“In A World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind.”

*Trigger Warning*

This post contains mentions of suicide, depression, anxiety and mental health problems.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, please note – there’s truly no judgement from me if you have, sometimes I think it would make a much easier life. Well, maybe a little uncomfortable however, I’m clearly going off track. My point being, if you’re in the United Kingdom, you probably know that today marks a year since Caroline Flack passed away, an incredible tragedy, with yet another life taken by the cruel reality of mental illness.

Caroline shared this very quote just two months before she died, in one of her final posts on her Instagram Account. These words became the basis of the Be Kind Movement which, in doing a bit of quick research, I’ve discovered the charity was actually formed in May 2015 by Premila Puri. However, with Caroline’s tragic passing, it has heightened the awareness and importance of such a simple but often overlooked act, just being a kind human being. 

As someone who has had their fair amount of mental health struggles for over half of their life and also happens to be a very empathetic person, it hit me particularly hard. I understand if some may think I don’t have the right to feel sadness, or any form of emotion about Caroline’s death, especially as I didn’t know her personally, nor was I ever fortunate enough to have met her. In all honesty, I sometimes think like that too and not just with Caroline. Whenever anyone loses their life tragically and particularly with suicide, I always feel an incredible amount of pain and at the same time, my mind tells me I don’t have the right to do that. 

I find it hard to think about anything else and if a person or particular situation is brought up in conversation, I often feel the need to change the topic or completely shut it down. I simply find it too overwhelming and feel a recurring cloud of sadness come over me. I really hate that specific metaphorical cloud. Clouds in the sky, you’re all wonderful and I appreciate you brightening or sometimes dulling our blue skies. 

I think this is because suicide in particular surrounds many of my intrusive thoughts and fears. I want to emphasize I am not suicidal, nor do I have any intent or plans to end my life, quite the opposite in fact. I’m truly terrified of this incredibly painful ending and it causes me so much sadness and distress to even think of talking about it. Just writing this blog post is already giving me a lot of anxiety, but I know how important it is to speak out and I try and be as honest as I can be. Especially with my mental health because I know how isolating and lonely these feelings can leave a person and well, it can sometimes offer a little comfort, which I’m all for. 

Also, I want to point out how every single person in the world has intrusive thoughts, they’re part of being a human. A study last year by Psychology experts at the Queen’s University in Canada, showed how people have around 6,200 thoughts.. a day, which is to say the least, a hell of a lot of them. Therefore, it’s inevitable that quite a few of them may be a little unsettling, however, the majority simply let the thought pass by and move on with their day to day life. The difference with intrusive thoughts becoming an anxiety disorder, is when you start to over analyse meticulously and ruminate in depth about the reason you’re having them. I mean, just typing out that one sentence explaining an anxiety ridden mind was pretty exhausting, let alone trying to read or even understand it if your mental health is perfectly fine. Therefore, all I ask is if you don’t necessarily understand, just a bit of listening and support can truly go a long way.

The irony is, mental health issues ironically often stem from rational behaviours, such as evolution’s fight or flight tactic, yet sometimes, the mind can go a little off balance and that’s okay, no body is perfect and to be honest, the world would be a lot less colourful if we all were. Ultimately, it’s just important to be aware and accept our many faults and glitches. Plus, with a bit of love, care, sometimes medication and therapy, can help a person feel embraced and accepted in society. 

Intrusive thoughts in particular, link to an incredibly trivialized anxiety disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly shortened to OCD. People without this mental health problem, just accept their thousands of thoughts as what they are, a simple thought. They let it go and move on with their day to day life, probably forgetting it the minute it passes through their brain, which is basically one of my many aims in life. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me and hasn’t been since I was around eleven years old, so a pretty long time. A pang of anxiety and fear will hit my body, which results in a vicious, often exhausting cycle of compulsions and neutralization to, “fix” the thought – which eventually ends up becoming a daily part of your life.

What’s even more frustrating is, the majority of the time the sufferer is aware of the absurd claim that repeating a task or sentence will automatically make everything better, we know magical thinking is just that and tragically, Hogwarts is.. not real. But the brain is incredibly intricate and the anxiety thrives on fear, it loves it!

What’s more, it simply adores controlling and manipulating you into vulnerability and succumbing to your fears by making you engage and listen to the mind bully, which is definitely not a fun time when you constantly feel your brain is against you. My intrusive thoughts in particular – and I want to point out that they’ve had many years to multiply and change, as I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety and depression until I was 17 years old. Well, they go after everything I love and fear.

Which leads me to summarize, if you’re a sensitive soul and feel a lot of emotions, you can maybe comprehend why a person can end up becoming full of anxiety and often sadness. I’ve learnt to accept that I will most likely always have mental health problems and that’s alright, I say to myself I’d much rather I was suffering than someone else. I say this not because I’m a Martyr and incredible human being, if you know me you’ll know I in fact have the self esteem level of a pea – I assume it’s really small, if not I’ll have to think of something else. I say this because I’m so incredibly fortunate to have an amazing support system – my mum especially is truly my rock and I don’t know who or where I’d be without her.

I know so many people who fight the invisible illness do not get their happy ending and it breaks my heart, truly destroys it. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed over people passing away before their time, not only does it terrify me more than words can say, the empathy in me starts wishing I could have been able to help and make them realize how appreciated and loved they are.

In May 2012, my would be second year of Sixth Form –  (I’d ended up leaving after the first year due to mental health struggles), a person who was in my school year committed suicide. I remember seeing on social media that they’d passed away, I assumed it was down to a tragic accident and tried to switch off thinking about it. However, my brother ended up coming in my room and asked if I had heard what had happened, I said yes and then I distinctly remember him saying, “He hung himself. He hung himself.” which ultimately broke me and I’m pretty sure that’s when the fear of suicide began. 

I want to point out that I wasn’t close to this person, I sat by them in English in Year 8 and had a pretty big crush on them in Year 7, but that was literally as far as any form of contact went. They were one of the popular guys and I remember desperately trying to comprehend and understand why this had happened, how could this be real? I obviously know this doesn’t resolve or change anything, but I guess I wanted to find some closure and to be able to calm my mind. 

As with Caroline, I often end up feeling an immense sense of guilt for having such sadness and emotion regarding their death. I felt I didn’t have the right to have these emotions and I wasn’t a family member or friend so it wasn’t really any of my business. However, I do remember one of my many Therapists saying how your pain is your pain, so I try and remind myself that every now and then. Despite me viewing myself as less than others, which I know is not healthy and I really need to fix, my feelings are still valid. I can honestly say it’s been almost 9 years since this tragedy happened and there is not one single day that I’ve not thought about this person. Horrifically, there would be another male in my year who was lost by suicide in 2015. There are no words which can express the sorrow felt in writing that sentence.

I regularly think of myself as the random crying girl in Mean Girls, who, if you haven’t seen the film, (if I’m brutally honest I am slightly judging) she turns up at the school and starts saying, and I quote,

I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school, I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.

It’s then pointed out that she in fact, doesn’t even go to the school and she responds with, “I just have a lot of feelings.

I’ve always related to that.

Of course, no one is forcing me to be this way and if I could switch it off or snap out of it, I’d probably be a lot happier. A couple of years ago I had an Interview and it happened to be a group one, pretty daunting to say the least. However, I remember us being asked what would we like to be doing career wise, what was our goal etc. When it was my time to answer I said how in all honesty I didn’t really care what I was doing or how much I’d achieved as long as I was happy and content with myself, I truly stand by that. Something that is so simple but often taken for granted and incredibly hard to obtain.

When it was time for the one on one Interview I ended up talking about my mental health issues and found out that one of the girls who had worked that had tragically ended up taking her own life. Needless to say I didn’t get the job, I’m assuming they would have been pretty apprehensive about hiring someone with mental health problems again, even though I wasn’t suicidal. However, I don’t regret talking about it, in a weird way I’m proud of myself for doing so I guess.

If I truly had some magical powers, I’d love to make the world a better place and stop all the suffering, something I hope most people would agree with. Sadly a lot of mental health issues are trivialized and not taken seriously enough until it’s too late, which is why anytime I see an illness being used as an adjective I get so extremely frustrated. OCD is not a joke, cute quirk or someone who likes being clean, Bipolar is not a way to talk about an everyday mood swing and being, “sweet but psycho” isn’t an aesthetic.

For the people that say it’s a trend to have mental health issues or that it never used to be around, please educate yourself. 1 in 8 children have a mental health disorder, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 and 1 in 4 people in the UK is affected by a mental health problem. But, it’s alright to be that 1 in 4 and I don’t mind admitting I am one of many 1 in 4. Is it fun by any means? No, not at all. It’s exhausting and debilitating and you really have to learn how to take one day at time.

If you feel happy that doesn’t make you a bad person and you’re allowed to remind yourself, which I’m doing right now. I don’t feel particularly happy at the moment but, I have developed an annoying guilt complex in which I will feel bad for having a happy day or bad for feeling down – the outcome is always the same of course, I can’t win. 

I’m trying to talk about this is in sharing my own experiences and feelings in hope of having some form of epiphany and accepting myself. My mind is constantly putting me down, it reminds me how lucky and fortunate I am to have a loving family/home life and how I don’t have the right to feel depressed or anxious. Plus, how in writing all of this, it says I’m a hypocrite because I’m very much a work in progress and although I’ve came a fair way I still have a considerable amount to overcome, or learn to live with. I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was 17 years old and been on Anti-Depressants since I was 18, I’m not sure if they work for me but I’d rather be on them then not. I always end up feeling like a failure for not achieving certain things or being like, “everybody else”. It’s so frustrating to feel constantly at war with your mind and believe it or not, I really am trying to work on that, but sadly it’s not something that can change overnight. 

When I was particularly suffering a few years ago, I would avoid all news media outlets or change the channel, to prevent any upset or further anxiety. In going to therapy I ended up learning how that was a coping mechanism and not a sustainable or helpful one in the long run. Therefore, I’ve gone from avoiding the media to watching BBC News every day and going through many true crime documentaries on Netflix. I’m still pretty anxious and disturbed by it all and often think if I was in a Horror Movie I’d probably be the girl that was killed in the first 10 minutes. However, I have to remind myself that life isn’t perfect and sadly we can’t avoid all the bad things that happen.

Although, it’s fine to switch off and have a break every now and then, we’re only human after all. In avoiding all the tragedies and staying in my own little bubble I know I’m actually hurting my recovery and not learning to live with my mental health problems. Do they trigger and contribute to a hell of a lot of my intrusive thoughts, sadness and anxiety? Absolutely. However, sticking through the anxiety and realizing your body cannot stay in that heightened state forever, is one of the only ways you can learn to accept the unknown and know that with a little bit of hope and perhaps some Disney, everything will be alright in the end.

“I will be as sensitive as I am, without being ashamed of it.”  

– Written by Marilyn Monroe in her Record Notebook in 1955.

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The Secret Illness.

Although most of my blog posts here on meganmonroes are about make up and vintage fashion styles, other topics such as Mental Health Awareness are incredibly important and close to my heart.

Over the past few years I’ve spoken quite a few times about my struggles and through being so open and honest, I have met a lot of other people in the same position as well. With a physical illness, you heal the injury and most of the time move on from it, with a mental illness it’s not always so easy. Please don’t get me wrong, as someone who has had a serious operation during their life, I know that physical injury is incredibly debilitating and painful. However, I know if I could choose to have a physical or mental illness, I’d choose physical every time.

Therefore, as someone who has improved a lot in the past four years, I still have my good days and bad days and it was down to one simple tweet that I am able to make this post. I suffer pretty severely with Intrusive Thoughts, which are a type of OCD called, “Pure O”, 99% of the population have intrusive thoughts, but 25% of the population obsess over them, sadly I am in that 25%. Ever since finishing my recent Therapy, I’ve gone slightly downhill with being able to manage my intrusive thoughts as it can be a lot harder trying to get better by yourself, even when you have all the knowledge and advice. It was because of this that I decided to tweet a message asking if anyone had advice for managing intrusive thoughts, with the hashtag #pureo. After clicking on this tag I came across an amazing website called, The Secret Illness and watched the short film, “This Old Ghost” which I found incredibly powerful and moving.

Through watching this film I learnt that the basis of the story is from a poem by an OCD Sufferer, James Lloyd who has kindly shared his story to bring awareness and attention to this serious mental illness. I decided to check The Secret Illness on Facebook and to my astonishment saw that Ashton Kutcher himself has posted about the project! He added the caption, “Never judge someone else’s story until you’ve lived in their shoes.” As OCD is so often trivialized and even made fun of by the media, it’s an incredible step for Mental Health that someone as successful as Ashton is bringing awareness to such an important topic.

Sometimes it can be hard to do the littlest thing as the mind bully, (that’s what I call it) can be so controlling, I’ve often cried and felt so low and frustrated with myself that I let the thoughts get to me so much. The mind bully would be happy  if I sat in a corner and cried to myself all day, but I’m not going to let it beat me or keep control. It’s not surprising that if you suffer with one mental illness you often suffer with another, the intrusive thoughts always increase my depression and fill with me anxiety. Through finding The Secret Illness I know that there are many sufferers like me and that I’m not alone, which is what the mind bully wants. Through speaking out and being honest and open I hope I can help raise importance about the seriousness of Mental Health and help people realize that you don’t have to suffer in silence.

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Mental Health Awareness: My Story.

When most people think of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD, they often think of it as a trivial issue. Possibly think of Monica in Friends, a bit of a neat freak and someone who likes things in place. I place emphasis on the word, “like”, as any sufferer will know – all the repetitions, thoughts and  compulsions are the opposite of enjoyable. However, as someone who has suffered with this form of mental illness for at least ten years, you can see how I would find that offensive. 

Without going into details, in 2011 I basically suffered a Nervous Breakdown and had to leave Sixth Form, I self taught myself for the latter part of the first year but by the second I could no longer continue with education. I’ve always been a bit of an anxious person, maybe that’s just me, but after being off school for a week with the Flu, I began to suffer with Panic Attacks. I would try and solider on into school each day and I simply couldn’t stay, it was all too much and I can’t even count the amount of things that I missed out on. My life became so bad that I was on the verge of becoming agoraphobic, stepping outside of the house was a herculean task and I rarely did. It became so  bad that I didn’t want to be here anymore.

However, fast forward to 2016 and I’m proud of to say with support, therapy and medication I’ve came along way! I’m not afraid to be honest and talk about mental health anymore, I used to be ashamed and wish I could just be one of the, “normal” people. But when I think about it, what really is normal? 

I suffer with a particular form of OCD which is commonly known as Intrusive/Obsessive Thoughts, every single person in the world has these, however for some reason I attach importance to them and feel if I don’t “neutralize” the thought e.g. repeat it mentally then I hold responsibility for what happens. Sounds crazy right? I know, just typing it and even talking about it I realize how absurd it  seems. However, the power of the mind can be a pretty strong thing, the compulsions almost become a coping mechanism and years of repetition can mean it’s incredibly hard to just shake off.

Mental Illnesses can be incredibly exhausting, I feel tired most days and often have to have a nap. The mind of an OCD sufferer is always analyzing mentally or physically, wanting reassurance and neutralizing, there are many more coping mechanisms but ultimately none of them work, they just help to continue the problem.

Through suffering with Anxiety, Depression, OCD and PTSD – although I’m a lot better with the latter now, my life hasn’t gone the average way a 22 year olds would usually go. I’ve not had a professional job, I didn’t go to University or finish Sixth Form, I’m not very independent and have quite a lot of catching up to do with other people my age. However,  I’d much rather get myself better mentally then be successful academically, from speaking out and being open about my own issues I’ve met and even helped quite a few people which I still find hard to believe.

The irony is, with any form of Mental Health Issue, you feel so alone, there is so much stigma attached to an illness which people can’t see, if you’re feeling good one day you can even feel guilty for feeling happy! However, the statistics for Mental Health are sky high and without talking about it more people will suffer in silence and that can have massive consequences.
I just wanted to write this post because today I’ve had a bit of a down day, I’ve felt down on myself for falling back into some compulsions and listening to ,”The Mind Bully” which is what I call my OCD/Depression/Anxiety. I know if someone else was telling me what I’ve been through I wouldn’t treat them the way I treat myself, for some reason I’m very hard on myself and I don’t want to be anymore, I want to be kind to myself. Mental Health Disorders are not a choice, they are both genetic and/or environmental and the sufferer should be understood and supported towards the road to recovery.

I need to keep telling myself that an Intrusive Thought is simply that – just a thought and it has no relevance or substance to whatever the future may bring. My anxiety can be incredibly debilitating but with battling through each hard task I will realize that the only thing to fear is fear itself and Depression may feel like a endless black hole but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and you don’t have to suffer in the dark. 

I hope this helps more people understand and support sufferers, at the end of the day we are just normal people who for whatever reason are going through a tough time. Please remember, just because a person may look okay – doesn’t mean they are okay.