I intended for The Twenty-Something Series to be a once-a-month more personal post feature on my blog, but this is something I wanted to talk about – and it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so what better time to post this?!
I’ve never talked about my mental health online. I’ve never opened up about my depression or anxiety. I was careful to never talk about it on my Tumblr, or on Twitter.
That stops now. I’m changing that.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended #JustTalk, an event to support a local foundation, Nineteen. Nineteen was started after two nineteen year old boys committed suicide in the area at the end of last year, and aims to increase awareness of mental health and particularly male suicide. #JustTalk was a community event to promote these things and raise more awareness. I was invited to attend (in my capacity as a local celeb, as you do) and opened the event.
They expected me to say something about how important an issue it is to talk about. I did, but I also opened up about my own struggles.
I decided that this platform I’ve been lucky enough to have is exactly the reason I need to talk about my own issues.
Mental health is hard enough to talk about, and many of us are trying so hard to change that. There are so many campaigns to try and remove the stigma, so many people talking about it – hell, even shows like 13 Reason Why. (A controversial topic for another time, maybe.)
So here’s my deal:
I’ve got depression and anxiety. I noticed the depression back around 2010, when my GCSE exams began and I was 15. Exams have always been a huge trigger for me: I always put hideous amounts of pressure on myself. And after being top of my year in GCSEs (like, the highest grades out of everyone) that didn’t set me up so well on the ‘Beth is gonna do amazing’ expectations front for A Levels or uni.
My anxiety wasn’t so bad before uni. Then it got to a point where it was a whole separate issue on its own to deal with, not just something that occasionally flared up if my depression was particularly bad. I went to a counsellor in third year for a while, and I’ve just started seeing another one now, back home.
I didn’t tell my parents until probably about 2012. I didn’t tell anybody until about then. I only told my parents because things had gotten so bad I’d gone to the doctor and been prescribed anti-depressants, and I thought, ‘I can’t start on tablets and not tell my parents.’
(For the record, my family have been super supportive, and the same goes for my friends. They’re awesome. Thanks, you guys.)
I’ve been on anti-depressants twice: once though sixth form, and again in my second year of uni. I went to a counsellor in sixth form through the school but I wasn’t sure it helped: this had just been a thing I’d dealt with for so long, I wasn’t even sure what the cause was.
I think that’s been a big part of why I never talked about this before: I didn’t feel like I had a reason to be mentally ill. I wasn’t allowed to be depressed or anxious. I mean, I got a book deal at age 17! My first book will be a Netflix movie! I got a degree and a grad job! I have friends! I do some really awesome stuff through my writing! Everything’s great! And yet – depression and anxiety.
Screw that. Yes, I’ve been incredibly lucky, and there’s so much that’s good in my life. And yes, I have mental health issues.
I thought about talking about this online before, but I was paranoid it would sound like I was trying to get more attention or something – which is stupid, I know, but it worried me.
Mental health is difficult to talk about. It’s difficult to open up to friends and family, and it’s difficult to try and make people understand what you’re going through. But we’re talking about it more and more, particularly online, and it’s so important to know that you’re not alone, and that there are so many people around who will support you.
So I’m not being quiet about this anymore. I’m not doing this for ‘attention’, like I said: I’m doing it because this is something we have to talk about if we want things to change and we want to help people who are suffering and struggling and trying to live with mental health issues.
And this is me, talking about it.