For Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February 2023), Catherine, 17, opens up about her first struggle with mental health during the pandemic. She explains how seeing a therapist and using journaling as an outlet have helped her come out of a dark period. She shares with us the lessons she has learnt in the hope that it will inspire other young people to seek help in moments of distress.
“Being a young person in today’s climate has, in my opinion, been especially challenging. Social media has undoubtedly created unachievable beauty and body standards for men, women, boys and girls, alike. Often, it’s easy to feel as though you’re not ‘living your life right’ when social media only shows you the highlights and best moments of someone else’s. It’s hard to feel content with yourself when all social media does is show you what more you can be. This cycle of constantly reaching for more is detrimental to our mental health. Combine this with multiple nation-wide lockdowns and a couple years of instability, and it’s no wonder so many teenagers are struggling with their mental health.
For me, it was the 2021 winter lockdown that did it. Spending hours a day on a screen doing online lessons, with the days being cold and dark, left me feeling levels of distress I hadn’t really come across before. As someone who typically enjoyed school, having a consistent routine, playing sport and being with my friends, losing all of this, even if just for a 2-month lockdown period, led me to feel anxious and unstable. Little things and inconveniences suddenly had the power to trigger a long-term low mood which could sometimes lead me to self-harm. I felt as though my feelings were invalid, simply because I couldn’t understand why I was feeling how I was, and therefore I felt I couldn’t describe it or confide in anyone else.
When my mum found out that I was struggling like this, I thought it was the worst thing, but looking back nothing could’ve been better for me. She looked for a therapist for me and encouraged me to go. At first, I was apprehensive and didn’t want therapy; I was stuck in the headspace of thinking “I don’t need it, plenty of people have it worse than me”. But, after a month or two, I agreed to attend one session. Therapy, I learnt, really is a personal thing. You should never ‘settle’ for a therapist, but rather try and figure out if their techniques work for you. I was fortunate enough that I clicked with and felt immediately understood by the first therapist I saw. With her advice, I soon began journaling. This gave me an outlet to healthily express my emotions and try to understand what I was feeling. For some, this outlet may be drawing, painting, or some other comforting action. For me, my therapy journal offered me support and a sense of stability. For a couple of months it came with me everywhere, so that I always knew I had it if I needed it. I’ve continued working on my mental health for the past 18 months since, and whilst some events that have happened had set me back, I now feel I’m at a far better place. I’m actually quite proud to say that I now no longer need to bring my journal everywhere with me and can go weeks, if not months, without needing to write in it.
Not only has therapy stabilised my mental health and offered me support through hard times, but it’s made me feel understood, more comfortable discussing my emotions with others, and even helped me to better understand my own, and others’, emotions. I’m now at a place where I’m gradually decreasing the frequency of my therapy sessions and becoming less dependent on the support of a therapist. Whilst I would say I haven’t reached a ’final destination’ with my mental health, I would certainly say I’ve made immense progress in my journey.
One of the main things I learnt from this journey is that, as cliché as it sounds, you are not alone. There are others out there feeling the same as you, as well as others who would support you in an instant, and you must lean on these people. The hardest part for me was the first step of starting therapy, and without my mum I never would’ve done that or asked for it. I’ve learnt that sometimes, you do need to lean on others and allow them to support you, whether that be friends, family, teachers or someone at the Mary Frances Trust.”
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Did this inspire you to share your story? If you would like to contribute to this blog series, please email Connie, our Communications Lead, at email@example.com. The blogs can be poems, song or videos – whatever format you feel most comfortable with!