Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we truly aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.
We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.
Since I started going to therapy years ago, I've learned many things: how to talk myself out of an anxiety attack, how to instill boundaries, and how to better express my feelings, just to name a few. I'm also now able to recognise negative thought patterns and take the necessary steps to ensure I don't spiral. However, there's one particular lesson my therapist taught me that changed everything, and it's that I don't have to be "on" all the time. That I don't always have to be at 100 percent. That I'm allowed to feel the entire range of emotions.
As someone with anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD, it's easy to feel as if I have to create a facade of normalcy, even when I'm not feeling my best emotionally or physically. I remember being embarrassed by my anxiety disorder in high school and pushing it down, forcing myself to pretend I was happy and smile around my peers, only to cry later on to my school guidance counselor. If ever I got sick, it added another layer to this struggle, because feeling under the weather encroached on my ability to act the way I thought I should at all times: on and positive and only happy, nothing else. In college, I made a conscious decision each day to be extra outgoing even though it was rarely an accurate portrayal of how I felt on the inside. I specifically remember a school friend saying to me, "I never would have guessed," when I told her about my anxiety and depression.
I understand now that I may have done this for a couple reasons. One was that I was ashamed to feel any emotion; I thought if I exuded an image of being carefree and chill, then maybe I could trick myself into actually feeling that way. Secondly, I viewed my emotions — and more specifically, my anxiety and depression — as a burden, and I didn't want anyone else to have to take that on.
Now, instead of pushing aside my emotions or ignoring them, I let them flow freely.
Going to therapy has helped me realise that anything I can possibly feel is valid. There are going to be days when I'm sad, times when I'm happy, and moments when I may just not feel like myself. It's important to allow yourself to feel every one of those things, because it helps you learn more about yourself and allows you to develop as a person.
Now, instead of pushing aside my emotions or ignoring them, I let them flow freely. I openly communicate when I'm feeling uncomfortable, I take a deep breath when I'm overwhelmed, and I cry when I feel like I need to cry. I don't have this unrealistic belief that I have to feel happy and whole no matter the circumstances. In other words, I'm finally allowing myself to be human.