Monday, 13 April 2015
Just over a year ago I wrote this post about my battle with negative mental health, something that I struggled with for the entirety for my first and second years at university, as well as spilling over into this year. It helped me make sense of what I was feeling and what was happening to me and so once again I turn to this space of the internet to untangle what is going on in my life and my mind.
It has been two months since I was discharged from counselling and when I began proudly telling all of my friends I was 'fixed', because in my eyes the problems I'd had were all gone. I had spent a year discussing and working on myself and my issues and being told I didn't need to do that any more was surely the sign that I was finally okay, finally happy. And for a while I guess I was. But slowly the cracks I had sealed shut started to break and those feelings started to come back. Not all the time and not quite like before but they are most certainly there.
I guess the reason I've found this so hard to deal with is because I have spent so long telling myself 'I am a happy person. I am a lucky person. I have so many reasons to be thankful. I am surrounding by many loving and amazing people There are people who would kill for my bad days.' And yet I have these unsettled and unsavoury feelings that I can't shake. I had to remind myself that yes those things are true You are incredibly lucky. But equally everyone has problems and it is wrong to compare them to anyone else's. As I always tell all of my friends 'if it bothers you its a problem, and that's okay.'
Sadness is a natural emotion We all feel it. Some very rarely, for others crippling and preventing them from leaving their beds. I'm lucky enough to have never suffered with depression but for me there is just a horrible unsettling feeling. Sadness comes in a wave and knocks me off me feet, sending me into a spiral that makes it really difficult to steady myself again. I've never had the greatest self confidence and as I become more unsettled this becomes worse. Not wanting to go out. Crying because I can't bring myself to put on any of the clothes in my wardrobe. And so I stop myself from doing things I love and hide away. I've got pretty good at forcing myself to get up and out and put on a smile but the crippling sense of discomfort remains. As I try to deal with that emotion and shield it from those I come into contact with, the loneliness emerges. I don't mean a fear of being alone, but a feeling of isolation from those around me through no fault of their own. The thought that perhaps if isolate myself slightly then no one will see the cracks. But then you're too removed to go back in. With my feelings of loneliness comes paranoia. A fear that I am a nuisance to any person that I come into contact with. That no one really wants to be around me. That everyone is laughing at me and making jokes about me. (Yes sadly my paranoia is that self centred). And when jokes are made taking them to heart and leaving everyone else lost. Then finally the thought that if I'm alone, I can't annoy anyone. Then the wave of sadness crashes again and the cycle continues.
But with all of these emotions comes an overwhelming feeling that I must hide them, for fear of being judged or becoming the part of harmless jokes and the implications of that. But someone once told me that sometimes all you need is 30 seconds of incredible bravery to do something amazing and to me nothing is more amazing that accepting yourself and telling everyone else to piss off if they don't like it.
My time in counselling has taught me how to recognise these feelings and although I still don't feel completely equipped to deal with them effectively, and I still make bad decisions about how to deal with them, they aren't totally debilitating any more. I get good days and bad days but there is always a slight 'buzz', like an annoying fly or a little dark cloud following me around a room. But most days are manageable and those that aren't... well I am still working on that but I have the tools to at least start. As with most negative health issues it can become easy to hide them from people, something I know I am definitely guilty of, and that can make it so much harder to deal with. And knowing that now has never been a more appropriate time to take my own advice: 'So next time someone asks you if you're okay, be honest. Don't say what you think people want to hear. You have nothing to be ashamed of.'
What I really want to say is that slowly I have come to learn that there is no 'fixed'. Whether you suffer from a diagnosed mental illness or simply a mental health issue it is okay not to feel 100%. And it's okay to admit that, even if you feel like you shouldn't feel that way any more. Take a deep breath and say 'you know what, I am just going to do my best today and that's all I need to do'. Although I don't feel it every day, and I've got pretty good at hiding or dealing with it, I've come to realise that negative mental health is something I am continuing to battle with and that is okay. And even after all the progress I have been able to make I've begun to accept it's STILL okay not to be okay.