REGULAR READERS WILL BE FAMILIAR WITH NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK’S FASHION AND BEAUTY COLUMNS, WHICH HAVE INSPIRED MANY A SHOPPING TRIP. TODAY, HOWEVER, NANCY DECIDED TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING MUCH MORE PERSONAL.
I have been writing for many years. I started with fashion, beauty and style and over the years have progressed into areas more suitably labelled as ‘lifestyle’ but never before have I written about the area of mental health, nor have I ever spoken about it in public. As today is such an important day, though, I thought it was time to try a different tack. Instead of walking the style walk, I want to talk a more important talk: what’s going on inside our heads.
Today we are probably going to be bombarded with statistics, advice and articles. They all help, but if you suffer from any mental health issue, then they often feel overwhelming. I can only relate my own story, and hope I can appreciate and listen to yours. I am heading towards my fifth decade and will happily give you advice about jeans and jackets, or lipstick and mascara. If pushed, I might talk about my often appalling diet, or my past relationship mistakes. If cornered with a light in my face, you might get me to talk about my physical health.
If you want to find out about what really happens inside of my head, you may have to kidnap me and force me to open up. Even on a day like today. In my former life as a secondary school teacher I never once revealed any of my own struggles with my young pupils I could see in troubled waters. Back in those days, talking about mental health issues at work was a no-no. In today’s climate of being more open and believed I can stand up and say I was treated appallingly by someone I worked for early on in my career, but it wasn’t by a man. It was a by a woman, and I was ill prepared for it. Fresh from a school and University environment where I was well liked, I could not understand what was happening. I was talking to my students about being bullied, whilst being bulled myself. My mental health deteriorated rapidly. I eventually gave up that job and walked away. I was offered a lifeline by another Headteacher who knew me well, and I took it, thinking that was the answer. It was, but it was not a solution. The scars of what happened during those two short years stayed with me.
We all have a story, each of us, and I could write a book including mine. I am not quite sure who would read it, as parts of it do veer into soap opera territory, but I do know this: I have been hiding mental health issues for so long it is a coat I wear season in, season out. I have suffered from panic attacks, anxiety, severe depression and disordered eating. I was asked yesterday how it felt to me. These are my words.
It feels like your fingertips are reaching into darkness, pulling nightfall upon you, even during the lightest of days.
As a young woman I appeared, on the surface, to have it all. I had a great career, my own car and home, clothes and holidays, and I looked alright in them as well, I think. But underneath I could be in absolute turmoil. I was wearing Moschino with a muddled mind. I was lucky to get wonderful support from my parents and some of my close friends but I did not want to seek out help too much outside of that. My biggest fear was having anything recorded about me in a medical file.
And now? Now I have moved on in many ways, although I am going to be honest and say I have moved on but not away from what can sometimes feel like it is bringing me to my knees. I have sought out further professional help. I have been more honest with my friends and those close to me. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Some people are supportive and others run a mile. At first, that sense of rejection felt really personal to me but you have to not see it as such. Sometimes your issues may trigger something in another person who is finding it hard to talk themselves. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, or can’t support you in other, more practical ways.
What can we all do on a day like today? Share your story with someone close. Offer to meet someone for a coffee. You won’t find help in the bottom of a wine glass or by burning your credit card but let’s not get too serious about that. A lipgloss and a meet-up with your best mates helps. If you feel you don’t have any, keep talking. Look at what is going on locally – you’ll be surprised. There are so many people feeling just the same right now. If you are bombarded with Living Your Best Life posts, switch off your phone and read Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig. It literally saved my life.
Today as I type I am not sure if I feel proud or a bit ashamed, but I do feel a little more free. I am currently going through a lot. My terminally ill dad is nearing the end of his life. I have no idea how to even talk about that, but I shall go and see him today and watch an episode of his beloved Dinnerladies, and share an ice cream. I will tell him about some of the wonderful things he has done during his life, because my husband said that is what is Buddhists do. He teaches me a lot, my other half, and he gets to try my face serums. A win-win for both of us, I hope.
And if he happens to read this I would like to say thank you to him for being there for me, for feeding my dad soup and for taking me to my therapy sessions. By the end of the week I will be back to talking about the things that I feel comfortable around. Maybe it is high time I started being more at ease about what goes on in my mind. You can be kind to yourself, love who you are, support and listen to those around you and still spend far too much time trying on perfect party dresses.
I’ve got my eye on something pink as I am having a bit of a Killing Eve week of it, and I am definitely getting some biker boots from Zara in honour of my new favourite Russian assassin. Give yourself a pat on the back today, watch one thing that makes you laugh, talk to one person you care for deeply and know that it’s absolutely fine to not always understand the negative thoughts in you head. With help and with conversation you can soon make them what they truly deserve to be – totally and completely last season.
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.
Related feature: 5 things that will (probably) make you feel happier.
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