[Mental Health Awareness Week] Striving for Perfection in a Seemingly Perfect World

Aleena Brown

Aleena Brown

Aleena is currently living in Croydon with her two children and her fiance. She works part-time in an outstanding children's nursery, and in pre-mum life she ran businesses and pubs. She has a degree in English Literature, and her absolute passion (aside from her kids!) is writing, hence the blog!
Aleena Brown

 

Knowing that Mental Health Awareness week was coming up, I’ve been planning on writing this post for quite a while. So how come I’ve just sat and stared at my (blank) computer screen for an hour and a half feeling totally blocked? I’ve checked Twitter 8 times, Facebook 3 times, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve clicked on that little Insta app logo on my phone!

I have so much to say on the topic of Mental Health, and it’s hardly something I shy away from writing about. I think this apparent block is partly because poor mental health has played such a huge part in my life, and the lives of many of my closest friends and family members, that I just don’t even know where to start.

My own Mum suffered with crippling PND after having me, which really brought to fore the poor mental health she had been suffering with her entire life. And I’ll never be able to forget the day I woke up in hospital aged 16 and being told I was lucky not to have caused myself any lasting damage. Some of my closest friends have suffered massively over the years, products of the millennium generation gone wrong.

I know that I am not the only person to have experiences like this, and I know that for many people poor mental health is a recurring theme throughout their whole lives, and the lives of those around them, just as it has been for me. So what is to blame for this? Why are so many suffering, and why is still so common for that suffering to be silent? Why is it accepted that so many of us are left to struggle, day in and day out, with poor mental health?

I truly believe that the strive for perfection has a lot to do with it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s totally normal to want to be a great parent, to want to do well in your career, and to want to live a generally good life. What concerns me is that more and more of us are consumed with these things, and that we have somehow begun to be concerned with having all of these things running alongside each other. We are expected to forge successful careers almost from the minute we finish school or further education. We are bombarded daily with a thousand arguments for and against stay-at-home-mums and working mums. I see articles every day centred around whether or not we can ‘have it all’ – a successful career, happy family, money in the bank.

Add to that the fact that it’s become way to easy to compare ourselves with other people, with other seemingly successful people. Other people who seem to ‘have it all’. It feels somehow off-key to start slating social media, what with the whole blogging thing and the fact that I am clearly a big fan! But there’s no denying that social media plays a huge role in the ease of comparison.

As a young child I thought my mum hated me. And as a teenager I had a difficult conversation with her when she admitted that, for a while, she did. She found it hard to explain, and I found it even harder to understand, that while she loved me she was in a world of mental anguish and a part of her blamed my existence for that.

As a teenager, I hated myself. I had few friends, and a turbulent home life. I was overweight, and did well at school. All of these things made me the perfect bullies target. At 16 I moved out of the family home and life got really tough. Trying to hold down a job and my schooling got too much and I attempted to take my own life, truly believing for a time that the lives of those around me would be easier if I was gone. I finally understood how my mum had felt for all those years.

I dipped in and out of depression for years, and it’s only been in the last 3-4 years that I have really come to accept myself and be happy with who I am. I have a new found “fuck ’em” attitude to anyone who doesn’t like me, the way I live my life, or wants to judge the things that I do. Maybe it comes with age, who knows?

So why are so many of us suffering? I don’t have the answers I’m afraid. But what I do know is that when it comes to poor mental health the people that are often overlooked are the people in that persons life. I’ll never forget the time I saw my strong, together dad crying his eyes out because he didn’t know how to help my mum. I’ll never forget the feeling that she didn’t love me. I’ll never be able to wipe away the panic when my best friend called me to tell me she just wanted to go away.

Poor mental health affects us all differently. For those of us who love someone who is struggling, we are supposed to be strong for them, to be there for them. But sometimes finding that strength is easier said than done, and all too often the inability to understand or empathise means that person is left alone in their blackness.

So if you’re reading this right now, living in your own blackness but unable to explain, feeling there’s nowhere to turn, hating yourself for feeling this way; please know that you’re not alone. Your loved ones might not understand, but they love you nonetheless.

The Samaritans are excellent place to turn and you can find them here. (http://www.samaritans.org/)

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