Not insane. Just human.
It has taken me a while to find the strength to write about this but I know that mental health in many cultures is seen as a sign of weakness and I have always disliked feeling vulnerable, feeling judged and the feeling of being misunderstood. I have never kept it a secret with the people I love but I have never been open about my experience of mental health because I have felt ashamed and embarrassed. As if I had chosen this path for myself.
Not long after my graduation, I was diagnosed with psychosis and as many of you know finishing university can be such a massive accomplishment but also an extremely stressful period. From job hunting to completing job applications that basically mean nothing to you. But you want to find a job as soon as possible, after all, you have dreamt about this since a young age… the day you’ll become independent and start making a living for yourself. The hardest part is when months start to pass and you’re still unemployed and people start to question why, and trying to give an explanation just makes you think; ‘am I good enough for the career world? Do I have any skills or talent?’.
From a very young age, I had set a time frame for each of my achievements. I even decided not take a gap year before university because I wanted to achieve my goals ASAP.
I started my first part-time job when I was 16, working at a dog racing stadium.
During university I was working and studying, I didn’t want to ask my parents for money, I knew I could support myself. So on most weekends and all my uni breaks, I was working for a marketing company selling 3D TVs, Apple laptops and many other gadgets.
On weekdays I was studying and training staff around various stores how to sell these gadgets. To avoid getting into too much debt I thought it would be a smart idea to live over an hour away from my university. Most days, I would travel almost 3 hours a day, thanks to London rush hour.
During university, I had taught myself to code and create content for websites. I also took photography classes and spent a lot of time practising these skills. I started My Daily London in 2011, a lifestyle and things to do in London website, by the end of the year it was voted as one of the best lifestyle blogs by some of the top British magazines.
After graduating, I didn’t see many opportunities with My Daily London, I had no idea how to make a living through blogging. I hunted for digital marketing jobs. Until I landed a job with a top digital company as an SEO executive.
To cut the story short during my time at work, within 3 months, I lost over 300 hours of sleep, I was sleeping less than 4 hours a night. I also lost an incredible amount of weight, I think I lived on one meal a day and didn’t have much time for my real friends. I felt so much pressure to be outstanding, the best at what I did that I forgot to live. I was slowly getting sick but no one around me could notice. After all, mental health was something my family had never heard of or experienced, so how could they’ve understood the signs?
At one point, I lost control, I don’t remember much of what happened but all I know is that my heart still hurts every time I think about it. It took me years to recover, I just couldn’t come to terms with that fact that at the age of 23 I had ‘failed’ in life. I would often deny everything that had happened and that I needed help, I felt embarrassed and angry at myself for being such a letdown.
Until one day a doctor asked me: ‘if you had a heart condition would you accept our help?’. I remember his exact words so clearly, ‘your brain is an organ just like the heart, so why is it so wrong to let us help you get better?’ he asked me. From that day on I decided to work alongside an incredible team of specialists to understand mental health better, to understand what had happened to me did not make me insane, it just made me human.
I have decided to use every platform I can (my website, social media and charity work) to write, record and interview specialists about mental health and maybe somehow help others understand that they’re not alone.
Mental health is not something you should ever feel embarrassed about, it’s not something you should ever blame yourself about and most certainly it is not something that you need to live alone with. Be you.