To look at me, you might see a person who appears confident, smiley and friendly. For the most part, you’d be right. But underneath is a person who struggles with her self-worth and confidence.
I grew up with a mum who suffers from mental illness. Maybe it was a sign of the times but my family and I weren’t educated on mental illness, and so it went undetected for too long. The first we became aware of mum’s health and its seriousness was when the hospital called to let me know she had been admitted for concerns about her safety and again when she was placed in an induced coma after attempting to take her own life.
From an early age, I picked up on her energy and was conditioned to be anxious, cautious of people and fearful of life. And although I know mum loves me, she didn’t always have the kindest words for me. So in my formative years through childhood and adolescence, her words formed the way I saw myself and life. I often questioned (read over-analysed): Am I smart enough? Am I too emotional? Am I too quirky? Will people like me? Why did I say this? What did they mean by that?
These experiences shaped me to be who I am. Coming back to present day, the good news is I’m getting better.
For a very long time I was ashamed to speak about my struggles. I saw others succeeding around me and felt no-one could understand or relate. I imagined people judging me and making assumptions of me. What I’m learning is that no-one is judging me. I was/am judging myself. I was/am holding myself to unrealistic expectations.
For the past two years, I’ve been in regular counselling and I’ve finally made a breakthrough. I’m learning the power of choice – I wake up and choose to have a positive mindset for the day. I choose to see the beauty in life, to appreciate the small things. I’m grateful for my friends/family/colleagues and all the support I have. The hardest of all, I’m choosing to be kind to myself. And what a difference it has made! I’m proving myself wrong every day – in a good way. I’m chipping away and challenging the beliefs I have about myself to see that I am worthy and deserving of all the good things I want in life.
I haven’t figured it all out. I have moments and even days I fall back into my old habits. But I’m learning that being open to vulnerability and sharing my story has also helped me accept who I am and in a way freed me to be more authentic. Now I know I’m compassionate not just emotional, I’m exactly the right amount of quirky, I’m as smart as I choose to achieve the things I want and if people don’t like me, so be it… but I choose to believe they do.
Connie’s story is uniquely hers, but mental health is not a unique condition in Australia
Forty five percent of Australians 16-85 experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, 1 in 5 employees take time off work for stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health matters, and there is a rising use of emergency and crisis services to support people in mental health distress.
If this story causes you distress or you are experiencing a mental health issue you can seek assistance from these organisations.
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800