Define yourself not your worth.

The problem with low self esteem is that without the ability of confidence to pick ourselves up, we rely on other people to tell us what we look like, how good or bad we are at something or just how worthy we are of existing, if we even are at all.

Time and time again I hear people say ‘confidence is attractive’ and confidence should be and is accessible to everyone, confidence can be built so attractiveness is therefore possible for everyone… So why isn’t it in reality? What is it that kicks us down, dampens our esteem and strips our confidence?

Our own mind can be the parasite that absorbs all of our energy and confidence, constantly rethinking through what we said, how we behaved, what we did wrong, what we should do differently, the type of person we wish we could be, how we wish we could look, question after question after question because we are so unsure of ourselves, so unsure we are good enough, so unsure about why people even want our company.

If our whole existence then becomes dependent on the people that surround us, whether they pick you up or put you down then should our solution be to surround ourselves with positive people?

Even if we have a life surrounded by positive, loving people who are ready to give us love and compliments, would we listen? It’s so much easier to take in the negative words from others that are in unison with our already battered self-view and even easier for the kind words to go in one ear and out the other, or simply fly above our head as if they were never even said in the first place.

We cling to people who feed us positive comments whilst simultaneously pushing them away because if doesn’t fit in with our own view. When someone shows the slightest bit of interest in you romantically, it can suddenly lead to a spike in confidence, but yet another short-lived spike. As soon as the little parasitic creature of doubt creeps into our mind it can all fall apart. Who would be interested in me? And the default pattern of self-sabotage occurs, it’s easier to push away the good things then to challenge our embedded self-view. And with an awareness of this, an awareness that we accept the love we feel we deserve comes a fear, a fear and realisation that we are doomed to have failed relationships or no relationship at all and so; loneliness is safer.

Our social world is progressively becoming predominantly online and isolated from ‘real-life’ people. How we portray ourselves and our lives is seen through social media, our latest status updates, photo uploads and the number of likes on our new profile picture compared to everyone else. But social media isn’t a true depiction, nobody is going to post about their arguments, their tears, the hundreds of photos they took from different angles before they got that one acceptable. Our confidence is either boosted by positive comments or shattered by a lack of likes and yet we continue to portray ourselves as life-loving, beautiful people through our Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram profiles and spend more time trying to make our life look confident and rosy than we do actually living it.

So is a pretence of confidence just as effective as ‘real’ confidence? I can go out and smile and joke and say yes I’m attractive for the show, but inside my head my mind screams and laughs at me for playing such a ridiculous act. It feels like one big theatrical performance that you can almost get caught up in and believe for a second, until something brings you back to reality. Acting is tiring and it does not feel like you are being true to yourself behind this confident act.

If there is no quick fix to how we define our worth then maybe we should look at it differently, take ‘worth’ and what we deserve out of the equation and just work on being the person we want to be. Being kind, working hard, having fun, treating others with respect, receiving and giving love. Love is an unexplainable and unconditional emotion, if someone is offering love then accept it as best as you can because although loneliness is safer and perhaps more comfortable, everyone needs someone. Love and kindness is what can fend off a parasitic mind, not just from others but with self-love, it is easy to become reliant on how others respond to us as a way of measuring ourselves but life exists beyond the computer screen. Photos should bring personal joy and memories, not as a means to project our theatrical act of confidence. Why do we need someone else to define us? We are all individual and they don’t have the right to decide our value. We need to stop relying on others for kindness and start being kind to ourselves, stop wishing we could be different and act to be the person we want to be and define our own version of confidence in the person we already are.

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Wandering through life

There is an awkward stage between being entwined in a diagnosable illness, and what can be considered a ‘recovered’ person. The stage of mental health limbo, where symptoms are residual, bad patches still occur, thoughts and emotions are at times overwhelming, and slip ups are inevitable. But it’s presumed you’re ‘better’, you’re ‘strong’, because you’re over the worst of it. However this to me, is an incorrectly black and white illusion of mental health, as I’ve previously written; mental illness occurs along a spectrum. Similar to this recovery is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ prospect, it is a journey with ups and downs, and although I’m not entirely convinced there is any such thing as a ‘full recovery’ from mental illness, I do believe it can become ‘fully manageable’, with room for dips and highlights along the way.

In this limbo stage of recovery; where can you go for help? and how does one refer to oneself? A recovering alcoholic still has an addiction, they still need to work on their recovery, still need to work hard every single day and minute of their waking hours to avoid the liquid that could send them back down a slippery slope. They may not be drinking, but they are still fighting hard as ‘recovering alcoholics’. This in between stage can feel quite lost, an undefined category between health and ill, it is conflicting and scary to reach out for help, for instance something I found from my experience, is that reaching out is incredibly difficult in this stage, you don’t want to say words like ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘I’m anorexic’, because without the severe and obvious symptoms, nobody can see the internal struggles. It’s like giving yourself a name you are somehow not worthy of, for not being ‘ill enough’ or for not being ‘strong’ like others say you are. Yet when it comes to trying to express yourself, just saying it’s ‘a bad patch’ or ‘I’m just feeling low’ doesn’t express the utter and complete turmoil inside, saying you feel ‘depressed’ doesn’t even carry the impact it once did, it is unfortunately, an overused term.

If it is you in this stage of despair, then don’t forget you have as much right as anyone to reach out for help, get someone to fight your corner and get that help. Your journey is your own, no one else’s, don’t compare what you perceive as ‘less severe’ compared to someone else get in the way of your recovery. The fact you have realised you need that support and are willing to expect it, is something professionals need to recognize. That kind of attitude is hard to come by but it what makes therapy successful. We need to remember that these wandering, recovering bodies should not be forgotten, not by the family and friends surrounding them, healthcare professionals or even oneself. It may not be immediately life threatening, but a full blown mental illness is easy to fall back into. Don’t assume that someone out of hospital or presents themselves as healthy is ‘recovered’, mental illness is secretive, so keep in mind those who are recovering. A life of being residually unwell is no life at all.

Location Location Location

One thing I’ve learnt, which retrospectively I should have realised earlier, is that a mental health condition doesn’t disappear or improve by simply moving location. Whether it be moving house, going abroad, starting University, a new job or living with different people. A mental illness is firmly manifested within the mind and body of an affected individual.

Taking someone out of a triggering or stressful situation from a temporary spell of anguish, is definitely a helpful action to take within that moment. However avoidance of a problem or assumptions that by moving around, the problem will disappear, is unreasonable and flawed. A temporary relief can be felt, surrounding oneself with new people and environments can influence a different self-reflection and world view, but ultimately the sly ways of a mental illness will not be fooled by a new setting.

Triggers, factors or causes of mental illness may lie within a given location, but that also doesn’t mean that ridding of such a place will provide a permanent cure. In reality, if the root of illness lies within a location, then everywhere you ‘run’ to will hold direct or indirect reminders of that place. Without dealing with real issues embedded within, the problem will reoccur and perhaps, with an almighty bite.

A bad day V.S the exhaustion of depression

There is an initial stigma that already surrounds the diagnosis of clinical depression, one that infers they can simply ‘snap out of it’, that it is simply an overreaction to a bad day. This of course is a myth that perhaps the more healthy minded won’t ever understand; depression is an illness that truly and completely overwhelms an individual through to every ounce and cell of their existence. It is waking up in the morning and feeling as though you are paralyzed, as though the laws of gravity have magnified and you can no longer push against it, no longer pull yourself up out of bed or off a chair because the smallest task is incomprehensible.

It can be near impossible to see on the outside, depression may not show itself 24/7, so when one can muster the energy to interact, force a smile then the society that observes them will see nothing but a normal person who has bad days. Yet the shame to admit that one suffers from such demons behind closed doors can prevent them getting the help they need.

Depression becomes a cloud, a muggy fog of poison that covers and infests you. The problem is that along with the less known physical symptoms of nausea, headaches, fatigue and indigestion there is a manifestation of negative thoughts and overthinking. Through the day, depression can prey on those with already shattered self esteem and cause doubt through the mind, judging every action and every thought which quickly turns into a dangerous and overwhelming over analysis of ‘Should I have done that?’, ‘What if everyone hates me?’, ‘What if it’s not good enough?’, ‘It’ll be all my fault’, ‘I’m a bad person’. Depression creates a world of misery, anxiety and isolation for the sufferer, an internal battle that is near impossible to explain to others when one is caught in the thick of it. Outside noise can cause frustration because on top of the internal noise of thoughts, this can become a horrid whir of conversation that one can’t concentrate on, mixed in to the inner voice of negative thoughts fed by depression. It is easy to become irritable because one loses touch with reality to a degree, becoming lost in a world of their own so when something, however small happens around them such as an item out of place or a change of plan then the sufferer can feel great anger which is followed by more guilt and confusion to why they feel such extreme emotion that further consumes them in the negative cycle.

Anyone with the mind monster of depression can experience it differently and in different severities but if you can take anything from this, it’s that depression is physical and emotional, it is not just sadness; it is a clinical illness that can destroy the very identity and life of a person.

Where are you on the spectrum?

Mental illness isn’t something that affects the minority, the less well off or the isolated members of society. It is something that can manifest within anyone, and in fact every single individual with their unique personality may show traits of different mental disorders. Do you ever go on a ‘cleaning bender’ or even refer to yourself as ‘a little OCD’, perhaps you have a day where you just feel really down and like you don’t want to see anyone? You may get easily upset or instantly worried or even angry at small things? The difference is that somewhere along the spectrum, these personality traits such as being quite sensitive, emotional, paranoid or anxious build and bundle together along with life events and neurological pathways to form a mental illness, a whole new world and reality for the individual and a new perception of the world and or themselves. The thoughts and behaviours that come with it aren’t just part of a personality type but they become uncontrollable needs, coping mechanisms and ways of life which when deviated from can cause the individual to feel indescribable challenges and distress. Everyone at some point in their lives need a little extra TLC, some support and a helping hand, those with mental illness require exactly this, just a little more of the time. Mental illness is serious, it can isolate you from everyone so you feel like you’re in a lone bubble of no hope, it can destroy and take lives, but in all cases, it’s important to note that everyone deserves the same compassion and care to aid recovery. One in four people are thought to have a mental illness so before you stigmatize and form an opinion of them, just think how similar the two of you may be.