Updated: Oct 13, 2020
After watching George's Instagram stories about his experiences of social anxiety, it got me thinking about my own experiences with mental health.
That evening, I decided to look back through my Instagram profile and reflect on the past. While it may look like a feed of quotes, sunsets and nature, Instagram became the anchor to bringing myself out of some deep issues with my mental health.
First, let me introduce myself a little bit. Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm 24. I am an Internal Auditor, which I joined pretty much straight from uni.
Back in 2017 - in my final semester of university - I discovered that my now ex-girlfriend of 2 years was cheating on me, and had been for a while. This, being my first relationship (a lesbian one at that), started a downwards spiral of negative thoughts and behaviours.
As a naive 21 year old, I thought that I could cling on to something that was bound to end badly. I tried to change myself to be the girl that she wanted me to be. To do anything to please her. To wait on her. To be her slave. To do all the jobs around the house.
At the time, I thought this would solve things.
Along came the darkest time I have ever experienced.
Nothing I was doing seemed to change the anxiety in my head of 'She doesn't love me... She's stringing me along... I'm worthless... I'm ugly'. Along came issues with eating less, drinking more, exercising more but worst of all the self harm and suicidal thoughts.
Even though I knew she was cheating on me, I couldn't bring myself to leave her and be alone. I felt nothing but anguish.
I wanted to feel. This seemed like the best way.
It took one visit to my parents a month before my finals for me to break down and tell all about what was happening. Although we weren't close they held me and told me that things would be okay. I ended my relationship and started steps to deal with my depression and to move out of the house I shared with her.
From that point onwards, Instagram became my way of documenting my small victories, my worries, my journey in a space where my family could not see. Although they were fabulous at getting me out of my dark place, I still wanted my little piece of freedom. I posted inspirational quotes to be my own cheerleader. I posted about my not so good days. I told myself it was okay not to be alright. I went on adventures on my own. I found myself again.
I left university with a 2:1 in BSc Accounting and Finance and secured my graduate position a few weeks after my results. After securing a 3rd in my second year, I was absolutely shocked to see the email with my results. I had done it.
I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm not saying I'm happy every second of every day. But to sit here and look back at what I have achieved over the last 3 and a bit years, I am proud of myself. Sometimes I forget what I have achieved, and how far I have come over the last 3 years. It takes people constantly reminding me for me to fully appreciate how resilient I truly am.
Things I did to get myself back:
Planning - Writing a plan each day of things I needed to do, be it to eat or to go and see someone. If I stopped, those were the times that I would start to have dark thoughts or would feel more down. Keeping busy was everything for me!
Exercise - While I was recovering from depression, the gym was my place. I had never been someone who enjoyed exercise when I was younger, but I loved it. I would try and go 4-5 times a week, nothing too strenuous.
Having a support network - My ex-girlfriend had a very negative opinion towards my family, so I naturally drifted away from my own family to make her happy. I know now that I should have never let that happen. I had a handful of key friends and my parents who would be on the end of the phone if I ever needed them. I would FaceTime my mum daily, and I knew I could tell her anything. She herself suffers with mental health issues so I knew that she would understand.
Being honest with my employer - I started my graduate position in the midst of all of this, so it was natural that I opened up about my current challenges through the interview process. In my view, honesty is always the best policy so I did all I could to make sure that my manager understood that I will have good days and I will have bad days.
Maintain food intake - When I feel down or stressed, my food intake decreases. This happens even to this day. On my bad days, I would still try my hardest to have some food at each mealtime even if it was not a full meal. Fruit and yoghurt or cereal were my staple go-tos during this time.
Everybody has mental health. It's the same as physical health. We all have it. People can have good mental health. People can have bad mental health. Writing this post has felt cathartic in a sense, telling my story. If you are ever struggling, know that you are not alone and that this feeling won't last forever.
My inbox is always open.
Hannah L, 24
If you would like to contact Hannah, her Instagram handle is @han_96x
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