‘Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.’
– Bruce Lee
‘Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.’
– Bruce Lee
‘One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.’
– Michael J. Fox
‘No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can’t take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action.’
– Ryder Carroll
‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’
– Mark Twain
Mental Illness is a struggle that affects many people and can take many different forms.
Mental Illness can be lonely and debilitating, forcing us to withdraw socially and try to hide our condition from the world. One of the hardest things for those who are suffering from Mental Health Issues to do, is to accept their condition in the first place.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being introverted, or enjoying time to ourselves, but it becomes a bigger issue when that becomes the norm. Balancing those qualities and still having (and maintaining) meaningful connections with those around us can sometimes be hard – especially when we choose not to accept our reality.
Many of us choose to suffer in the dark, rather than admit to anyone they are struggling, or are ‘different’ or ‘sick’. This shouldn’t have to happen.
There is far more beauty, strength and power in accepting and embracing our flaws.
‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’Mark Twain
Here are a few ways to learn how to embrace our struggles and turn them into something we can use in order to grow in our journey:
Being diagnosed can often bring about shame or confusion in many people, as well as feelings of guilt or anger. ‘Why me?’ is something that people ask over and over again.
But as scary as being diagnosed is, it can be incredibly useful as well.
You can’t defeat something if you don’t know what it is you’re fighting. But knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step to finding a solution – a way to fight back.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Depression – call it by its name. Bi-Polar? Name it. Anxiety? Own it. If you name something, you own it. If you own it, you choose how much power it has over you.
If you choose to name your condition, you also help others put a name and face to the condition – making it far easier to relate to and empathize with – thus reducing the stigma attached to it.
If you want to educate others, you start by educating yourself. If you want to be empowered and influential, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the topic you want people to understand.
Having stories, facts and figures at our fingertips can prove incredibly important when we are trying to get our point across to someone. And learning just how many other people out there are in similar circumstances to us can propel us forward and give us hope and confidence.
Sidney Hook put it like this:
‘Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’
If we can learn about ourselves, and truly know ourselves, it can create an energy within and a fire that can’t be extinguished. Being able to feel good about ourselves starts from within.
If you want to own your diagnosis, you need to learn how it works.
If you want to tame a beast, you need to know how to make it feel respected.
Some forces demand a certain amount of respect – they are powerful and damaging, but beautiful too – like fire.
The same thing goes for our Mental Health. If we want to own our diagnoses, we need to respect that there are going to be days that are better than others. And that’s okay.
Never minimize your condition. It simply is what it is, and that sometimes means adjusting ourselves accordingly.
For some, that means taking extra self-care steps. For others, it’s removing ourselves from a toxic situation.
Paying attention to ourselves and our conditions is critical when it comes to empowerment and feeling ‘in-control’.
Self-Care is meaningless if you aren’t focusing on yourself. Self-Care looks different for everyone – and that’s totally fine. What works for one, may not work for another.
The challenge is finding what does work best for us as individuals. There’s no point joining your friend for Yoga if you absolutely can’t stand getting sweaty and bending yourself into a knot. It may work for your friend, but not you.
For some of us, Self-Care is as simple as taking some time out for an afternoon nap. For others, it’s hitting the gym, or a nice hot bath.
Spend some time thinking about the last time you truly felt relaxed, and work from there. If you know how to manage the bad days, you will find yourself feeling much better and more in-control over our situation and condition.
Embracing who you are is vital on all of our journeys – not just people with Mental Illnesses. Being able to accept who you are, flaws and all, is hard sometimes (even for the best of us). So don’t give up, and remember you are never alone.
If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone, there are plenty of places you can reach out:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
i wipe again and again
but the white washed walls
just stain pink
as the blood goes in circles
under my hands
and into the bucket.
the air is heavy
with a smell that’s halfway
between rust, dust and antiseptic
and the bourbon on the bench
drips quietly onto the floor
in a dark puddle.
the house is too quiet
and too dark
and the walls paint a picture
of the pain
from the night before.
the house is choking me
and there is not enough space
and i want to run
away from the stains
and into the gutter.
light spots blind me,
as i force myself to scrub
these angry spatters
as if wiping them clean
will make the pain go away.
The waiting periods to see a psychologist are far too long.
I’m not saying my mental health is more fucked than anyone else’s, or deserves to be seen to before anyone else.
But what I am saying, is that the waiting periods to see a psychologist are far too long. I’ve battled with my mental illness for many years, and I’m starting to come to the realization that half my problem is that I had stopped bothering trying to seek therapy of any description.
I know that might sound a little self-destructive, but hear me out.
He was trying to get inside my little, child brain, to understand what was happening around me, and whether I should be placed in the care of my drug-addicted Mum, in a dangerous house that had pedophiles, drug addicts and criminals coming in at all hours of the day and night, or my Dad, who hadn’t so much as raised his voice at me, ever.
When he visited me at my Mum’s house, I would be told by my Mum and Step-Dad that I should ‘tell the man you want to live with me, or all your toys will be sold and I won’t see you’.
When he visited my Dad’s house, my Dad told me to ‘tell the man the truth’ to the questions he asked.
Do you know who the psychiatrist thought was the better option? My Mum.
And so, my poor relationship with psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors began.
I had been living with my Dad since I was seven (after the Family Court finally realized who the right parent to live with was), because I was a missing person for 8 months because my Mum and Step-Dad took off when they couldn’t pay a drug-debt.
Growing up, I had always been a quiet person, and found myself feeling a lot more mature than my peers most of the time. I didn’t know what depression, or anxiety, or mental illness was back then. I just thought that I was different.
And then when I was 15, a close friend of mine died, and I was encouraged to see a counselor, who I went to see at the local hospital. Even in a town of less than 2,000, it took me 4 weeks to get an appointment.
Then, the first thing the counselor did was point at the scars on my wrists and tell me I was obviously not depressed and just wanted attention.
I immediately disliked her.
I had a second appointment a couple of weeks later, which I decided to go to, just in case I had misjudged the counselor, or hadn’t given her enough time. But all she did was ask me why I was so sad, and then told me if I couldn’t tell her, that meant nothing was wrong.
I didn’t bother seeing her again.
By the time I was 19, I had finished High School, I had ran away from home, lived in poverty to the point of living in the street, moved to a big city to start University, moved in with a boyfriend, broken up with him, moved to an Aunt’s house, moved out with another boyfriend who was abusive to me, and began to realize that there was something seriously wrong with my mental health.
One day, I broke down and cried and cried and cried, walking around the neighbourhood after dark for hours. I was having terrible thoughts, panic attacks, mood swings and felt like I was all alone. It was then that I decided I needed help.
I went to a doctor, who ‘diagnosed’ me with depression, gave me some anti-depressant medication and sent me on my way. It wasn’t until I went back to the same doctor’s surgery and saw a different GP that they set up a Mental-Health care plan, which included a referral to see a psychologist.
I said I couldn’t afford to see someone. They put me in a queue to see someone in the public system.
That someone was a 45 minute drive away, and was only available to see me every 2 weeks. But I was desperate for help, so I drove the distance and waited for my appointments.
This psychologist was the first one who ever actually seemed like she cared about helping me get better. She asked me about my family history, asked me about my relationships and my studies and my home life. We began to dig a bit deeper, and I remember her telling me that she thought I should get a proper diagnosis from a psychiatrist, but that we’d organize it in the next session.
She moved states the following week, and I never heard from her again.
After the last psychologist, I gave up on seeking mental health for a few years. I had broken up with my abusive boyfriend by this point, but the relationship was incredibly damaging to me. He had told me I was a psycho, that there was something wrong with my brain, that I deserved the things that happened to me as a child, that I should just hurry up and kill myself – among the physical abuse and the rest of it. I had carried the weight of his words ever since.
That burden eventually became one of the reasons I didn’t have much success with relationships after that. My self-esteem was at an all-time low, I was lonely and I had to force myself out of bed just to go to work. I had started taking hard drugs and wasn’t in a good place.
But I finally built up the courage to speak to my (new) doctor, and asked her to help me, because I felt like I wasn’t getting better, I was only getting worse.
I asked her whether she thought I should be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but she said no.
She upped the dosage of my medication and made a new Mental Health plan, referring me to a counselor close by.
I went to my first session, and was bitterly disappointed. This time, I walked into the room to find a man who spent half our session on the phone, and the other half telling me that the depression was all in my head and what I needed to do was change my attitude.
I told him I didn’t understand what that meant, because I was obviously trying to get better, otherwise I wouldn’t be in his office.
He then said “I don’t know why you’re here anyway, you seem like an intelligent person’.
I told her straight out ‘I think I might kill myself one day’.
She upped my dose of anti-depressant medication, referred me to Yarrow Place (a service for women who have been raped) and recommended I join a gym.
I remember her saying ‘…Swimming is good for the mind.’
To keep things in perspective here, I never mentioned to this doctor I had been raped, that is something she simply assumed. The only other thing she did was give me a list of the crisis phone numbers I could call if I wanted to.
I contacted Yarrow Place and asked when their next available appointment was and they told me that unless it was an emergency (in their eyes?), the next appointment wouldn’t be for the following month.
I wanted to cry. Why was it so hard to get the help I needed?
I went to my (new) doctor in March this year, and said I really think I need to see someone about my mental health. I told him that I had been feeling down for quite some time, and believed that medication wasn’t going to help me.
He asked me straight out ‘…What could possibly make you so sad?’
This doctor is a nice enough guy, but he’s not a psychologist. I didn’t feel comfortable telling him much, and to be perfectly honest, I was kind of hoping to untangle all these years of feelings with someone who was qualified to do so. So I said ‘lots of things’ and he asked me to fill out the Mental Health Questionnaire that I’d filled in a dozen times before.
This time though, when he said he was going to make a Mental Health Care Plan for me, I asked him if I could be the person to choose who I was referred to. He said that I could, but that if they’re private practices, there might be a cost involved. I said I didn’t care, so he sent me away to research who I wanted to see, and to come back in a week and he’d write up a referral.
My doctor wrote the referral, and the very next day, I contacted the practice via email to organize my first appointment. The receptionist told me the first available appointment with the psychologist I wanted wouldn’t be until June.
My heart sank.
I asked her if there was anyone else I could see from the practice sooner. She gave me a date in late May and said it was probably best just to wait for my preferred psychologist, and that she would put me on a cancellation list, just in case a space became available.
I decided to grit my teeth a bare it, regardless of the wait or the cost, so that I can try and get better.
It’s now May 30th, and my first appointment is June 13th. I’ve been waiting for 3 months, with the only other alternative option being to present myself to the emergency department and be evaluated, and probably released the same day with no real therapy.
I’m just trying to get better.
There are days where I drive home from work and honestly consider veering off into a pole, a tree or a ditch.
There are nights when I unpack the dishwasher and hold the knives a little too long, considering the ways I could use them. There are times when I wake up at night in a cold sweat and want to vomit my guts up or scream my lungs out.
There are days when I’m jealous of the people who get to go to therapy.
And then those moments pass, and I try again. I wake up to another day, and try to be optimistic. There are times when I have arguments with myself in my head about whether I should be here, and I have to force myself to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving towards something that I can’t quite see yet.
I don’t need pills. I need therapy. But because I haven’t tried to kill myself yet, by professional measures, I’m fine. That’s just the way it is.
How many people has the system failed? I think about this every day. How loud do we have to scream to be heard? How much damage and trauma is deemed acceptable for help?
And what about the people who don’t want to talk about it to just anyone? Is it not okay to want to talk to a professional about something, rather than having to admit it to a GP first?
What about the suicidal people who struggle in silence? What about the ones who don’t think their struggles are worth someone else’s time? What about the people who are sent home by the doctor with a prescription and a referral to someone who doesn’t care?
I wonder all of these things and more.
But most of all, I wonder when the system is going to change.
Remember, your safety should always be a priority. If you are in crisis or your mental health becomes an emergency, call 000.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you, or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to use the following resources:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at ‘The Art of Overthinking‘.
When I get asked how I feel, I don’t have an answer. Because the feelings I feel are buried deep, to keep the agonizing screams at bay, that sometimes I forget there are people who don’t have to hold themselves together for fear of their chest splitting in two.
I struggle to maintain eye contact with the people that ask me this question. I’m scared that they might somehow see the darkness I hide. This facade has taken years to master, but I know it would only take one second to shatter it into a million pieces, breaking my ribs as it claws its way out.
My darkness is the witness to the worst of humanity. It is a creature, burned by ravaging fire, red-raw and unrecognizable. A creature so twisted and demented it should be dead. It is a creature in so much pain, it shrieks in agony, begging for a bullet to the head.
That’s what I am.
A creature, buried alive in a shallow grave – my surroundings infecting every burn and cut with a dirt that will never wash off. I’m held just below the surface, just deep enough to dampen my screams before they rip through the cold air.
But nobody ever hears my dark creature.
It stays buried, where only I can hear it. Every moment is agony, but we’re bound by silence, this darkness and I – like the unwritten rules of a library. And like a library, we wander through the shelves, pretending the book we want isn’t already in our hands, and that the ending we want isn’t already written.
‘Nobody ever stays the same after someone they know tries to kill themselves.’
– dee Juusan
‘I can see the cracks in society, in people, in this world and I’d rather die before slipping into one of them.’
– Shayne Colaco
If you are a young person, the future is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.
Climate Change is a very real, defining issue of our time. Regardless of whether you live in a place like the United States, where the President denies Climate Change (along with pulling out of the Paris Agreement to curb Carbon Emissions), or somewhere more advanced in its leadership on Climate Change, like France, who’s Prime Minister ended an address on the subject with: ‘Make our planet great again.’ … Boom.
Either way, we all live on the same planet, and it is our individual and collective responsibility to take action on Climate Change if this planet is going to survive even the next 40 years. NASA says the evidence for rapid Climate Change is compelling, noting key indicators, including:
Global Temperature Rises;
Shrinking Ice Sheets;
Decreased Snow Cover;
Sea Level Rises;
Declining Arctic Sea Ice;
Extreme Weather Events and
Climate Change is affecting the planet in significant, detrimental and soon-to-be irreversible ways. Without drastic action, the planet we know today will be gone, replaced with a landscape characterized catastrophic natural disasters, mass-extinction, global food shortages and increased exposure to conflict.
It’s for this reason that the younger generations are gearing up for a rough ride, and changing the way they see the world, in order to survive the damage our ancestors have inflicted on the planet.
More and more Millenials are becoming concerned with what the future may look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years from now. The phrase ‘I don’t want to bring children into this world’ is something you wouldn’t often have heard someone say 50 years ago. But in this day and age, there is a real, tangible fear of what the future may hold.
Global birth rates are declining, with more people becoming aware of the planet’s situation. The fear of bringing children into a world of uncertainty is a very real issue facing the young people of today. Even as recently as February this year, United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) asked the question ‘Is it still OK to have children?’ on her Instagram Story.
AOC argues that although the answer is not clear-cut, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of future generations will be difficult. And they know it. More and more young people are taking part in Global Climate Change Protests, like those started by Greta Thunberg who recently stated:
‘You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes… We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then… we should change the system itself.’
– Greta Thunberg
Younger generations are increasingly opting not to have children, with worries of food and water shortages, global unrest, natural disasters and political unrest present themselves as very real threats.
A lot of Millenials are written off as out-of-touch with politics.
But the truth is, Millenials simply have no faith in the people representing them. Evidence of this is in the record number of Australians enrolled to vote this election – 96.8% of the total eligible voting population. This includes a record number of 18-24 year olds.
The world’s leaders have a responsibility to fight against Climate Change. We can only hope that as the older generations die out, they will be replaced with more switched-on individuals, who are dedicated to helping the planet and the people living on it, rather than continuing to be more preoccupied with the 1%:
“That future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once. You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to.”
– Greta Thunberg
A survey carried out by Triple J found that 89% of young Australians believe the politicians in power aren’t working in the best interests of the planet. And guess what? Those same young people voted Environmental Policy and Climate Change as the most important issues to them, come election time.
That’s pretty damning.
The negative impact Climate Change is having on the physical environment poses real risks when it comes to the Mental Health of young people. A sense of doom where the future contains things like poverty, unemployment, natural disasters and resource shortages are very real issues that young people are having to face.
Even as far back as 2012, the National Wildlife Federation reported that over 200 million Americans would be exposed to serious psychological distress from climate related incidents. Of a study done by Millennium Kids Inc., 94.6% of the target demographic felt that Climate Change would be a problem in the future.
In the face of a changing climate, Eco-Anxiety is only going to become more and more apparent, with Mental Health organisations starting to get on board, such as ReachOut, who have a page dedicated to: How to cope with anxiety about climate change.
The page in question lists a variety of reasons young people might feel strained, stressed or anxious about Climate Change, including:
Feeling like planning for the future is pointless and/or hopeless;
Angry that the people around them aren’t doing anything to help;
Frustration at a lack of action they can take to help;
Worrying about whether it’s responsible to have children (see above) and
Feeling like their future is out of their control.
All very valid points. Climate Change is a hugely relevant issue in the world today, and one that deserves to be treated with urgency.
If you are a young person, the future is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. There are lots of ways you can help the environment in meaningful ways, including:
Taking part in conversations with others about Climate Change
Joining the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition
Taking part in School Strike 4 Climate
Joining the Australian Student Environment Network
Finding articles about ways to help the environment at home
Being active on Social Media Platforms
Joining clean up efforts, such as Sea Shepherd’s Marine Debris Campaign
Join the conversation at www.theartofoverthinking.com