Listen To Your Mother - A #MyYoungerSelf Message
by Liv Appleton
Dear Young(er) Liv,
It’s 2012, you’re sixteen and currently at the stage where you don’t give a flying banana about what people think. Or at least, you act like you don’t give a flying banana. You wear tartan trousers with knee high converse. You’ve dyed your hair all the colours of the rainbow then shave half of it off. You stood up for yourself when a lad hit your arm because he thought you’d had the cervical cancer jab therefore your arm would be really sore…unfortunately for him, you didn’t have the jab on that particular day and the only person who ended up with a sore arm was him.
However behind the red and blue hair dye and the black eyeliner, we both know you’re actually a bit of a worrier. You care a lot about other people and what other people think. You worry about letting people down. You worry about failing. You worry about why that boy you sit next to in your GCSE Chemistry class hasn’t asked you out even though he’s CLEARLY interested because he asked you if you liked the Arctic Monkeys yesterday. You’re a teenager, this is normal. This is very normal.
In January 2013, you’re going to start to notice some changes that are going to stay with you and affect you even when you’re in your 20s. These new feelings that creep their way in are going to make you feel like you’re going insane. You’re not insane, you just don’t have an answer for it yet because:
A: You’re not going to talk about it for nearly a year- you’re a teeanager, feelings are gross.
B: You know you’re a bit of a worrier and you are in a time of your life when hormones, exam stress and teenage peer pressure are all factors that convince you that this is normal and it’s your fault that you can’t deal with these emotions properly.
I would advise you to talk to your parents about it sooner rather than later, because you end up going through a phase where you deal with these feelings in an incredibly unhealthy and potentially dangerous way. But you, Liv, don’t take advice off others amicably until…well, ok let’s just say when you reach your 20s, you get slightly better at taking advice, but it’s still a work in progress.
So, as I’m in the position of telling you your future, here are four things I want you to know about mental health, how it affects you and what to do about it.
You’re Not Going Mad
Ok, let’s clear up a few things here. You’re going to start to notice the following things becoming more frequent in your life:
- Overwhelming thoughts of dread the days ahead.
- Pains in your chest
- The feeling of being watched by EVERYONE
- Panic attacks
- Thoughts of hurting yourself, because you don’t particularly like yourself, as it’s your own fault that you’re not dealing with the above.
I’m here to tell you, you’re not going insane- this is anxiety. It’s very common and in the words of Tom Jones, it’s not unusual. Contrary to what you may have thought before- anxiety is not just worrying.
Similarly, depression isn’t just feeling sad. When you turn twenty, you’re going to start feeling really tired and alone. Not just sleepy tired- exhausted, lethargic kind of tired where you just want to stay in bed because of the effort of getting up, plus the feelings of fear and dread of something unknown which is weighing you down. You’re going to feel low and that nobody cares, despite the huge amount of caring people that surround you. Again, you’re not weird, a lot of people have gone and are going through this, and you do find a way of coping with it.
At eighteen you get a medical answer for these anxious feelings and after some research you realise- this is really common, I’m not going mad! At twenty after another setback (we’ll go into that later) you have the honesty and bravery to go to the doctor again and say you’re not coping and things are getting worse. This all seems dark and miserable but the main thing here is that you’re learning to be honest and to talk openly about how you’re feeling. This is the first step in learning to cope with it.
Where You Thought You Failed, You Achieved.
Despite coping with this incredibly annoying mental illness, you achieve A LOT in the next five years:
- You get, almost (damn you maths) straight As at GCSE
- You get an A and two Bs at A level – more importantly, you passed English Lit A level, that course was a bugger
- You hold down an incredibly stressful job as a teaching assistant helping children with Special Educational Needs, at the age of nineteen.
- You go to two National Final competitions on a solo seat
- You win a place at one of the best music conservatories in the country
- You earn a seat in a high-level championship section band (childhood dream achieved)
- You win podium places at 4 solo contests
- You play at the British Open competition
Not too shabby!
However, when you turn twenty, for the first time in your life, you’re going to feel like you’ve failed. You’re going to quit university- yes, you the adamant non-quitter. You get diagnosed with depression and spend a few weeks moping on the couch watching Attenborough documentaries (literally the most calming, anxiety relief there is, it should be on prescription), eating Oreos and thinking your life has ended. Three weeks after leaving university you picked what was left of yourself up and ended up landing a job that you absolutely love. The person you are in 2018 seems like a different human being to the person of 2017. Uni wasn’t for you, and that is fine. You learn that taking yourself away from things that aren’t working for you anymore or are making your mental health worse, is not only the mature thing to do, it is essential, not a failure.
Like I said before, you are going to go through a period where you think nobody cares. However, whatever crappy voice in your head that’s telling you that- ignore it. When you turn seventeen you are going to meet a group of people who genuinely change your life. These friends become your saving grace. Your Patronus that fights back against the dementors in your brain. Not only do they care, most of them are standing in your shoes and coping with mental health issues of their own. So when they say they understand you- they do. You learn to open up your feelings and you learn how to help them in turn. At the end of 2016, you face a destructive mental decision that you never thought you would consider and despite you keeping this potential decision to yourself, those friends (probably without them realising) swayed you from disaster.
I know at this point in your life you think you know everything, but for the love of Freddo’s will you please LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER?! You are going to make some very dodgy life choices in the coming years my friend (a lot worse than shaving off half your hair) and I’m telling you now, there are at least two times where you’ll really wish you’d listened. FYI sixteen really is too young for a boyfriend missy, you’ve got enough crap on your plate as it is. Stick to fancying lads who sit next to you in class and ask if you like the Arctic Monkeys…or better still just focus in class?
Overall you cope and by the time you get to twenty-one, you view your life with a different perspective. Not only are you learning to help yourself, you’re trying to help others. You listen to yourself and are kinder to yourself. You come off the anti-depressants and the world doesn’t crumble. You still achieve. Your friends are your rock. You’re still banding (you have a bit of a falling out with it, but you get back together in the end). And you’re learning to listen to your Mother*
*A little more than you used to.
You may not think it now, but you got this. Just be unashamed, be honest and be you.
Read more from Liv on It's Not a Trumpet