Guest Post: Filter Or No Filter

Sunday, 14 August 2016

I had a very modest upbringing. I grew up in a leafy village in Oxfordshire, surrounded by a loving family and a gaggle of friends in surrounding villages. My parents busted a gut to privately educate me, I was spoilt with holidays to Europe and I've met some inspirational and ambitious people. My childhood is full of happy memories, frolicking in the countryside with a golden labrador in tow. Towards the end of my schooling years I fell ill, however, I still manage to do relatively well in my A Levels, I moved in with my boyfriend in London and got a well-paid job in property. Everything, on the surface, appeared to be going well for me. 

But what I posted on Instagram, and was tagged in on Facebook, wasn’t the reality I was facing each day. I felt empty, I lacked any kind of passion or empathy and I couldn’t get enthusiastic or excited about anything. I felt this enormous sense of dread at the thought of doing anything but staying in bed. I wondered whether this is what ‘adult life’ was like. I constantly compared myself to my friends I looked at my friends who had graduated from Oxbridge, I looked at my friends who were making big bucks in the city and I looked at my friends who were on successful graduate schemes and I just felt so inadequate. I have never had that wanderlust bug that so many seem to catch. Anyone that knows me knows I like a boutique hotel in Ibiza for seven days of sun and sea. But suddenly I was trawling through my friends’ photos of travelling and craving a back packing trip around South America. If I wasn’t checking flights to Brazil, I was looking up flats in other areas of London, maybe where I lived wasn’t homely enough for me. I would look through LinkedIn and wish I were working for other companies such as Jack Wills HQ, instead of property. I was craving any position, but my own. 

And yet, I would continue to post edited and glossy photos on Instagram. I continued to smile and answer ‘fine’ whenever anyone asked me if I was ok. I was confused as to why I was feeling like this. I was unsure why I felt so shit when I should have felt so happy. I ignored my confusion and continued to brush everything under the carpet, until it was time to go back to work after a gorgeous Christmas break at home. Going back to my life in London scared me beyond belief. I was consumed by anxiety at the thought of leaving my bubble in Oxford (and the safety of my parents). I assumed it was the 9-6 monotonous administrative work I was doing. So I quit my job. 

Lo and behold, a couple of weeks after quitting my job, I was still in the same position, but penniless and bored. A new feeling had come over me, a feeling of uselessness. I felt I had let my parents, my brother and my boyfriend down. I felt like that had provided me with so much support (financially and emotionally), yet I’d thrown it back in their face. I felt like a total failure. I felt like I didn’t deserve everything I had been given. 

One day I was sat on my bedroom floor, rocking gently, tears rolling down my cheeks when my best friend called me to see what I was doing on the weekend. At this point, I hadn’t told any of my friends (or my family for that matter) what was going on. They had no idea I was unemployed, and no idea I was in such a dark place. Why? I was intensely embarrassed. I was so embarrassed to be showing signs of such weakness. I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle a normal day at work, yet everyone else was getting on fine. I was mortified to allow people to know that behind my filters and captions, I was an emotional wreck. I made my boyfriend swear on our relationship he wouldn’t tell his parents. I didn’t want them thinking I was ‘psycho’. Mental illness has various connotations behind it. It’s a weakness, you’re feeble if you have one, and you’re ‘mental’. Or it can swing the opposite way, such as ‘you’re fine, just smile’ or ‘what’s wrong with you today?’ For me, the negatives outweighed the positives in explaining how I felt to my friends, so I just kept quiet. But, for some reason, as my phone buzzed I had an urge to pick it up and ask for help. So I did. And that’s when things began to change. 

My friend was at my front door within the hour and she held my hand as we walked to the doctor together. He diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The confusion behind why I was feeling like this, dispersed and suddenly, I felt ready to sort myself out. In short, I went on medication, and went on the NHS psychiatry waiting list (which I’m still on now, seven months later). Medication has a bad reputation. It might have it’s cons, but as does everything. It might not work for you, but how do you know until you try it? I couldn’t have got through the past year without the help of medication. It gave me energy to get up in the morning, to see the positives to anything and it allowed me to realise that life was worth living, and that I could achieve things, and most of all, that I wasn’t letting anyone down, not even myself. With a clear mind, it allowed me to sort out what I wanted to do with my life and plan things like holidays, visiting friends, weekend trips and more. Whizz forward a year or two, and with the help of my doctor, I am now medication free and I can truly say, I’m really happy. 

Why did I feel so embarrassed about having a mental illness? Ridiculous! I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I broke my arm, so why should I be embarrassed that I have depression. Just because you cannot see what’s going on, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We need to stop letting it consume people silently. We need to start talking more about mental health, whether it’s depression, anxiety, self harm, bipolar disorder, anorexia etc, we need to stop treating it with an air of caution. I often scroll down my social media and I wonder how many of these people I follow are, filter or no filter, really content, and how many of them are trying to reach out for help. This topic shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Talking and being more open is something I really benefitted from and I like to think it would help others too. 

You know what, it’s ok to feel lonely, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to feel lost, to feel confused, to feel scared, anxious, worried, embarrassed and so on. But it’s not ok to have to struggle through by yourself. Mental illness is tough, but even worse when you tackle it alone. Whether you have one or 1000 friends, there is always that one person who would be mortified if they knew you were suffering as much as you are. Remember, the people in your life care enormously about you. So use them in your time of need, reach out to them! Life is too short; if there’s one thing you do tomorrow, talk to someone about how you’re feeling.

Written by Florence Greensted

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  1. So proud of you, Flo. This is worth so much. It's so difficult and s yet so essential to reach out for help when we need it. and we all need it.


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