Anna is the Design and Marketing Assistant at BePure. During her time working here she has taken some big steps on her health journey. Her journey began over ten years earlier when her mental health started to decline. In this blog, she shares how she is now nurturing her mental wellness and what she has learned during this time.
It’s hard to put the enormity of the last 14 years into ~1200 words, but I’ll do my best…
Of course, the following is just my experience, and what I have found to be supportive in my case. This is by no means advice, but I believe in the power of storytelling and sharing to nurture hope in others, just as my own sense of hope has been deeply nourished through the stories of others. I hope that there might be a little something in here that might help you too.
Between the ages of around 12 and 20 I felt like the ‘real me’ was dormant most of the time, and that my body was being operated by an eating disorder and a mental illness.
This time was riddled with hulking great mood swings. They got in the way of life, causing constant disruptions throughout intermediate school, high school, university, then work—it felt like the older I got, the higher the stakes. I felt entirely powerless to what was going on.
There would be tiny little pockets of time where I felt like my actual self was real, alive and in my body. And over time—through a lot of trial and error, falling over more times than I can count—I have slowly, very slowly but surely learned some ways to keep myself present in my own body.
By no means has this journey happened alone. I have been absolutely spoiled with support and love from my family and friends the whole time.
When I started at BePure in January of 2018, I had already started to connect the dots that maybe my mental health wasn’t just a ‘problem with my brain’. I had cottoned on to feeling better when I did some regular exercise and actually got enough sleep. I had been noticing that sugar made me feel down and maybe that wasn’t just my eating disorder speaking…
I was really excited to be working with Laura, one of the Holistic Health Consultants at the BePure Clinic, which is where I was introduced to what turned out to be an incredibly new valuable tool in my toolkit—nutrients!
I started taking the BePure Mind-Body Wellness Pack—BePure One, Three, Magnesium Restore and Zinc Restore—religiously to help my body catch up on the essential nutrients it had been depleted of for so many years. These nutritional deficiencies may all have played a role in my lack of mental wellbeing.
After six months, I noticed how strong my nails were, and how quickly they grew. How my hair wasn’t falling out in handfuls anymore. My baseline mood had raised significantly, and it stopped oscillating between high highs, and low lows.
Gluten and sugar are inflammatory. Inflammation in the body, contributes to inflammation in the brain. How our gut health is intimately connected with our mental health. How stress was behind the eczema on the back of my hands.
At BePure, I gained another incredibly valuable piece to my puzzle—understanding, supportive colleagues, friends, management and work environment.
I could be transparent about when I was having a bad day and express how I was feeling. I was never once told to ‘suck it up’ or any variation of that, rather, ‘how can we support you, and how are you supporting yourself?’ The more my bad days were met with compassion and support, the less they cycled through and I believe this has been hugely conducive to the drastic reduction in them altogether.
While sparing you the details of my entire life, today I’m constantly baffled by how different I am. When I look back on my past selves, it can feel hard to connect them to me.
If I may have a wee humble brag, I can’t believe the resilience, stability, awareness and self-compassion I have been able to nurture with the support and love of people around me, who I will be eternally grateful for.
6 Things I have learned on my mental health journey
1. Mental health doesn’t live independently of any other kinds of health.
What’s genuinely good for our mental health, will also be genuinely good for your physical health too. I’ve been interested in food and nutrition since I was about fourteen—but all to manipulate my body and how I looked.
When I started eating, sleeping, moving and living with the primary focus of cultivating mental health, this also changed I started experiencing positive shifts in my physical health too.
2. There’s no one single thing that will magically ‘heal’ your mind.
Just like you don’t eat a salad and ‘attain’ an eternal health status, there’s no one single thing that will create mental health. Even psychiatric medication isn’t supposed to ‘fix everything’.
There are so many aspects of health and wellness—they’re like pixels in an image. Here are some, and they don’t all need to be done at the same time. You might have 1-3 things you focus on. The most effective recipe will be different for everyone.
- Moving your body
- Seeing a therapist
- Quality, nourishing sleep
- Eating real food
- Spending time with people who uplift you
- Patting dogs
- Listening to music that makes us feel good
- Spiritual practice
Read More: 10 Simple Ways to Nurture Mental Wellness
3. Nutrients were the foundation I needed to get everything else in motion.
In retrospect, I can see that 10 years of bulimia totally stripped my body of essential micronutrients. Given these essential nutrients are some of the precursors for the hormones and neurotransmitters that make us feel good, it was no wonder I felt terrible all the time.
Talk therapy is an incredibly valuable tool, but that too is only one of the tools in the toolbox. No amount of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) would sort out a nutrient deficiency on its own.
There’s a lot of research on the link between nutritional deficiencies and poor mental health outcomes.
When my body wasn’t starving for nutrients, I found that it wasn’t a huge chore to the simple things I knew nourished me and helped create mental wellness.
4. You can’t heal alone, but no one can do it for you.
This can be such a frustrating truth! The support of others is an essential piece of the puzzle, but no one can create mental wellness for us. No one can think our thoughts for us, no one can have a good night’s sleep for us, no one can go see a psychologist for us.
When supporting someone experiencing mental health challenges, we can feel incredibly helpless over the situation—it’s hard watching someone you love struggle and feeling like you can’t do anything. Just being there goes a long way.
5. Progress is slow.
Oftentimes, it happens so slowly that you don’t even see it happening. You know how you look in the mirror everyday and you look just the same as yesterday… but you also don’t look the same as you did 5, 10, 20 years ago.
Progress might look like shorter, rough periods, that become further apart. Progress might look like you even noticing that a rough time is just a period.
Look for fragments of progress, and celebrate them. What you give energy, grows.
Progress certainly isn’t perfection—there will be ‘slip ups’ along the way, and that’s life. Slip ups don’t neglect any progress that’s been made.
6. The most important ‘nutrient’ of all is compassion.
I’ve come across two incredibly powerful little nuggets that have really expanded my capacity to offer myself kindness.
“You’re never going to hate yourself into a version of yourself that you’re happy with.”
“We can’t just choose to be happy, but we can choose to be kind to ourselves when we’re sad. Pain passes more quickly when we don’t berate ourselves for feeling it.”
Self-compassion is like a muscle. If you’ve never used it before, it will be weak and it will struggle to do much work. But when we use it consistently, it grows.
There’s really nothing bad that can come from offering yourself kindness.