On Turning Twenty

Friday 14 October 2016

This past Monday was World Mental Health Day, and with my twentieth birthday coming up on Sunday, I've been doing a lot of reflecting. There are a lot of things you can learn in two decades, but some of them I've only learnt recently. I'm still coming to terms with others, and I'm sure there's plenty that I still don't know. This post is a reminder to myself - and others. Here are twenty things I've learnt about mental health before my twentieth birthday.

1. There's no shame in talking about things
It can be hard to open up at first but trust me, it'll be a weight of your shoulders. It's a health condition, just like diabetes and arthritis, so don't be embarrassed to talk about your panic attacks. You probably have less control over them than someone does their insulin levels.

2. Even if people don't fully understand, you'd be surprised by how many still care
Not everyone can get their head around mental health, and there are those who will never fully understand until they go through it themselves, but that doesn't mean they aren't there for you. Care can be expressed in many different ways, not all of them blatantly obvious, so you might miss it if you aren't careful.

3. But there are always some who won't give you the time of day
Some people are just ignorant and nothing you say or do will change that. Others can't or won't cope with you so will just cut you off entirely. Don't waste your time on someone who doesn't want to know you. It'll just make you upset.

4. It may not feel like it, but you are okay
Mental health, while horrible at times, is just a part of life. It's normal. You aren't a freak. You're a little more sensitive to things, sure, but you can't help it.

5. You're not a bad person for putting yourself and your needs first
There are times when you have to just to get through the day or to lift your mood. You aren't bad for recognising that your mood has been negatively impacted and then removing yourself from the situation. You aren't bad for caring for yourself.

6. But mental health will always make you selfish
Whether you notice it or not, or if you intend to be, there will always be a part of you that is so wrapped up in what you're experiencing (or rather, what you aren't) that you forget about everyone else. This isn't always a bad thing and can't always be helped, but other people matter too and you need to remember it.

7. You're not the only one going through something
Everyone's situation will be different, even if on the surface things appear to be the same. Don't lash out at people for little things - even if they may not seem like that to your anxiety - because you don't know what they're dealing with. Talking about different experiences can help.

8. Medication can be a terrifying prospect but it's worth at least trying it
It might not work and it might take a few tries to get it right, but you'll never know unless you try it. You aren't a failure if you need it to help you, but you also aren't better than anyone else if you can cope without it. Different people need different things.

9. Doing things at your own pace is perfectly okay
Please don't compare yourself to other people. So what, you're not at uni while everyone else your age is in their second year? You weren't ready at the time but you're getting there. You'll never be just like someone else because you're your own person. And that's great.

10. Don't let anxiety stop you from enjoying things 
Don't let those negative thoughts stop you from rocking up to lessons with a whole bag full of Marvel stationery. If it's something you love it's not stupid, and nobody else's thoughts matter if you aren't hurting anyone.

11. Professionals may not always help, but they also don't laugh at you when you leave
They don't think you're a waste of time - sure, it might be a waste of your time, but at the end of the day it's their job to listen to whatever you have to say. If they didn't want to help, they wouldn't be in that career.

12. You're allowed to have an off day or two
Nobody is perfect, and if there are some days when you just can't face the world, that's okay. Rest, relax, and don't forget that tomorrow is another day. You'll always have another chance so it's not the end of the world if you don't get everything done in one day.

13. Your anxiety is a reason, not an excuse
It might stop you from doing something, but don't tell yourself you can't do something because of it. Don't count yourself out of something before you've even tried it, but if you need to sit out half way through that's fine. You tried, and that's all anyone can ask for.

14. Don't throw yourself in at the deep end for everything
Taking baby steps and just dipping your toe in can sometimes be monumental tasks, so don't try running before you can walk. Don't tell yourself you have to do things by yourself when you know you still have trouble doing them with support. Doing so will only set you back further.

15. You may not see the progress you've made but it is there
You'll always be your own worst critic, even on the best days, but others don't see you in the same light. You may think you're useless because you couldn't even string two words together on the phone, but someone else will celebrate the fact that you answered the call in the first place.

16. You will eventually find something that works for you
It may take a lifetime, countless trips to different doctors and therapists, and a lot of tears, but one day something will click. It might not be what you expected, but if it works for you then it's valid. Talking to a professional might makes things worse, but who knows? Blogging might help.

17. The worst thing you can imagine probably won't happen
You aren't going to fall out of your bedroom window. The humming noise the fridge makes doesn't mean it's going to explode. The cats aren't going to just stop breathing and die. The roof won't cave in on you when the wind starts picking up.

18. Don't be afraid to talk to new people
It's a scary thing to do, but if you want to make friends then you'll have to do it. It doesn't have to be face to face, and you aren't obligated to speak to them every day if you don't want to. If you hadn't started a conversation you wouldn't have the friends that you do now.

19. Strangers don't think about you as much as you think about them
That woman who passed you on the other side of the road wasn't looking at your messy hair - in fact, she probably didn't even notice you. The bus driver is just doing his job, not looking at your spots - he sees so many people every day he probably won't even remember you.

20. Forgive yourself
Please. You aren't a bad person.


  1. Happy early birthday! I'm sure your 20th year will be your best one yet :)

  2. This is a gorgeous post. I hope your 20th birthday is wonderful!
    ~Litha Nelle

  3. This is a fantastic and beautiful post Charlotte - well done! :) <3 <3 <3

    Also, sooooo relatable - there's always the temptation to compare yourself to where everyone else is - and that can make you feel like a failure sometimes. It's your life, and you go at your pace :)

    (Also, thinking the cat's going to stop breathing for no reason and die? Been there. It might sound ridiculous to some people - but it's damned scary!)

    1. Thank you so much, Cee! I'm still very much learning to be my own person, but I'm getting there. Just got to keep these things in mind when the going gets tough.

      (Doesn't help when one of them is totally black and hard to see in the dark! I'm constantly waking him to just make sure and he does not thank me for it, haha)

  4. This is such a lovely post Charlotte! I think it's important for people to take care of themselves, because most of the time we're too wrap up in our worries we forgot to take some time off and being too hard with ourselves. Happy early birthday!<3

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress


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