When you’re feeling depressed, anxious, angry, confused (insert other emotion here) it can be scary. You feel like you’re the only person who feels this way and that it’s not normal. You look at other people’s lives and they seem perfect in comparison to your own. But did you ever think, if every person put their own problems in a pile, you’d probably take yours back? Everyone is fighting a battle, some bigger and more challenging than others. Something that seems so trivial to you may be a mountain of problems for another. The thing is, some people feel able to reach out whereas others don’t, can’t or feel there’s nobody to reach out to.
I felt very much the same. To the entire world, I was this happy girl who enjoyed going out and socialising. My friends thought I had it all together, and at the time, I was single and dating new guys every week, so I definitely appeared to have it all together. I looked confident and content with myself. Little did anyone know, inside I was hurting like mad. I’d spend my spare time holed up in my bedroom, only coming out for dinner and promptly heading back to bed afterwards. I could only muster up enough energy to put a smile on my face for other people, but not for myself at home.
I met my boyfriend and even he didn’t know of the struggles I faced daily because I was so good at pretending I was fine. I went through all the motions and even thought I might have been getting better – you know, fake it until you make it. For months of our relationship he didn’t know what I was suffering within my own head.
But despite this I didn’t get better, I got worse. I opened up to my boyfriend because I had moved in with him and, quite frankly, I had no other choice but to tell him. I wasn’t able to hide away because he was bound to ask questions about why I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning or why I’d cancel plans with my friends at the last minute. He was understanding but of course even today still finds me challenging when I feel low or become anxious.
It wasn’t until I reached out, finally, to one of my best friends that I realised just how bad I had let myself become. She was shocked that I felt this way and couldn’t believe I had been hiding it for so long. She was brilliant and so supportive. This enabled me to reach out to more people that I love and care about. Their reactions surprised me.
One friend said to me; “I can’t believe you have been feeling this way. I have always seen you as the girl who had it all together, being the strongest of our group. You made me feel like it’s okay to not be okay. Now I am not ashamed to tell you when I feel bad. You have taught me to open up too.”
The support and understanding from my friends has been wonderful. I do believe that they can be most supportive as they don’t see me everyday, and it’s easier to support someone you don’t have to drag out of bed everyday (like my boyfriend does). However, it has helped me to keep going. The simple fact that me opening up made my friend feel able to do the same was a huge step. Already we have battled the stigma within our friendship group and have come to accept it’s okay to feel this way. We can be there for each other.
The main point of this blog post is that you are never, ever alone. According to The Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health illness. That means you have a pretty high chance of finding someone you know that can understand what you’re going through.
If you don’t want to reach out, or simply don’t feel ready to tell the people you love how you’re feeling, there are several websites you can visit and meet people in a similar situation and remain anonymous. Some that I have used are:
These websites vary in the way you communicate with others. Elefriends reminds me a bit of Facebook, where you can post and people can comment and like your posts as well as send private messages if you’d like. The website is looked over by eles and monitored 24/7 for your safety. I have found this website most useful and welcoming. Even when people don’t know what to say to your post they have options to like it and show they’re thinking of you. The ele also posts things and sends you links to support networks outside of the website.
Friends in Need is a community where you can start groups and chats about topics you’d like. I found this one a little harder as you have to jump into conversations with people and sometimes I would post something to not receive any replies, which was disheartening. However, I perservered and met two lovely people who I keep in contact with away from the website now. There are also opportunities to organise meet ups in your local area or start chats about things you have in common.
7cups is a website that offers online therapist support as well as chat rooms with a variety of people around the world! I found it interesting to chat to people from different countries. The chat rooms are monitored by qualified therapists and they can ensure you are safe, as well as send you information and professional advice. You can even talk to one to one ‘listeners’ and even become one yourself (though my experience with the listeners also varied).
You don’t have to join any of the websites or even talk to anyone if you don’t feel able to. But just know, it’s okay to open up. I promise you’ll be better off for doing it. If you’re frightened people will change the way they think of you, don’t be. If they react badly then you don’t want those people in your life anyway, as they’re simply fuelling the negativity. Just remember everyone has their own private battle going on. We all need to be in this together. We need to beat the stigma and ensure that we all feel able to open up, because the minute we do is a step towards recovery.