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Mental Health Awareness Week

By May 13, 2017

Dear Readers,
It's been a while, and I hope you've had a wonderful Easter. Some of you may have seen on social media that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so I thought I'd write a few words myself. A recent study found that two-thirds of people have said they have experienced a mental health problem. 4-10% of people experience depression in their lifetime, and 7.8% of people in Britain meet the diagnosis criteria for mixed anxiety and depression, the most common mental disorder.  
However, people are still afraid to speak out and ask for help, because there's still a stigma. It's not like a fractured leg which you can get an x-ray for. Each condition affects each person differently.
I have been in that 7.8%. When I went to my GP last April, she told me to stop worrying and come back if it doesn't get better. 
If our doctors can't take us seriously, how can we expect others to listen? 
Time to talk and break the taboo.
Last year vs this year: I am happy, my life is good and I show the best bits on social media. However, sometimes I still struggle with depression (mainly seasonal) and general anxiety. This time last year I would nearly have a panic attack going to get coffee by myself, but last month I travelled to South Africa alone- 12 hours on a plane packed with complete strangers! I would never have thought that was possible, but I did it!
 Keep looking for the sunshine even if you can't see it yet.
I've already tried writing about my experiences in more detail, but it turned out that was quite difficult for me to write. In short, 10 years ago when I was 8, I developed an eating disorder. It was my way of dealing with the changes of moving to secondary school, but mainly it was a mechanism for me to deal with grief after my granny passed away from Alzheimer's disease. Imagine your worst fear. It could be flying, death, heights, public speaking. Mine became food. It became an obsession, I'd always eat less than the recommended portion sizes and avoid sugar, thinking it would make me sick. 
What I didn't realise was that I was making myself sick. 

 I remember around the age of 13 I was in some changing rooms with my mum and we both started crying. I could see my ribs and hips, and I can't tell you how awful it was that I couldn't control my behaviour, as much as my parents tried to help. I fainted on the sofa and had poor circulation because I wasn't eating enough. 

Then, many tears and arguments later I began to trust. I trusted my body that a single cube of chocolate wouldn't make me ill. Then it became two. I had to trust my parents that they knew what was best for me. It took hundreds of baby steps in the right direction until I became healthy weight. 
To climb a mountain you need to put one foot in front of the other until you reach the top, and fight your mind telling you that you can't.
It took a hell of a lot of time to get to were I am now: I can go out for meals and do my own food shopping and enjoy food. I can go travelling alone and get coffee by myself. I can enjoy myself in busy crowds instead of panicking. I was terrified to get help because I thought it meant I was crazy. 
This is why we need awareness. Mental illnesses are often hidden from the outside, but that doesn't make them any less important. Humans are amazing for what we can do with out brains, but some struggles along the way doesn't mean we're broken. It means we're overwhelmed. 
Since I posted on Instagram about my eating disorder I've had strangers and friends all reach out to me to tell me that they have also had struggles with mental health. If you're going through any struggles, you are not alone or a failure. Depression tells you many lies like that. Anxiety can distance you from friends, tricking you into thinking everyone is going to leave. 
Here's what I'd recommend:
If you or someone you know is struggling, be patient. 
>Find a GP who will listen to you (the one I met at university was much more understanding than my GP at home). 
>Antidepressants are definitely NOT a sign of weakness. I have known friends, family, teachers and celebrities that have used them. 
>If counselling works for you then give it a try (or just speak to someone you trust!)
>As much as depression tells you that you're not worthy, you are. I promise you. Try little bits of self care like making a tea or doing some stretches. 
>Self help books I'd recommend are 'Reasons to Stay Alive' by Matt Haig, 'How Not To Worry' by Paul McGee and 'A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled' by Ruby Wax.
>Try out mindfulness mediation such as Headspace or joining a local meditation group. It's been shown that meditation is as effective as antidepressants, with no negative side effects. (Personally I found mindfulness techniques and the books above most useful to me, as focusing on my breathing reduces my anxiety considerably. It's been particularly useful in crowds, new places, and flights, which I used to hate)
>Find someone you trust and talk about it (as best you can). 
>Writing a journal can also help get things off your chest!
Also if you ever need someone to talk to, you're always welcome to message me. My Instagram username is @Emma__Wallflower with two underscores, or you can email me at peppercornjewellery@hotmail.co.uk. 
Lots of love, 
Emma

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