I recently expressed an interest in partaking in something really important to me, and to the cause of Eleven Times Two, but which will prove to be a huge emotional challenge. My gut instinct tells me that it is the right way forward, a wonderful thing to do and a huge opportunity for my personal growth, both mentally and spiritually.
I told a few people about my plans, and out of those – a few automatically jumped back to my history of mental illness and told me it was a bad idea.
“Hmmmm that doesn’t sound like a good idea for you Shell, think about what it could do to you.”
“I don’t think you’re ready for that – mentally.”
I listened to them, I nodded along in agreement, I questioned whether I was mentally strong enough to take on the task, and I VERY NEARLY talked myself out of attending my very first session to learn whether, in fact, it was a good idea for ME. Then I went along anyway, but this really raised an important question for me:
Am I labelled for life?
Why do some of the decisions I make have other people creasing their brow and raising well-meaning concerns for me, even though I have been in recovery for over 5 years and am now embarking on a new path which means I get to help others reach their own recovery?
Does the fact that I talk so openly about Mental Health hinder me? Is it still really something that tarnishes my achievements? Or is it, in fact, the projection I am putting out to the world because I am so honest and frank about my past struggles that they form part of my identity now?
Have I really let it go? Or am I holding on to it, bringing it into the here and now and regurgitating my experiences because it is serving me in my quest to help others? If, in fact, I am going to get into the world of Mental Health, am I ever going to be able to move on entirely from my own experiences?
I recently spoke to a friend who is promoting supplements that do all kinds of things, and the first thing I heard was ‘aids fat loss’. Now, this raised alarm bells for me in my head and I instantly retreated from the conversation, but it got me thinking about how I still look carefully at my attitude and approach towards food and my relationship with my body. I know I am recovered, I know I am a healthy weight, I know I look after myself and treat my body well – but yet still, I am actually scared of anything that promotes fat loss, and it’s not because I don’t trust myself, I’ve proven that I can detox healthily with Clean 9, but the memory of that dark place smashes the glass with an axe and jumps up and down on the ‘emergency’ button setting off all the sirens and telling me to evacuate the situation.
When I went through a stint of anxiety a few months back, it wasn’t the anxiety that gripped my throat tight – it was the fear of what it could lead to if I didn’t get a handle on it.
But you know what? I got a handle on it. The same way I always get a handle on it. The same way I always see it coming from a mile off and nip it in the bud before it can take hold. The same way I can smash a bag of Haribo Tangfastics and not be crippled with guilt. The same way I can swerve the gym and not convince myself that I am going to balloon overnight or that my ass will go flat if I don’t keep squatting. The same way I can walk away from toxic people and the same way I can transform any situation into a positive experience (even if the positive experience is that I never have to do it again!)
I overcame it all. Me. I did that, and it was a result of and the foundation for my #MentalStrength
Every single one of us has Mental Health, and an alarming number have a Mental Illness, but what I am going to be pioneering is Mental Strength, and that comes in all shapes and sizes, in all needs and desires, in all struggles in all victories and it sits inside every single one of us. Mental Strength is about choosing what thoughts we think, and able taking back control when our brain jumps on the treadmill and goes flying off the back! It takes work, it takes discipline, it takes time and sometimes, it takes everything you’ve got, but your mind is like a muscle – the more you use it and work on it in the right way, the stronger it becomes.
So, to repeat my earlier question.
If, in fact, I am going to get into the world of Mental Illness, am I ever going to be able to move on entirely from my own experiences?
And my answer to you, and to myself is YES, because I already have. The very fact that I am moving into the world where I can help others proves that. The only reason I am talking about my past experiences is to inspire others and to empower them, to let them know that they are not on their own and to provide an example of a person who has crawled back from the depths of my own personal hell, turned it around and reframed it for the power of good.
My struggles are not a dead weight hanging around my neck, and the sooner I get clear about that, and the sooner that is the message I portray to the world, the sooner those who are close to me, who love me and are genuinely worried about me, will understand that too.
I said in a previous blog that it never goes away. I was wrong. Mental Illness DOES go away, you CAN get through it and past it and you CAN go on to be mentally strong and healthy.
My struggles have invariably left a permanent scar on my heart, and every so often it twinges and tugs at the strings. I used to think that tug was my demons trying to get a hold again, but now I know different, because my heart is still beating, my heart is still guiding me, and my heart is my tower of strength.
For some, the idea of getting better is terrifying, because the place where they are at the moment is all they know. For some, their mental illness is so all-encompassing that they don’t know who they are without it, it has become their whole identity. I was in that place and it took me a long time to put the pieces together to create the person I wanted to become, the person I was capable of becoming, and you can do that too. It is up to you to decide who you are – you get to make that choice every single day. You can change your mind as many times as you like but you get to decide.
You will come to discover who you are, what you can do and how you can think differently once you begin to escape from underneath that big old pile of rubble that fell on top of you when you hit rock bottom. The people around you, the support groups, the helplines, the therapists, the medication, even me and this blog can help pull the stones off you one by one, but it’s up to you to crawl your way out – and that takes time, but oh, when you get that first glimpse of sunlight, when you reach out and take that helping hand and emerge from the depths there is no better feeling. That’s just the beginning – and it is possible for every single one of you who is struggling. No exceptions. The help is there, the support is there, the hand is there, and the sunlight is there – all you need to do is find a single second of Mental Strength and reach out and grab hold of it.
(‘Strong Mind’ Image Credit: http://keywordsuggest.org/gallery/763141.html)