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Blog: My mental health journey

by University of Liverpool Library on 2021-12-01T15:37:00+00:00 | 4 Comments

Pair of red roller skates on decking

Library Assistant, Natalia Pena Lijo, has shared her story of dealing with mental health struggles in the hope that it will encourage you to seek support if you need it and know that you are not alone.

We live in a fast-paced world where we often feel we can’t afford to slow down for our mental health. What we don’t realise is that if we don’t take the steps and take care of our wellbeing now, we will likely suffer more in the future.

My personal experience with anxiety and depression has shown me that, even being a wellbeing advocate myself, a mental health illness usually evolves slowly and can happen to anyone. It only takes a few weeks of stress and pressure to affect our wellbeing for a long term.

It took about 6 months for me to accept something wasn’t right. One day I found myself crying over little things and finding everything much harder than usual. A few big changes in my life that I could normally cope with pushed me to the edge of collapsing. A close colleague sat with me and let me talk. And I talked and cried. Thanks to this conversation, I asked for help the next day. Anxiety and depression had kicked in.

Now, 8 months later, I can say I feel fully recovered from that episode and back to my usual self, with a very important lesson learned: how to look after my wellbeing on a regular basis so I don’t let my mental health decline again.

I am happy to share with you what I’ve learned and found helpful:

Paying attention to the signs

Coming to the realisation that our mental health is declining is not easy. It can actually be a bit tricky because it doesn’t happen in a day. So watch for changes in your behaviour that might indicate a mental health issue: sleep or appetite changes, mood swings, long-lasting sadness or irritability, constant pressure or stress. These are some common signs that may indicate something is not ok and it is time to acknowledge it. This is something I learned the hard way and ignoring the signs doesn’t make them go away, and I let my mental health decline to a worrying point. My advice is: if you suspect something might not be right, do something about it.

Talking to someone

It will take at least as long as it took to fall ill to be fully recovered. So with this in mind, if you suspect that your mental health is declining, or you are already feeling bad, talk to someone. The only thing you’ll regret is not having done it sooner. It can be a friend, a family member, or a professional counsellor. I know the thought of it might sound scary, but they are the ones who can actually help you put your thoughts in order and give good advice. The University of Liverpool Student Support has a team of Wellbeing Advisers, Counsellors and Mental Health Advisers. You can Book an appointment and the team can advise you of the best course of action for your particular situation.

Finding a hobby

This might sound a bit cheesy, but it works. Really. If you suffer from anxiety, you well know how disheartening is to have strong palpitations in your chest and not being able to figure out where they come from. Having a hobby is literally magic, because it anchors you in the moment: try to learn chords on a guitar, or a new trick on some skates. Believe me, you won’t have time to worry about anything else during those moments. Learning new things like coordinating the position of four fingers on hard strings until you get a nice sound, or ensuring you don’t break a leg, requires your undivided attention.

Eating healthily

We don’t give enough credit to a clean diet and it is common to depend on ‘comfort food’ to feel better, without realising that constant low nutrient food is actually worse for us in the long term. The months before my mental breakdown, I was eating very unhealthily: constant take-aways or easy-to-prepare processed foods because I didn’t have the spirit to cook properly for myself (another sign something is not right). Around that time, I tried to give blood but I was turned away due to worrying low iron levels. I was losing a lot of hair too. Our body needs a minimum amount of nutrients for basic functioning. When we eat very poorly, we lack energy, feeling sluggish and difficult to wake up in the morning. If you need inspiration and feel like trying new recipes, you might find Paul’s recipes useful! Look for @Herbifoods on Instagram, the videos are nice to watch and the recipes are usually packed with vegetables.

Working out

Exercise releases endorphins and these trigger a positive feeling in the body. So, basically, moving your body will make you happier.

Reading other people’s experiences

Read books. Particularly I found The Midnight Library and The subtle art of not giving a f*ck helpful.

On a final note, please remember that what may have worked for me might be different from what other people need. Every person and situation are different. But for me, those are the key habits not only to help me recover from this particular mental health illness, but to ensure good wellbeing on a day to day basis. They help me keep my stress and anxiety levels under control despite a long to-do list, and to have a more balanced life.

 Add a Comment

Posts: 1
Anna Stebbing 2021-12-02T11:55:47+00:00

Thank you for sharing your experience Natalia.


Posts: 1
Elizabeth Roberts 2021-12-02T12:17:17+00:00

This is brilliant, Natalia. Thank you for sharing. None of us are immune to mental illness. Lots of love x


Posts: 1
Karen Standley 2021-12-02T15:09:23+00:00

Thank you for being so open abut your journey and  offering options we can all think about 



Posts: 1
Patricia Jonker-Cholwe 2021-12-06T13:49:19+00:00

Thank you for sharing this personal experience Natalia. A lot of people suffer in silence. I have just joined a new gym which is starting in my area on 8th December, they offer a lot of exercise classes including Zumba. I used to do Zumba before lockdown and I have missed it terrible. Best wishes.



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