This month, May, is #MentalHealthAwareness month, a time to make us all more aware of the many different mental health problems that can affect people as well as a time to help rid the stigmas behind mental health. I have my own mental health stories I will be sharing with you soon but today I want to touch on something so many of us with mental health problems, especially depression, do to ourselves and that’s being too tough on ourselves.

I’ve suffered from depression on and off since I was a teenager, many different circumstances led up to my unhappiness, but the one thing I find myself doing is being too hard on myself. Depression is a black hole of woe. You sink into it, often without realising it, until you are under the ground and barely able to poke your head out to see the light/the happiness that’s there. You end up feeling like the worst has happened and will happen, and that nothing in the future is worth bothering about. You sink into this horrible place that’s incredibly hard to get out of.

The truth of depression

Depression is like a burglar, it robs you of the joy you have inside, and in my case (and I know in many others too) the depression makes you criticise every decision you make, every action you take, the depression leaves you feeling like things are your own fault and would be better if only you’d done something differently.

Sometimes the depression doesn’t make you question your decisions, instead you question your depression. Happy people around you tell you things like ‘Cheer up’ and ‘Stop being so moody’ and it leaves you wondering why are you so glum, why can’t you be cheerful? You end up believing there is something wrong with you because you can’t experience the same happiness as everyone else.

And sometimes things become so hard that you become numb. Numb to the people around you, numb to your pain, numb to everything.

As people we’re not hard-wired to be depressed or hard on ourselves. It’s not in our nature, not originally, to be so tough and criticise who we are or how we act. Sure many of us do contemplate whether we’ve done the right thing or feel bad if we think we’ve done wrong, but these thoughts and feelings were never meant to go over the top, to be so overwhelming that they interfere in our daily routines, they were never meant to stop us functioning on a basic level. But when we are suffereing depression or other mental health conditions, we’re often so self-criticising to the point that everyone else who may have criticised us is long gone and we’re still there being tough on ourselves. We’re the first to scrutinise our actions, to wonder what we did wrong, to wonder what’s wrong with us.

Give yourself a break

To anyone who’s ever felt this way, to anyone who’s ever been really tough on themselves, to anyone who’s ever gone through that terrible feeling of guilt (whether you suffer from mental health conditions or not) don’t be so hard on yourself.  It’s okay to feel these things, and I don’t think your feelings should be ignored.  If you feel bad, terrible, even suicidal then you are having valid thoughts and you are allowed to feel them, but please, please remember to give yourself a break.  We’re allowed to feel bad about being in the world but if we want to hurt ourselves in some way, we don’t have to.  We don’t have to give in to every thought that is in our heads right now.  We’re allowed to feel bad, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also take a break from these feelings, that we can’t do something to make ourselves feel better (at least in the short term).  We all make mistakes, we all could have done things differently, taken action when we didn’t. We all could contemplate what’s wrong with us, feel bad if we’re not in the same mood as everyone else. But at the end of the day, the only person that’s in pain, that’s feeling alone and sad is you. There may be others who say things to us to make us feel guilty or bad about ourselves or our actions. But we can choose whether we feel bad or whether we let it go.

It’s not easy to overcome these thoughts (believe me I know!), it’s not easy to overcome depression, but it is possible, in time. It is possible to feel good about ourselves again one day, it is possible to not question what we’ve done wrong or should have done differently, it is possible to not feel bad about being depressed.  And it is possible to be in a place where we don’t want to hurt ourselves either mentally or physically.  Getting to that place isn’t easy, but you are allowed to feel bad, and you are allowed to take a break too.

If you’re suffering these feelings, give yourself a break. Being tough on ourselves is exhausting work. It’s tiring to be self-critical all the time, believe me I’ve been there and it just sucks all the energy and hours out of your day. So try one day to just not do it. I’ve done it myself. I’ve given myself a break before and it felt so good to not feel so bad. I need to do this more, it’s something you need to tell yourself more than once (if you’re not used to it), but if you’re feeling bad right now then stop. Give yourself a break…Because you deserve to be happy and enjoy and love your life.

-I will be touching on more mental health topics in future especially from my own experiences.  In the meantime if anyone out there feels particularly bad or vulnerable at this time please get in touch with someone either online, offline or even contact me (I will keep all conversations confidential).  Feelings we often have are overblown and talking about them can often break down the thoughts and make us realise that things are not as bad as we first believe.  Keep safe and look after yourself ❤

-Inspired and adapted from a previous post published online May 2018.

Do you suffer from mental health problems?  Are you often too hard on yourself?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂