• Alana Mai Mitchell


Generously written and shared by Clinton Wilkinson.

Mental health influences every person during every day of our lives, sometimes the effects are positive, other times scaling further toward the negative. When I consider my own mental health it certainly comes at no surprise that my thoughts turn to a rollercoaster, there’s been ups, downs, twists and bends, days when life feels as though I’ve been flipped on my head and others so lineal they verge on complacency or boredom. To an extent I have always had inconsistency within myself but only after embracing who I am holistically have I been able to steer my life in a direction that has thus far led me to happier pursuits and hopefully will continue to do so.

Growing up I was a control freak, in some ways I still am. I always had this plan that I would land a job right out of school, become someone successful and be married with a family by my mid-twenties. Looking back now I see how unrealistic that idea was, also that it was never my truth rather an image I’d constructed to prove my worth to other people, especially my family.

After completing secondary school, I had no direction and began to apply for jobs which held no real interest for me. This eventuated to several years of dead-end jobs and tertiary courses which suffice to say made me question who I was. I became depressed and leaving the house began to cause a level of anxiety that made me feel sick to my core; though instead of talking about my problems I tried to hide away from them and pretend nothing was happening.

I recall at the age of twenty-four staring at myself in the bathroom mirror searching for some recognition, instead finding a harboured hate and thoughts as to whether my life was burdening those I loved, although none of them had ever demonstrated actions to suggest that was the case. I come from a loving, supportive family and have close friends who are always there when I need them; in fact, all my ‘up-moments’ at the time were when I was surrounded by them.

I began to turn my life toward the positive after a deep conversation with a friend who to this day I am unsure he realises just how much he actually changed my life. Throughout these years I had used my savings to travel and decided that I was going to take an extended trip to find myself, cliché I know but I’d realise a lot of my mental health issues arose from my tendency to compare my life to those around me and meeting my own unrealistic expectations of where I needed to be in life by specific ages. In short, I couldn’t find myself because I didn’t know myself.

During the nine months I travelled and lived overseas I stepped out of my comfort zone like crazy. I began to discover my self-worth in ways that I hadn’t recognised as strengths before. My confidence grew as I learnt from the world and embraced all the differences that make every individual unique and no-less valuable. This was emphasised during a four month stint where I worked with a range of children with behavioural needs in some of London’s schools, I saw how I can help others and found a directional which I am currently pursuing.

Through my discovery of difference, I finally accepted my sexuality. Sexuality had been something I was never entirely certain of, having always struggled in relationships with women and feeling social oppression as well as internalised stigma towards relationships with men, it contributed to my confusion and struggle of owning my mental health and truth. Now my view of sexuality is not stagnant but a concept of fluidity, and it is not an important factor to defining self-identity as there is beauty in all people regardless of the prejudices that exist, however, it certainly helps to know oneself and aid in maintaining positive mental health.

As I’ve been writing this, I am surprised by my capacity to talk about my past in its authenticity. My mental health has not always been so stable, and honestly there are times when it still isn’t but my attitude to achieve a positive mental health is at the forefront to ensuring I can be the person who can achieve anything with a little hard work and owning my truth in the present. I am currently twenty-eight, happily engaged and studying a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, I am passionate about cooking, enjoy modelling which I’m looking to further pursue, have recently started yoga and exercise practices that greatly improve finding balance within myself and have some of my original plans to have my own family one day. My advice, always listen to your inner self – quiet the mind so the soul can speak.

Photo credit: Diego Pinto Melia

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