Our Voice: Pieces from Inspirational Women About Mental Health

Introduction

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Dear readers,

I am thrilled to have the, albeit – small platform, to write about personal experiences, or produce supportive or relatable content regarding specific topics.

However, in this post I am handing over the microphone to the wonderful female warriors who have contributed a piece of writing regarding mental health from a female’s perspective.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the content featured in this post could be triggering (please read the trigger warnings featured above each contribution).

With that being said, I want to give a big thank you to our readers and the individual’s who we collaborate with. Your support means so much, as it provides positive motivation to continue using a platform to share my journey; and hopefully help other’s along the way.

I send you all my love and hugs!

Best wishes,

Lori 🌱

OUR WOMEN

 

‘HANNAH’

(the individual’s name has been changed to maintain anonymity)

 

HANNAH QUOTE.jpg

I personally don’t see a difference between men and women when it comes to mental health. If anything, perhaps males get it harder because of the stigma that you have to be strong.
Mental illness on a whole has this almost taboo aura around it, but it needs to be addressed more to help identify the signs and reduce it.
Whilst growing up I have always found myself struggling with various things, which all stem back to image. How I look has a big effect on how my day goes, it takes a lot of time on a morning to find an outfit I feel confident in. On occasion I will change my mind halfway through the day on my looks, and my mood will change.
Unfortunately people are quite aware of the change and point it out, which just makes me feel worse. Getting up and performing can be a struggle too, as so many people have their eyes on you and you’re suddenly aware of every face you pull, or if maybe you should suck your stomach in a bit more.
I find faking it till you make it is a phrase that helps me get through any thoughts I have during the day. Perhaps I am tricking myself into getting better one step at a time but I don’t think I will ever really be happy in my own skin.

 

 

 

KIMBERLEY

 

A bit about me…

I’m currently in my third year of a degree.
In my personal time, I love spending time with my twin sister, but she lives about an hour drive away so I don’t see her often, but we talk on the phone every day; sometimes for hours.
I’m an introvert so I don’t go out very often, and I don’t really see a reason to unless I have somewhere to go, such as university, or if I have plans to meet my friend. It gives me plenty of time to binge watch stupid things(!)
My dream and aspiration is to help young people, however I don’t know what I want to do yet, as I’m going to try to get into another degree next year.

kimberley pic.jpg
I think I’ve always had mental health issues, but they just became apparent after I was taken into care. I went through CAHMS (which in my opinion was a complete joke). It took a significant amount of time, but I was referred to adult mental health services.
I have significant BPD traits (borderline personality disorder). I have low self-image, low self-esteem, anxiety and in and out depression and some underlying abandonment difficulties. It’s not as bad as it sounds though 🖤
I’ve had some really supportive people in my life and some really unsupportive people. My previous foster carer has always stood by me, I gave her a lot to handle, she tried to understand even though she never really could, she just did whatever she could to help. my sister has quite literally always been there for me just like I have been for her, I couldn’t do anything without her and she’s helped me with so much.
However, a lot of people kind of just told me I was always overreacting and making a huge deal out of nothing, I would always get really defensive which is part of the personality disorder but also because of childhood issues etc.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people will try to make you feel guilty and ashamed. There will always be negative people, people who don’t understand and people who will put you down about it without realising it. I’ve lost good friends because of self-harm and depression, people I thought I would never lose have disappeared, but then again I never really did need them, you come to realise at one point that you have all you need.

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Historically women have always been seen as sensitive and emotional, even fragile, in my opinion they are occasionally seen more to be hysterical or emotional rather than actually suffering from a likely treatable mental health issue.
I’ve always been challenging, impulsive and very selfish at times without meaning to be. It never really occurred to me how self-destructive I was until my mother died. I then suddenly realised that I wasn’t just affecting my own life but other people’s; other people were suffering just as much because of me and that made me want to change my life and actually accept help, so adult mental health changed a lot for me.
DBT was immensely helpful, mindfulness is always good. Also, temporary distraction.
[Something I have learned about myself throughout my mental health journey is that] I’m a lot more resilient than I thought I was and so are other people.
You  can achieve so much during a single day, even if it is just getting up or leaving the house, talking to someone etc; they might not seem like big achievements to other people.

Three things I want people to know about mental illness:

  • Anybody could have a mental illness.
  • It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
  • It’s not a joke or a competition.

Kimberley

CHARLOTTE (CHAR)

Trigger warnings
Abuse, self-harm

My name is Charlotte, I am 18 and I live in Newcastle.
My main hobbies are music, singing and going to gigs… but I also take part in a lot of online activism, mainly surrounding mental health awareness, feminism, and the destruction of ableism.

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I studied Health Studies at college and had dreams to go to uni to become a mental health nurse. However, I have postponed this venture due to my own mental health.
My journey with ill mental health has been a long drawn out one. I first exhibited signs of anxiety at the age of 10 and depression at the age of 11. These both developed after
encountering emotional abuse at home. However, I didn’t get diagnosed with depression
and anxiety until earlier this year as I had bad experiences with a GP and my school
counselor.
My main struggles as a result of my abuse and mental health problems include: extreme
self-esteem problems, serious confidence issues, stress problems, regular panic attacks,
and different forms of self-harm.

I admit, majority of the comments I have received surrounding my mental health have been very positive. I have a fabulous support network, and I am finally getting the help to learn how to cope with my illnesses! I am so thankful for that.

Although, the negative comments stick out the most for me because of the nature of my issues, and sometimes it can drown out the positive voices I have around me.I got the bulk of these negative comments during high school. Mainly because a lot of
people who surrounded me weren’t educated about mental illnesses the way they should
have been, but a lot of the comments made were specifically intended to be malicious
towards me. Such as, “Well, everyone knows you c*t yourself anyway!”
This wasn’t true, I was self-harming at the time but I never told anyone other than close
friends and c*ts were never shown to anyone.This was an assumption that people had made about me due to my depressed nature, the
way I dressed and the kind of music I listened to. Although this hurt, the comments I found the worst were those which dismissed my struggles. For example, when telling a close friend about my abuse for the first time, he replied, “Is that it? That isn’t THAT bad!”, and similarly when speaking to multiple professionals, I felt tossed out and abandoned because of their lack of interest.
My life has changed significantly due to my mental illnesses. During my high school years, I was severely depressed and could barely feel anything… but that was the normal for me.
After feeling like that from the age of 11-18, I almost didn’t see the way it was affecting my life anymore because it just WAS my life. However, when I started to have frequent panic attacks (only earlier this year), I noticed such a significant change in myself and the tasks I was able to complete.

My depression made me want to hide. I didn’t want to go out, I wanted to sleep all day and I didn’t want to look after myself. BUT my anxiety was crippling. Whenever my depression allowed me to go out, my anxiety ruined the experience anyway. Even getting the bus into town, a journey I used to make everyday to college, is now one of my biggest struggles and I have constant panic attacks for at least half of the ride.
I find myself avoiding situations where I am likely to have panic attacks, which leads to me plummeting even further into my depression because I feel like I can’t do simple things for myself anymore. Due to this I find myself falling back into old patterns, like self harm, neglecting my personal hygiene, and isolating myself from the people who love me most.

CHAR QUOTE.jpg

I believe that me being a teenage girl was the biggest barrier towards getting help for my
mental health. I feel that until I got to around aged 17/18, nobody would take me seriously!
Mostly because they saw me as “over emotional”, following a “self harm trend”, or “wanting attention”. How could a young girl have something to be so depressed about? They wouldn’t listen to me. I feel like boys are taken more seriously because when a boy comes forward to admit he’s struggling, everyone automatically jumps to “oh, it must be bad if he wants to talk about his feelings!” (due to the idea of toxic masculinity).
However I’m not denying that the stereotypes are present for males, but overall I think they are taken more seriously in professional settings [due to stereotype regarding gender, and mental illness].

Throughout my battle with mental illness, I have learned a lot about myself. I have to learn myself inside out in order to cope with my illnesses! The most important thing that I’ve learned about myself is that sometimes I cannot trust my own judgement, and I have to wait on things before bringing up a problem.
I have days when I act absolutely erratically and blow a tiny grievance completely out of
proportion. I have days when I think that my relationship with my boyfriend is going
wrong, and that I’m going to lose him… but the next day I feel like there’s never been a
match so perfect. I think it’s just intense anxiety that makes it happen but I don’t know for sure. I’m still figuring out how to recognise when I am feeling erratic, but the people
around me usually recognise straight away.

The second most important thing I have learned about myself during this struggle, is that
self-harm comes in many different forms, not just physical ones; I am really susceptible to getting into a situation and then realising that I was doing it to hurt myself subconsciously.
For example, restricting my food as if I have an eating disorder (and at the time it feels
body image related), but it’s not, it’s about hurting myself.
The same goes for staying in toxic friendships, drinking too much but pretending I’m
having fun, pulling out my own hair, and self-sabotaging. I’m learning to recognise these
patterns when they arise so that I can nip them in the bud. But it’s extremely difficult when you’re hiding your true intentions from yourself!

CHAR QUOTE 2.jpg

There are many things that I have found beneficial for my mental health, too many to talk about in-depth!

But these include:

Sensory toys: E.g. slime, squishies, asmr. (Helpful w/ Anxiety)

Spirituality: E.g. religion, mindfulness. (Helpful w/ Depression)

Writing: E.g. Poetry, songs, stories. (Helpful w/ Depression)

Good deeds: E.g. tweeting a random person to have a good day, helping someone to
carry their shopping, tell someone they look beautiful. (Helpful w/ Depression)

Little Tasks: E.g. going to the shop, getting dressed, cooking… no matter how much
you don’t want too. (Helpful w/ Depression and Anxiety)

Self Care Days: E.g. watch your favourite movie, cuddle your favourite teddy, have a
bubble bath. (Helpful w/ Depression and Anxiety)

Am I overreacting because of my mental health? Ask questions: E.g. Why is this
important? Am I usually happy in this situation? Is this the only thing that is
bothering me or am I overwhelmed with other things too? (Helpful w/ Erratic Days)

Despite my illnesses, I have made achievements which I’m very proud of. None of which are ‘big’, in fact they all seem very small to the average person; but they mean the world to me because they signify that I am making steps towards recovery.
For example: I got on that bus, I went to that appointment, I resisted urges to self-harm or I recognised when I was falling into a pattern. The smallest achievements can sometimes be the most fulfilling because they set the tone for everyday life.
I have many goals in regards to mental health recovery. The most important one for me, is to get myself well enough to go to university and achieve the career which I deeply desire. I want to be able to trust myself to go through that journey, have confidence that I will be a good nurse, and be able to give service users the most objective care, rather than my own experience clouding my judgement.
I want to go to university, not only for myself, but for my future family… I want to give
them the best life I can.

If you wanna know more about Char, follow this link to read her interview with ‘Thatswhatss’

You can find Charlotte’s poetry Instagram account under @char.whittaker

You can find Charlotte's personal Instagram account under @c.avities

 

 

 

Holly

Trigger warnings:

Eating disorders

 

Follow Holly on Instagram

A bit about me:

My name is Holly Tune, I am 18 years old, and I’m currently studying beauty therapy at East Sussex College in Hastings, East Sussex.

My future goal is to work on the cruise ships doing beauty, travelling the world doing what I love; and exploring new places.

 

Mental health history:

I suffer from body dysmorphia disorder, and I am a recovering anorexic. I also suffer from depressive episodes.
The responses I’ve received regarding my mental health have been mixed throughout the years. My best friends were very supportive and understanding when I first told them [about it] and to this day they still try their best to understand my disorders and do everything they can to make me feel comfortable in myself.

My parents on the other hand were not as understanding. They’re unaware of my eating disorder, as I just didn’t want to worry them. but I received all of the appropriate help from my GP on my own; to make sure I didn’t cause any serious harm to myself.

With my body dysmorphia they just said what most other people say to me, “but you’re not even fat you have no reason to think negatively about your body!”

What people don’t understand is that it’s really not as simple as that. it’s a state of mind; one of which you cannot escape. No matter what anyone says, you cannot change the way that you think about yourself when you suffer from body dysmorphia.
My life has changed quite a lot since being diagnosed with BDD and anorexia. Clothes shopping has become a lot harder I can’t wear things like tight dresses/skirts because I don’t like the way my stomach looks in them. I will only wear the “super high-waisted” jeans from Primark, as they cover my stomach enough that you can’t even see it. Whenever I go past a mirror, I feel the need to check my outfit and check my skin to see if they’re any blemishes; [which is something] I can get.

I always have to check the calories in food as I don’t like to eat foods that are really high in calories (this is also to do with my road to recovery from anorexia).
I believe one of the reasons women are treated differently regarding their mental health is because it’s often “blamed” on us being hormonal. Yes our moods do fluctuate due to hormones, but our overall mental health is not directly linked to our hormones. I also believe women are treated differently because some ignorant people in the world think our mental health isn’t valid in society, and that we need to “get over ourselves”.

This was something I was personally told by my ex, as he blamed our arguments and even our break up on my mental health, when in reality he was the reason my mental health rapidly deteriorated each day, and why i developed my eating disorder; but that’s a story for another day.

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Some things I’ve learnt during my battle with mental illness is that I cannot let it take over my life. Yes it’s always there, but I don’t have to let it take over my whole being and deflate my motivation to do other things. I’ve also learnt that some people in your life won’t understand what you’re going through and some will even try to make you feel badly about it, but I know to look past those views and hold my head high.

Another thing I’ve learnt is that it really is okay to talk to people when you’re feeling down. Even if it’s a support group, counsellor, teachers at school or your friends/family, you should always try to talk to someone instead of bottling up your feelings.

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One of my biggest achievements, especially on my anorexia recovery, is still maintaining my goal weight in a healthy way. I exercise regularly and eat healthy, and little by little, day by day, I’m slowly becoming happier with my body. I think generally my ED recovery is my biggest achievement.
I think my overall mental health goal is to just become as comfortable as I possibly can within my mind, body and spirit, and to not let anyone bring me down.

 

3 things I would like people to know about mental health:

 

1. You don’t have to let your mental health control your life. Try to find things to distract yourself so you’re not focusing all of your energy on your mood in the moment.

2. Even though it may seem like the scariest thing in the world, talking to someone about how you’re feeling will do wonders for your mood.

3. If you have any hobbies, do them when you’re feeling low! I love dancing, so whenever I feel down, I dance and it instantly makes me feel so much better.

(I also liked the apps HeadSpace and Calm, they’re really good at relaxing the mind when you’re feeling stressed. I found colouring was also a really good stress relief, especially mandalas).

 

 

Tamzin

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I’m Tamzin, I’m 18 years old and study mental health nursing at University; it was a massive step for me!

I really enjoy reading, writing, listening to music, making blog posts, doing research and binge watching tv shows. I also have an interest in yoga and mindfulness. My dream is to become a nurse, it has been since I was only little.

 

I have chosen mental health nursing because I can understand it on a personal level and I will be able to express more empathy for the patients if I understand what they’re going through.

 

The mental health conditions I suffer from are PTSD and depression, I also struggle with confidence and self-esteem.

Many factors have contributed to these mental health problems, however how I have chosen to deal with them has made a big impact.

I have a good support network around me and I also have my own ways of dealing with them personally, these include, mindfulness colouring, making lists and doing things to distract my mind.  

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I don’t think there’s enough awareness of certain mental health illness, and I think it’s up to us as a community to create the awareness; so people know they aren’t really alone.

 

I’ve recently had a hard time with my mental health and I have struggled to do certain daily tasks, but I have pushed myself to do them because I know that If I don’t do them, ultimately I will feel worse in the long run.

What I want to say to those suffering from a mental health illness, is that…you are not alone; not ever. There’s always someone out there willing to listen to you.

 

If you want to hear more from Tamzin, you can find her social links below:

Blog

Instagram

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