As we drive home from dad’s place in Brisbane, the play list we were listening to finishes and we decide it’s time to listen to a whole Silverchair album, so I choose Neon Ballroom. As soon as it began (I knew it would) the past came rushing back – isn’t it magic how that happens. I was in senior year at school, struggling with anxiety and depression, with no idea how to get out of the hole. It was like being stuck in quick sand; the more I flailed around in a panic, the more I sank.
This album was one of those that seemed like it was written just for me. It spoke straight to the pit of my stomach and in it’s darkness soothed my fears of loneliness – there was another experiencing the same struggle. The other albums that carried me through that year were Tool – Anema and Fiona Apple – Tidal. I would sit in every class with one of my ear buds in, (supposedly hidden from the teacher), so a real person could share their own experience of darkness with me, in a frequency my heart could hear.
At the time I didn’t understand the connection between self worth and mental health, and I loathed ever fibre of my being. If I could have a conversation with my 16 year old self… I would tell her that she IS everything she believes she isn’t. I would assure her that her view of the world is valid and yes, she isn’t like the majority of her peers; however, in twenty years she is going to reflect upon how brave she really was. I would hold her tightly and explain that she is the more beautiful than she has the capacity to understand right now, but she would one day, and that beauty has nothing to do with her reflection. Oh, and I would tell her to leave her hair alone – she would love those curls one day.
I sometimes wish I could have my time over with the knowledge I have now, then it occurs to me that I would have just had a different set of challenges anyway. This is me and I am navigating life just fine; in fact, I would say I’m doing a good job. If you feel like you struggle with your mental health, it’s imperative that you learn how to fake it til you make it. Start a daily practice, in which you look your reflection square in the eye and say, “I am enough, I am strong, I can do anything I dream”. Tell yourself these things and more, every single day, even if you don’t believe it at first – you will! Tell yourself you are everything you wish to be until you believe you are; the truth is, you always encompassed those attributes – you just couldn’t see it.
Mental illness is real but so is your ability to change. You are more powerful than you may know but you must do the work. There is no quick fix. It starts with the choice to change, then it takes commitment and perseverance. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and in doing so, it is impossible not to end up somewhere other than where you are now. Where you want to be – choose to be there.