10th July 1996. I was brought into this world an innocent child, like the rest of us. A world where your status can be decided by the people you have slept with, where a night out with friends is often rated on how many people you all hooked up with. A world where women are having breast enlargements as young as 16 more than ever before, men are spending more time in the gym than at work to chisel their bodies to unnatural states, a woman is valued more for her body than her intelligence. A world of unhappiness, where nobody feels adequate and everybody is judged; a society in need of improvement.
With so much to perfect in our lives, it’s not at all surprising that our mental health is depleting whilst we focus our energy on squatting to get a bum like Kim Kardashian or the next celebrity famous for releasing a sex tape, forcing our fingers down our throat to throw up that burger we now feel guilty about eating – all because we want to look like the girl in that magazine. It’s cliché, I know. But it’s also the harsh reality. Many of us feel like we HAVE to look like the girl in that magazine in order to be loved, accepted, worthy. Social media isn’t helping – the photoshop, the filters, the practically naked “Instagram models” that the men of our age follow making us feel like that’s what they want – if we want even the slightest bit of appreciation from them we have to start looking like those airbrushed girls with little dignity.
7 year olds are putting on makeup to try and look like these “celebs”, instead of playing with toys, because they too now have every social media app they can possibly upload on their new iPhone . People are having one night stands like it’s the same as shaking somebody’s hand. Women don’t help each other, neither do men; women have happily come to join the “lad culture” posting snapchats with a male friend saying “will he bang the same girl again or a different one tonight?” laughing about it. Men are leading each other on – glamourising this culture which I can only despair of.
Because we have lost respect for each other, and more importantly ourselves. Today’s teens and young adults don’t have the same values as their elders. They shout inappropriate things to each woman in the street. I used to take it as a compliment when a stranger greeted me with “you’re gorgeous” but over the years it’s become exhausting knowing that each time you leave the house there will be men looking at you, judging you, saying inappropriate things, or even just whistling at you, and the only thing he is interested in is your body. It’s hard to come across a man that was raised to respect women as more than a rag doll to throw around the bedroom before boasting to his pals about it. I know they’re out there, but my god are they hard to find.
I woke up yesterday to an article explaining that a young girl had been sexually assaulted on 3 occasions on her walk home from clubbing in London, CCTV showing one of the men walking away from her like nothing had happened, totally at ease with himself. It’s sickening, but these sorts of occurrences are becoming more common with so many going unheard. The binge drinking culture among teens and young adults in the UK and many other countries means that many victims are too drunk to even realise they are a victim of sexual assault, or too drunk to remember enough to give a detailed statement, allowing the abusers to continue without consequences.
The question is, why have we so happily adopted this binge drinking culture when it causes more pain than fun? The answer: our poor mental healt. Obviously I don’t speak for everyone here – there’s nothing wrong with going out with friends and getting a little drunk and having fun, but sometimes we do it for a reason other than to socialise – to escape. Escape the stress, hurt, pain, loneliness, depression, isolation. Mental illness is serious and has a serious impact on any sufferer and we need to all accept that. No more fear of discussing it, or mocking it, or denying it exists. It is real, and it’s rife.
Scientists say that your personality is almost fixed by the age of 5, and that your childhood and teenage years have a huge impact on how you behave, feel, and react later in life. Many mental illnesses stem from instability and trauma when we are young, post traumatic stress disorder for one. I had a nice childhood up to about 10 years old but then family life became very unstable. My father was verbally and physically abusive, especially when drunk as he had borderline alcoholism, and my parents eventually divorced when I was 14. Divorce alone can cause so much mental instability in the people involved, especially children who can lose their family life, their home, have to move cities or schools, like I did. I didn’t have any other family for support either – no grandparents. In fact, my dad’s father died at 49 in his arms when he was 18. I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatic that would be, and i know it must have had an impact on his behaviour to us, which is why I’ll never hate him. Through college I had depression and anxiety, and so did my mother – to the point where we would sit together and discuss ways we could perhaps kill ourselves together. I couldn’t even imagine having a conversation like that now. I think one of the main reasons mental illness can be taken so lightly is because people throw the words around like it’s normal conversation. “I’m so depressed”, “I want to kill myself”, you will have heard people say. But depression isn’t just not wanting to go to school or work or wherever. It’s physically not being able to. It’s getting up, and getting ready, and setting off, only to turn around 2 minutes later because you simply can’t face another day. It’s feeling so empty that you just want to sleep to escape reality, not bothering to do simple things like eat or shower because you see no point, or drinking to the point you’re so drunk you forget who you are – I used to drink to that point at least 3 times a week, deliberately making my drinks with bitter mixer to cover the intense strength of the alcohol so I’d get drunk and escape the life I hated quicker.
My biggest struggles have been with self esteem and it’s clear that it’s an issue that seems to be getting worse for so many of us in today’s shallow society. I had anorexia nervosa at 15 to 18; I ate about 500 calories a day, eating bags of iceberg lettuce sat next to my friends who had ordered meals in McDonald’s. When I look back to find the cause of my obsession with showing bone, it all stems to simple comments made by people about my weight or body, or comparing me to others. I don’t think people realise how much pain words can cause; one person’s comment can easily be a trigger for another. At the time, my closest friend also suffered with an eating disorder, so believe me it’s more common that you think, and despite what people think, eating disorders are mental illnesses – you tell yourself you need to eat less, or be a certain weight, see yourself as fat when you’re to the point of having nothing left – your mind is a powerful tool but can easily corrupt you if manipulated by insensitive comments or looks made by others.
After I recovered from my anorexia, I was at university. There I met the first person I’ve ever loved, but he was caught up in that same vulgar lad culture I mentioned earlier – wanting to have a choice of a few girls, trying to fit in with his friends. He wouldn’t have been like that without them, and once again that’s why I could never hate him; I know he isn’t a bad person, he was just a bad person for me, because there’s only so many comments a person can take of “I can’t commit to just you” making you feel inadequate. The feeling you get when someone makes you feel like you’ll never be good enough because there’s always going to be another girl they have their eyes on, that feeling destroys you. It can easily trigger any sort of mental illness – depression, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder – and it’s happening so much because now more than ever people are adopting this polygamous culture – one that I don’t want to be in because I’ve witnessed the consequences. The suicidal thoughts, the self-loathing, the lack of self esteem.
Although I’m the happiest I’ve been in the longest time I can remember now, I still have my problems. I don’t think I’ll ever have a good relationship with food, and the first thing I look at every single morning is my stomach. It’s become the norm. Doctors have even questioned if I have borderline personality disorder. What a horrible name for it, like going through hard times and lots of hurt in life has left me with a faulty personality. It hasn’t. It’s just altered it slightly. Now I get easily triggered and hurt but also easily excited and happy. There’s not much of an in-between, just elevated feelings and a habit of doubting yourself. If a guy I’m with even looks the way of another girl I immediately assume the worst, because that’s all I’ve ever known. People may read this and judge me, for the fact I’m telling part of my story or the fact I got anorexia, whatever they think, it’s irrelevant because I’m simply being brave enough to express something that needs to be expressed by everyone. I’m finally done worrying about what people think of me, and I hope others can do the same.
You can just take a look at my life and how my mental state has wavered over the years and that’s enough to prove how easily damaged your mental health can be, and I’m just one pretty irrelevant person in a world of 7 billion – so imagine how many people have different stories to tell. The negative stigmas with mental illness need to be suppressed. We deserve better than to kid ourselves into saying we’re okay. Don’t be afraid to speak out because it is real and it’s horrific. After all, we’re only human.
So next time you leave the house, greet every single person you encounter with a smile and share your positivity, because you might just make a difference.