Mental health needs space

May is International Month of Mental Health. A time to give extra attention to mental sensitivities and those who struggle with it. A time to battle prejudices and fears. A time to highlight the fact that , still today (2018 people, 2018!), our government isn’t prioritizing our psychological well-being.

Meanwhile the pressure of society rises, we get overwhelmed by too many stimuli, and (social) media bombards us with (fake) perfection. We need to be scared of meat, gluten, sugar, eggs, milk, soja, starch. Politicians play with our -often natural- tendency of distrusting change. We are expected to have a career, well-behaved kids, a passionate love life, a killer (slim) body, a gym membership, knowledge of art, literature and politics…. The pressure is real and never-ending! There is no time nor space for emotions, real human emotions. Ups and downs. Life.

There is no time nor space for emotions, real human emotions. Ups and downs. Life.

As a kid, I’ve always been quite sensitive. One noise or odour could upset or excite me tremendously. I could sit on a bus, next to an old lady, and really feel her pain. Injustice hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. There was this major sense of wanting to change the world into a beautiful place for everyone. Which was a naive thing to think, so I expressed myself through writings in my little pink journal.

Years passed by and my sensitivity started bothering me more and more. It tired me, weakened me, made me feel incredibly insecure because I seemed to be the only kid around that felt like that. I found it hard to love myself, so I wanted to be loved by everyone else, and for that I needed to come close to perfection. Enter eating disorders and anxiety. Never did I feel good enough, slim enough, smart or talented enough to really matter. And the more I mistreated my body, the more my mind started playing tricks on me. I truly and fully believe now that my past anxiety attacks were a direct result of self bullying.

And the more I mistreated my body, the more my mind started playing tricks on me. I truly and fully believe now that my past anxiety attacks were a direct result of self bullying.

For 18 years I calmed my sensitivity and overwhelming panic attacks with medication. I’m not ashamed to say I really needed those meds, even though I only took them in small doses. Because those who have dealt with anxiety before, will recognize the paralyzing ‘fear for fear’. A phenomenon that creeps into your life and takes over all of your experiences. I started avoiding situations that could maybe possibly invoke the agony, I was too afraid of the taste of adrenaline on the back of my tong, of the fogginess in my head, of the cold sweats and trembling hands. Of the sense of losing all control and the possibility that I might die or go insane.

At that point, I just started my beautiful career as a make up artist and I loved (and still love) my job too bloody much to crack underneath my inner pressure. Medication (and therapy and meditation) gave me the necessary support to suppress my fear and go for my professional dream. I was able to become a freelancer, work with big names in the industry and trust in my abilities as an artist.

Make up actually became a way to express myself. Through colour, shapes and depth I was able to be a piece of an editorial puzzle. And I loved it! Finally I was ready to channel my feelings and turn them into something beautiful and interesting. My career boosted my confidence (and visa versa) and I felt the need to tackle the buried demons once and for all by working on my eating disorders, self-confidence and body image. Social media gave me the tools to spread body (and mental) awareness and create a community that’s filled with beauty, compassion, respect and individuality.

2f56f927b67a5d1f3f01fcdef1207f4aThrough my community, career and growing self image, I slowly started feeling like I mattered. Every time I post something on panic disorders, my mailbox fills itself up with messages of people who go through the same shit. The major taboo silenced them, and I fully comprehend their hesitancy of opening up to their personal circle of friends. I, also, start sweating bullets by the idea of clients, friends and potential lovers cold-shouldering me when they find out I’m a sensitive soul with an overactive mind. But this is it, this is me, love it or hate it, but it’s all I can offer. I’ve grown into a more confident version of that chubby, wildly idealistic and receptive little girl. I’m trying to turn my ‘flaws’ into qualities, my fears into chances, my restlessness into creativity, and that’s all I can do. All you can do.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to féél, both the good and the bad, the frightening and the exciting. To give it oxygen, let it breathe, offer it space, and then slowly show it the door.

Since 2 months I’m working on slowly quitting my meds. I wanna be fully Sabine again. An exciting and terrifying decision, but I’m ready. Anxiety and receptiveness will always be a part of my journey, and with me, of so many others. I’ve learned that it’s ok to féél, both the good and the bad, the frightening and the exciting. To give it oxygen, let it breathe, offer it space, and then slowly show it the door.

Along the way I’ve picked up some useful tips and tricks to tackle anxiety and low self-esteem and I would love to share them with you… Hopefully they can help you in your journey towards more mental peace.

  1. Mental and physical health often go hand in hand. They walk the same path, take the same turns. So make sure you sleep enough, you eat decently and give yourself enough silent time to recuperate from a day full of impressions.
  2. If you feel like you are drowning, like this heavy weight is holding you down from doing what you want to do, please talk to someone. I know, a therapist is quite expensive, but you need to see yourself as the most valuable investment there is.
  3. If you’re in the mids of a panic attack, try to concentrate on your basic senses. Find 3 things you see, 3 things you physically feel  and 3 things you hear. Repeat this over and over and over again.
  4. Use meditation apps. When my night is filled with nightmares and restlessness, I trust on the app ‘Breathe’ to calm me down. Sounds trivial, but it works!
  5. I wanna cry this one out: NEVER EVER RESPOND TO ADVERTISEMENT THAT MAKES MONEY BY FEEDING YOUR INSECURITIES. THEY SUCK AND WILL DESTROY YOUR BODY AND/OR WALLET IN THE LONG RUN.

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