#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery. Interested in sharing? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Bee, and I am 21 years old. I am hoping to return to education in September to study Psychology after taking some time off to focus on my mental health and to truly start to put my all into recovery. I love reading, writing poetry, spending time with the people I love, and spending time advocating and talking about what I am passionate about (which is a big part of @madetobebee). I’ve also recently started doing yoga and incorporating more activity and exercise into my life, which I am doing gradually and carefully due to living with chronic illness (fibromyalgia). But so far, I am enjoying it!
What has your mental health journey been like?
I was trying to find one word to sum up my mental health journey, but it’s not possible. I have felt the most shattering depression and hopelessness imaginable, but also the most overwhelming happiness and joy that I would not trade for anything. I first started experiencing mental health difficulties when I was 11 years old and just starting secondary school. I remember feeling all of these heightened, intense emotions and not knowing how to deal with them or what to call them. It wouldn’t be until 8 years later that I would be diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. And so I turned to self-harm, which became my coping mechanism when all of the emotions became too much – that is, until last year.
For around a year now, I have been clean from those kinds of behaviours as my emotions and moods have become much more regulated by taking a break from education and focusing on my mental health. Leaving University was an incredibly hard decision for me, and one that I was pretty much forced to make; I was in a dark, dark place and was phoning crisis numbers practically every other day. I was holding on as hard as I could for the people around me – but I was falling, deep and fast.
I ended up coming home for Christmas break early and was put under Home Treatment care with a crisis team, as an alternative to hospitalisation. At first, nurses were coming out to see me every day or every other day to make sure I was still here and to monitor my mental health. This saved my life. I’m here now, and I aim to do my best to help others in similar places because I want to show them that living with a mental illness is entirely possible.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?
I’ve always compared myself to other people – which isn’t a surprise, considering that’s what we are all encouraged to do. We’re never good enough, pretty enough, funny enough, thin enough. We’re never enough – we are always told we have to strive for more. This has been one of the hardest things for me to overcome; in fact, I’m still learning how to. It’s a process, and that’s okay. At the start of my recovery, I was constantly comparing myself to my friends and the people around me. “They’ve all nearly finished university, and now I’m a dropout. I have no job, I have nothing. I’m a failure.”
But now I know that’s not true. Sometimes my mind tricks me into believing it’s true. But most of the time, I can talk myself down from it. I left education to focus on myself and my mental health. I’ve come so far in my own mental health journey and recovery, which you might not be able to see on paper, but that’s not important. What’s important is how I feel, and the progress I’m making. I’m hopefully returning to education later this year, which, yes, is later than my friends. But that’s not important either. We shouldn’t compare our journey’s to others. All lives and all journies look different: that’s the beautiful thing about them. I’m not a failure, I did what is best for me – and that self-awareness is something I’m incredibly thankful to have developed and will continue to use to my advantage. I will access the help I am deserving of instead of believing I am not worthy, I will pace myself and take breaks when I need to, and, most of all, I will be kind to myself. And if I do not achieve this all of the time, that’s okay. We are doing our best, and that’s all that we can ever do.
What helps you maintain recovery?
Writing has been a massive help to me. I love poetry; listening to spoken word, reading poetry, and writing it. It helps me release a lot of emotions I may have been suppressing, and I can come to terms with them in a way that I find productive and helpful. Listening to and reading poetry also reminds me that I am not alone in my pain, or my struggles, because it helps unite me with others that are experiencing similar things in words. Using our energy for things that make us feel whole and happy is something we should always make time for.
What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?
I know that this is difficult, and believing that things can possibly be different is harder than anyone can ever imagine. I know that sometimes it is easier to live in darkness than to risk finding light and losing it. But you are worthy of living a life of love, and hope, and happiness, and joy with meaningful relationships. One with the kind of good moments that make things worth holding on to. Yes, there will be sadness too. But the love, the hope, the good moments we bank, we can use them. We can hold on to them. So know that it’s okay to feel and express all of the feelings. Recovery and healing are not linear. There is no right or wrong way to heal. Go at your own pace – it isn’t a race. Take as much time as you need to focus on yourself, on your mental health and wellbeing. Prioritise it. Don’t ever feel guilty for learning to put it, and yourself, first. You are important, you always have been and will continue to be. It’s time you know that.