Over the past two years, I've had a lot of difficulties working through issues such as eating disorders, toxic friendships and managing my self esteem. Thankfully throughout it all I have been able to build up a strong support system of people I know I can rely on to help me through my tough days, and who can rely on me in turn. As well as this, I've compiled a list of online resources that help me to relax and understand the problem, and ways to feel better and more comfortable as myself.
As any teenager knows, high school can sometimes be really stressful and it can become difficult to cope with the immense workload, as well as pressures from home or socially. Personally, I'm extremely lucky to rarely get stressed about actual assessment or classwork as I don't have pressure from family to get specific grades. However, it has still been difficult for me to manage everything over the years as I dealt with schoolwork, social problems and difficulties in my family life.
Initially, I tried to keep everything to myself. I didn't know how to communicate with others regarding these issues, and I was scared of being a burden. I didn't want people to stay friends with me simply because they were concerned that I wouldn't cope without them, instead of because they liked me. I was also worried that telling people about my lower self esteem and the problems within my family would lessen their opinion of me, and further isolate me. Instead, I tried to keep up a happy front at all times so that no one would be worried, and remained quiet at lunchtime to avoid questions if a sensitive topic came up. Although it was exhausting to maintain this façade I believed that it was the best way to keep my friends happy, and not to be a burden on anyone.
Eventually I broke down and told some close friends what had been happening in terms of my self esteem and the problems at home. I found that letting others know what was going on was incredibly beneficial, both for me and them. I was able to access support at any time I needed to,and they were better equipped to help me out if they felt something was wrong. We worked out a system of mutual respect and help, where we took turns venting to each other at a local park and gave each other resources such as website links and articles. As well as hearing each other out,we encouraged each other to go to our school Guidance Officer to seek professional help and did all we could to help each other be calm and comfortable. Of course, it was a massive help to have them with me through this time, always willing to cheer me up and make me laugh. Personally, I'm so grateful to have a large support network of people I know will listen to me, and I encourage you to share with others. If you're in a position where you're struggling with anything in your life, whether it be in regards to your mental health, a stressful situation at school or anything else,telling someone about it helps. Just knowing that there is someone you can turn to, and who has your back, greatly decreases the load. For me, that was my close circle of friends, and also the Guidance Officer. For some others, it's been a parent, other relative or adult. Even if they can't give you professional help, just being able to get it all out instead of keeping it pent up inside is a real benefit.
It was difficult to confide in my friends without feeling guilty. I didn't want to burden them with my problems, or make them feel compelled to help me. It took a while to feel comfortable enough to share my problems without prompting, however I found that sharing with them created a closer connection and sense of ease that I haven't found anywhere else. It's important to remember to balance everything, including how much time is spent venting, and how much time is spent on other activities. I knew I could rely on them to hear me out, but it was also important to go out as friends and just relax. It had to be balanced so that there was time to share, time to listen and time to just hang out as a group. We’ve managed to make it work, and it has been a huge help knowing that I have them backing me.
As well as building up a strong support network of people, I've found music to be a vital coping mechanism. Whenever my self esteem drops or I'm being plagued with dark thoughts, I can turn on my playlist and get lost in the music. Sometimes I need to listen to empowering music, inspirational songs that helps me to build my self esteem. At other points I listen to emo music that I can relate to, and come to terms with what's happening. Regardless of the song choice, having music on is a great distraction technique that always helps me to focus on something better than my dark thoughts. At other times, I try reading a book that I really enjoy, something that draws me into the story and I can lose myself in the plot and characters. Different techniques work for different people, however if you're experiencing dark thoughts or just feel really distant from the world, I suggest trying that sort of distraction technique. Reading, listening to music or watching TV/movies can help you to disengage from your thoughts and be drawn into something else.
This is my last article of this series. Thank you for reading along and following my journey with mental health. I hope that if you are experiencing anything similar that you can reach out to others and feel supported. There are plenty of links to support websites and informative articles on thiswebsite, which have benefited me so much. Thank you for reading.