Self esteem is like scaffolding, or a golden suit.
I still have occasional days when I wake up and feel like shit. Joke, I hate mornings so it’s most days. But building up my self esteem over the years, by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and constantly reminding myself to be my own cheerleader, has helped massively. I have a Golden Suit I can wear despite feeling like an ogre’s toenail. My golden suit is the fake-it-to-make-it attitude I put on every morning until the habit becomes reality. I have learnt to mostly love myself through the tender habit of trying.
When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of the scaffolding I have in place if everything went to shit: really fucking good friends and colleagues, and supportive family, the amazing business I’ve helped to build, a genuinely golden hearted partner. Glossier skin care. Coffee. That cardamom buns exist in the world. These don’t have to be big, but I also try to have a physical manifestation of them in a box under my bed too. It’s my Break In Case of Sads Box and it contains cards and letters and photos to remind me of people or things I’m proud of.
Medication is fine if you need it.
Sometimes I freak out about having been on antidepressants for half of my life. Then I remind myself that no matter how much yoga or swimming or running I do, no matter how much sleep I get or kale I eat, my medicine makes me a better, easier to be alive human. I liken it to feeling like you’re whizzing through life on rollerblades after spending years wading through treacle in an old metal diving suit. When I take beta blockers for public speaking induced panic attacks, I feel 1 pint and a yoga class kind of invincible, but without the sweat or inappropriate day drinking. I’ve tried a bunch of medications and was lucky to have found the right ones at the ripe old age of 24. That was three years ago now, and apart from a slight case of Emotional Constipation (I can rarely cry which is weird), I’m the best I’ve ever been. Discuss with your doctor, let it work or perserve as best you can with terrible side effects for six weeks, switch it up if it’s not making you any better.
Therapy is good. NHS waiting lists are bad.
A therapist once told me that your mental health is the most important investment you can make in yourself. She was like, if you had a chronic back problem, you wouldn’t just try one thing and call it a day. You’d go back to the doctor and exhaust every option until it was sorted, and therapy should be like that. I’ve had a bunch of talking therapies, counselling, crisis team outreach calls and CBT on the NHS, and a one off paid hypnosis session that left me so relaxed I felt like I’d been stroking the world’s softest cat for an hour. Some of them worked, and some of them didn’t, but I’m glad I was open to trying. CBT was the most effective for me, but if you’re stuck on a huge waiting list I’ve found using apps like Calm, or reading other people’s experiences really help in the meantime.
So there you have it. There’s still bad days and good days, but the biggest single factor in me feeling better (aside from Citalopram god bless it) is the cultural change around mental health and feeling less of a stigma or like a failure for experiencing it. That’s why being open and receptive to those with mental issues around us is so absolutely important for us all.