Normally my Saturday evenings are spent at home, in my jammies, usually horizontal, chilling with my husband and largely ignoring one another as we lay side by side, scrolling on our respective phones. Last Saturday was different. I was lucky enough to be invited along to an event at Brighton hidden gem Powder Beauty Boutique in the South Lanes in honour of International Women’s Day, along with my one of my besties, interiors blogger Jasmin aka @brickdustbaby. I washed my hair, wore ACTUAL make up, and left my baby in the capable hands of my husband.
Powder itself was beaut; totally glam, retro and buzzing with energy as lots of lovely ladies and bloggers enjoyed their treatments and some well-earned pampering. We sipped on the most delightful gin cocktails and snacked on some ‘super-healthy-so-tasty-surely-they-can’t-be-healthy?!’ nibbles from Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen.
The night was hosted by the incredible Life Coach Mary ‘Badass’ Meadows and ‘Mental Mutha’ Blogger Natasha Bailie, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the very first time. I have to admit that on sitting down for their talk with a room full of other women, I was taken by surprise when they introduced themselves by unreservedly addressing and owning their battles with mental health, and Natasha looked me right in the eye and said “U OK, Hun?”.
I felt a bubbling anxiety rise up through my body, prickling my neck and cheeks, my heart pumping loudly in my ears. Never before had I been in a scenario where a perfect stranger had been so open and talked so candidly about what is (wrongly) considered a taboo subject. I was unsettled by the idea that the talk may result in an ‘icky’ confrontation with my own mental health.
I needn’t have been so fearful. It wasn’t so much a ‘talk’ as it was a refreshingly upfront and involved conversation about the prevalence of mental health struggles in everyday society, coping mechanisms/techniques, and learning to not be ashamed or suffer needlessly. Lots of incredibly brave women found the strength to share their stories and discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings with the room. I listened on with admiration as one by one, they became empowered to openly confront their own experiences with mental health.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel prepared or brave enough to speak out about my own experiences on the night. I am not ready to do anything more than scratch the surface of my long-term battle with EDNOS and Anorexia. Close friends, family, professionals who have treated me, and anyone who may have deduced from my appearance during my darker moments will be aware of my struggle to some extent, but this post will be the first time I’ve addressed it in a public forum, and I’m not going to lie; it racks me with fear, guilt and shame.
An uncomfortable cocktail of fear that I’ll be judged for being mental, weak or neurotic. Guilt for ‘indulging’ in what is widely considered to be a middle-class, ‘first world’ problem. Shame for not appearing to have been mental or skinny ‘enough’ by whatever standards or criteria Joe Public has set for what an eating disorder should look like from the outside.
I know somewhere within that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say if I had a headache and needed to take a paracetamol. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say if I had a chronic bout of cystitis, crying out for antibiotics because I was peeing out razor blades. I wouldn’t even be ashamed to say if I had a serious case of food poisoning and was sh*tting every 10 minutes through the eye of a needle. What’s the difference?
The difference lies in what society has told us up until now what is and what isn’t ok to talk about, and false ideas about what is and what isn’t a ‘real’ health issue. If we were suffering from a physical or visible health problem, we wouldn’t be so quick to stuff it away like a dirty secret, or treat it as merely an afterthought.
Conversations like we had with Mary and Natasha are crucial, because only by talking about our mental health, can we begin to break down the stigma that tells us that we shouldn’t; the cause of far too many suffering alone and in silence, believing that we’re crazy, or that no one could possibly understand or be able to help us.
The ladies told us that they’ve “never known anyone to regret asking for help”, which I can wholeheartedly believe. Granting release to our worries and difficulties is the only thing that ceases them from endlessly circling and intoxicating our minds, tormenting us from the inside.
Asking for help is a choice that we make. A choice in which frees us to discover that we aren’t alone after all; we’re all as mental as each other! Just like we all catch colds or get the sh*ts from time to time. Help is out there…often in places and in formats we didn’t even know were at our disposal.
As the ladies quite rightly declared, “Nothing changes if nothing changes, Babes”