As part of my blog I (MM) believe it’s important to share common and similar experiences. Through the wide reach of social media, I’ve been able to connect with Kate (KN) a fellow advocate for mental health, I’m really inspired by her journey and what she is achieving.
MM: Can you discuss the reason behind, why your raising awareness of mental health and its challenges on your Instagram profile?
KN: I am trying to raise awareness mostly so that other people can know they aren’t alone. Mental health problems can be very isolating, both emotionally and physically; depression will convince you that nobody wants to be around you, or that you are a burden so you isolate yourself from your friends and family but also, people who can’t relate or don’t understand may try and avoid contact, not always in a malicious way but people often don’t know what to say and feel awkward about it.
That’s even more reason for me to try ad end the stigma and educate those who don’t understand mental health problems.
KN: There are a tonne of coping strategies that I’ve used over the years, but my favourites are: touching the ground- when in the midst of a panic attack or dissociative state, I find that going outside and touching the floor, smelling the earth and sometimes even laying down on the bare grass or earth can really ground me.
It’s the feeling of being up in the air when you’re having a panic attack that you feel you can’t bring yourself back down to earth and you’re not in control. Touching the ground physically reminds you of where you are and that you are not floating, you are grounded.
The same goes for dissociation, when you cannot distinguish between what is real and what isn’t I find it helpful to ground myself in the same way because you can focus on the things you know are real, like the soil beneath your hands and the smell of grass.
I am also a massive advocate of self-care. Anything that makes you feel like you’re giving yourself a treat: a cup of the fancy tea, a bath, a face mask, buying yourself some flowers, anything that makes you feel a bit of luxury. It’s important to remember though if you’re helping someone who is severely depressed or suicidal, telling them to go and have a bath isn’t going to help.
MM: Your raising money for the mental health charity Mind, how have they helped you with the challenges you’ve faced?
KN: Mind have been brilliant to me in the past. My most recent treatment was through my community mental health team because I was too acutely ill to receive community support from them.
However, in the past I have been given Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by psychologists at Mind and their teams have helped me and my family through their telephone support. They also can give advice in the event that they cannot directly support someone, they will forward the caller to the best service.
They run community groups in my area for people with long-standing mental health problems as well as support groups for sharing experiences with people going through similar things. I will always be grateful for what they have done for me but also for everyone else they help.
MM: Having a mental health illness could be seen as a weakness, but in your experience how is it actually a strength?
KN: Mental health problems cause an unavoidable vulnerability that is evident to anyone who knows that you have them.
However being vulnerable is one of the times in a persons life when they are their strongest. They may not feel like it, in fact they would probably tell you that you’re you’re off your rocker, but when you are that raw, open like a gaping wound, just staying alive through that pain is one of the most incredibly strong things a person can do.
My recent campaign #showmeyourrawr is all part of this idea. The fact that you can be vulnerable and raw shows your strength.
“In order to know what makes you strong, you need to know what makes you vulnerable. And to show you are vulnerable, shows how strong you are.” Anybody who has been through mental health problems and is still here, still fighting is a warrior. It really is like fighting, fighting in a war with yourself. You come out of it emotionally and often physically scarred, but alive.
You’ve lost battles along the way but in the end you’ve won the war. Veterans of the war that is mental illness are the strongest people on earth.
KN: The only thing I ever hope for with Instagram is to help people. When I started my account, it was more for me. It was an account of myself and my journey and to document my progress through recovery.
When I started gaining more of a following, there does come a pressure because you’ve almost got a responsibility to the people that follow you. You have a responsibility to inspire them and help them along the way.
My aim now is largely about helping other people see that this fat, weird, scarred, flawed girl loves herself so they should too. There isn’t a human on earth that isn’t worthy of love. I want to show people that regardless of their mental health, regardless of what they’ve been through, what they look like or what other people believe, THEY DESERVE LOVE.
Self-worth is probably the most important factor to believing that you deserve happiness and if I can help anyone reach that, then I’ve done what I aimed to do.
That said, I have ground myself in this elite Instagram world where followers and likes are seen as the most important thing in life. I have to remember that I started this account for me, and if I get no followers and no likes, that’s okay because it still took courage for me to create the posts. It can be very easy to get caught up in “Instagram world” instead of focusing on the real world.
MM: You have personally motivated and inspired many other people. But in motivating so many people, who motivates you?
KN: I hope that I’ve motivated people! For me, now, my followers are a lot of my motivation. Seeing them become happier with who they are because of something I’ve done or said, that feeling is like nothing else and that pushes me to keep going and keep striving to be a better person.
A major person in my life is my Mum. She is single-handedly the most incredible person I’ve ever known. She dedicated her whole life to my brother and I, throughout our childhood, battling her own issues but always sacrificing herself in order to give us the best lives we could possibly have. She is genuinely, even through knowing amazing people in my adult life, the most inspirational and phenomenal person I know. Family and friends would agree too, this isn’t just me loving my mum! If it weren’t for her throughout the last 2-3 years, I wouldn’t be here. No question.
Also quick shout-out to my mental health sisters @selfloveclubb @selfloveliv @bopobutterfly and @aliceandpeanutbutter who have all given me love and light and their strength gives me strength to keep going.
KN: The best thing I have learnt through the last few years is living by this quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
If you live your life comparing yourself to others; their achievements, their lives, their happiness, their possessions, anything, you will never be happy.
Learning that everything you have, everything that you have achieved and everything you are, is worthy of celebration and joy is the best lesson you can give yourself.