I had two main goals moving to Leeds. And to tell you the truth I am not sure which is going to prove more difficult…

∗ a one woman mission to try all the coffee shops. I fear this one may be beyond me.

∗ to start taking control of my life and my mental health.

Living in deepest darkest Cumbria not only helped my mental health to deteriorate, it stopped me accessing support I so desperately needed. I want to find people like me. I want to have people I can turn to, who will understand and not judge. I want to understand myself better. I want to feel less alone.

Determination and focus have not exactly been friends of mine recently. Somehow though I found myself signing up to an Introduction to Group Work run by Mind within a week of moving here. I didn’t let myself think about it. I just booked it. And I carried on not thinking about it right up until the moment I found myself heading there.

And then the anxiety hit.

Speaking to people I don’t know is enough to start a full-blown panic. Opening myself to others is not something that comes easy. I always fear being judged and found wanting. I analyse everything I say and do. So how did I find myself here, about to do these very things…

I held myself tight the whole way though. I felt full of panic.

And I felt relief. I felt accepted.

I have a really bad habit of doing something that scares me, congratulating myself and then stopping as though that one time was enough. This time though I didn’t let myself stop. It was not enough. Not anymore.

So before I could second guess myself or let things slide, I booked up to join the Managing my Mental Health course starting the very next week. That very night on the bus ride home. And I am glad I sent that email. I would have questioned and doubted myself. Talked myself out of it. Instead I sent that email and I didn’t let myself stop.

And I am glad I didn’t stop. And haven’t stopped yet.

I have talked without guilt. I have made friends.  I have discovered things about myself. I have laughed.

I have felt less alone.

The questioning has not gone away. My darkness and fears are still here. I am still struggling.

But now the questioning is no longer simply me judging me. No longer solely negative. I am questioning what is so wrong with not being ‘normal’, why do I need to fit in to other’s expectations? Talking to others is encouraging me to stop trying to fit in. Is giving me the confidence to be me. To decide that the person who decides my normal is…me.

I have discovered that amongst all the stigma I face for having mental health difficulties (and believe me it is significant), the worst I face is from myself. It is me that thinks myself worthless, as being less than others. As damaged, as not normal. As lacking.

I have realised how unkind I am to myself for something that is no more my fault than my leukaemia was. How I need to be a friend to myself as much as I am to others.

This Mind course is no magic wand. I still have battles to fight, changes to make and things to accept.

But I took that first step. I took it despite all my fears, emptiness and sadness. I took it and it felt good.

 

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

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