Hello there! My utmost apologies for the radio silence. All will be explained (sort of) below. Today’s post is a *serious post*. I apologise in advance if that’s not up your street, but mental health sometimes requires me to put my ‘serious Sarah’ hat on. Regular progamming will resume shortly. Cheers in advance for hanging on with me!
Sometimes I genuinely feel like I know nothing, like I’ll never amount to anything. Like all I’m good for is spouting useless information that everyone else already knew anyway. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not just wasting everyone’s time pretending otherwise, pretending that I’m capable of PhD level work, like I’m worth asking people to invest time and money in me to move me in the direction of a career that I’m going to be useless at anyway.
I know all about imposter syndrome. I find myself having to talk myself out of it all the time. But the past few months have been horrific on my self esteem. Actually, if I’m honest, the past few years have been.
I was bullied for five years. It was insidious and crept up on me slowly, quietly, and I didn’t even notice it until it had almost eaten me whole. It became my normal so much, to assume I’d screwed up, to assume I was always wrong, that I remember apologising for getting something ‘wrong’ in a new job. The manager asked me why I was apologised for not knowing how to do a task nobody had trained me on yet. I used to feel sick, right in the pit of my stomach, every single day.
But I clawed my way out of the situation, and while it had really deep, lasting effects on me, I recently realised I wasn’t going to get the PhD I’ve been working towards for the past four years. Despite my best efforts, my clawing up out of the dark tunnel I was in, I fell right back in. I thought the hole wasn’t there anymore, but I fell back into it as easily as if it was right under my feet the whole time.
The way it all came about (really long story, not really ready to share), I was not prepared for things to turn out how they did. I honestly put my heart and soul into my work. I still honestly feel that there’s important work to be done in what I was doing, and there’s a PhD in it. Genuinely, I do. But I am not as strong that I can fight the fight to keep doing it.
I’m a great one for seeking solutions. Re-evaluate, make a new plan, keep going. Giving up is not in my style. So I do already have a plan of action, and I’m prepared to put my heart and soul into that to. Because I just can’t half-arse something, it’s not who I am. I know I came to higher education to get a PhD. Not because I want a ‘Dr’ to add to my name, because if you think that’s me well you’ve never really known me. No, it’s because the differences I want to make in the world and in other people’s lives require that level of qualification.
But I’ve also been told that the downside of always moving on to the next plan is that I never stop to sit in the crapness of whatever has happened to me. Well, for the first time, I fell into the crapness of it all. It’s scary as hell, when combined with what I now realise to be a fairly fragile self-esteem.
This is why I haven’t posted in a while. The past few months have demanded a strong self-assessment, in terms of who I am, who I’d like to be, who I was, and how I make all those parts of me meld into a functional human person. There have been days of the darkest lows, and days where I start to believe in myself again.
I’m not posting this for sympathy. I’m posting this because this is the reality of life, with or without mental illness. I am lucky – I have medication that by and large works for me. I have an AMAZING support network (who know instinctively to a person whether it’s tea or hugs or talking that’s needed). I understand mental health issues and how they can affect my perception of things, and how they can sometimes make life feel harder. I don’t buy into stigma, so I’m ok with talking whenever I feel I need to.
I’ve been through a fairly rough time recently. But relatively speaking I am very lucky, and I am determined to make things move in an upward trajectory. For someone with mental health issues that tend towards excessive worry and low mood, I laugh at how determinedly optimistic I can be. I am incapable of giving up, of not trying again. But I do feel its important that if I talk about mental health, I talk about the reality of it. A pet peeve of mine is the raft of interviews that were given by ‘celebrities’ in Irish media along the lines of ‘I’d a mental illness, but I talked about it and now I’m better’, as if it was magic or something.
Sometimes mental health issues don’t go away. Sometimes life is crap even if you don’t have mental health issues. Sometimes mental health issues do go away. Sometimes life isn’t crap at all. I have a tweet pinned on the top of my timeline. It’s a bit sappy, but it serves me as a good reminder when I need it. It reads: life is good. It’s bad. It’s joyous. It’s heartbreaking. It’s enthralling. It’s everything. It’s ours. This is my life, and I’m wrestling back control. It’s baby steps, but it’s steps – movement, never giving up.