will always be positive, without trying and having those meaningful conversations, you will never know.
When I started to talk openly about my mental illness, I realised that people wanted to listen. Friends and teachers wanted to do what they could to help me. I wasn't alone. Although every day, as I enter the college campus, it feels like I am going into battle, with no armour or weapons. It's just me, against the world. By talking about my mental illness, I know that if I ever need people to talk to, there is someone in college who will listen to me. Support me through the panic attacks, doubts and uncontrollable emotions.
Talking to people in person about mental health can be daunting, for anyone. Online, there is a community. A community of very special people, charities and organisations, who can help you get your life back on track and support you in realising that you do not have to face this battle alone.
I urge everyone who suffers from mental health problems to start a blog if you feel comfortable doing so of course. The effects for myself have been unbelievable. There's always someone out there to listen to you, someone who cares, you are truly never alone.
It all starts with a conversation.