A letter to those suffering in silence (mostly aimed for teenagers)

Dear sufferer,

My battle with mental illness began at some time in my preteens – don’t know the exact year or age – but I know for a fact that by the time I was in my mid-teens, I had the whole nine yards. What I also know is that by the time I was fifteen, I was already questioning my purpose for living, and whether I wanted to be alive or not.

I’m now 24 years at the time of writing this, so it’s been a few years since I was a teenager, but I still remember what it’s like to be young and struggling with mental health problems. It was hands down the hardest thing I had to endure in my life.

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I’m no professional, so I won’t assume what you’re going through or say that I know, because I don’t know the details. But as someone who went through a bunch of crap, I wanted to write this for assurance: that it’s okay and you are not the only one because I’ve been there and done that.

Being a teenager with mental health problems (undiagnosed at the time but I was so sure of what I had) was the loneliest feeling ever. I was told time and time again that I was “doing it for attention”, or playing the “victim”, or being “crazy”. They also kept telling me I was “too young to know what mental illnesses were”.

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Let’s get one thing straight:
Your suffering is real, and if you ever tell me you are hurting, then
I will believe every word you’re saying
and I will believe your hurt and agony.
Your pain is real.

There are people who will be in denial (been there) or won’t understand what you’re going through. And I feel sorry for those who don’t get it. There will however, be people who get it, just like me and many, many others. There will be people who will listen to you and acknowledge your struggles.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

When I was a teen I felt this unexplainable empty it of agonising sadness in my core. I didn’t know where it came from because I hadn’t suffered from any kind of trauma back then. I felt hurt and physically and emotionally heavy (to properly know this feeling, the song ‘Heavy’ by Linkin Park explains it down to ta T). That’s all I knew. I’d also go nights in a row of crying myself to sleep, or just lay awake contemplating ending my life. Sometimes both at the same time. I couldn’t explain the pain, but it seemed like a default thing for me to be in this kind of pain.

Despite all this pain, it took me years – over 10 – to reach out for help. I didn’t trust my parents enough to tell them when I first started seeking help from a psychologist. I only told them after several sessions. Whenever I did tell people about my treatment, they shrugged me off at first, telling me I seemed fine back then and I’m too young to know what depression and anxiety felt like, and that I didn’t fit in the physical description of a depressed person (whatever that description is).

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But let’s be real: who knows you better than you? Not me, not anyone else. And who knows me better than me? Not you and not anyone else. We know when something about us is off. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, the feeling of numbness, mood swings, whatever your sufferings are: it is REAL and I know it is.

Getting help was the best thing I had ever done in my life. My biggest triumph. But I didn’t feel like it was at the time. I knew what to expect with my depression because it was predictable. But I wanted to learn how to live my life one way or another, and how to cope and get better. It was a pretty big deal, but it was scary as fuck.

Was it worth the risk? HECK YEAH! Because eventually, I did start getting better. I got the diagnosis I expected I had – depression and anxiety – and this helped me understand what was going on. With both a psychologist and psychiatrist by my side, eventually joined in by my family and small circle of friends, I fixed things and my life made sense once more.

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What would I say to teenagers reading this who are struggling with mental health? You don’t have to do this alone. Suffering in silence is not an option. You have choices, some of which are difficuly and risky. I made those difficult choices myself, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing all this. I’d be dead. I would have done The Deed.

You need to know that your life can change  in the blink of an eye. Everything your thought you knew could be wrong the following day. Your life changes as time goes by, and you deserve to experience this change.

Since then, I have found a good job, made new friends, gave a speech at the local University, wrote a hit article about my mental health for a successful local website and appeared on TV. I’m also in a very great relationship with someone I can call The One and not be uncertain about it. I have touched hearts and changed lives over the past three years.

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This is why I talk openly about my struggles, being able to help others not to repeat the same mistakes I have. Our journeys may not be the same, but  I believe we all have something inside us that’s in common and by unleashing that, the world would be a better place.

So if you haven’t reached out, do so as soon as you can, befor eit’s too late. You don’t have to speak to a professional: a teacher, family member or friend would suffice. Hang in there, and remember the life you’re living now won’t be a clear indication of your future so do something about it.

If you’re reading this, consider it a victory: that you have lived another second, minute, hour, day, month, year. I hope you will be here to read this in years’ time, or even for your children to read it in their teens.

I believe in you. You are a survivor. You have PURPOSE. YOU MATTER.

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If you our someone you know displays any symptoms of mental health problems, please contact your local suicide hotlines, which you can find below.

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Benefits of Kickboxing

Mixed Martial Arts, better known by its abbreviation MMA, has seen a substantial increase in interest over the past few years, thanks in part, to Ronda Rousey. This means that different forms of fighting as exercise, like kickboxing, are once more becoming popular.

From your core arms and shoulder to your legs and glutes, kickboxing also strengthens your muscles while increasing your stamina — and gives you a tough cardio workout to boot. And believe me, it does.

The week I am writing this post, I started taking kickboxing lessons, and boy oh boy has it been an experience. Barely recovered from the first session, I went for my second one. And I can still feel the soreness of both!

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I’m Sorry

I know those two words seem small, and they actually are. They are nothing more than seven letters, but I don’t know where else to start. So I’ll start with:

I’m sorry.

There are, obviously, things I am not and can never be sorry for. I’m not sorry for my illness. It’s something beyond my control; it is a physical disorder as much as it is a mental one. But I am sorry for the years I’ve wasted feeling sorry for myself. I’m sorry for the years I’ve tried to hide my illness, to keep it a secret.

I’ve pushed you away, though you never knew why. You may not have even realized I was doing it, but there were cancelled plans and social gatherings I forced myself to go to, resentfully and begrudgingly.. even just recently.

It wasn’t your fault. I was too broken to hold it all together, but because I was also too scared to tell you the truth, I would just sit there, forcing an awkward smile and some bland conversation. I would excuse myself from social events and I would withdraw to a corner and watch while you laughed and had a ball.

You thought I was a buzzkill (and you were right), but what I’m most sorry and hurt for is that you thought I was too good for you. But that was never the case. The truth is I wanted to be happy. I wanted nothing more than to laugh beside you and enjoy myself the way you do, but I felt disconnected. Sure, there are moments of happiness and joy, but most of my life is about just getting by. So instead of pretending, I pulled away.

I’m sorry for not being present, for not celebrating your successes and joys. Please know I wanted to, but sometimes the pain held me back — the pain of seeing everything I wanted but would never have, could never have. It’s selfish, I know, but I didn’t know how to handle it.

I’m sorry for the times my temper has been short, and you’ve been the recipient of my rage. Anger has been the most unexpected symptom of my sickness. When I was a teenager, and even now in my 20s, my depression was marked by melancholy. But as the years passed, the symptoms shifted. It’s the anger I cannot ignore and scares me.

And I’m sorry for all this.

It’s embarrassing and scary to admit you need help, to admit you are not OK. You know once you let your secret out you’ll have no choice but to follow through with therapy. You’ll have to talk to friends and family about your illness, even when you don’t want to. You know you can’t close the curtains and hide anymore, and that thought is terrifying. God knows how scared shitless I was, which is why it took me over ten years to seek treatment.

Sometimes, we “find the light” and make it out. I have, but depression is a lifelong disease, and may return, guaranteed. There is nothing I can do to stop it. The only thing I can control is how I handle it when it does. And for me, handling it means not hiding from it.

So, to everyone entangled in this mess with me, I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you or drag you into this nightmare I call my life. I love you for standing by me, and hope you still can.

Mazia’s Favourites Subscription Box – UNBOXING

Greeting my beautiful friends!
It’s raining right now in my home country, and what better way to spend time indoors
than to unbox Marzia’s Limited Edition SUMMER FAVES BOX?
I love Marzia a lot; her style is very similar to mine – cute and girly yet comfy and sporty at the same time – and she is downright beautiful.

I have received another one of her subscription boxes in the past, and was really looking forward to trying this one. Let’s see what’s inside shall we?

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Working in Education

For those who do not know, I work in the Education industry as what most people call a Specialist Teacher. In my country, we are called LSAs, an abbreviation for Learning Support Assistant. This summer, I worked for the first time as a Child Support Worker during summer school.

In case you were wondering, no, this isn’t my first job, and haven’t been doing this for long. In fact, I only started in late January of last year. So I’m not really an expert in this area, but I’m willing to give you a lowdown on what it’s like to work in education.

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#ClaireNotes – August 2017

There were two major things that happened during the month of August, one of which is probably the opportunity of a lifetime…!

#IamARTEMISIA

Hands down the biggest opportunity to date involving my blog is when I was asked by the Network of Young Women Leaders to take part in an exhibition in collaboration with the amazeball that is Steven Levi Vella called #IamARTEMISIA. For those who don’t know who Artemisia is, you can read her story here.

Being ong of the 100 ‘Remarkable Women’ that came from all backgrounds and occupations made me so proud of being alive in that moment. I also struck a conversation with one of my inspirations, Tamara Webb, who’s a popular local photographer/fitness queen, who was also part of the exhibition herself. Check out the selfie I took with her here!

 

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Retail no MORE!

I know what you’re thinking… wasn’t it just last month that you started working in retail? And you already gave up?! Let me stop you there: I haven’t given up. I needed some money to help me with my car lessons, which are soon coming to an end as I will be applying for both the theory and practical tests very soon, and the rest of the money that I was saving over the past several months is going towards the Car Fund (ie. to buy my first car!)

But a lot happened… I was working during the day from 8am til 1pm with children. Okay, so that’s only 5 hours for you, but imagine five hours of running after 6-year old children who think you are a zombie and so keep pretend-punching you all over your body to pretend-kill you.

Yeah. Thought so.

So after a month, I had to say goodbye to the staff I worked with, who were super nice and understanding about my situation. I explained that the day job had to take priority over the evening job because it could boost my full-time job résumé.

Dogs and Horses

If I had to describe Thursday 24th August on one word, it would be: HEAVEN. I had an outing with my students and two other classes at the Dog & Mount Services, located in Mosta and Marsa respectively.

Those who know me know I am OBSESSED with animals, especially dogs. I never had a dog as a pet, but my bestfriend has had around six during our 12-year friendship, and I get along with them really well (except for Satan, hehehehe), and 50% of my Instagram feed is dogs and baby animals, so… yeah.

Anyways, back on topic: we saw all the service dogs there, most of which were super nice, and then two policemen showed us some tricks… and I managed to take a few photos of the lovely dogs in action! The students enjoyed this a lot too.

Afterwards, we went to Marsa to visit the police horses in their stables… and I managed to feed two of the horses! And, while there, they had around five dogs (not police dogs, they were found roaming the streets and the Police there decided to keep all five!) and they were so friendly that none of the children were scared of them. They actually played with them the whole time we were there!


So this is what happened during the month of August! September is going to be a good one from what I can sense, so follow my blog and subscribe to my mailing list to hear about the rest of the months and my other posts!

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The Symptoms of Depression Nobody Talks About

Depression is often very misunderstood. Some believe it means simply being sad and unmotivated, when in reality, the symptoms of depression often have a way of infiltrating everything, from the smallest, most unsuspecting details, to the biggest, most significant aspects. And trying to explain this often feels like trying to hold onto water.

I did a lot of research on this, both as a curious person and a sufferer of mental health illnesses, which is why it took me over two weeks to publish it.

By opening the dialogue and trying to put words to these symptoms, we can continue to deepen our understanding and unveil the misunderstanding that leads to stigma. 

Here is what I found out:

  • Wanting to say what’s on your mind, but can’t explain it, so you just cry because you don’t even know what you’re feeling
  • The exhaustion is equally mental as it is physical. Mental exhaustion from having to apologize for who you are, from trying to convince yourself you deserve to be alive. The physical and mental exhaustion from living in general
  • The black hole felt in the core of being. It sucks in life, motivation, concentration, etc. It’s drowning in the the ocean in the middle of a tempest
  • Not showering, combing your hair, brushing your teeth or changing clothes for a long time. Basically, all hygiene just goes out the window
  • When having an episode but you are not so far gone, and part of your rational mind is telling you there’s no reason to feel that way, yet the dark part of your mind still won’t release its grip
  • You can see and take in your surroundings, but you don’t feel a part of it, as if in a dream
  • When you’re depressed, your ability to feel joy from the things you normally love fades, but the worst days are the days where you are so numb you can barely even feel compassion or empathy
  • Your aching body from staying still all day, whether from laying in bed or just sitting. People think people with depression are just lazy for doing so
  • Disassociation. When you are so depressed and consumed you are no longer yourself. It feels like you are in a videogame. There is no emotional connection to reality
  • When you are so tired you do not manage to get to places in time. It takes you a lot of energy to get up, get ready and go
  • Not knowing that something is wrong in the early stage, and hurting other people with your behavior, and this is of course not done on purpose. This results in people accusing you of the things caused by the illnesses you could not control
  • The amount of migraines you struggle with when you go through depressive episodes which makes dealing with everything a million times harder
  • Anger, agitation, irritability and the feeling of having little to no self-control. This often gets to a point where you cannot bottle it up anymore, and you go down a downward spiral over the simplest, smallest of things because you cannot manage your emotions. Basically, depression is anger turned inwards
  • Thinking depression will be passed on to your children, and you cannot explain this because it is not tangible. Fact: children are more likely to develop mental health problems if their parents experienced them
  • This one is for the ladies: your period reacts to your emotional stress level and depression can cause you so much stress because people don’t understand, your period sometimes either stops or it just keeps going and becomes super irregular and painful
  • You are not able to talk and voice your thoughts because depression makes you believe your opinion does not matter
  • Sometimes you think: am I just exhausted because of my sleep schedule? Or because my mind hasn’t stopped working or stressing for days? That constant need to rationalize your mental health makes the depression symptoms even worse
  • Preoccupation. Depression can make you preoccupy yourself with game apps and simple things I know I can do or change because I feel that I can’t change or control anything else in my life
  • Promiscuity. You get so down and depressed you just want to do anything to feel better, even though you hurt yourself at the same time
  • The internal frustration that you are too scared, guilty or embarrassed to speak out because there is still so much stigma and lack of services, and people who say they are there for you when actually they aren’t. So you just end up drowning in your own thoughts and your depression or anxiety worsens

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  • Paranoia. You think that people are getting annoyed with you and the awful symptoms
  • One minute you’re having fun with your friends and family, and then it hits you hard and begin to shut down without an explanation, nothing to have triggered it. Suddenly you have trouble enjoying yourself with people you are happy around
  • Foggy thinking, making it impossible to concentrate or remember anything
  • Gaining weight because you don’t know what else to do. Or the weight loss because you are just not hungry and don’t have the energy to cook
  • You’re guilty all the time. Hurting friends and family, lying about why you can’t do something or go somewhere, not going to work, staying in bed all day, not taking proper care of your responsibilities… It’s consuming and never ending
  • The uncertainty. You don’t know if you’re going to wake up in the same horrid mood, a worse or better one. Not knowing if one day you’re going to stop functioning. Not knowing whether you will be able to keep your job while keeping your head above water
  • Cancelling plans last minute, having your friends and family think you don’t love then when this occurs constantly
  • You don’t know if your thoughts are real of just effects of depression feeding you lies. You feel betrayed by your own brain and you’re not able to distinguish the true and depressive thoughts
  • The need to put on an act so everyone thinks you are OK, but inside you feel worthless. Sometimes you just want to shout that you are suffering and cannot cope, but you’re made to feel like you are not allowed to show weakness. The exhaustion and the physical pain caused by holding back tears because you have to appear to function well at home, at work and in social situations
  • Not knowing how to explain why you are depressed. People constantly ask you “What’s making you depressed?” or “Why are you depressed?”. It’s hard to keep saying that you have no clue. Because if you knew, you would have loved telling them and fix it, but it’s tough… you just don’t know why. You just are
  • Awareness. Awareness of all the things that are wrong, but the inability to fix any of it
  • The physical and emotional pain and weariness and feeling like you have to apologize for all of it. It’s exhausting!
  • Wanting to put yourself in dangerous situations. Depression isn’t always about laying in your bed, it also can be the urge to be self-destructive. People don’t talk about this because it’s a kind of a grey space. You’re not really suicidal, but you have a kind of urge to put yourself in dangerous situation
  • When you’re typically a super responsible, organized person, and you slowly feel all of it start to unravel. You start showing up late to work, falling behind on tasks, stop eating, start praying that your kids (if you have them) won’t notice and you put on that fake smile and try to keep it all together. Through tears and self-doubt, you pull through for them because they need you
  • Thinking you’re no longer in love with the love of your life. Becoming paranoid of them thinking they’re bad for you. It causes the partner to feel unloved, no matter if you still say ‘I love you,’ they can feel it
  • When every decision, no matter how small or big, becomes an insurmountable burden because of your indecisive mind. Then the guilt of having made a decision that always seems to be the wrong one. And then more guilt that makes you think you are useless to anyone in the world including yourself
  • Selfishness. You tend to isolate yourself and put your depression first, and the rest second. Depression takes the spotlight, and everyone and everything else is in the backseat
  • Constipation. Whether it’s because of something bad you ate, the medication or because all you do is sleep. It takes you weeks to start getting back to normal, and nothing prolongs the cloud in your head than feeling bloated and sick on top of lack of motivation and self-deprecation

It is important to remember that no matter how much you are struggling or how overwhelming your symptoms may feel, you are never alone and you are worthy and deserving of help.

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