Why we mustn’t ignore difficult memories

The past, the present and the future can all be demons that sit waiting to attack. The present may seem awful, the future hopeless, but personally it is the past I find hardest to come to terms with.

Our brains are funny things. We have different systems of storing memories even within our short term and long term memories (I’m lucky enough to study Psychology A-level so I know even more details on this topic). This means that memories are not pure; often they will have been re-coded into more processable material by the brain, and can be revisited and changed depending on our thoughts around that memory (also known as interruption).

Ok, so we know that the memory is a complicated thing.. Why does that matter?

Because our brains are so vast in capacity and our memory system is so complicated and wonderful, it also unfortunately means that our long term memory potentially lasts forever.

Memories, both bad and good, can stay with you all your life.
That is why it is so important we face our past and let ourselves calmly reflect on it, so that in due time we will think of it less, even if it is still stored deep in our long term memory somewhere.
If we don’t, it will only make the memory more prominent and demanding to be thought about and revisited.

Essentially, although memories can be pushed down and forgotten about for some period of time (also known as repressing memories), one way or another the memory will submerge, often exaggerated by your thoughts and feelings around that memory.

I’m not saying that allowing yourself to think of difficult times isn’t difficult, because it most certainly is; but I think it is important for people to know why it is that some memories just won’t leave no matter how long we ignore them.

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Hope this made sense, and please do comment if this post was helpful, and/or if you’d like me to do more psychology-based posts.

There are turds on this earth

Today I realised something important. You want to know what it is? I realised that there really are people on this Earth that you’d rather never have the unpleasantries of meeting. As quoted by my friend, “if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it is that there are turds on this earth”, and I completely agree. I always look for the best in people, always, but it always leaves you feeling let down and upset. I guess I have to realise most people aren’t like me, most people don’t put others before themselves. (I’m not trying to say I’m perfect because I’m not, I have a lot of issues but the one thing I care about is other people so I think hopefully it’s ok to say?)
Some people don’t care about hurting others; if it makes themselves happy, so what?

Basically, people can be selfish and cruel.

Today someone said to me “everyone enjoyed it [a speech I did], and everyone likes you anyway” and my other ‘friend’ snorted and burst into hysterics. I’m glad my non-popularity is such an amusement to you, and the thought of people liking me is such a laugh. Like really, was that ever necessary?!

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to rant about people being horrible to me and isn’t some way of me fighting for compliments. I think it’s just important people know that it isn’t your fault if you get treated like shit. I’m not saying that the above example is particularly bad, but I’ve been bullied and worse and I’ve always blamed myself for it. I don’t stand up for myself enough, it’s always me that gets in these issues, they pick on me because I’m a bad person etc etc… But it just isn’t true. Some people like manipulating others, and if they see that you really care about other people, then that’s just a perfect thing for them to exploit. I will never be able to understand why people belittle others, but what I can tell you is that it is most certainly never your fault.

Surround yourself with people you love and who love you back; whether that be just one person or a whole group of people! I may not have many friends, but the ones I have are worth the world.

We don’t choose to feel like this

Today at work I was talking to the other person working with me, and she’s mentioned being depressed before and that she’d tried to commit suicide (I said something like, “please don’t smoke, you’ll kill yourself”, and she replied “oh no it’s much harder to kill yourself, I’ve tried” or something). Over the last few weeks of bits of random information here and there, I can tell she has it pretty hard. She’s had depression for 5 years, her parents were addicted to drugs so she lived with foster parents etc.. And now she lives in a cheap flat with a few friends and is retaking sixth form/ college at age 19. She’s had a hard, hard time; so many things that would obviously be extremely hard to cope with and which would trigger depression. Yet here I am, someone with a loving family, a roof over my head, not having to worry about money (even though I sometimes do), with few but wonderful friends. What have I got to be depressed about?

But here’s the thing, asking that question is like asking “I have a great life but I’ve broken my leg, why?!”.. They aren’t (necessarily) linked like that. True, if you have some horrific circumstantial issues then it could very easily lead to depression and/or other mental health issues, but circumstances are only one part of it. One part of a very large, complicated jigsaw. For me, it wasn’t particular circumstances at the time which triggered my eating disorder, depression and so on; more an underlying issue with the way I think and feel. When I was younger I had a tough time with another girl manipulating me and from the age of about 6 l thought I was useless and couldn’t do anything right. So yeah, at the time my illness came around a good 8 years later you could just rule out the possibility that that was a big impact. But the fact is small things can have big effects on people, and for me it was almost a case of me pushing thoughts away and away until they were unbearable.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is please, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you did not choose to get a mental health issue and it certainly isn’t your fault. Anyone can get a mental health illness, including people who perhaps you would assume are happy and confident. At school I think I probably come across as confident and happy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Looks are deceiving, as is depression. A smile hides so much.

Someone will always have it worse, but someone will always have it better too. There is no reason why you should be living a life that makes you miserable. There is no reason why you don’t deserve health, help or happiness just because you know that somewhere in the world is someone worse off than you.

You wouldn’t blame someone for breaking their leg, so don’t blame yourself/ others for having a mental health illness. They are a silent killer, and I will not stand by and watch them do their murderous dance.

The beginning…

Yesterday I had a talk at school from an ex-prisoner from a US high security prison. He snuck out letters and his aunt wrote them up onto a blog [Jon’s jail journal] so that he could share his story and the horrific things happening in that prison to raise awareness. Each time he snuck a letter to his aunt, he was risking another 5 years in prison. Yet he did it anyway, in the hope that one day people would read it and the appalling conditions would change.

Now this got me thinking. To me, anorexia and other mental health illnesses were, and are still, a prison to me. It keeps you trapped in a never-ending cycle of self hate and the desire to be someone else. True, you don’t watch people getting murdered in front of your very eyes (like the ex-prisoner), but each day you struggle a little bit of you is dying. I have no reason not to write my story, to share how awful things were and sometimes still are in my mind; maybe one day I could get the media attention he did, and mental illnesses could be taken seriously. His blog attracted thousands of page views; and the prison he was in? It got shut down. Sure, there is still a lot wrong with US prisons, but he is slowly slowly pulling the bricks away and soon justice will come.

Obviously it is most likely I won’t be getting the same sort of media attention as ‘Jon’s jail journal‘, but I feel like it is the least I can do to try to bring mental illnesses to light and tell people what it’s really about.
So join me in my journey to try to spread awareness. Share and follow, and together we will raise awareness of mental health illnesses.