Kerry, 18, shares how blogging for YoungMinds gave her a sense of purpose when she was struggling and showed her she's not alone with her mental health.
As children, we are taught that when we’re hurt, it’s okay to cry. People will comfort us and tell us to let it all out. But when we’re sad, we’re just told to cheer up. We don’t get taught to manage our feelings, we get taught to ignore them. As a society we have formed this belief that mental health doesn’t exist until it’s mental illness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
As a society we have formed this belief that mental health doesn’t exist until it’s mental illness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Looking for change in the wrong places
As a 12-year-old, after moving to secondary school, I started having panic attacks. Everyone around me seemed so put together and happy. The harder I tried to “cheer up” the further I felt from myself and who I once was. I convinced myself that if I looked the right way, dressed the right way, spoke the right way, my problems would be solved. I worked so hard in school; every day I’d tell myself that if I just became like the people around me. I’d be happy like they were.
After a year, I moved schools and changed so many things about myself. And things seemed better for a while. But I never seemed to understand that it didn’t matter where I was, or who I pretended to be, I was still me. I couldn’t outrun or ignore the problems in my head. So before long, my mental health declined once again. I began to hate everything about myself. Things got so bad that I tried to take my own life. Thankfully I told someone, and I was okay. I received support from mental health services but, as much as I wish I could say it was happy ever after, there is no instant fix and I continued to struggle with my mental health for a while.
I couldn’t outrun or ignore the problems in my head.
Finding a sense of community
I got put on medication and, as some may know, with antidepressants things can get worse before they get better. But the timing was unfortunate, as it was then, in a whirlwind of depression, anxiety and exam stress, that the pandemic hit and we got put into a national lockdown. Exams were cancelled, and when schools shut it felt like my stability and support was just ripped away. I think everyone close to me was terrified at how badly this would affect me. And the reality is that it probably could have absolutely ruined me. But one day I was on the YoungMinds website and I came across the blog. There, instead of being met with people who had their perfect lives explaining how I could “be like them”, I saw people like me, using their own, real-life experiences to help others. I also saw an application to write for their blog and I went for it.
This time, instead of seeing myself as someone who needed to be fixed, and searching desperately for someone or something to solve my problems, I started seeing an opportunity for me to use the difficult experiences I’ve had for good. I realised I’d spent so long desperately trying to keep my head above water that I didn’t even see that I could swim towards shore. And I wholeheartedly believe that this is what changed everything for me.
I realised I’d spent so long desperately trying to keep my head above water that I didn’t even see that I could swim towards shore.
I wrote a blog for YoungMinds, and they published it. A small victory, but my story was alongside hundreds of others from young people just like me, and I liked the idea that it could help someone. I shared my blog and the response was overwhelmingly loving. People who I never would have expected to have mental health issues told me about their own struggles, and how hearing what I had to say had helped them and other people they knew. It was the first time I’d ever properly felt like I was allowed to feel the way I did. It felt like I didn’t need to change who I was and pretend to be someone who was happy all of the time.
This one blog opened a door to a world of ideas about what I could work towards next. Before I knew it, I had a whole future mapped out in my head. For the first time in what literally felt like a lifetime, I knew exactly what I wanted and was excited to work towards it.
It’s so difficult to keep going when you don’t know what you’re even doing it for. Finding hope and purpose in the smallest things in life can actually change your whole perception of everything. If you currently feel like you’re working every day of your life without knowing why you’re doing it, it’s easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come. Of course, I still have bad days, but I’ve learnt that everyone does. And I’m learning that when these bad days happen, it doesn’t mean I’m back to square one. It just means I need to give myself a break and I can try again tomorrow.
Finding hope and purpose in the smallest things in life can actually change your whole perception of everything.
You are never alone
If you or someone you know is struggling, be gentle. Acknowledging difficult feelings is often one of the hardest things you can do, but it’s so important. So, find someone and talk things through. Even if it’s just over a cup of tea. We need to learn to include mental wellness into our daily life. Be kind to yourself and others, always. And remember that you aren’t alone, even if your brain is telling you that you are.
Find someone and talk things through. Even if it’s just over a cup of tea.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
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