I am 32 years old, a creative director and brand founder of global beauty brand Isle of Paradise and I am a comedy podcast co-host (yes, some people think I’m funny!). I have a loving partner, a great relationship with my parents and tonnes of amazing friends. I am happy. I’m not lucky. I’ve worked hard for this life, I’ve been nothing but grateful along the way and I haven’t had a life this smooth in the past – trust me.
I am now very open about my mental health because it’s taken me over a decade in mentally managing my emotions and the inner voice that talks to me sometimes – telling me I’m worthless, I’m fat, I don’t deserve this life, I’m secretly just coasting and one day I’ll get found out that I have no talent whatsoever, I shouldn’t be here.
My mental health got worse before it got better
During my teenage years I was riddled with insecurities – fuelled by bullies. I was always picked last in P.E. which is why I think I have a warped view on exercise even now. I always had footballs kicked at me in the playground and don’t get me started on the daily name calling.
It really started when I was 11 and went to senior school. For 2 years I didn’t have a single friend. I know how it feels to feel completely and utterly alone. I used to wake up every morning and have nose bleeds while I brushed my teeth – I didn’t realise it, but this was fear and anxiety about going to school. I’d dread 7.30am when I had to leave to get the bus – too early for my parents to notice what was going on. I’d forge notes from my parents and hand it to the teachers saying I had a doctor’s appointment, another day a note to say I had a music lesson – just so I could get out of school for an hour. I’d sit on a bench in a park with a sandwich and a bag of crisps and just stare into the distance. I will never ever forget those feelings of being so alone.
Sadly, it got worse before it got better. I was being bullied, I had no friends and no one to defend me. I had sharp objects thrown at me in lessons, punches to the ribs in the corridors, my belongings stolen or hidden, and I was never included in group activities. One day my parents overheard me on the phone crying and begging for forgiveness and intercepted the call. Soon after I moved school and left that world behind me.
In my teens, I again fell into the trap of caring what others thought about me. Why didn’t the cool kids want to hang out with me? Why am I not getting the full marks and praise from my teachers? I began to feel like my body was full of poison and I started self-harming.
Unless you’ve ever self-harmed you won’t know what it feels like. I remember feeling like I had another secret life behind a curtain or door where I would release all of these negative emotions. No one would know and I could hide it. It was something I did on my own and it was all I could do (this wasn’t the case looking back, but it was how I felt).
Aged 17 the inner critic grew strong in my mind and I didn’t know where to turn, I felt like I had no one to talk to. I didn’t want to carry on. I wanted my whole life to end. I’d sit and think about planning my suicide. I had decided on how I’d do it and I began thinking about what I’d write in a note. At this time we had to write dream journals in psychology classes and I began pouring out my emotions that had nothing to do with the dream from the night before. I forgot about my teacher having to read it and handed it in. Being open about my mental health saved my life. My parents were called and measures were put in place.
Opening up to my partner and friends has been a huge step
Opening up about my mental health to my friends and to my family really helped me and still helps me move forward. Sometimes we feel proper shit, and that’s ok. It’s not weird – it’s life. I remember telling my partner about my mental health history and telling him I had a recent trigger that made me want to revisit self-harm – I needed to be open about these thoughts and feelings to banish the inner voice. I needed my partner to know. By being open with my friends, it allows them to know about my mental health and to help me when I reach out. A cup of tea, a hug, someone to have a good cry with – it all makes a difference to how I’m feeling and I also realised this is nothing to be ashamed of. We can’t be 100% all of the time so when I feel like I spiral, my friends hold their hands out and catch me. Telling my partner wasn’t easy and I felt ashamed at first but it helped our relationship – he now knows and understands what can happen with my inner thoughts, by telling him it has made it easier for me to talk to him and for him to help me when I need it.
Since launching my own brand I have fallen into comparison traps, had trust issues with peers, been judged by my success and spent lots of time alone. But, I recognise my inner voice and I open up about how I am feeling. I cry in public, I laugh at stupid things others might not find funny, my weight fluctuates, and I occasionally care what people think. I think about the bigger picture and what an amazing opportunity I’ve been given and about all the glorious things life now has to offer me. It’s important to talk about how we’re feeling because our friends can show us that life does get better.