My battle with mental health has been an on and off struggle for the majority of my adult life. It started in my teenage years and had gotten worse as time progressed. A lot of my friends haven’t been aware of it; I guess that will change now that I’m sharing my story. I think the reason I haven’t shared this before is due to a combination of not giving myself the time to understand why I felt the way I did or perhaps my unwillingness to communicate about how I felt to anyone during that time.
Everything changed when I came out of a long term relationship. I was twenty-seven and had the classic life plan of buying the perfect house, getting married, having some children and climbing the corporate ladder in my dream job. However, that all came to an abrupt halt and my mental health went into the gutter. My first reaction was to distract myself with external activities instead of trying to understand why I was feeling so terrible about myself and where I was at this stage in my life. I used work, friends, family and trying to get back into the dating scene to distract me from my internal suffering.
Over the course of the next six months I slowly found the courage to allow myself to heal and work on my mental health. For so many months I let my thoughts suffocate in the depths of my sub conscious mind. I figured the best way to get better was to go to a counsellor to seek help. I think I saw them for ten sessions as part of the government's free mental health plan for those who have experienced trauma in their life. In all honesty I felt these sessions helped me to get some reprieve from my suffering; however I still found myself searching for answers. The only reason I actually went to these sessions was because my mother wanted me to talk to someone about my relationship and its impact on my mental health.
I think in many ways I wanted help but my ego told me I was fine, that I could still work it out on my own, which in hindsight really didn't allow me to take on a hell of a lot of the advice the counsellor initially gave me. It wasn't until I quit my dream job and started travelling the world that I realised what was stopping me from addressing my mental health issues, time. I found that time was the most valuable asset I had and it took me a long time to realise this. I think in many ways a lot of people don’t respect the value of time and treat their mental health issues with that same lack of respect.
Unfortunately I got stuck in the daily grind and instinctively payed more attention to my physical health and put my mental health in the back seat hoping it would eventually work itself out. It's easy to go to a physio or a doctor for symptoms that are tangible but to talk to someone about how you're feeling is terrifying in my opinion, which is why people try to ignore it or downplay their mental health issues.
I think my healing really started when I decided to go and travel the world. I believe travelling gives you what you don't give yourself at home, time. It gives you time to digest all of your emotions and experiences in great intricate detail. It gives you the time to share those emotions and experiences with other people who in turn have the chance to share their stories with you. It gives you the power to be vulnerable and not feel judged by others.
Travelling has changed my life beyond the realm of what I ever thought was truly possible. There is no way I would be talking about my mental health to anyone in great depth, let alone sharing my story with Voice of Health if I hadn’t travelled. I'm not saying travelling is the answer for everyone but giving yourself the time to care for your mental health and communicate it openly with others is definitely a rewarding and positive experience. It’s an invaluable tool which you can use to change your perspective and ultimately see yourself in a new way.
I really hope that by sharing my story I have given even just one person the courage to know that they are not alone and that it’s ok to be vulnerable and to give your mental health the time it deserves. I put this story out there for people to reach out and ask questions or even just to talk, whether it is about your experience with mental health or the struggles I faced during my journey, I'm always happy to help. If you’re reading this and want someone to talk to, just know there is always someone willing to listen. Stay strong, be brave and remember you only live once.