mental health awareness week – an honest review of myself

Well, it’s mental health awareness week and I thought, rather than pretending to be uber happy in some “look how far I’ve come” post, the best way to raise awareness of mental health issues is to be honest.

And, seeing as the theme is ‘surviving or thriving’, I’m here telling the truth and admitting that in some ways I am thriving and in other ways I am not, I am simply surviving.

Let’s take my appearance for example. I’m eating. I’m eating more than I feel I should, I’m snacking, I’m binging. But I hate the way I look; I look in the mirror and see ‘FAT’ plastered all over it. I want so badly to be skinny but I also eat way too much and I’m too tired to get to the gym most days and I don’t even know why I’m so tired because I’m sleeping well. But I do know why I’m tired; I’m tired because of my depression, it does affect me in the same way any other illness like flu might. And I’m in this cycle because I hate myself and the way I look, so I eat my feelings, literally. It’s horrible and it’s what I need to work on at the moment. At least I can recognise that.

I have phenomenal friends; there are genuinely some incredible people in my life, however there are also not so incredible people in my life. And I have been learning which is which since coming to university. There are people I can just ‘be’ with, we can just sit in my room and mellow out and not need any words. There are people who give me the best laughs of my life. There are people who make me feel important. So yeah, some fantastic people. So, I just have to focus on those instead of the not so fantastic people.

I feel the happiest I have been in a long time and yet also, at times, the emptiest I have ever felt. Most of the time, I’m happy; I think for once in my life I really, truly am just happy. And I can admit for the first time publicly, I am happy on my own. I am content. Content is the best word to describe it because happy does still feel a little too strong of a word to describe myself. I think that’s possibly why I notice the emptiness more, because I’m embracing the fact that I am on my own. I’ve learnt to realise that emptiness, though bad in itself, isn’t always the worst in the world. It can be moved through, you have to admit to yourself that you are lonely, and question what you need to do about it. If, when I ask myself why I feel lonely, I am able to actually do something about it, I will. But, if it’s out of my control, you just have the ride through that wave of emotion. There’s no point fighting it because you just won’t win if there is nothing you can do about it. By “nothing you can do about it” I mean when the loneliness goes beyond just wanting to be in someone’s company, or you can’t be in someone’s company, etc. So, I just go with my thoughts – it’s mindfulness – I have the thought, acknowledge it, and then do what I can with it.

Sometimes it is hard and, right now, some aspects of my mental health are a lot harder than others; but it isn’t all bad. Like I said, for the first time I can honestly say I have moments where I feel true, genuine happiness, even if they are fleeting moments sometimes. For the first time since being ill I can see real hope.

I sleep more than the average person: my body’s natural defence mechanism

Today I spent the entire day in bed. I’m sick. But I’m not ill in the sense of a cold. I am mentally ill. Only, how was I supposed to tell my seminar group that? It’s funny, isn’t it? I’m trying so hard to break the stigma surrounding mental health and influence others to be more open about it, but I can’t even admit it half the time. I still find it impossible to tell near strangers that I’m having an episode. So I send my seminar group a message saying I’m sick. No explanation needed, they assume it is some physical ailment. See. Why do we make those assumptions? Why is there some pre-conceived idea that mental illnesses can’t be just as debilitating (and even more so at times) as physical illnesses?

I am angry. I’m angry because I live in fear that I’m going to be told to “get over it” if I admit my brain is keeping me in bed. If I had broken my leg, I wouldn’t be told to just walk it off. So, why are people told to “get over it”. Get over it. What a horrible expression. Essentially that is telling someone to get over their own brain. Now, I can safely speak for every single person ever when I say you can’t just “get over” your brain – there is no escape from your brain, it literally controls you.

So, I stayed in bed today. I fell in and out of deep sleep. People often find it strange how much I nap. But they aren’t just naps. When I sleep during the day, I am sleeping. I am so exhausted by my illness that I need to sleep, as though it is night-time. Sleep is an escape. It is the one time I get respite from this monster. I don’t care how stereotypical I sound by calling it that – it is a monster. And, since coming to university, I am increasingly fighting it alone. I feel more alone than I ever have and, in some ways, I like it because I can just exist – that’s all I can bring myself to want to do at the moment, exist. So, I stayed in bed today, just existing.

People don’t like me. That’s not my anxiety speaking. That’s not my depression speaking. That’s not my eating disorder speaking. That’s me. I could list reasons why people don’t like me, some of which would be my illnesses speaking, like if I say people don’t like me because I’m too fat. So let’s not do that. Let’s just admit it, people don’t like me. I know it is impossible to be liked by everyone. But I am not liked by anyone around me. So, I feel alone. I make myself be alone because that way I don’t have to feel so unwanted in the presence of others. Staying in bed leaves me with just myself, there’s nobody I can disappoint or upset or annoy, just myself. So, I stayed in bed today.

I always text my mum when I get like this, just to tell her. But I never want to speak to her, or anyone. I don’t want to tell everyone what’s going on inside my head because, what if they just tell me to get over it? What then? But there are people, like my parents, who I know won’t tell me to do that. So why don’t I want to talk to them? Because, to be honest, I’m sick of talking about it all. For two years now I have been talking about how I feel and, fundamentally in my core, I still feel the exact same way about myself. I am worth nothing. I am too fat. I am too much hassle. I am horrible. Talking about it only makes it worse. I have to admit that writing helps because I just put it out there and nobody has to listen or pay attention if they don’t want, but as I always say, I will do anything I can to stop others from going through what I go through, so I write about it to try make some sort of a difference. But, for now at least, I am done talking to people. So, I stayed in bed today.

My answer to all of my problems is to go to bed and sleep. When I start to get anxious/depressed it reaches a point where my body begins to shut down – I physically start to fall asleep in a way that is completely out of my control. I have sat in therapy sessions and rolled my head back falling asleep when things get too much, without even realising I am doing it. This is my body’s defence mechanism it has developed over the last couple of years. I am not lazy. I am not sleep-deprived. I am simply in a battle, between my body and my brain, and my body will do whatever it can to protect me from my brain.

So, I stayed in bed today. But not out of choice. I did not have the strength to get up. You may understand that, you may not, but never tell me to “get over it”. Never tell anyone to get over it. Mental illness can be just as bad as physical illness.