There are so many quotes out there to remind you to be careful about what you say. Choose your words wisely. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can also hurt me. Be kind because everyone is fighting their own battles. As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I would share two examples of how one comment affected me.
I was always a thin child with a healthy appetite. I’d eat my lunch and then finish half of my friends. This soon became a frequent topic of conversation most lunchtimes. I was constantly told that I would get fat one day. Although I know it was only meant as a joke, it really made me conscious of how and what I ate. I stopped sitting with my friends and started skipping lunch. But soon that wasn’t enough for me. I had a voice in my head reminding me of what my friends said, telling me I didn’t want them to be right. I then skipped breakfast and started walking an hour a day to school. Then I also walked home from school. I became obsessed with how much I was eating and how much I was exercising. I’d refuse to eat in restaurants because I didn’t know the calorie content and I didn’t know how it would be cooked. I isolated myself from others to hide the fact I was barely eating.
Even when I moved schools, to a school that was further away again, I was still adamant that I would walk there and back. I spent four hours a day walking, which meant I was getting so behind on work because it took up a big portion of my day. I ended up with lower grades than I expected in my AS Levels. I didn’t want to let this take up any more of my life so I decided to stop walking and start eating healthier again.
During my final year of school, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My beliefs that I wasn’t good enough was made worse by people telling me i wasn’t working hard enough. One of my friends told me that I wouldn’t get into uni to do English because it’s really hard to get in for and you have to be good at it. Again, not the harshest thing to say to someone but it affected me. I stopped talking to friends, distanced myself from everyone and spent all my time studying to prove her wrong. Naturally, I didn’t do that well because of the amount of pressure I put on myself but I still got into university.
Although the words that were said to me may seem trivial, they still affected me. Everyone has a weakness. One word can make them fall apart. Whether they have been affected by grief or bullying, one comment can take them back to a bad place.
So this is a post to remind people to be kind. Don’t make that joke if your friend isn’t laughing. Don’t make that comment if it isn’t necessary. Words make things happen and once they are spoken, they cannot be unsaid. And if something has been said to you, then this is also a post to remind you that it will get better and something positive can happen.
Just because we are coming to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week doesn’t mean the conversation stops. It doesn’t mean that mental health problems stop existing because the week is over.