by Kitty Evans-Smith,10th October 2019

Hey guys! My names Kitty and today I’ve been asked to guest blog for Candy Kittens to talk a bit about Mental Health. As many of you may be aware it’s World Mental Health Day, and with 1 in 4 people in the UK alone suffering from mental health disorders, it’s becoming increasingly important to raise awareness and break the taboo of speaking out. 

From the ages of 15-21 I myself struggled severely with depression, self harm and disordered eating, which were all triggered by my official diagnosis of BPD… (I know what you’re thinking - sounds like a cocktail of fun!). For those 6 years of my life I was in and out of hospital, on and off multiple medications and really struggled to understand what was happening to me. I felt completely helpless and had some extremely traumatic experiences. I came so close to giving up, but thank god I never did, as things can change, life can get brighter- and that’s the message I want to bring to you today.

We all struggle with different areas of our life, and no matter how big or how small, they are not insignificant. The worst thing I did for myself was not speaking about what I was struggling with. I hid it for 2 years from my friends and family which only worsened my wellbeing. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t felt scared/embarrassed or the potential for feeling judged for something which was out of my control. The best thing I could have done would have been to let my friends and family in earlier and help them to understand me and what was going on. It can be a really hard step to take but if you feel like you are in need of help I encourage you to speak to someone. 

Here are some useful ways to bring it up with someone you trust:

  • Find a documentary/ Video that touches on the topic - this is a great way to start the conversation without feeling the pressure to explain too much, but it can lead to natural discussion 
  • Write a letter and leave it for someone to read - personally I found it really hard to verbally express any of my feelings so this was a great technique I used when I felt I had to tell someone something that I found too hard to say 
  • If you’re worried about using words like ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’ try swapping them for ‘low’ or use phrases like ‘I don’t feel like myself’ to break into a conversation. I find these words far less weighted and overwhelming and found it a useful way to ease my friends and family into the conversation.
  • Go to your GP and focus on symptoms you are experiencing (e.g you may feel tired all the time, anxious or even have physical symptoms like weight loss/gain or hair loss). By tackling it this way you allow someone who is trained to steer the conversation and guide you in the right direction.

Speaking out is hard but can make such a huge difference. Another really great tool is something I call ‘number check in’. If you know you or a friend/family member is struggling, go to them each day or pop them a text and ask them where they are on a scale of 1-10 each day. 1 being feeling the lowest you can feel and 10 being on top of the world. By doing this you don’t even need to necessarily talk about your feelings, but it makes other people aware that you might need a little extra support that day.

Recovering from any Mental Health problem is extremely hard, and a journey which takes time, patience and determination. I never thought I’d see the other side of mine, but I’m still learning every day and use tools like exercise, eating a whole food plant-based diet, yoga and breathing techniques, and knowing when I need to slow down and take some time out to regain balance. There’s also plenty of workshops and group sessions all over the UK that you can attend for free, not to mention the Museum of Happiness in London which takes you through a hands on experience based gallery that’s not only fun but leaves you with excellent coping techniques to take away and implement in your daily life.

There really can be a light at the end of the tunnel. By surrounding yourself with people you love, taking small steps at a time, and challenging yourself to do activities you used to enjoy (even though you might not feel like it) you may find sparks of happiness and joy that improve your journey to finding your balance again like I did!

If you think you might need a little extra support and don’t know where to start, why not try contacting one of these support lines: