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Mental Health

A Reflection on Mental Health Awareness Month: Things I’ve Learned in My Recovery

 

 

May is Mental health Awareness Month, and for me, that means destigmatising something that so many of us have struggled, and continue to struggle with, every day. 

When I began this journey of recovery, there are so many things that I wish I had known. I write this in full cognisance of the uniqueness of everybody’s journey, but if there’s anything I’ve learnt- it’s that we’re in this together. And that brings me to the first thing I learned:

You are never alone

For someone who struggles with their mental health, I know first-hand how easy it is to want to withdraw from the world. I had so many people around me, ready and waiting to support me and get me the help I needed: but, in my darkest moments, I still felt completely alone. Reaching out and admitting that ‘I need help’ was the single bravest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the first step in your journey and there’s no shame in that. If you’re someone with a loved one who is suffering, the best thing you can do is just to be there for them. Leave the treatment to the professionals and just be there as a shoulder to cry on. We don’t need you to fix anything: just to hold us when we’re scared and remind us that we’re not in this alone.

There is no shame in receiving treatment

Again, everyone is different and everyone’s treatment is different; I know people who choose to depend on their faith and others who choose to turn to natural remedies. My point is: there is no single ‘cure’. For many of us, struggling with our mental health is a life-long battle; much like physical conditions, it requires medication and regular trips to the doctor. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Nor is there anything wrong with you. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be embarrassed that I had to see a psychologist, but as I continued to expand my understanding—and meet more people like me—I realised that there was nothing to be ashamed of.

Healing is not linear

Once you start receiving treatment and begin to feel better, you have to remember that this is a process. There will be bad days, days where you relapse and days when you beat yourself up because of it. This is completely normal, so go easy on yourself— it’s just the way that recovery goes. If you’re supporting someone who struggles with their mental health: be patient, because we’re trying our hardest. I’m reminded of a quote by Buddha: “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” Treat yourself, and your process, with compassion.

You've got it in you

This is the title of a song by BANNERS, and it rings so true. You HAVE got it in you. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. You possess a strength inside of yourself that you never knew you had and that strength is going to get you through. As human beings, we have this amazing ability to pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off and carry on stronger than ever before.  I am not trying to poeticise suffering as I write this; I am trying to remind you that you deserve to fight for yourself, because there is a light on the other side.

 

 

There is so much more I would like to say, but I feel that these are the most crucial. We end the stigma by ending the shame. I like to think of a future where we can all be honest about what we’ve been through, because there is so much to be learned from each other’s recoveries. 

 

Helplines: 

 

  1. South African Depression and Anxiety Group

         https://www.sadag.org/

         0800 567 567

  1. UCT Student Wellness Services 

         http://www.dsa.uct.ac.za/student-wellness/counseling-services/overview

         021 650 1017

  1. Cipla Mental Health Line

         https://www.cipla.co.za/mental-health/free-mental-health-resources-in-south-africa/

         0800 4567 789

  1. South African Federation for Mental Health

         https://www.safmh.org/help-desk/

         011 781 1852

 

I'm currently in third year at UCT, pursuing a BSocSci. I am majoring in political science and psychology. As of late 2020, I began working as the co social media director for Her Campus at UCT. My vision for our community is one that promotes environmental sustainability, is politically active and is centered around providing a platform for South African women to create and inspire.
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