Words by Madieson (she/her), 24 WA
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Mental health has always been important to me. I have had my own mental health struggles and challenges throughout my life, and my degree was centred on mental health. This is something that is often misunderstood and ignored by wider society.
It’s okay not to be okay.
I think the idea of not being okay was something that I really struggled with for a long time. I was constantly feeling as if I needed to be okay. It was not only the focus on presenting as being okay that was draining but it was also the anger, I felt towards myself for not being okay. The energy that I would put into this was so draining that my mental health continued to deteriorate.
When I started going to therapy, the first focus I had with my psychologist was on normalising my thoughts. It began by reminding myself that it is okay to have negative thoughts, but the most important thing to do with these thoughts is to reframe them in a positive way.
It is important to remember that everybody has bad days and that it is okay. The focus is on how we can help ourselves when we are having bad days, using strategies. Some of my personal strategies is to write in my diary and create my to-do lists, put on my favourite podcast, and do some reading.
Your thoughts and brain are your greatest tools when it comes to battling anxiety.
When I am in the middle of a panic attack, I feel as if everything I know and all the strategies I have suddenly disappear. But the minute I stop, breathe and remind myself that I can do it, that the thought is an irrational thought or that I am catastrophising, my rational thoughts come back in. I can pull myself back from the edge. This can be with the help of others, but the truth is these strategies are in my brain – sometimes it can just be tricky to get to them!
One tip that I have always found helpful, is after my therapy or even a discussion with friends, if there are any strategies that are shared with me, that I think would be particularly beneficial I write them down. Having strategies written down means that I not only have a mental note of the strategy, but a physical one.
Therapy is a sign of strength and growth in a person.
When my nan first passed away, I began to seek out therapy options. Before my nan passed, I had been struggling with my mental health for years, but felt as if I was able to manage on my own (hint, hint: I really wasn’t managing on my own).
When I first began therapy, I felt as if I was admitting defeat. However, as I continued my therapy journey and shared my experience with friends, I realised how it was helping me grow as a person and making me much stronger mentally.
My therapist empowered me and gave me the strategies to help myself. The first time I encountered a distressing situation after seeing my psychologist, I felt invincible. I once encountered a situation with a friend, where they were upset at me. After reflection on why they were upset, I said to myself, I do not have anything to apologise for and that I would give my friend space. Previously, I would have freaked out, called her, apologised without even thinking.
Surround yourself with people who support and understand you, when you are mentally healthy and when you are not!
Over the years as I’ve matured, people who are immature or disregard mental health have slowly moved out of my life. As someone who has such a strong focus on mental health (personally and professionally), this takes up a large proportion of my interests and personality. As my passion for mental health has increased, people who do not believe in the importance of mental health have slowly faded from my life.
As I have moved through the ebbs and flows of my own mental health, the people that are around me have supported me not only in my highs, but also in my low moments. Little check-ins, gifts, catch ups and questions about what they can do to help have shown their support for me, no matter where I am at mentally.
Remember that you can’t help someone fill their cup if your cup is overflowing!
One way that I have always described myself is as an empathetic person. I have always been someone who people have come to when they are having a hard time or are in a difficult situation. This quality is one that I value very highly about myself.
However due to my empathetic nature, emotional burnout is REAL! When talking with family and friends about tough situations, I always mentally check in with myself first to help reduce the chance of emotional burnout. When I check in with myself, I:
- Check whether I am emotionally able to take in this situation.
- Determine if I will I be able to help them. If someone requires advice, will I be able to give this to them? Or is my metaphorical cup overflowing already?
- Ensure I do not take on all the emotion in the scenario.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio