Today is my 30th birthday. Although, seeing as I was born at half one in the afternoon, I am still considering myself 29 until then! Being a ‘big’ birthday and amalgamating it with the festive time of year, has naturally brought on a certain level of reflection and contemplation.
I’ve been thinking about my birthday this morning, as I woke up, showered, got ready, and had my tea and crumpets (how British), it’s a nice relaxed Sunday. I am genuinely really happy. I’ll admit, I’ve not had many birthdays where I have been happy. I have had fun and enjoyed them, been incredibly lucky and thankful for what people have done and got for me, but I’ve not been truly happy for many. I placed a lot of expectation on them. I placed a lot of pressure on them being amazing and making sure I was going to have the ‘best yet’, so they couldn’t possibly live up to that.
This year is different because I didn’t do that. I’d had some hopes on who’d be around and such, as you all know, but I haven’t been overly ‘bothered’ about how this weekend goes. I had an excellent party; a relaxed Saturday and I’ve got a nice family day today. I have gone with the flow and had no expectations that this weekend had to be particularly epic, and I am so much happier as a result, making this, in fact, the best birthday ever.
It’s incredibly freeing when you don’t have those unnecessary pressures, it’s also freeing being able to talk about things now, not projecting negativity out to the world and it’s so freeing just not being miserable all of the time! I’ve learnt so much these last few months or so, I’ve come so far and know where I am headed. I want others to feel this. I want other people to know what it feels like having come from rock bottom up into the sunlight. It’s an incredible feeling that I cannot even begin to explain.
This is why I am so passionate about helping other people. When I see that other people are struggling to get out of the house because of anxiety, just living in that continuous cycle of not doing something through fear, building it up in your head, making it worse and thus reinforcing the negative mindset they are stuck in. I’ve been there. I remember one particular occasion, last year, my partner of the time wanted me to go with him to meet his friends, but then he told me there’d be about ten people, and for me, that was too much. I didn’t go. I wanted to. I wanted to meet everyone important to him and I couldn’t. Not going made me feel worse. But now, I’d go without a second thought.
I want to encourage people to talk. Encourage conversations about how we feel, our vulnerabilities and fears. There is no shame in talking about it. There is no shame in feeling it. There is no shame in needing help, there is no shame in going and getting it. For me, this especially applies to men. I want to encourage openness about toxic masculinity and how silence is causing suicide to be three times more likely in men than women in the UK (scarily, men in N. Ireland are four times more likely).
One thing I like to advise, is to celebrate your little wins. Did you get up and shower today, when yesterday that seemed impossible? Celebrate that. Be proud of yourself. Did you go to the gym, the shops, a coffee shop? All these are wins, celebrate them. We are not all on the same chapter. Don’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter twenty. They may find socialising easy, they may find going to work easier than you. That is them, that is their story. Concentrate on yours. If you need help, if you need to talk, then do so. I have post-it notes all around my house, reminding me of my good traits, why people love me, and more importantly why I love myself. Do what you need to do to help yourself.
I have so many people to thank for where I am now, but I also had to want to help myself. I have worked hard and mental health is daily work, it’s not easy and I won’t pretend to you that it is, nor is there a permanent fix where you can just stop taking care of yourself. We are in this for the long haul.
So, as I head into this new decade, I am confident, thankful and excited for what’s to come. May have taken 30 years, but I’ve gotten here. It’s about time.