Mental health is treated as a taboo subject, one that is never paid enough attention to and more often than not, is belittled. So many people are told to ‘man up’ to stop ‘being dramatic’ and just get on with it.
It is never that easy.
Just as it so happens, my battle with depression saw me telling myself the very same thing. I was in denial. I was embarrassed. I told myself countless times ‘jasmine stop being a little bitch’ to ‘get my shit together’ to ‘toughen up’. I guess, I have always been a big believer in not being a victim or a prisoner to your circumstances or problems, so I lied to myself and didn’t honour my feelings or my mental health.
2016 was the most difficult and testing year of my life, I felt like my world was falling apart and everything was crumbling at my feet. The first half of the year was a continuous emotionally draining rollercoaster; I was constantly giving my energy to people, ‘carrying‘ them and found myself in emotionally abusive and manipulative situations that I really had no business in being in. I remember, sitting on my bedroom floor, curled up like a baby and hysterically crying. I’d sometimes put a pillow over my face so that no one would hear me. It used to be a good week if that only happened 3 times.
Around half way through the year, something happened to change that, I was changed. The only way I knew how to deal with my surroundings and with myself internally, was to become numb to it. I became numb to it all, I didn’t cry for almost a year and that alone absolutely terrified me. I would watch horrifically sad movies to try and make myself cry but I couldn’t. I lied to myself over and over. I genuinely convinced myself that I was fine and then I turned to alcohol to numb myself that little bit more. I found myself in situations where I guess I was trying to feel something, feel anything because that was better than the feelings of complete worthlessness, shame and embarrassment that I bore as my cross.
My job at the time meant that Monday – Friday, I was travelling all over the country on my own and could only be back in London on the weekends. I know that might appear to be fun, but it was my own personal hell. I was forced to deal with everything that I had been running from; I stopped drinking completely and learnt that there was really no escaping yourself. I didn’t have access to a gym which drove me insane. I’d lost over 20kg throughout the year and the gym had become my escape. I became ill, I was unexplainably passing out, my anxiety was at an all-time high and I developed an eating disorder.
At the time, I was beyond convinced that I was fine and was just being ‘healthy’. One of my best friends was so persistent in making me face the reality that I was actually completely not fine. I honestly am so thankful for her because I guess if she had given up on me; my mind-set could still have been one that is thrown into a panic for eating five walnuts. Looking back on it, I realise that happened because at the time, I subconsciously recognised that it was the only thing I could control. The rest of my world was chaos, so I became meticulous with the few things that I could control.
With my job meaning I was on my own for such long periods of time, I became a pro at pretending I was ok. I had it mastered. I lied to myself, to my family and to my friends. I made jokes, I trained hard and appeared to be as normal as possible. I’m a woman with a get up and go attitude, I don’t have time for self-pity or complaining about a situation without taking action. I think that’s why it was so difficult for me to admit that whilst I was coping brilliantly, I really wasn’t.
I was functional. To be honest, being able to maintain a level of functionality was what got me through. I’m strong. I’m a fighter, that’s the way I’ve been raised. In my own way, by continuing to function, I was fighting my way back to being ok. It wasn’t long before my friends and my family realised I wasn’t ok and started to worry. Seeing them worry made me fight even harder to keep up the charade until eventually as we came to the end of the year, I was wishing the year would just end already. I couldn’t keep it up any longer.
I came off the road towards the end of November and finally had regular access to my gym again. The only time I felt alive was when I was training: training became my therapy. It was literally the only thing I would look forward to. I would approach it with a certain kind of aggression, a kind of hunger – it was and still is the best release.
I have always been a spiritual person; I was raised in a wonderfully loving home rooted in a deep spirituality. Throughout my time in the darkness, I most definitely had an awareness that I held the power to help heal myself but I just didn’t have the energy to even begin the healing process. I had buried everything so deep, I had stopped feeling, I had become so cold. I became so cold so that no one would ever hold a power over me again, it was a defence mechanism. One that I sometimes fall back into as a default, when I need to put my emotions aside ‘and get shit done!’ The difference now, is that I am able to recognise this almost straight away and go back to being my loving self.
It’s a process.
I guess, in all honesty, I woke up one morning and felt deep in my heart that I deserved better. I didn’t deserve to be ‘damaged’ by somebody else’s actions, I realised that I am not in control of what anyone else does but I can control the way I feel about myself. I set out on a mission to love myself whole heartedly. It wasn’t easy by any means, there would be days where getting out of bed would be the hardest thing to do, let alone be out in public. Healing myself was a journey, an extremely spiritual journey.
In a nutshell, I started to meditate daily, practise mindfulness, regular reiki sessions and began cutting the cords that still tied me to toxic situations. I expressed gratitude for everything around me: for green grass, a beautiful sunset, the sound of a bird humming. I counted my blessings every day. I started each morning by spending five minutes, meditating and grounding myself and did the same every night. I nourished myself in mind, body and spirit. I started to work on making sure I was eating regularly, which massively helped to boost my mood. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like laziness or un-productivity, so I tend to keep going until I burn out. I began to recognise this and actually started to take time out for myself before this happened.
I suppose, I was able to get through the darkness because I took the moment to stop and honour it. To honour the pain and the trauma it held for me, to feel it. I mean really feel it. I let it wash over me in waves and by going through that process, I was then able to work to dispel it from me.
Fast forward a year later and I am without a doubt the happiest I have ever been. I have genuinely never loved myself more than I do right now. I’m able to really appreciate all of the little things and maintain spiritual practise as a means of giving to myself. I’m with an absolutely amazing man, who treats me like a Queen and whose deep love for life and all things spontaneous continues to make me feel alive. He has introduced me to new worlds of positivity (including Bikram Yoga – it’s the hottest but best thing ever). I still have bad days, that’s normal – we’re all human. Though, even on those bad days, I am still so unbelievably happy. The cloud of misery and self-hatred that hung over me has well and truly gone.
In this day and age, young people (especially now with the advances in technology and social media) are made to feel like we have to portray this image of having our shit together and the ‘perfect’ exterior. Mental health is sadly over-looked because there is such a taboo and stigma in talking about it. It is so incredibly important that we give people space to talk and to be open. Too many people are fighting these internal battles, going through their own personal hells and in the worst of cases committing suicide because as humans, we are failing them. I’ve learnt that is most definitely ok not to be ok, crying doesn’t mean that you’re weak and that even though you may feel alone, you’re not.
Everyone is fighting their own different battles, regardless of what yours is, please talk to someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
We have to do better. We have to break the silence.
Love and Peace Always,
– Jasmine Reinah xo