Food for Thought

My Unfiltered Life: what it's like living with depression

See Me Scotland, an alliance of five mental health organisations, has been working hard to end mental health stigma. The campaigns #MyUnfilteredLife and #PowerofOkay seeks to encourage people to speak about their experiences and show that what we see on social media isn’t all fields of flowers and sparkles. It’s not socially polite to talk about your personal issues when someone asks ‘how was your day?’, but we want to change that.

As part of the #MyUnfilteredLife campaign, I shared a photo of my room to show just how imperfect I really am.

My unfiltered life: no joke, this is how I’ve been keeping my room for a while

As a blogger, every photo has to be sharp, perfect and display the product or focus on the subject you’re sharing. We’re learning to perfect (or have perfected) the technique of taking product photos or selfies from the best possible angle and know which photos work for us. We write about things we’re passionate about: fashion, art, food, architecture, travels, our lifestyle. Not often do we talk about our personal struggles and how this affects us, but this is something that is changing.

Speaking about mental health issues is such a personal subject and I find it difficult to talk about it with people I don’t have a good relationship with. It’s such a personal part of us and exposes our vulnerable side; we don’t want people to look at us with pity in their eyes, or pat you on the shoulder and tell you everything will be alright when we know it’s not, not for a while anyway. So why do we do it, why am I writing this post?

I want people to understand that it’s not easy for me to talk about my own personal demons because they are just that: personal. I’m not someone who willingly shares intimate details about my life, my relationship with my husband, or private facts about myself with people I’ve just met. I’m an introvert in more ways than you would ever imagine (see my post about being introverted here) and that makes it hard for me to sometimes break away from my own thoughts to talk about my issues with anyone. I’m writing this post because I want everyone reading this to realise it’s not easy for me to share this, but I want people who are suffering from mental health issues to feel that it’s okay to share your burden. Not everyone understands what it’s like, but through raising awareness that celebrities and public figures also go through issues just like everyone else, we will change that. I want to bridge that gap and help others realise that we’re in a culture where we will support each other and you shouldn’t have to be ashamed of what you’re going through.

Me on a better day after my first attempt at zorb football

See Me Scotland is promoting #PowerofOkay by encouraging us to change the way we interact with other people and start asking, ‘Are you okay?’ Little would you know that for someone who’s having a really bad day how powerful that question really is. For those of us who struggle with mental health issues, a bad day can be much worse. What you see on social media isn’t real life. We all go through good days and bad days, but if we only share photos of our happy moments, we present a false impression of our lives. As I said before though, people you’ve just met (or close friends) are intimated by the thought of having to help you cope with your struggles. They feel pressured if they don’t feel like they’re equipped to support you in that instance and you’re left feeling even more alone.

Social media is a blessing in disguise. It allows us to reach out to more people we would never have kept in touch with otherwise (with the powers of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I’m able to connect and keep in close touch with friends I’ve long ago lost touch with and now we’re better friends than we ever were), but at the same time rarely do we post about the difficult days or when we’re really struggling. Social media portrays a life full of joy, excitement and envy for the good life. After all, who wants to know about the personal negativity you deal with on a daily basis?

There are days when I am at the highest point of my game: I’ve got lots of ideas for blog posts, craft and dressmaking projects to work on, attending all my kickboxing and fitness classes, meeting friends and attending blogger events. The cycle continues and the tasks rotate on a daily basis. What you might not know is that as an introvert, I need time to myself to recharge where I’m not socialising or keeping busy constantly. You get to a point where you’ve got so much on that when you finally get a moment to breath, you realise how drained you are.

There are days when my negative thoughts consume me and I can’t work it out in my head and it starts to take over. I like to see things for what they are and not sugar coat the truth when asked, so it really bothers me when I speak to certain people about issues I’m experiencing for life to go on as is. I know I can’t change the world, other people or my environment and I can only change myself. When I’m feeling stuck and not getting the support I need to let myself recharge, I sink into an even deeper hole. I’m constantly feeling fatigued and lethargic. I started by cutting the fabric and the chiffon, but I haven’t the energy to finish the cut out back dress I started working on for a friend’s October wedding. I’ve got lots of projects on the go that I half-started or need to amend but haven’t gotten back to it.

At a time when I felt more creative

When so many people demand so much of you, you feel like you’re being pulled in every direction and you’re overwhelmed by what is expected of you. When I’m in this place, I feel the need to just tell the world to stop and give me a minute to just regroup and organise myself. I feel isolated because while other friends and family are celebrating successes in their lives, I’m in a rut that I’m finding difficult to get myself out of. Sometimes people think that all it takes is for you to throw yourself into an activity you enjoy, but when you can’t even find the motivation to get out of bed and stop watching Youtube videos, how do you get to said activity in the first place?

That’s not to say that I won’t get back to dressmaking and my craft projects. Other things have cropped up that I’ve had to attend to and my projects have been put to the side, but I know once I get a minute to myself to get back into it, I will enjoy the process and feeling pride in something I created. A unique design that I know is perfectly me, that will have an essence of the design I imagined when I saw the fabric and that it all worked exactly how I imagined it would. I know seeing the friends I made in my classes and actively exorcising my inner demons by expending physical energy will raise my endorphin levels and bring me back to a state of equilibrium.

The misconception is that having mental health issues means you’re weak; they’re wrong. When you’ve been trying to be strong for too long, everyone reaches their breaking point at one point or another. For us, it means we’ve been trying to be strong for too long and we’ve reached our breaking point which has manifested into something we can’t control and we experience it more deeply than others. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s a part of who we are and we just need the right support to motivate us to get back to where we were before we reached this point.

To learn more about See Me Scotland’s #MyUnfilteredLife campaign, click here or for the #PowerofOkay campaign here.


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