How being honest with my feelings helped me comes to terms with them
So, many people who know me would probably describe me as quite a positive person, friendly, caring, easy-going, organised, happy to go above and beyond for others and outwardly I am that person… but inside I often feel like a bit of mess.
When asked “how are you?”, how often do you tell the truth? I think we live in a world where it is still so much easier to say “I’m okay” than to be honest in how we feel and how we are struggling. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found easier to be reflective and to be more honest about how I’m really feeling BUT this is still a massive work in progress and I anticipate something I will continue to work on throughout my adult life.
For me, I have never wanted to be seen as weak and vulnerable. I don’t think anyone does. There is still a perception of what ‘normal’ looks like and that doesn’t often include struggling with your mental health, although you’d be surprised at how many people are experience similar things to you but also keeping it hidden. I struggle with the fear of being a burden to others, in that sharing my feelings will make my friends like me less and be annoyed that they now have to deal with my problems… when deep down I know this is very far for the actual truth and that good friends WANT to help. I struggle putting my thoughts into words. I struggle even making sense of them sometimes.
So, at this point, you’re probably wondering what is affecting her mental health? Well for me it’s always been anxiety and depression. Both affecting me at different times in my life, to different degrees but they have always been there lurking in the background.
For anxiety, I have typically always associated this with my health. I have a MASSIVE fear of dying.. I know it will happen to me; I know it’s inevitable but the lack of control in how it happens & when puts this deep dread in the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to die having lived a life that’s unfulfilled. This fear means my brain immediately goes into panic mode at the emergence of any new ache, pain, lump or bump and Dr.Google is always there to tell me I am in fact dying (rather dramatic.. I know). This was at it’s very worst during the 2020 lockdown, as someone close to me was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Seeing that happen to someone I know, made me think how easily it could be me and after many doctors’ appointments & tests due to my anxiety telling me someone was wrong… nothing was wrong. I was okay and still am. But this did show me how easy it can be for me (or anyone) to spiral and get stuck in a cycle of worrying.
So how did I deal with it? For starters, I talked to people, my doctor, my friends, my partner and it helped ease the burden & convince myself I wasn’t crazy. Secondly, I stopped Googling every single symptom for things happening within my body (admittedly I still do this now & again, but I’ve got it more under control). Thirdly, I have taken control of the fear. I recognise can it, I can understand why I feel the way I do and I can reason with myself (most of the time)!
Anxiety at Work
In last couple years, anxiety has become more prevalent in my work life, and I think many of us have faced the dreaded burnout! I have always been an over-achiever, a people-pleaser, someone who is terrified of failure of any kind and as such have put tremendous pressure on myself to be the best at what I do. This means that more often than I’d like, I feel overwhelmed, stressed and worried I will let people down. I love my job, but this combination of feelings sometimes makes it a struggle, it makes me angry and snippy when I don’t want to be and my natural instinct when feeling overwhelmed is avoidance, which inevitably compounds the problem and makes it worse.
I am very lucky where I work, in that I can speak to my bosses (admittedly I should do it more) and be honest with how I am feeling but that can be hard because there is always the fear of admitting that you can’t do something and in a work environment you don’t want to give your bosses a reason to think you aren’t cut out for the job anymore. It has taken a while, but I now recognise that there is strength in that honesty and that good leaders will work WITH you to help overcome problems.
Depression can happen to anyone, in fact globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression. Depression can start at any time and be triggered by any number of things. People suffering from depression can often be seen as weak, which is definitely not the case.
I don’t want to be depressed. But I am... more often than I’d like to admit. For me it can be just one thing that has happened or that someone has said or done, it doesn’t need to have been malicious or even with any negative intention at all, but that one thing will slowly bring those negative thoughts back to the surface, until they start to drown me. Thoughts of; you aren’t good enough, you’re not smart, you’re not pretty, you were stupid for thinking/doing that, you don’t deserve the life you have, nobody really likes you they just pity you, you are a bad person. All of those thoughts are like anchors, weighing me down. When it gets like that it can be very hard to remember the positives and what it was like to feel happy. It feels like positivity & happiness are just out of reach and are no longer tangible. I isolate myself; I stop eating properly, I stop enjoying the things the things I’m passionate about and I stop caring.
But and this is a MASSIVE BUT… it does get better. Yes, I have to challenge myself and the negative thoughts but in doing so I can start to bring myself out of that place. I am better at being honest when I’m depressed. It is my responsibility to make sure I have people around me who I can rely on, be open with, and allow myself to be supported by. I now know that I can reach out to friends, family, doctors, mental health services and I know that they will understand and listen. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more people opening up the conversation around mental health because when I was younger it was non-existent. When I was younger, I suffered in silence, I felt unheard and ashamed, was told I was attention-seeking, and it took me to some very dark places. As a society, we need to give others permission to keep talking, to be open, to share their pain and we need to listen! Embrace and educate around mental health, rather than avoiding it because its more convenient.
What did I want to get out of this exercise and in writing this? I wanted to show that anyone from any background, job, gender etc.. can struggle, even people who you think might be totally fine. I wanted to encourage other people to be honest and to face the reality of how they are feeling. Whether that be writing it down (like I’ve done) or talking it out – nothing will feel better than lifting that weight that is holding you down. Being open can show you’re the kind of person who’s prepared to share and listen, which in turn can encourage others to reach out. Never feel like your emotions are a burden & accept that your mental health is not anything to be ashamed of – and it can be overcome.
- Kim Clarkson | Marketing & Office Manager - R13 Recruitment