It’s okay to not be okay! by Paige Keen, aged 15

Hello everyone,

My name is Paige, and I am 15 years old. I come from a loving family of 8- yes, I know, extremely busy household! I currently attend school and just like many of you, I am coming up to the uncertain times of GCSEs.

As someone with both anxiety and depression, I know first-hand what it is like to experience a variety of emotions that can often be confusing and scary to comprehend. When I was 12 years old, I became overwhelmed with schoolwork, friendship issues and overall stress. At the time, I would consider myself to have been in a dark place- no matter how much someone tried to convince me otherwise, I felt isolated. I firmly believe that it is possible to feel alone in a crowded room of people! During this time, I would stay in my room and usually either sleep or listen to music; I would do anything to distract my mind from the terrifying thoughts that would spin around my mind. It was physically and mentally exhausting to deal with which led to lack of sleep and constant low mood. Having both anxiety and depression made this even harder since I would either care to much about something or not care at all. It is vital to have a balance of these things, but I just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to get myself out of this dark hole. I know many of you reading this will be able to relate to most or all of what I just mentioned. Experiencing poor mental health is draining and as someone who has been through a devastating time with my own wellbeing, I thought that I would share some coping mechanisms that ultimately made me the person that I am today.

First of all: music. As I mentioned before, I heavily relied on music in regards to overcoming my mental wellbeing challenges. The first genre of music that I gravitated towards was negative and upsetting. This was due to me relating to most of the lyrics that the artists created- ultimately, I felt less alone because my thought process made me think that there were other people out there who felt the same as I did. Also, they put my thoughts into words which is something that I personally struggled to do. However, I can’t express enough how much you shouldn’t follow in the same steps I did. Listening to sad music often made my mood worse. At the time, I didn’t think about this. Once I realised that the tunes weren’t doing me any favours, I turned to positive, upbeat music. This was a huge step for me because previously I couldn’t think of anything worse than listening to happy songs. Even though it took me a while to change my genre of music, I am so glad I did. My mood increased at a rapid rate and I started to sleep better at night.

Another coping mechanism that helped me was writing. I specifically remember turning to one of my close friends and telling her how I was feeling at the time. Little did I know, she was also going through a similar situation to myself. We started to rely upon each other more and more each day; we would share how we were feeling and state any achievements that we made. It is so important to gain support off someone you trust! One day, she came to my house and handed me a bag. Inside there was: a notepad, a pack of pens, highlighters and pencils. With this, I started to write. In all honestly, what I was writing didn’t make much sense when I reflect on it, but that’s perfectly okay! You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to be perfect. The best part about writing is that you can choose to keep it to yourself or share your words with a loved one. I would write about how I was feeling at the end of each day and what caused each emotion to occur (for example: I felt disappointed in myself because I got a lower grade in my maths test that I anticipated). I have always loved writing since I was a child, it is an amazing way to distinguish how you are feeling and finding out why. Also, after each page of writing, you can scrunch up the piece of paper and throw it in the bin. This is effective because you are ‘emptying’ all those thoughts from your mind in order to make you feel a little bit lighter.

Finally, the best yet hardest step to recovery is talking to someone. I know that the majority of you reading this will be sighing and rolling your eyes because this is the first thing that most people say you should do, “Go and talk to someone about it”. However, it is vital that you have support throughout this petrifying time in your life. Personally, I always avoided this because I was too scared of opening up to someone with the fear that they would never understand what I was going through. Most importantly, that they would judge and dislike me. After all, I had an amazing homelife and I have always been surrounded by supportive, loving people. No matter how good your life may be, you can also experience poor mental health. Never let anyone tell you otherwise! I began talking to my parents about the thoughts that I was having and the low mood that I seemed to be trapped in a cycle of. They reacted extremely well! They listened to me and asked appropriate questions when needed. The more I started to speak, the more at ease I felt. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders! I urge you all to speak to someone who you trust because I can assure you that someone is willing to listen and support you. There is always help out there!

Even though I went through some of the hardest years of my whole life, I would never go back and change what happened. This sounds silly and I know that you will be asking the question ‘Why?’. The simple answer is that it has made me the person that I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t be the unique me that me and my loved ones adore. I would like to take some time to tell you what I have achieved. All of the things that I am about the mention are curtsy of my mental health journey.

In 2016, I became a Diana Anti-bullying Ambassador for my school. I loved every minute of my role because it gave me a sense of belonging. I have always enjoyed making people happy, so this further reinforced my positive, mental wellbeing. As each year passed by, my role and status in the Anti-bullying Programme became higher until I eventually got the privilege of taking the lead of it all. At the start of 2020, I was inspired to apply for a role on the National Diana Award Youth Board because I wanted to share my message on a national level. After 3 stages, I was accepted in April 2020! I was astonished that I made it through due to a vast amount of people also wanting the same position as myself. Ever since, I have been given some incredible opportunities, including talking to Prince William and Will Poulter, doing press interviews (for example, ITV News, Sky News FYI and BBC North and West) and attending monthly Zoom calls with the Diana Award. I have openly talked about my story involving bullying and mental health and none of this would have been possible without me going through a low point in my life.

If you can talk one thing away from this blog, I would like it to be that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’. You are human and humans are perfectly imperfect. I am a prime example of how things got better, and I want you to know that all of these emotions that you are going through are temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel even though you may be struggling to see it at this moment in time.

Please look after yourself because you always come first! Lastly, talk, talk, talk! The faster that you begin to open up, the faster the recovery process is. I understand that the coping mechanisms stated above may not work for everyone since we are all unique. But don’t let that phase you! As I said, there is something out there that will be useful for you.

If someone hasn’t told you today, you are worth so much more than you think.

Stay safe everyone!

Paige.