Lads, I know the internet is FLOODED with Mental Health Day and Mental Health Week stuff. And the mantra ‘its ok to be not okay and it’s ok to ask for help’ has fused with public consciousness over the past while. And that’s all amazing. But I wanted to take a different tack with ye tonight.
I want to tell ye my mental health story. Like, what it feels to be me with my mental health situation.
So for those of you that weren’t aware, I have anxiety and depression. You can’t see that in me. By and large, it does not interfere with my getting through the day in any obvious way. But it affects my life in a lot of ways.
I wake up in the morning sometimes and feel like I physically cannot face the day. It’s more than an ‘I love my bed’ sort of way – it’s overwhelming. Some mornings I struggle to eat because I have butterflies in my stomach. Not nervous butterflies, really angry and violent ones. Sometimes as I sit on the bus I feel removed from the world that everyone else on the bus seems to be inhabiting. Sometimes the bus can very suddenly seem too small and like there isn’t enough air for me to breathe.
Sometimes I get to the office and while I try my best to do my research, sometimes I just can’t focus. Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that I should not be there, that I have no right to be there, and a cycle of fast, uncontrollable negative thoughts can flood through me, and I will feel physically pinned to my seat as that happens.
Sometimes I get really afraid that even though all my colleagues and friends are nice to me, that they mustn’t like me, because why on earth would they? Sometimes I cry, for no reason. Sometimes when I start, I can’t stop. Sometimes I worry about everything that might ever happen, all at the same time, and I can’t stop that either. Sometimes I can’t seem to feel anything at all.
Sometimes, for no apparent reason at all, the whole world rushes away from me suddenly. The noises in the world around me go all echoey and then fade into the background. My throat gets tiny and the air can’t get in or out. I get really sweaty. But nobody around me will notice because it’s not visibly obvious.
As you might guess, all of that can make my day-to-day life really hard. It would be so much easier and preferable some days to not even try. And there are a lot of days when it’s really tough to argue against that and make myself attempt regular life. And many people who I interact with daily have no idea that I struggle this way. Not because I hide it – I will happily chat to anyone about it. But because mental illness just often isn’t that obvious.
In my life, I am a student. A lecturer. A researcher. A volunteer. I run. I dance (sometimes in front of people). I cycle. I am a girlfriend. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a godmother. I am starting my own charity. I am me, but I could also be you. I am a regular person.
Mental illness is about as common as a cold, so in my opinion, treatment options should be the same. Some people take a hot whiskey, some take a neurofen, some inhale steam. For me, treatment for my mental illness involves medication and therapy. I know that there are some people who believe that medication for mental illness is a cop-out. I can tell you here and now, that medication has changed my life. Has possibly saved my life. In a way that therapy alone never could. Similarly, I tried medication on its own for a while, and for me, I needed therapy added to the mix. I don’t judge anyone for their own choices and their own journey, as while mental illness is about as common as a cold, there are as many variations of mental illness as there are of a cold. This is my journey, and it works for me.
Sometimes people ask me why do I do some of the things that I do? Why do I choose jobs that involve speaking in front of large groups of people regularly? Why do I agree to do things that I know make me anxious? Why do I force myself out of bed even on my worst days? The only answer I have is that I have a mental illness (or two). I am not my mental illness. It doesn’t define me. It challenges me, but it is not me. There is so much more to me than that. And I only get one life, so even if I sometimes have trouble seeing the good in it, and even if I sometimes struggle to see the point in it or to have the desire to continue in it, I know that just as there are low days, there are good days, but cumulatively they still only add up to one life, and I’m damn if I’m not gonna live it the the very fullest.
If you’re struggling with anything at all, please talk to someone about it. Family and friends are good, but it’s ok if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them. Here are some places ts to go for help:
over 18 years old: Samaritans: ph 116 123/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org