Mental Health Awareness: You are not alone

Welcome back everyone! so, as promised, I am going to be talking about mental health in honour of mental health week. If you have not read my previous post regarding mental health Awareness week, please click here.

Mental health is not something to be taken lightly. People struggle every single day, so please stop joking about mental illnesses. I told you all to leave it in 2018, and a lot of you did, but some of you did not. Stop it please.

TRIGGER WARNING: I WILL PROBABLY BE TALKING EXPLICITLY ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. THIS COULD INCLUDE THINGS LIKE SELF HARM, SUICIDE E.T.C. IF YOU FEEL AS THOUGH THIS MIGHT TRIGGER YOU OR BE TOO MUCH FOR YOU, PLEASE STOP READING THIS NOW, AND HELP YOURSELF TO MY OTHER POSTS!

Mental illnesses are something that affect a surprising amount of people in the world. According to http://www.mind.org.uk, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. 30% of Nigerians suffer mental illnesses, and the amount of suicides in Africa, particularly Lagos, Nigeria, has skyrocketed in the last few years. This could be translated like this: if you have a class of twenty people, at least five or six of them are suffering from mental illnesses. You probably interact with somebody with a mental illness every day, and you might even be suffering from one. Today, I want to tell you, yes you, that you are not alone. I will do this by sharing my story, and how I have managed. I find it more intimate to share my personal story in the hopes that anybody suffering from a mental illness can know that there are people out there suffering, and can love themselves enough to choose happiness and get some help.

So, let us jump straight into this. Again, this might be triggering, so please do not read this if you do not feel ready. Okay, so about two years ago now, I was suffering from a mental illness. An eating disorder, to be exact. I was bulimic. It started from when I was thirteen, and I came across Bulimia for the first time on Tumblr. If you were on Tumblr during the days when it used to be extremely popular (2014-16), then you know how much eating disorders were glorified there. The post came with no trigger warning, or no real definition of what it was, and I only saw a picture of a very slim girl, so I was intrigued. I read the whole thing on how she was restricting her calories, and how every time she binged, she would vomit. This scared me at first, and I was very confused. As a thirteen year old who was only familiar with the idea of vomit being when you are ill, I left the post immediately, even though I read the whole thing on how she maintained her figure, and there was even a step-by-step tutorial on how to purge using a toothbrush or your fingers. So, it was out of my hair, I thought. I forgot all about it, but it continued to linger in my mind, with the possibilities constantly going through my mind. This came to manifest on new years eve of 2015, when I purged for the first time. It was very painful, and I felt like I was dying. But I looked down, and the food from the restaurant was in the toilet bowl. I felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I thought it was a one-time thing, and I would never do it again. I was wrong. I went from once a month to once a week, and then every three days, and then every other day, and then everyday. I would try to restrict my calories, and it would just end up in me eating an insane amount of food, and then purging. It was a constant cycle, and I hated it. This went on for a year, and I stayed silent on the whole issue. I told a few friends, but they did not understand or think it was a colossal issue, which I do not blame them for; they were all about 14-15. It got worse. I would eat in school and then excuse myself to the toilet to purge. When there would be birthdays or anything that had to do with going out with friends, I would also excuse myself to the toilet to purge. I continued to lose weight, and I was happy on the outside but crying on the inside. I stopped getting my period for a while, and when it did come back, it was extremely irregular. I stopped having fun with my friends as much because I knew that it included food, my mortal enemy. I hit an all-time low when I attempted suicide for the first time. This was about two weeks before my 15th birthday, when I overdosed intentionally on painkillers, and cut my wrists. While at the hospital, when my friends visited me and people came to show me their love, I had an epiphany. I realised that I could not continue like this, and my conversation with a pediatrician saved my life. I realised that I needed help. I could not continue the way I was, because I knew that I was going to die if I did so, because this eating disorder came with depression and suicidal thoughts. After having this realisation, I relapsed a couple of times, but I knew that I wanted to be better. I told some close people in my life about my suffering, and they helped me and encouraged me to be better. I did not seek a professional (which meant that recovery was slower), but I was determined to get better. I was determined to heal. And, I did. Here I am, two years later, being alive to tell my story. I want to tell anybody suffering from mental illnesses that they are not alone in this struggle. It is never too late to recover and get better. Please. I can only write this blog because I am alive. If I had allowed my illness to get the better of me, I might be dead by now. I still struggle with food and depression from time to time, feeling guilty about eating something and thinking about purging, but I choose life. I choose myself.

Choose yourself, even when it hurts.

Chidera Eggerue, aka Theslumflower, TEDx talks

If you are struggling with mental health, there are certain things I would advise you to do.

  1. Accept that there is something wrong. This is the first thing that must be done. Acceptance is the first stage of recovery, and there must be a sense of acceptance that there is something wrong with you. Now, it is not advised to self diagnose (except for something a bit more obvious, like anorexia). But just knowing that something seems out of place with your mental health is a very good turn to the road to recovery.
  2. Speak up. I cannot stress this enough. Tell anybody. Talk to somebody that you trust, be it an adult or a close friend. Please talk to somebody. They can either support you in your journey to getting better, or make sure that you are not falling off the railings. THIS IS IMPERATIVE. I know this is not easy. Trust me. But when it is done, you feel so much better.
  3. Get professional help. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, even though I did not do so. However, I feel like my recovery would have been so much smoother if I got professional help, which I was insanely scared to do. However, do not be scared. Please seek professional help, and let them guide you in the way of recovery. If you might not be financially endowed to afford this treatment, there are many ways to solve this issue. Click here and here below for more information.
  4. Recognise that relapsing does not mean you are a failure. When going into recovery, you must be realistic. You will probably relapse at some point, and you need to realise that it does not cancel your progress. In fact, the ability to relapse and continue afterwards shows growth. Recovery takes time. Do not be hard on yourself.

Also, if you are a loved one concerned about if your loved one might be mentally ill, you might want to notice some of the following signs. These are signs that I wish was noticed in me sooner.

  • Withdrawal
  • Disconnection from reality e.g. daydreaming, drifting off during a conversation
  • A change in their demeanour/behaviour
  • Rapid weight gain/loss

You are not alone in this. Let people help you. Together, we can fight against mental illnesses and what comes with it. Click here for mental illness helplines.

Thank you so much for reading! Did this help you or not? tell me in the comments! Mental health is not a joke! It is a serious matter, and should be taken as such! If you liked this post, give it a like!

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