Perspective

Do you ever find yourself watching people as they speak to you, and it’s like one of those moments in a movie where that person is sped up and the words buzz but don’t really hit home?

I had that this week. The person in question was upset about something personal to me, and became increasingly angry as I failed to show the same interest. Why aren’t you concerned about this? I don’t think you realise how serious this is! Actually, I do see that it’s serious – but you’re not seeing that it’s unimportant.

Most things are when you can’t think more than a month or two down the line.

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Turn the damn tap off

Has anyone ever found a good way of describing the pain of grief/sadness/anger etc? I’m the only person in my family to have suffered mental health issues, and as much as people want to understand what depression is like, I really struggle to tell them.

I’ve been a bit up and down recently, but at the moment I’m in real pain. Not a physical illness, but a heaviness on my chest and shoulders, pulling me down. A knot where my heart is, straining to undo itself but never really shifting. I cried on Friday, because I really needed a hug, and couldn’t have one (ever). Not the right kind of hug, anyway. I’m drawn to sad, haunting music, and even though it’s probably not helping the situation something compels me to seek it out, to tap into some pool of grief or anger or whatever the hell this is, and try to release it.

Emotions are so basic. They don’t come with words or explanations included. It seems like they completely defy the rules of logic and reason.

I think I preferred being numb.

If you’re happy and you know it…good for you.

I’m coming to the conclusion that mental illness is going to be with me for the rest of my life, however long that is. It’s like someone has flicked a switch or my brain has blown a fuse and I can’t reset. I think it’s now eight long years of depression and anxiety. Each a potent flavour of pain that really drains you.

I’m not happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not drowning in sorrow, or burning with anger, but I’m not joyous either. I’m just…flat. Not in a content way. It’s more of an emptiness. When I was a kid I used to really look forward to things, or get a nice twinge in my stomach anticipating something really exciting. Nowadays, my anticipation is only ever nervousness or dread. I’ve got that big meeting on Tuesday – will I be able to get through it? Can I handle the driving I need to do at the weekend? I function, and that’s about it. It’s kind of embarrassing. My anxiety has crippled me to the point that I have to congratulate myself on managing small tasks that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to.

If this sounds like whining, trust me, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t ‘deserve better’. Why would I? The world doesn’t work like that. Some people have a great time, and others don’t.

I’m having to work quite hard to stay safe at the moment. I told my therapist that I don’t expect to make it to thirty.

Tread carefully

Here’s a rant. Ignore it, laugh at it, whatever. I just need to get this out.

This evening I was due to meet up with a friend – before I left, I was casually checking my phone, and someone had retweeted this really inspiration story about a girl’s who Mum had taught her that you can always leave. A job. A relationship. A conversation. A party. If it’s making you uncomfortable, or whatever, you’re allowed to leave.

It really hit me, and made me think about identity and boundaries, and about how crucial it has been to my mental health that I know, at the end of the day, I, and only I, own myself. The world can throw whatever at me, people can say whatever, do whatever, but they won’t change this little space that I occupy.

And then I met with this friend, and they asked how I was, and I mentioned I’m slightly ill, and they asked if I’d seen a doctor, to which the answer was no, and it suddenly got all heated. Like:

‘WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF?’

‘YOUR MIND AND YOUR BODY ARE NOT SEPARATE ENTITIES.  YOU HAVE TO LOOK AFTER BOTH.’

‘I’M CONCERNED’

‘YOU HAVE TO GO SEE A DOCTOR’

Actually, you know what, no. My body is exactly that – mine. If I don’t give a shit what happens to it physically, that’s my call. If you can say to me ‘WELL WHAT HAPPENS IN TEN YEARS TIME YOU HIT THE REPERCUSSIONS OF THE DAMAGE YOU’RE DOING?’ and I can truthfully say back to you that I can think about that scenario and it doesn’t change my mind, that is the end of the discussion.

You want the truth? There are all sorts of things wrong with me. All sorts. Maybe I have some dreadful condition. Maybe I have many dreadful conditions, and they’re all deteriorating past the point of no return. Perhaps your concern about my health is my wistful thinking for an end. I don’t care. What’s the worst that can happen? Death? Fine!

I’m not suicidal. I don’t obsess about it, or anything like that. No danger here. Chill.

I just don’t care.

Taking back the power

We learn things all the time, even if we think we’re not. You know what I’ve learnt? Not to sit on things. That gives those things power, power beyond what you’d consciously give them. It leaks into your behaviour. Controls you in ways you can’t notice.

So today I had a very frank discussion with my boss. Cards on the table time. Brave phrases such as ‘you undermine me’, ‘so you can see why I feel like rubbish’, and ‘I’m not stupid’. I’d been putting it off and putting it off, scared that my boss would be really angry, or really disappointed in me, or whatever else.

And the world didn’t end. My boss apologised, which I wasn’t expecting at all. In some ways, work will be better now.

Take that, anxiety.

 

Caught between a rock and a dark place

I’m glad I wrote something positive last time I posted here, because now I’m going to balance the scales.

Things have been hard recently. I broke my proud seven-years-since-last-self-harming status; the details aren’t important, but I reached a point where inflicting pain felt like the only thing left I could actually do.

It may or may not be a coincidence that therapy was been very challenging recently. That’s a good thing, definitely, because every time we hit a nerve it means we’ve found what needs to be worked on, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the toll that can take; it’s stressful, and exhausting, and it triggers every childish impulse to run/hide/deny that you have, in ways that it can be hard to explain to other people. At the moment we’re combing back through the really dark period with the suicide attempts etc, and I’m struggling to keep the old feelings at arm’s length. I should tell my therapist, really. I’m clearly not coping very well. But I don’t want to tell him, because then we switch to risk management, which is a sidestep. I want to do the real work.

A couple of weeks ago, my therapist asked ‘Are you glad you didn’t die?’. No. I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal. I have no intent whatsoever. Scout’s honour. And I don’t wish I was dead. I just don’t rejoice in being alive either, if that makes sense.

Perhaps my medication needs tweaking. Ugh. I’m avoiding seeing my GP, again I think because I don’t want to admit what’s going on. Life’s easier if you can disappear.

But let’s be positive for a moment. The fight with anxiety goes on, and I think I’m still winning. I wonder sometimes if that’s being helped by my low mood – how can you get really anxious about something if you don’t particularly care any more?

A little positivity for once

Life is definitely getting better. More accurately, I realise now that isn’t going to ‘get better’ by itself. Anxiety isn’t a virus where you basically have to wait it out for the right antibodies to kick in. It isn’t a sprain that you compress and ice and rest it until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead it’s a monster that broke my all my self confidence, physically and mentally. So now I have to build it back up. I have to learn to trust my body again. Learn to trust my resolve. And slowly but surely, it’s working.

I don’t rock the boat at work too much, because if I screw it up I still have to be there everyday, but every weekend I do something that pushes my boundaries. Drive a long distance. Go somewhere that makes me nervous. Visit someone I haven’t felt able to see since this mess was made. Last weekend, I finally went to the dentist. I’ve been pushing back the appointment for months, unable to stand the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair for however many minutes. On Saturday I did it (with a lot of ‘Oh I can’t do this/YES YOU CAN/It’ll be over in no time/Stop obsessing and GO’), and guess what – I didn’t die, or vomit, or wet myself, or run away screaming, or even ask to stop before the guy was finished.

I have to be relentless about it, or I’ll lose my progress. It is so tempting, especially after a long week at work, to say ‘I’ll just take it easy this weekend, stay in my house and go nowhere’, but I mustn’t give into it because I know I’ll struggle to step back up.

Progress is hard fought, but I know now I’m not going to achieve it without some serious blood, sweat, and tears. Whenever I feel like I can’t keep going, I remind myself that I do NOT want to spend the rest of my life suffering with anxiety. This is the only way out.