The Speech I Will Probably Never Speak

I am here to speak about something that is very close to my heart, mental health.  Most of you listening to this that know me, or even consider themselves close to me will not know the reason this is so important to me, because I have always been afraid to say it out loud.  But, the reason I care so much about mental health awareness is because for a long time now I have been suffering with depression and anxiety.

Looking back, I can say I have been suffering with mental health issues since I was 13 years-old, I am now 19.  The reason I never reached out to anyone around me wasn’t because I didn’t have a loving amazing family that I thought wouldn’t support me, it wasn’t because I didn’t have friends, it was because I felt ashamed.  I was considered a high flyer, I came top of many of my classes at school, I had lots of friends, I had goals, it seemed to others like I had everything in my life together.  But, in reality, I felt like I was drowning.

From year 10 to 11, two people I was close to died suddenly and two others who I had a less close relation with also died, and although those deaths didn’t have a direct impact I still felt their effects.  All of this happened in less than a year giving me little time to process, and I began to feel like everyone was dying, and I started to question the meaning of life itself, what was my purpose, why was I here?  Throughout all of this I tried to act strong, knowing that my parents were struggling with these losses too and not wanting to worry them that I wasn’t coping.  I knew everyone in life lost people, so I felt like I didn’t have the right to grieve in front of others because I didn’t want to bring them down or bore them with my problems which I felt were inconsequential. 

This resulted in me bottling up my feelings to a ridiculous capacity.  I went to school everyday with the knowledge that I had to smile, laugh and act happy around my friends so that they wouldn’t see my cracks.  I wanted them to believe I was perfect, and because they didn’t really want to see anything wrong, they didn’t.  I became an Oscar-worthy actor, able to function through my worst days, able to laugh out loud when I was positively sobbing inside. 

It was the evenings that got me, I became so used to squashing my true depressive feelings down so far that whilst around others I could almost forget they were there.  But then, inevitably, I had to be alone at some point.  It was then that the horrific feelings of self-hatred and self-worthlessness would attack and overwhelm me to the point I would often have panic attacks so severe I would hyperventilate and, on occasion, hallucinate.  I was able to keep this from my family under the persona that I was simply hard at work on coursework, or these attacks would happen in the middle of the night meaning that no one would notice anyway. 

It was at this point that I began to suspect that there was something wrong with me, I didn’t know much about mental health issues back then, all I thought was that if you were mentally ill you also had to be clinically insane.  And so, it followed that I began to think that I was crazy, medically crazy.  This in itself was psychologically damaging because I began to doubt that anything I thought was valid, I retreated into myself, no longer participating in debates at school or offering my opinion because I believed that everything I thought was undermined by the fact that I was crazy.  This only fuelled the fire of my thoughts of self-worthlessness.  I was spiralling, and I felt I had no one to turn to because I was afraid I would-be put-on medication or thrown into a mental hospital.  I didn’t want to be treated any differently, but I knew my friends would never look at me the same if I told them I thought I had schizophrenia, so I held them at arms-length.  I know there are probably others out there that went through that too, a belief that they were insane, and that is why it is so important we have a rise in awareness for mental health.

I just didn’t want people to think that I was weak, because I thought I was weak.  I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t cope with situations that everyone in life goes through.  Because I hated myself, I expected that if others saw the real me they would hate me too.  It was this mindset that, in the words of Wentworth Miller, meant I navigated everyday in a ‘survival mode’ of pretended happiness. 

That’s not to say that I didn’t feel happiness, I did.  It was just that after every happy moment I would find a reason to hate myself in that situation, or to criticise that everything was always going to get bad again, that I would never find a permanent happiness.  My good points were great, my low points were depression.  And, it was with the realisation that it was my depression and anxiety that was making me feel this way that allowed me to understand where these thoughts were coming from. 

The point to this story is that the thing that prevented me from starting recovery and finding healthy coping mechanisms was my paralysing fear that people would find out about my secret.  But, when I finally worked up the courage to confide in someone, to share the weight with someone it was an amazing feeling.  I’m not saying it’s easy, it took me two years from the point that I decided something had to change to me actually telling someone about what I was struggling with, but once I did the knowledge that someone was truly there for me was amazing. 

I had confided in a girl I lived with in my first year of university, and I remember the morning after she sent me a message saying that no matter what she would always be there for me, that I could always talk to her about anything.  This moved me beyond words and meant more than she can ever understand, because I had never had anyone say that to me before.  I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, where someone knew the real me and accepted me for it so readily and so naturally.  I cried out of happiness for the first time in a long time.   

Although I am still working on getting professional help, and I have a long way to go in terms of recovery, I am telling my story to show that even if you feel, like I did, that no one is there for you, and there is no one you can confide in, there is.  There is always someone, and if there’s no one there right now, you will find that person that you can rely on.  I went through a long period where I truly believed I would be alone in terms of friendships forever, with no one I could count on.  That feeling of loneliness is one of my biggest battles, but it starts with talking to someone.

The battle against depression starts with talking to someone, because no battle can be fought alone. 

Fitness Journey

My mat says ‘Positive mind, Positive vibes, Positive life’

I have always been a very active person, but I have never been paticuarly sporty or athletic. I’ve always been very average when it came to PE at school, and never really wanted to take part in any group sports because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, which of course meant I never gave myself the chance to get good. Now though, I am trying to focus on getting fit, not only for my physical health, but also mentally.

Fitness has become a really important part of my life, it enables me to clear my head and really allows me to de-stress. I have a really active mind, and it’s often difficult to find ways to keep entertained, or even to keep up with everything that’s going on up there. Excercise has become a really great outlet for all of that, and gives me such a sense of euphoria afterwards.

I have started to do Pilates and Body Balance on a regular basis, which is a really tranquil excercise that allows me to find a peaceful moment, where I’m not really thinking at all, just focusing on the movements and stretches, and getting lost in the calming music.

This fitness has had a really positive impact on my mental wellbeing, allowing me to de-stress and put things in perspective. Therefore, I have decided to monitor some of my progress in flexibilty and balance. I am not currently flexible at all, but I’ve given myself a goal to improve, in the hope it will motivate me to continue!

These pictures give you an idea of some of the stretches I will be doing and the level I am currently at, so follow my progress on here and instagram to see how I get on!

First Year of University

Everyone tells you that the first year of university will be the best year of your life, and in many ways it is.  However, in some ways it is also the most difficult. 

What is so often neglected to talk about is also the sheer amount of change that happens all around you, and how sometimes it becomes overwhelming.  There are a lot of things to juggle, making friends, going out, trying to organise your timetable and find classes whilst exhausted (and most probably hungover and coming down with freshers’ flu), all while trying to make a good impression on the people you’ve been told are going to be your life-long friends. 

I don’t mean that to sound scary, because freshers is so much fun, but it’s okay to also feel overwhelmed, unsure and a little scared about it all too.  I think the expectation that first year will be the best year of your life sometimes makes it all a little harder to deal with, because you might feel like you’re doing it wrong if it’s not as perfect as you thought.  I guarantee you you’re not. 

Change isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be unexpected and unpredictable.  There will be amazing high points, but you have to expect that there will be low points too, just like with everything, and then you can make sure you look after yourself until things inevitably get good again. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that, whilst it is true that you make some of your best friends at university, this does not necessarily mean it’s immediate.  So, don’t worry if you struggle to find your perfect friendship group in the first few weeks, or whole first semester even.  For me, my friendships changed so much and so rapidly all throughout first year, and it was only by the end of second semester that I felt I really knew who my close friends were.  Although struggling to find where you stand with friendship groups isn’t something people generally openly talk about, I think you’ll find it’s something a lot of people feel in that first year. 

That’s not to say I didn’t have such a good time, because I really truly did, there is such a wide range of diverse people to get to know, and I’ve definitely cried more tears of laughter just this year than the rest of my entire almost 20-year-old life combined.  It’s just I think too often people say their first year at uni was the best year of their life, just because that is what is expected.  Personally, I have a feeling year 2 is going to be just as epic, if not more so. 

So, if you’re off to university this autumn have an amazing time, good luck, and don’t worry if it’s harder than you thought.  That’s normal!

Just remember sometimes the expectation that something is going to be the best thing ever, makes it a little harder.

Polluted planet, polluted mind

POLLUTED PLANET; POLLUTED MIND

When our planet is dying
When our people are getting fatter
When suicide is a leading factor
Of death in first world countries

Do you think maybe there’s a link?
And maybe that’s our connection with the environment?

But if nature is our miracle cure,
Stop throwing rubbish on your mother’s floor.

Olivia.

Check out my instagram account below too!

Coming out

You probably clicked on this because you think I came out as gay. Not so I’m afraid, although I called it ‘coming out’ in my mind because I feel like there is nothing else that I could liken it to.

I’ve lived my entire 19, almost 20 year old life bottling everything up inside, and although that didn’t neccessarily stop me from doing all the things I ever set my heart on, it also didn’t make it easy, and ment I had a lot of low points when I felt totally alone and misunderstood. I’m a very deep thinker, and sometimes I can get lost inside my head, sometimes I wish I could stay lost in there forever, because it often feels harder to face realty than what goes on up there. I think the main thing that I struggled with, and soemtimes still do, is that I feel very different to everyone else, a bit of an outsider. I struggled with how I’ve always seemed to see the world from a very different angle than my friends, even from a young age, and it made me think perhaps there was something wrong with me, and it made me question why anyone would want to be friends with me, because I wasn’t like everyone else. I overthought every small interaction, and that led to me being insecure, and prone to depressive thoughts.

For the majority of my life I never told anyone how I felt, not even my family. Until I finally got the courage to sit my Mum down and tell her how I was really feeling. I’m going to preface this by saying that I have very loving and supportive parents, I didn’t say anything to them because I didn’t want them to feel guilty, and I was also afraid that it would be like I had somehow failed.

It is perhaps an understatement though to say that my mother was shocked, and she said some things that she probably regrets now, because she does love me and support me in everything. The one comment that sticks in my head, is she told me ‘I think you want to be depressed.’

See, it’s not always plain sailing when you tell someone you love, something shocking, sometimes they don’t know how to react, and so they react in the worst possible way, initially. Emphasis on initially, because after a long chat, my Mum began to understand where I was coming from, and immediately started to list roads we could take to help me, just like Mums do.

I don’t blame her for reacting the way she did, I know it’s confusing to hear someone tell you that there not as okay as you thought they were. She later wrote me a message to tell me that she would always be there for me, even if she didn’t fully understand, because I was her daughter, and nothing would ever change that.

I think I’m writing this entry because it’s important to know that sometimes we have to be prepared for people to misunderstand, but we have to be patient and make them listen until they do.

Although it’s scary, it’s also such a weight off my shoulders to know I have my parents there for me now, in a way they couldn’t have been before. Family is one of the most important things in my life, and I know that now more than ever.

An Adventure to Guatemala

As the title suggests my trip to Guatemala in July 2019 certainly was an adventure, and one I will never forget.  In the picture above you can see that written on our t-shirts is the slogan:

 ‘I don’t need therapy, just need to go to Guatemala.’ 

I think that nothing had ever struck me as quite so true.  Perhaps it was being in a third world country based in an area where people lived in such poverty I had never seen before, and yet they were the kindest, most welcoming and generous people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, that put into perspective the problems I myself thought I faced.  My mental battles though, seemed to fade into the distance as I found we would have such a significant positive impact on these local people, and surrounded by other volunteers that shared my viewpoint on life I finally felt that I had found somewhere I was meant to be.  This only sought to solidify my goals in becoming a humanitarian aid worker in a charity. 

I was involved in a turtle conservation project in a small community on the pacific coast in Guatemala, but it was so much more than it sounds.  Alongside everyone in the community we built a hatchery for the turtle eggs and painted educational murals in Spanish on the walls of the main building, informing people how they could help with conservation efforts.  Everyone was so eager to get involved, young and old, it was for their village, and it was their project and we felt privileged that they trusted us to take direction on it. 

It was not just the volunteering that made me fall in love with this country though, but the general beauty we were surrounded with, I have honestly never felt so free.  I was half way across the world in a country where no one knew me, totally alone, and yet I felt the opposite of lonely.  Surrounded by nature, volcanoes, mountains and the beauty of the coast, surrounded by people that like me, had given up a portion of their summer to volunteer, I found peace. 

In truth though, it is in moments like these that I feel like I can be unadulteratedly me, no games, no lies, no putting on a façade.  No one knew me, so what was the need to be anything other than me?

Perhaps that was why I felt so free, and why I was so sad to leave, because we had had some amazing and some truly crazy times, because I was able to let go, to stop worrying for a change, to let loose and do things that give me adrenaline rushes and made me feel alive and young, like we’re supposed to. Like, for example, skinny dipping in the ocean with guys me had met at a beach party. 

I’m definitely not suggesting that your risk your life in any way, but it felt good to do something crazy and made me realise we (or maybe just me) worry far too much about everything, and it was incredible to do something without thinking at all.

So, I guess my advice would be, if you’re feeling trapped, or like you’re unsure as to where you fit in, then do something meaningful, go somewhere different, and figure out where you want to be.  I raised all the funds for this myself, anyone can do it. 

“Perfect”

Practicing smiles in the mirror

Memorising a charade of perfect humour

To hide the truth of your despair

That in reality you’d rather be anywhere than there

And all you really want to do

Is cry alone on the floor of the loo

Contemplating in life itself

And wondering how you’ll ever reach that shelf

Upon which you’ve placed all your hopes and dreams

That realistically could never be

Because all you’ll ever really be

Is a failure to those who see you as perfect

When you break down and realise you can’t quite work it

Because social situations make you anxious

And often you can’t even say a word

Because self-doubt takes it upon himself

To strangle the phrases from your mouth

So maybe you shouldn’t even really try

Because you know this is only going to end in a cry.


So, remember to practice that smile in the mirror

And memorise that perfect humour

So that if no one looks at you too deep

They might not think that you’re that weak

And maybe if you rehearse the conversations

It won’t seem like you talk to yourself about your anxious reservations. 

Living with Depression

Depression is different for everyone, it is a mental illness, and everybody’s minds work differently, so I’m sure that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  For me though, my depression isn’t something that is obvious to anyone around me, such to the extent that I have managed to keep it hidden for 5 years.  It’s not like how you hear in the media, that I had a psychotic break that lead to it, or something dreadfully tragic happened to my family and triggered it.  For me, my depression didn’t surface out of any one major event, but rather it is just something that is a part of me. Depression runs in my family, and evidently, I got the gene. 

There were triggers that made it worse, that made me realise that there was something wrong, of course, but I know now that the things that happened that caused my mental breakdowns really just brought these depressive feelings to the forefront, when I think really they were always there. 

My reaction to feeling like everything was spiralling out of control, like I had no purpose in life, like I was worthless, wasn’t to ask for help, but to put a strong emphasis on how together my life was, so that my friends would think that I was more than fine, that I had a perfect little life with everything figured out.  That could not have been further from the truth.  For me though, having other people believe that about me, somehow made it easier for me to believe that too, or at least it gave me motivation to keep going, to get up in the morning and keep doing well in school so that my perfect reputation wouldn’t be ruined.   

When it’s written out like that, I guess it seems sad that so much of what happened in my school life, I only really did to convince people that I was fine and normal.  Now I want to make sure I do things because I enjoy them, rather than for any other reason.  I called it ‘survival mode’ in which the focus of my life used to be just ensuring that I created a persona that would allow me to get from waking up in the morning to going to sleep in the evening, without raising suspicion that I wasn’t okay.   My mantra used to be, ‘this day has to end.’  Not exactly a healthy or appreciative way to live your life.  It’s not really living at all. 

Not everyday was dark though, I definitely had some really good times and some really good friends too.  It was just in those low moments everything that was going on in my head made me believe that I didn’t have anything good going for me, and anything good that had happened I somehow managed to make into a negative, where I saw myself as not good enough, clever enough, pretty enough.  Maybe it seems shallow to people who can’t understand, but essentially it felt like there was a black hole in my gut and every good feeling I was capable of got sucked in and I was left with an empty void, or just such deep sadness I hardly knew where it stemmed from.  I just knew I needed it to stop but I had no idea how I was meant to just miraculously become happy again.  Back then, I didn’t know it was depression, I just thought that something had gone wrong in my brain, that maybe I was crazy, and so I shouldn’t confide in others, because I would just become a burden. 

Now I know what it is, it’s easier to handle, because I know not to ignore the signs of a potentially bad day.  I can do things to alleviate it, or to lift my mood.  I have a network of friends now that know the truth and I can reach out to if I need to talk.  There are other things too, like exercise that I make sure I get time to do, because it makes me feel so much better afterwards, I feel lighter, happier and like I’ve really achieved something, which helps to expel any negative thinking.  A great example of that was just today, I woke up feeling pretty low, and then my sister was very off with me and I started doubting myself and blaming myself for her low mood, but I got myself out and did a class at the gym which made me realise that it was all in my head, and allowed me to get past it so I could enjoy my day and be productive. 

Sometimes, it’s simple things like changing the way you live, that allow you to lead a much healthier life, both in mind and body.  I have to make sure I take care of myself and my mental wellbeing so that I don’t slip back into old habits which harboured that negative thinking.  I talk to people and confide in them when it gets too much, I eat healthy, I do exercise at least a few times a week, and I have this, my writing which is an outlet I greatly need sometimes.  I’ve never been happier. 

I can’t lie and say that things aren’t still difficult, and there aren’t still points where it feels like I’m getting nowhere, and it’s always going to be this hard, so what’s the point?  The point is, now I have accepted this for what it is, I won’t let it own me, I have my process to deal with it now.  We fight depression because there is a life worthy of living, and for me that is how I get from today to tomorrow, having a goal in my mind of what I want my life to look like, and I know if I ignore my depression then that’s not going to happen, so I face it straight on. 

That’s how I live with it, with the knowledge that I will beat it.