We focus on physical health. We know that to keep our bodies healthy we must eat well, exercise regularly, look after our organs, ensure we are getting adequate sleep, rest, sunshine and fresh air. We practice dental hygiene, bandage a cut, and protect broken bones so that they too can heal. We learnt to do this as soon as we could walk. We don’t however focus on our psychological health. In fact we aren’t even taught about this by our parents. There are studies around that can teach you how to become psychologically healthier, yet are harder to find than the saturated market of the physical health and fitness industry. And I am a case and point.
I’m physically healthy. Far healthier than I ever was before. I’m fitter, stronger, have good levels of vitamins and minerals within my blood, keep a clean diet, although not always perfect, it’s largely consistent, but my psychological health is a mess. In the way we would look at the physical health of a person who is severely obese that needs to improve their life, this is how you could take my mental health. Now, to look at me you would think I am absolutely fine. To you – the world – you see someone who has a career, is living life, laughs, who jokes around, who talks to everyone and tries as much as she can to ensure that you are okay. The one I see, that is truly hidden from all of you, is the one that’s lonely.
Loneliness. “How are you lonely?” I’m sure you are asking, “you know everyone, you have friends and a loving family, how could you possibly be lonely?” Yet I am. Did you know that loneliness has as many negative effects on your health as smoking cigarettes? That the feeling of loneliness causes your immune system to weaken and subjects you to becoming ill more frequently?
Before you ask, it’s not because I am single either, which is the general go to. In fact, I feel most alone when I’m with others. It’s taken me months, and in all honestly possibly years to come to terms with this truth, but loneliness is subjective. It isn’t the same as being alone. Loneliness entirely depends on whether you feel socially or emotionally disconnected from the people that surround you. A deep psychological wound which distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. So with me, this has developed into a form of anxiety.
I don’t reach out to others to talk about how I feel, or attempt to vocalise it in order to understand it. I am afraid to talk to others for fear of becoming a burden or bothering them with something, which probably on the surface is a shallow and narcissistic problem that can easily be resolved by just getting over it, and pulling myself together. In fact, I reached out to someone recently, and with every interaction I have with them, I find myself apologising for every little thing and no longer being able to stand my ground. Now, the sane part of my head is aware that this person cares for me, however, when shrouded by an ever-darkening cloud of loneliness, I find myself convinced that they don’t at all, and never have. That everything our friendship has been through has been one-sided and that they’ve used me – of course this simply isn’t true, but the thought still exists.
I appear to suffer with a disconnection from people, stemming from a number of… issues I think. Mainly, failure, low self-esteem, social pressures and rejection. None of which we have been taught to deal with or fully understand. In school we were taught to believe that if we failed core education subjects we wouldn’t amount to anything and never succeed. Our educational system does not factor in the fact that determination and differing skillsets can still see you succeed. When we do fail at something our mind often makes us believe that we are no good, allowing us only to see one side of a story.
My self-esteem is a tricky one. Physically it’s so low that I think Hades in the seventh circle of hell is currently holding onto it. There is no beauty in what I am physically. Living a life where the world has told you that because of your size you weren’t pretty, worth noticing, worth bothering with, that the only way to succeed would be to become smaller and better looking. To fix your nose, or your teeth and perhaps lighten your hair and wear makeup. To have this now change, when your thought process is ingrained to only one way of seeing yourself, for me, is incredibly difficult to overcome.
Yet, I also see where my strengths lie. I know that there are parts of me that are good. I am hardworking and committed, caring and love very, very deeply with no apology. The sad thing is, is that the areas where my self-esteem is high, unfortunately don’t outweigh the areas in which it is low.
Then there is the ever-traumatising rejection. I’ve been rejected a lot. In work, in love, in friendship groups, what can I say? I’m a societal anomaly. We can’t all be the same, despite me frequently wanting to be like the ones who seem to have their lives so entirely together, and so easy. It at times has broken me down to nothing, and others made me stronger. Consistency in my thinking and approach towards rejection, is what I’m lacking here though.
So my story will show you that I am emotionally unhealthy, and psychologically unfit. What I need to address, is how to change this. What is the diet and exercise equivalent for your mental health? Is it simply being more open about it? Is it trying to find ways to combat the taboo? This post is embarrassing, but at the same time helps me to filter through the ‘crazy’ and may also help someone else who stumbles across this post, to know that they aren’t alone. Whatever my research concludes, I will attempt to follow through with it. But does a post like this entice people to reach out to others, or simply judge them and leave them alone?