The Power of Talking; breaking mental health stigma

(I’m living life on the edge right now trying to type this out before my laptop restarts for yet another Windows update).

I met up with a friend today, spontaneously, but messaging her and asking if she wanted to meet up was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. I think I wrote in this post, about how I haven’t been feeling at my best for some time and of how I started isolating myself from people, being trapped in my mind and quite honestly driving myself mad from overthinking. I made a promise to myself to get out of that phase, to interact more with my friends, to be more open and honest about my feelings, but since half term started, I’ve become more and more isolated and lonely and have just generally been feeling awful.

However today I decided to reach out to my friend, who I haven’t seen in quite a while, but for a moment I stopped overthinking that I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s time and sent her a message. When we met up, I didn’t want to pressure myself to talk about how I was feeling – even thought that’s why I wanted to see her, just to be able to talk to someone who has been by my side for a long time and who I trust – so I just said to myself that whatever happens, I must be honest. And I was. I almost had a breakdown in the middle of a park but we had some really deep conversations about overthinking and anxiety and social pressure, and I’m proud of myself for actually giving an honest answer when she asked how I was, instead of the usual “good, thanks”.

Through talking to each other, we discovered that we’d been going through similar things and we understood eachother, which really meant a lot. As I’m used to bottling up my emotions, the world can sometimes seem a little mad because I overthink so much that nothing makes sense in my head and eventually nothing makes sense in real life either. But talking, casually, about mental health whilst walking in the fresh air – and eventually over a box of chicken nuggets – made it seem normal and okay.

Some of the advice my friend was giving me really made me think. She can be very philosophical in her outlook on life, and although it probably won’t have as much as an impact once translated into my words, I want to try to share some of her insights in life here, so maybe it can help others too.

One thing we were talking about was the pressure of social media, because I explained how social media is becoming a huge source of overthinking for me. It’s the pressure of being constantly social, and active and talking to other people. This need to be constantly in touch with the virtual world can make us presume that if someone hasn’t replied to a message then they automatically don’t like us, don’t want be friends with us and don’t care about us anymore. This is becoming a big problem for me, because I almost constantly pick apart all my friendships based on people’s activity on social media – it’s a downward spiral, a trap. Sometimes if a friend doesn’t reply to a message, but I can see they have been active on social media, I will think that’s it, the friendship’s over, they don’t care about me anymore, I’m not worthy of anyone’s time, there’s no point contacting other friends stop because they won’t want to talk to me either, I’m just being annoying, none of my friends really like me and so on. It’s ridiculous that social media controls my emotions in such a destructive way, and that my friend – and probably many of you – could relate. Although it’s hard to avoid social media and the pressures that come with it in the world we are living in, I need to find a balance between real life and the virtual world to be free from this pressure. I do want to have social media in my life, because I have met some amazing people as a result of it, but I also want to live in the present and for social media to be a positive addition to my life, not a negative obstacle that holds me back.

I admitted that some of the problems social media was causing me were due to the fact that I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere, because I don’t really have a set friendship group anymore and I’ve been feeling a bit lost. But I know now that that’s okay, because people come and go through our lives and I understand now that, to borrow my friend’s analogy, even if you keep watering a dead flower, it won’t come back to life. That is to say, you can keep trying to hold onto friendships that are falling apart and friends that are drifting away, but there comes a point where you need to let the flower die – for both individual’s sake – because this makes room for new flowers – or friends – to come into your life and blossom. I may feel like I’ve lost a lot of friends, but I still have a few “flowers” who I can always count on, and that’s what matters. I will meet new people and make new friends, just as the people who have slipped out of my life will or already have.

We also talked about anxiety and the stigma surrounding mental health. I explained how I’d been suffering with anxious feelings for the past month or so, probably the result of stress and pressure from college combined with social pressures, all of which has contributed to this constant overthinking and worrying about what other people think. It’s tiring – draining – to feel this way; it’s been a long time since I felt like I could do something with ease, in a relaxed way without my mind constantly racing with all sorts of irrational scenarios and thoughts. It was comforting that my friend understood and we could talk about it freely, it really showed to me that it was okay to talk about mental health, because we all have mental health and the sooner we break down the stigma around discussing it, the better it’ll be for everyone. No one should have to face mental health alone – we are so much stronger if we tackle it together.

Now I feel so much lighter after discussing all this with someone I admire and respect a lot, and I think it helped her too. Although I don’t see many of my friends often, I am now a little bit more reassured that they still do care and the friendship is still there. I can’t express enough how much today has changed my perspective on life. Although my thoughts aren’t coherent and I’ve still got a long way to go, I took a risk in reaching out to a friend for help, and it paid off. Life’s all about taking risks, we don’t always know which ones will be worth taking until we’ve taken them, but we always learn in the process.

Here’s to more opening up about mental health, on my part and yours.

 

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To The Friends I’ve Lost

Sometimes I shout into the void,

Hoping to salvage the remnants of a friendship,

Of a life time – a journey shared,

But disintegrated now.

I wonder why – when – it all changed,

Was it me? Was it you? Was it us?

Now nothing is left of us,

We’re drifting; drifted.

I don’t resent the memories, the happy times,

Of friendships built to last,

But they weren’t – were they?

And now we’ve fallen apart.

Maybe I am different, maybe I am quiet,

Maybe you don’t need me anymore,

So you shut another door,

That I can’t walk through.

No words destroyed us,

Just silence; unbreakable,

It tore us apart before we realised,

We can’t go back now, can we?

We’re not who we used to be,

When we laughed and joked through the years,

Our current selfs are no longer compatible,

Our conversations vacant then nonexistent.

We forgot how to speak eachother’s language,

So we stopped trying,

I’m sorry.

We lost eachother,

And I don’t know if we can be found.

Study With Me: Last Week

Hello! Long time no blog right? I thought I’d try something different and try to document what I’ve studied this past week and for roughly how long. Partly to motivate me to study so I can actually write this, and partly because I’m curious as to how much time I spend studying each of my three subjects. College recommends we do at least 4 hours of independent study per subject per week, so it’ll be interesting to see if I actually stick to that in a typical week and whether I spend more time on some subjects over others. I’ll also include how much time I spend in lessons as well to give you an idea of what my timetable is like as an A Level student. This post is going to be a bit mathsy and probably not the most interesting, but bear with me here! I’ve been struggling with ideas lately 😝

Wednesday

3 hours French lessons

1 hour 30 minutes geography homework

1 hour 30 minutes history revision

Wednesday’s aren’t usually this productive for me, because I’m usually quite tired after I get home from college (gotta love getting up at 6:30) but yesterday I got given quite a bit of geography homework due in on Thursday so I had to spend a lot of time on that, and I skipped the history revision that I’d scheduled in for yesterday, so I had to catch up on that. For the history revision, I did some essay plans for the politics and economics unit (my fave and least fave – politics is cool but economics is SO CONFUSING) and I also made a flashcard set for the key policies and events from the unit on Quizlet (because they are a nightmare to learn). I wanted to find some sort of website where I could make a big interactive timeline sort of think to help with history, because the period we study is massive – 1918-1990 – and I can never remember which Prime Minister was in power when, what party they represent and what policies they enacted. It’s really difficult to write the essays without knowing who was in power, so if anyone has any tips for revising history I’d appreciate the help!

Thursday

3 hours geography lessons

1 hour 30 minutes history lessons

15 minutes geography homework

Today I wasn’t very productive outside of lessons. I had a 3 hour gap between geography and history as usual, but I only managed to do about 15 minutes of work before I got distracted by my friends. Then by the time I got home I was too tired to do anything but oh well, tomorrow us a new day!

Friday

30 minutes history homework

1 hour geography homework

30 minutes French revision

I never have lessons on a Friday, so you think I’d have plenty of time to do work right? Well, I slept in a bit too late this morning, then spent ages trying to fix my laptop and just generally got a bit distracted. Oops. I did manage to finish off some history and geography homework/classwork though and made some flashcards for French.

Saturday

1 hour 30 minutes rewriting geography notes

15 minutes rewriting history notes

45 minutes French homework

30 minutes geography revision

1 hour 30 minutes history coursework

The weekend is where I usually try to rewrite my notes from the past week, because often my class notes are messy and we miss out stuff from the text book so I just go back through each chapter and write my notes up nearly so they’re easier to revise from. I had to do two chapters of geography this morning which is why it took so long, and then had to file away various worksheets and assessments. I managed to do 45 minutes of speaking practice for my French speaking mock next week which basically just involved talking to myself and answering questions about the topic I’m being tested on. Then I worked on my history coursework as I have to have the final draft ready for next week.

Sunday

1 hour 30 minutes French homework

I cycled 15 miles. I am exhausted. I just want to sleep. It’s not even that far but I haven’t cycled in months. So therefore I have been very unproductive today.

Monday

3 hours history lessons

30 minutes geography revision lesson

1 hour 30 minutes geography revision

2 hours French homework

I managed to finish off the French homework I started yesterday, it took ages!! I had an extra geography lesson at college where we went over exam technique, so when I came home I did a bit more exam practice.

Tuesday

1 hour 30 minutes geography lesson

15 minutes French revision

1 hour geography revision

I went into college early before my  lesson to do some geography revision then because it was parents evening, my French lesson was cancelled this afternoon so I did a bit of revision for my French speaking test tomorrow, although I still don’t feel prepared 😂

Total:

12 hour 30 minutes of lessons

7 hours 15 minutes of geography homework/revision

3 hours 45 minutes of history homework/revision

5 hours of French homework/revision

Well…I’m pretty surprised at the totals to be honest! I didn’t realise I spent so much time studying – 16 hours in total – which is more hours than I spend in lessons. It just goes to show how much independent work A Levels require. It’s interesting to see that I spend the most time on geography, but I suppose it makes sense as we get a lot of homework and I do find it hardest so I spend more time trying to understand the content. History is my least favourite subject, so I don’t spend much time on it but I do enough to keep my grades up and although there is barely any content for French, it does require a lot of practice which is why I spend a lot of time on it.

So I met the recommended 4 hours a week of independent study for 2 out of 3 subjects last week, which isn’t bad! I think the amount of studying people do at A Level varies, depending on which subjects you find more difficult or which ones you want to prioritise – I know I wouldn’t meet my target grade for geography if I didn’t spend the most time on it. I hope this has been an interesting guide to those of thinking about A Levels or studying them currently. 🙂