I never knew I had mental health issues for years. I always wondered why all my friends had problems but I assumed everyone was making it all up and kept offering solutions instead of a listening ear 👂. They just seemed to be negative about anything and everything.
In my ignorance, I would even point out their issues and how they were affecting me and because of that, I lost many friends over it.
That was until I went through the worst period of my life where a certain string of events triggered a complete meltdown. And that’s when I knew I had always had mental health issues all along – but I just didn’t know the signs. It’s selfish to say that I only started truly recognising the importance of mental health when something happened to me. When you’re just about coping you really don’t have time to focus on others and that’s in true honesty.
So many things were happening which I never paid attention to such as…
- Consistent body pains
- Feeling down for no reason and crying
- Unable to concentrate at work
- Excessively worrying and anxious about work
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Constantly exhausted and tired
- Having paranoid delusions about situations in a negative way (I thought a witch had cast a spell on me)
- Inability to cope with problems I used to be able to cope with
- Getting stressed over things I never used to be stressed over
- Trouble understanding and relating to people
How could I miss them all? I even started getting aches in my body but I, mean, I was fine! Living day-to-day like normal. Having a down day every now and then felt manageable – I’d go to bed and wake up fresh until the same thing would happen by night. My back started hurting and I started getting chest pains a lot. My sleeping patterns were disturbed often waking up early in the morning or randomly in the night which contributed to my tiredness day in and day out. After a couple of years of this, it became just – my life.
Slowly and surely I became chronically stressed. I ended up calling up the Time To Talk helpline which offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as something to help soothe the stresses. After going through the program for 6 weeks and using a variety of tools, I discovered what was helping me uncover the stresses in my life: Journalling.
Writing was something I had always done growing up but for some reason, as life got busy I had stopped doing it.
If you know a bit about behavioural psychology. sublimation was how I grew up dealing with anything traumatic. Through sublimation, you are able to transform unwanted impulses into something that is less harmful and often even helpful and I found refuge in blogging, designing graphics, websites and sports.
I used creativity to overcome anger, sadness and all the emotions I had bottled up inside and because I didn’t know how to express them IRL. I grew up joining online communities for web design that connected with other like-minded individuals from all over the world as I didn’t know many people into the same things. Some of which I am still friends with 16 years later 🙂
How I Use My Mental Health as a Superpower
I didn’t realise the natural lifestyle from growing up as an only child; creating stuff, learning new hobbies and online communities became my coping mechanisms as an adult struggling with mental health.
I didn’t realise that I needed a balance. CBT taught me that each person needs a balance in certain areas of their life and those stressors came from an imbalance. I didn’t realise that not doing the things that I did in my day to day life and putting them on ‘hold’ was causing my decline in mental health.
One of the tasks in the CBT course was Life Area and Their Importance. It’s weird how you never take note of these things. I realised I didn’t need as much social time as I thought and that I needed more self-development time in order to function properly. Which was probably due to my upbringing which I can’t change.
When I was too stressed or tired I started neglecting all the things that I had used to cope. This bought upon a yearlong struggle of crying, feeling low, depressed and rejecting others around me because I was expending all my energy to look ‘normal’.
My Mental Health Soother Became My Career
I also didn’t realise that my entire career and thing holding me together was my creativity. My mental health built a wall and tools to protect me and became my skills and eventually my career!
Designing was the very thing soothing my mental health, allowing me to express myself and to explore a world that made me feel good. I realised that my creativity became my soother and when that was squashed my mental health started to decline.
Now, I never feel alone because I’ve figured out all the things I need to aid those things. Like writing, social media and working on projects. I just have spells of sadness like a normal person and anxiety-like everyone else.
I am proud of my mental illness and proud to wear it as a badge of honour because it fuels my creativity, connects me to strangers worldwide and has pushed me to achieve all the wonderful things I have achieved. It has become my guidance on what’s wrong and has guided me to be true to myself. I still take risks, I still do crazy things. It wouldn’t get triggered if the environment wasn’t right for me. So in a way, it protects me.
Creativity is my superpower that was fuelled by my mental health. It has allowed me to work in some amazing places, meet some incredible people, create a promising career, buy a flat and travel the world. And most of all it has allowed me to stay true to myself.
Therefore I am proud of my mental health for constantly pushing me in the right direction and I am proud of the life it has helped me build.
How has your mental health illness helped you?