I read somewhere that people find it easier to read about mental illness when it’s over. We like the “I was in a difficult place but came through” kind of story.
I think it’s also easier to write when you’ve come out the other end and you’re in a better place.
I am in the middle of it now; not the way I was a few years ago, when I was doing some pretty self-destructive stuff and people around me were worried and I rushed to the doctor’s because I didn’t know how to manage it. I came out the other end; I went to therapy for 2 years and was on medication for 3. But I am afraid it doesn’t really go away. It’s not “cured”. It doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that you remove and throw into the medical waste bin and recover from and don’t think about anymore. It’d be so much easier if this thing; this fog of the mind, this pressure on the chest, this weight…if it was more like something ugly you root out and less like the sea, with its depth and its waves and its rage…
January started full of hope but then turned painful. Some of that is due to things that have happened; news I’ve received about illness in people that are close. I spent a lot of time contemplating mortality; what if they don’t make it after the operation? what if he dies? do I buy a plane ticket and fly over, just in case?
My mind has been flooded with stuff. I have half thoughts; one idea pops into my head and another one races in before the first one has finished. There are many overlapping sentences and words and things I don’t want to think about. I start to think ugly thoughts. Travel well-known paths; they would be better off without you. You’re a bad person. You’re a bad person. You’re alone. Challenging the voice is hard. There’s little energy. There’s half-thoughts. There’s a knot in your throat and tears because the voice is mean and you don’t want it and you don’t want to believe it…you know it isn’t true but speaking up is difficult.
One of the things I learnt during therapy was that I need structure. That means sleeping at a regular time. Eating nutritious meals at regular intervals. Exercising regularly. The thing is that many of those things go out the window when depression hurts the way it has for the past few weeks. It’s not just in my head but in my body. The pressure on the chest is not a metaphor.
When it feels like this you have to fight. At least I do. I have to fight to convince myself that the mirror isn’t lying to me and that I look…well…normal, rather than believing whatever distorted view of my body I have in my head. I have to convince myself that eating is good and I need nourishment. I have to convince myself that I am not stupid and that I am valuable and that I am loved. I have to convince myself that asking for help isn’t shameful.
You also need people. You need people who are in your corner. People who will listen to you when you need to let out whatever’s on your mind. People who will encourage you to not let the thoughts take over. People who will reason with you and help you see things from a different perspective. I don’t know where I would be if I were alone in this. I am incredibly grateful for the people who supported me back when I first got diagnosed and the people who support me now. Especially my partner, who is patient and kind and very practical.
I have this thing called depression but depression doesn’t win. If you’re struggling, know that there is hope. Know that asking for help is courageous.
Today is #TimeToTalk Day so I thought I’d share a bit about my journey. I worry that many people don’t seem to have anyone to talk to about their problems. You see, I believe everyone needs to look after their mental health and having someone to talk to is crucial. Connecting with other humans is crucial. I understand that we live in a society where people are reluctant to get personal. All over the country people go:
“Yes, thanks, you?”
I’m not suggesting you interrogate people about their state of mind but that we can all aim to have more genuine conversations with one another. Those kinds of conversations often start with listening.
This article offers great insight into how to support someone who is struggling.
Here’s an article about how to cope with loneliness and how it affects mental health.
Click here to see a range of mental health helplines.
Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Unsplash