Amy Green: We should celebrate our individualism

'˜You're so happy all the time!' '˜You're really confident, I couldn't do that..'

Appearances can be deceiving. To the outside world I was a normal person, inside I was falling apart.

You see, I have suffered with my mental health all my life. I’m happy to say that I am well, fit and happy currently but it was a long journey to get to this stage.

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I was bullied as a teenager. Apparently, I was ‘too clever.’ I had to visit the hospital after one particularly bad incident.

The doctors thought I had broken my nose from being repeatedly punched by one girl. Thankfully all was okay and I have this incident to blame for my love of sunglasses!

The rest of my school career went well and I left school with good grades and went on to sixth form. This was when my world fell apart.

I struggled with my confidence, my appearance and I was genuinely unhappy. I had times where I would just cry all day and then other days where I was unbelievably angry for absolutely no reason.

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I left college and embarked upon a career in travel. I was equally as unhappy there. I left that job and ended up working in a call centre. I couldn’t handle the stress or the pressures and I quit. But, I finally sought the help I needed. I saw a counsellor once a week for a year.

It felt so good to be able to talk to someone who didn’t know me and just be given the time and the space to work through the issues I had and come to my own conclusions.

The few years that followed were hard, but not as hard as the ones I had already experienced. I became stronger, gained independence, took on little contracts of work here and there until finally, I became ready to go back to work full time.

I now have a great career and dabble in local politics too. A far cry from the girl who wouldn’t leave her bedroom all those years ago!

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I still struggle with good and bad days, as does everyone. I just now know how to manage these better. The one thing that helped me more than anything was understanding that it is perfectly normal to be you. Celebrate your individualism. One of may favourite quotes is ‘never let anyone dull your sparkle.’’

I would always say to never be afraid to reach out to your friends and family if they seem not like their usual self. Sometimes the smallest gesture can mean the most.

We all have a part to play in combating the stigma of mental health, which sadly in this digital age, is all the more prevalent. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.

I’d like to see all employers embrace the wellbeing of their staff. Just because you can’t see the illness, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

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I have learned to be honest and open throughout my journey. I know not everyone is able to do so, so I speak out in the hope that I can help others.

I would encourage anyone who is feeling a little low to speak to someone they trust. Be it a parent, partner, friend, colleague, doctor, teacher etc.

Do not be ashamed. It’s okay not to be okay.

Amy Green is a member of the YEP reader panel