Manifesto for Mental Health 2.0

So I recently rediscovered all my old Tumblr blogs and, in the midst of my cringing and wishing I could delete the internet, I find this:

Feeling down?

And I’m still shuddering with embarrassment but I’m realising the message I had back then is still applicable now; in fact, maybe even more so now. So, I’m going to rewrite it. First, go read that one. Have a good cringe, really, you can laugh as much as you want at me. Then come back here and read my Manifesto for Mental Health 2.0.

You probably know my story by now, you probably only read these because you feel your have to when I share them on Facebook, but for whatever reason you’re here I hope this might help you in your future.

(Here’s where I previously went for the tough love approach and decided to be graphic – not this time, I’ll save you from that.)

If you want to self harm, including but not limited to cutting, scratching or burning, you know what? In that very moment, that might be all you can do. So, don’t beat yourself up. If you live with suicidal thoughts and you simply make it through the day you’re doing better than you could be and that should be commended.

I was right when I said self harm was an addiction and that it can progress, so much so that it becomes attempted suicide; but it’s like drinking, as long as you keep it under control its okay.

So, next in my original Manifesto for Mental Health, I told a very graphic story about the terror suicide causes. And, though that story is the harsh truth, it’s not what people in that mindset need to be thinking. (I also put loads of random phrases in bold to try to make it more ‘impactful’ in the original).

In reality, anyone considering suicide needs to be gently reminded of all their reasons to live, not the way they will ruin things if they don’t live, because they will already be feeling as though they don’t have a choice.

The length of the effects of suicide were correct, but again when your mind is in that place you’re not thinking rationally. I would never have believed my family would still care 2 months later at my darkest point.

I’m cringing again at everything I wrote when I was, like, 14.

I think I wrote this thinking I knew so much more about mental health than I did so I couldn’t fully understand how it truly feels to be in that place.

Then I go on to address eating disorders which, at this point, I had had no real experience of at all. I think I explain the basis of anorexia pretty well, standard. But I just stop there. As if there aren’t other eating disorders.

I think I actually described the psychology (at least of my own experiences) behind the eating disorder pretty well. You do feel like you need to be punished for eating, in some way. And people do look at you differently and you can’t not notice that. (I hate using a double negative but that was the best sounding way to phrase it).

I then went on to explain as though I had come through some massive recovery journey that “it all gets better”. But that’s not true, for some people it might not get better, but it just might also not get worse if they’re lucky and they’ll learn to live like that. So, maybe from each individuals perspective it does always get better.

The rest of what I wrote made me cringe too much.

I just thought I might rewrite my manifesto, you know, keep it up to date if it’s going to be on the internet forever (because I can’t seem to delete my original Tumblr so it’s been immortalised).

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.

relapse and recovery

I’m a bit reluctant to write/post this – I don’t know which one I’m more reluctant to do really. But the thing that makes me want to write and post it is this: I have made it out the other end of this and that is what I need to keep showing whenever this happens. Plus it almost sort of detoxes the relapse out of my system to write it down.

Now, I am going to admit firstly that I had been drinking when I relapsed – I hadn’t had stupid amounts, but enough that I was having fun. We get the gist, yes? However, alcohol is a depressant so I have to be more careful around it. So, it was Friday night, I was out with my mates and I was having so much fun. Genuinely. But then something switched in my head and I couldn’t hold back the thoughts. Here’s the thing, whether people realise it or not, I am constantly fighting back negative thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all consuming when I’m on medication, but I do have to work at it every day to keep the suicidal and other such thoughts at bay. I have coping mechanisms which I have evolved over the past couple of years which work well for me, only on Friday night they didn’t. I was sat outside waiting for my mates to have a smoke and suddenly my brain turned on me. I didn’t deserve to be happy and having fun. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I wanted to disappear because I couldn’t handle my own literal existence. Imagine that, not being able to cope with the fact that you are a living, breathing human being. I felt so dark. So, naturally, I left the club and went home. I had told some of my friends that I was feeling this way and, of course, they were concerned – if you’re reading this I’m still sorry for doing that to you. Walking home my thoughts just got worse and worse until eventually my inner voice was screaming “KILL YOURSELF” at me. (Now this next bit may be triggering so please skip to the next paragraph if you are easily triggered) I got home, found my sharpest knife and sat in my bathroom cutting my wrist until I collapsed from the pain. I was completely alone, crying and screaming, cursing myself and wanting it all to just end right there and then. And as I collapsed I truly thought I might have succeeded in killing myself, just for a moment.

A couple of my flat mates came back and found me in that state. Again, to them, I say thank you for everything you did to take care of me. What happened after my flat mates found me has overwhelmed me so much. I was in a strange hysterical state where I was calm, but inside my thoughts were still racing. I was sort of falling asleep but in a very negative mindset when two of my friends, one a very old friend, appeared in my room. The feeling I felt seeing these people surrounding me, four amazing people who were giving up their own time for me, was almost euphoric. I was being distracted by them so, although the thoughts were still there, they were being held back more. I want to specifically focus on one person, my old friend, I hope you’re reading this. The fact that he was someone who I had known so long, someone who has seen me at my worst states, and could easily just have forgotten about me once we moved to university to avoid all my ‘drama’ (haha, it’s funny because I study drama…), yet he came to see me. As cliche as it might sound, I was so touched by this. And, as all four of them sat with me, I felt safe for the first time that night.

I have realised that, despite what my illness might tell me, people do care. Depression might make you feel lonely, isolated, worthless and every other negative word under the sun – it sure has for me – but it is a bully. It is a liar. So is anxiety and every other mental illness. They are genuinely nasty things; they eat away at you like a tumour until you are so weak you cannot keep fighting them. But you have to hold on to the moments of light that come in the darkest times, I clutched at the support of my friends and held it tight to make it through the night and start a new day. And I woke up feeling so positive (in comparison to before) and thankful. Depression doesn’t often let you feel thankful, so we have to appreciate those little moments and, as I said before, keep hold of them. I suppose that’s the “moral of this story”, that positivity can come from the worst of times and relapse can help you move further towards recovery.

Am I worthy of anything?

I have to tell the truth and admit that my self-worth has plummeted. I was so positive, my medication has been at the right level, I was happy (ish), you know? Now, I’m just not. I look at beauty and I feel unworthy of it, even just a simple sunset. I’m not good enough, not special enough, not anything enough for that. I’m just. Just.

I don’t think I will ever be good enough for anyone. I mean my ex had already moved onto his new girlfriend before we had even broken up, that shows how sub-par I am. I might as well start on being good enough for someone, as in someone special. I have never truly felt like I have been good enough for anyone; even when I was in my relationship because I constantly have those voices in my head telling me and I wasn’t exactly made to feel worthy by the end. I look at all these other girls around me in clubs, all of my best friends, and I think compared to them I am a 2/10. They are easy-going, slim, beautiful, funny, charismatic – everything I am not. I’m going to lay it out there and say I let guys have me but then they want nothing more after one go. So, I am not good enough. I am an eternal disappointment. But how can I expect someone to be able to love me if I don’t love myself? And how can I be good enough for someone else if I’m not good enough for myself? And I will never be good enough for myself so let’s face that destiny then, eh?

I mentioned my best friends, well, this refers to any of my friends really now. I consider them my best friends but I have never felt like anyone would consider me their best friend. I am not a good enough friend for that label, I am not a good enough person. I try so hard not to be the way I am, I try not to be selfish, I try to be supportive and caring and I just fail. That’s why everyone ends up leaving in the end because they realise I’m not good enough in any sense.

I will never be skinny enough, nor will I ever be toned enough. I will never have the butt and boobs that everyone desires. I will never have a perfect face, I will never look as good as other girls. I will forever be the one with the worst sense of humour, I will always be the one who brings everyone else down. I don’t deserve the happiness I wish I could have and it’s only now I’m realising this. I end up left alone while others move onto better things. I will never love myself, so nobody else will ever love me. And I’m coming to terms with that.

I appear to hate my appearance

So, I get notifications on Facebook with memories from X years ago. One came up in the summer which knocked me back and I haven’t shaken this thought off since. It was a picture of me with my friend and one of my brother’s friends from summer when I was 14. I looked at the picture and thought to myself, “why do I not look like that anymore?” I look completely normal. I was sat there looking at this old photo of myself wondering why I wasn’t still that size. It’s fucked up because I thought I was obese at the time of the photo. Okay, so I wasn’t a size 0 in it but I look at the photo and I am definitely not obese. I’d say I was a healthy size. So, why did I spend that entire year hating myself? Why have I hated the way I look ever since I can remember? In a few years time will I look back at pictures of myself from now and wonder why I hated myself so much again?

I constantly look back at pictures of myself from late 2015 and early 2016 because that was my skinniest. I will sit there and mourn for the body I have lost, and in turn this makes me mourn for the deepest parts of my illness because it put me into that body. I have such an unhealthy relationship with my body because I would rather put it through hell to go back to being that skinny than look after myself. And yet I don’t even have the strength in me anymore to put myself through that at the moment. So, I eat. And I regret it because I’m longing for that Loveday to come back.

Why though do I look back at older pictures of myself and remember how awful I felt at the time and sort of laugh at my younger self for being blind to the reality of how I looked? I look at them now and I know I wasn’t as big as my brain (or other people lol) told me. Therefore, surely I should be wiser and understand that I have a dysfunctional and distorted perception of myself but I don’t. I get told constantly I don’t see myself for what I actually am, but I disagree. I see myself for more of what I am than anyone else because it’s a common known fact that you notice your tiny little details and flaws more than anyone around you does. So yeah, you might not see what I see, but what I see is more of a reality.

The bottom line is: I am fundamentally unhappy with the way I look and I have come to realise that I always will be because, even when I was at my lowest weight, I hated the way I looked. And what I’ve been thinking about everyday is whether I’m okay with that because it’s going to be my life – I am never going to feel good enough for anyone else, I am never going to think I’m beautiful, I am never going to be completely happy with myself. And I sort of ask myself, well, is anyone completely happy with him/herself? And then I think, how important is my appearance to me? And I realise it’s disproportionately important. I’m so angry that something so shallow means so much to me that I let it ruin my life. I’m angry that I can’t embrace the person I am, the way I look, because I live in constant fear that it’s going to be used against me again. I’m angry that I’ve grown up to be the person I am. Why do I detest myself because of the way I look? Is it ridiculous? I’m not making a new year’s resolution but I am making a wish, a late birthday wish, a christmas wish, a life wish – I want to be happy one day. I want to love myself one day so that someone else can love me. I just want to stop fighting these voices in my head and live peacefully eventually. Please.

letters and words

So, when I was younger I used to write letters all the time, especially when I was angry or upset. I remember writing these emotional (or at least I thought so at the time) notes to my parents when I felt like I wasn’t being listened to properly or when I felt angry about something. I’d leave them on the landing outside my room so that my parents would find them when they came to make sure I was in bed. I would literally write “I feel so unloved and I feel like nobody cares what I feel” – it seems ridiculous now thinking back because I had an amazing childhood at home so let’s not make any assumptions that I had some traumatising childhood, okay? Okay.

When I was about 15 I thought I was in love for the first time – even now I’m wondering whether that really was my first experience of love because I almost still think it was. I told myself I had loved him since I was like 14 and I felt completely downtrodden when we didn’t work out. This was when I was 16. I mean, what does a 16 year old know about love? Yet, I wrote myself a letter to open when I was 18, which I did. The letter described how I felt – obviously it was all very cliché, but I think I truly did feel that way at the time and I shouldn’t belittle that. I wrote down all these intense emotions and thoughts I had that I didn’t feel like I could share verbally. Just like I did when I was little and wrote letters to my parents.

Even this year, only a couple of weeks ago, I had an awful night and ended up writing my flatmates a letter. This letter was pretty much me trying to explain why I had been behaving so erratically and apologising for everything. Again, this was a situation where I felt like writing it all down was a lot better and more eloquent than saying it out loud.

So, clearly letters are very important in my life. I suppose I see this blog like a long letter I’m writing to the world in various snippets. And it has got me thinking about the future of my letters. Rewind a couple of years and I’d have told you I wouldn’t make it to my 18th birthday, let alone my 19th. I couldn’t have seen myself leaving school and making it to university. I truly thought I would be dead by now, in fact long before now. And yet here I am. Still breathing. Still living. Still writing.

So I’m going to be honest now. This might hurt some people to read, and that’s not my intention at all. My intention is always to be as candid as I can with everyone who reads this and to show every angle of mental illness, the good and the bad, the rose-tinted, the bleak, everything. The truth is, I still think eventually I will be dead. And I don’t mean in the normal sense. I think there is only so long I can be ‘strong’ for (I put that in inverted commas because I’m not sure how strong I actually am). One day I will break and lose this battle. And, as I have been thinking about letters, I realised what my last letter will be. A letter to everyone, a letter explaining why I had to go, a letter begging for your forgiveness and telling my family to keep going no matter what. It will be a letter because I can never say what I write, the words end up stuck in my throat, but when I write they flow out of my fingers as though there is some muscle memory of it all. So, I will write and keep writing until my last letter because that’s how I get my words out best.

my problem with #metoo

This is going to be controversial. I can be sure of that. So, I am going to first put in place my disclaimer:

I know that sexual assault and the rape culture within the media and film industry is a problem. I do not deny that there are disgusting, disrespectful people (not only men, but women too) who have and even some still will assault other people both physically and verbally in any manner, but in particular sexually. There is no dispute about that, and I have the deepest sympathies for anyone, famous or not, male or female, who has had to endure anything of the sort from anyone. Especially when said person, for example Harvey Weinstein, had a position of authority and control over their victims to make them feel more vulnerable and less in control of themselves. Please bear my disclaimer in mind when reading the rest of this.

Here is my problem. Too many people can now falsely accuse notable people of sexual misconduct or other such behaviour. We live in a world where people do disgusting things in fits of anger and everything is instant. Now, I’m not saying we should just immediately assume every victim is making up their story, nor should we assume every accused person is a criminal. The difficulty is, people throw around these habitual argumentative phrases such as, “let’s all believe in the innocence of a white good looking male and discredit the woman’s testimony as always” and “no one ever believes women, this is why we don’t talk”, and these call upon every discrimination that we so violently hate in society nowadays. In particular, sexism and racism. We are all turning so firmly against “the white man” because he must be a criminal based on the way we, as a society, push for equality in everything.

Now, this argument of mine could become far longer if I go into exploring my view of ‘feminism’ vs. ‘Feminism’ and why that word is completely antiquated and should be, because of how far we have come in getting women equal rights already, called ‘equalitism’. But let’s not. Let’s save that one for a rainy day. Let’s just look at the way society is now. Frankly, we live in a world where nobody can keep themselves whiter than white (what an ironic saying in these times…) and everybody slips up, whether it be big or small. Yes, sexual assault is more than just a slip up. Yes, there are boundaries to draw the line between human nature and unforgivable behaviour. However, nobody is a saint. Saints do not exist. Human nature dictates that, no matter who you are, you put your survival needs ahead of anything else when it truly comes down to it. It is only when there is an imbalance in the chemicals that human nature can begin to shift, which I think must be the case for assaulters. I truly don’t believe anyone can be of sound, sane mind and believe that sexual assault and rape is acceptable at any time. No. I’m not excusing their behaviour at all. I am simply saying, we need to understand the intensity of the world we live in, especially for people in the public eye.

What I am angry about is that I believe that all this will do now is make more men (and even women) turn against ‘feminists’ (or ‘equalitists’) due to the storms of abuse that have and still will be thrown at innocent men, especially white men, about sexual assaults. It will also make those people who believe so strongly and passionately about this that they hurl this abuse at innocent bystanders, purely because they are angry at the world and human nature for being the way it is quite frankly, even more abusive. Abuse is never the answer to abuse, is it? I am scared that more and more women (or men) will come forward and falsely accuse these “white, privileged men” of rape or similar things in a fit of rage. Think about how easily you can sometimes send a text in anger, or spit out some hostile words at someone or about someone. In this day and age, with social media, it only takes one second for something to move across the entire world and make headlines. I can’t imagine a situation where I would ever falsely accuse someone of that behaviour, to such an extreme that I could ruin their entire lives and have them end up in prison. However, equally, I cannot imagine ever believing it would be okay for me to force myself upon a person and sexually assault them without consent. And yet, people do believe that that is acceptable behaviour. So, I believe it must work for both sides.

We live in a far from perfect world, full of far from perfect people, living far from perfect lives. Of course, victims of assault of any kind should speak out and get the support they need. Of course, nobody should ever assault anyone. Of course, nobody should lie. But we cannot guarantee any of that. We cannot force human beings to be this ideal, every person has different wiring in their body and we are far from understanding the true depths of the complexity of the human brain. So, for now, we have to accept that this world is fucked up. And all we should want to try to do, is make it that little bit less so by being fair and honest.

anxiety, episodes, attacks, panic.

I want to talk about panic attacks. Or anxiety attacks. Whatever you want to call them. The reason I want to do this is because, certainly for myself when I first started suffering from anxiety attacks, I had no idea what was happening and wasn’t aware I even had any form of anxiety. I’m going to explain my personal experiences of anxiety – they may differ to those of others – but I hope this might help people realise that anxiety affects a lot more people than we think. You might have had a panic attack and never known.

I have two types of panic attacks. One of them I don’t really label as a ‘panic attack’ because I don’t feel like I’m panicking so it feels like mislabelling. However, the first definitely is a panic attack. It is caused by my social anxiety, which I am happy to say I have managed to get very much under control over the past few years. My social anxiety is triggered by unfamiliar public journeys alone. So, basically, if I have to get the train to somewhere I have never been before on my own I get anxious. When I was younger I physically could not take public transport by myself and would not go out unless my mum/dad could give me a lift. I could not even take taxis – and taxis are still something I find very difficult at times. The anxiety would also get bad if I felt remotely threatened, for example if I was around drunk strangers, or frankly (sorry for the stereotype) strange men.

So this panic attack, how did it manifest itself? I’m going to use an example of when I was with two of my friends (I wasn’t even alone) at a train station in winter. It was about 6pm, so not late, and we were getting the train to meet one of my friend’s mums for dinner. We had to walk down an alley type thing to get to the station and it was dark because of the time of year, I felt slightly on edge. I wasn’t panicking at this point but I could feel my palms were sweaty and my heart rate was very slightly faster than usual. All of a sudden some drunk men stumbled towards us and one started pissing practically on us. They shouted things, though it was unclear as to whether they were aiming their proclamations at us or just the world around us. Immediately my heart rate doubled and I was gasping for breath. We kept walking towards the station. We realised these men were also walking to the station now. See, I can safely say now with the benefit of hindsight that these men were not following us and didn’t actually have any interest in us. But in my head, in that moment, I was telling myself something else. “They are going to rape you.” “They are going to grab you and take you away.” “They are going to kill you.” “You are going to die.” These thoughts whirled around in my head and I could not keep them at bay. Suddenly there were tears running down my face, only I wasn’t crying in my usual way. They were just tears of fear, no sobbing or wailing, I simply and truly believed I was going to die in that moment so I was crying in terror. I was stood on the platform, with my two friends sheltering me, genuinely believing the thoughts in my head. I was shaking, unable to breathe evenly; I could only mutter single words at any one time. Eventually the train came and we left the drunkards behind, but my anxiety remained. For the rest of the night I was quiet, still shaking and my heart rate was still too fast. Now my brain was telling me those men were going to find me. I felt as though I was suffocating that entire night, it took a long time for the panic to subside, and it only really did when I went to sleep.

The second type of anxiety attack I have is caused by my general anxiety. The example I will use here is a sensitive one, which I find pretty hard to write about because of the circumstances, but it is the best example I can give. It was late at night and my ex-boyfriend and I were in bed about to go to sleep. I can’t remember what it was but we fell out over something, it was no doubt stupid but it felt so important in the moment. The reason I don’t like to call these episodes anxiety/panic attacks is because I don’t feel anxious in the traditional sense, I’m not panicking about anything. They just are what they are. I felt this heat surge through my body, almost like the feeling you get when you’re really angry at a person, except I wasn’t angry. This heat filled my whole body and I began to want to rip off my skin to cool down. I was sat bolt upright in bed and holding back tears. I cry a lot so I try my best to refrain wherever possible. My eyes were stinging and I was beginning to hyperventilate. We kept arguing, he got more frustrated as I feel deeper into my episode. I began to get angry at myself, a livid monster was inside my head telling me to stop. “Just stop.” “STOP.” “You are bad.” I was just angry. I cannot explain why this happens, I don’t understand why my brain immediately turns to self-loathing but these bullying thoughts start and I can’t stop them. Suddenly I started hitting myself on the head. I smacked my head with my hands over and over again, causing myself as much pain as possible. I started pulling at my hair, wanting to rip it all out. I wanted to get out of my own body. I felt possessed. It was as though my spirit was trying to escape the prison that is my body.

My episodes happened quite frequently towards the end of my relationship. It is only since the break-up that I have realised the trigger was him. That we just weren’t working anymore. But that’s a different story. There were other ways my anger towards myself manifested itself in my episodes – sometimes I would bang my head against a wall, sometimes I would cut myself. I don’t think people really associate self harm with anxiety attacks; it is generally thought to pair with depression/bipolar/BPD/etc. I think anxiety is often overlooked as a mental health problem because it’s not omnipresent. However, if I can make just one person realise that they are not weird or messed up, that simply they experience mild anxiety (or any other extremity of anxiety), so that they feel more self-aware, then I am doing my job here. It’s ridiculous that people feel ashamed of the emotional sensations they feel in certain situations. Anxiety is our body’s natural defence mechanism – think about fight or flight. That response is entirely based on our anxiety. It’s just that when you label something with “anxiety” it suddenly has very negative connotations. So let’s embrace all that. We should be proud that our brains are intelligent enough to have this safety net in place just by human nature. Wow. I love the brain.

Cool. I’m done now. Hope I haven’t rambled too much. Have a nice day!

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.

desserpeD yllacinilC: A Backwards Brain.

I’ve been awol for a while. I know. Sorry. I’m 75% messy mind half the time so I juggle what I can, and for the past few weeks that’s been focusing on trying to get my YouTube going (if you weren’t aware of it, here ya go: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXSclcZK1wETQOOruPcF5-A). However, this week I’m taking a break from filming because, to be quite frank, I don’t have the mental capacity to put on a smile for a video and spend the endless hours editing. Again, sorry.

I was, well, incited to write by a book I’m reading. It’s called Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression, written by Sally Brampton and published in 2008 when, I suppose, she was in a period of remission. Perhaps remission sounds strange to you when describing mental illness. But there is a stigma we want to break. “We” being the mentally ill folk. Remission exists in exactly the same way with mental illnesses as with physical ailments, such as cancer. And there is the same fear of relapse (which, funnily enough, is a word commonly used to describe mental illness by many people, yet there is a lack of awareness that pre-relapse a person is in remission…did that make sense? Not too sure.)

Where was I? Yes. Relapse. Remission. All that jazz.

So, let’s talk about Sally Brampton for a moment. I have been incredibly touched by her writing, relating to what she describes more than I ever thought I could and realising more and more that the way I feel isn’t abnormal when faced with mental illness. Sally passed away early last year, she walked into the sea. Her obituary in The Guardian said this, “Sally will be remembered as the editor who transformed the women’s magazine market and trained a generation of confident, accomplished female journalists. She should also be remembered as the woman whose ferocious honesty about depression saved lives.” ¹ She was a high-powered editor, hugely responsible for the success of the British edition of Elle magazine, and yet she fought the same battle against depression that so many people fight on a daily basis. It’s strange how you can connect with someone from such a different world to you because of a mere chemical imbalance.

As I read Brampton’s book, I find I’m learning more and more things about my illness, which I didn’t think possible after living with it for almost two years now. I don’t know if I’ve ever really clarified what exactly I suffer from. Maybe I have, maybe if you know me you already know this. However, I didn’t actually know what to call it until I sat crying in front of my mum the other day and asked her what was wrong with me. It’s called clinical depression. Nice name, eh? I also suffer from anxiety and disordered eating, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. The reason I say it like this is because I’ve had people, namely certain males from a neighbouring school, mock me for telling people about my illnesses. I have been accused of attention-seeking and everything a sufferer of anxiety’s worst nightmares are full of. (Excuse my grammar there I know you’re not supposed to finish sentences with prepositions but I couldn’t figure out a better way to phrase it).

Well, anyway, the purpose of my writing all this babble is because there are two things Sally Brampton has taught me. One, is that remission can have an end AKA you can (and often will) relapse. Sadly, she showed that in the worst way. Although, it feels oddly ironic being suicidal and saying “sadly” someone managed to commit suicide. It’s almost that sort of bitter congratulations you give someone when they beat you in something you really wanted to win. However, being both British and human, I have to put sadly as, despite everything, death is just sad. I am relapsing. This is possibly the one moment I will fully admit it. I can tell I am relapsing because I no longer want help. I don’t want to eat anymore, I don’t want to exist anymore, and I find everything causes me horrible pangs of anxiety. So that’s that. Let’s move on from that hastily please. I mean it when I say I don’t want help, sincerely. The second lesson is that my memory loss from my most ill phases is COMPLETELY normal. This is a very specific lesson but I always found it so confusing that I just can’t remember huge chunks of the first term of my lower sixth year. And I am always left with blanks after I have episodes. I forget whole conversations I have. Sally wrote in her book, “There are parts of my memory of that time that are still missing…There are conversations I have had, or that people have told me I have had, that are quite blank to me and I am apt to grow confused about the chronology of months, or even years” and reading that, I felt this sudden sense of comfort knowing I’m not the only one. I think about it a lot. Often, I ask myself why I have so little memory of my worst moments and I have come to the conclusion that it is my brain protecting me. Just as your body creates a scab to cover an open wound, your brain controls what you remember to protect you. It’s science! Your brain chooses not to record the conscious memories you could have kept, in an attempt to prevent that pain from returning. However, it works the other way too, as Brampton put, “other parts of my memory of that time are still acute enough to mean that I have only to pass certain places of smell certain scents to feel intense pain. It returns at an almost cellular level.” This is the brain maintaining the conscious memory of tiny little details of traumatic experiences, rather than the whole experience itself. Again, not too sure if I’m making any sense but I hope somehow this all pieces together for you to read.

I think now, the last thing I want to do is leave you with some lines from Shoot the Damn Dog that I relate to and have stuck with me. Maybe, if your brain is sometimes silly (always silly, Loveday, be accurate) like mine, it will help you feel less isolated. Perhaps you’ll just understand more what sufferers of mental illness go through, and you’ll be able to help someone close to you by showing your understanding. Who knows? But here you go:

“Nor is it, truly, a desire to die so much as a fervent wish not to go on living.” (on being suicidal) Honestly, I have never read anything which sums up my thoughts on suicide more.

“Depression is a paralysis of hope.” You just feel hopeless. All. The. Time.

“Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who’ve been there.” When I read this, I thought a lot about it. I wouldn’t call myself spiritual at all but I know, having been in the darkest of places that (for me, it may be different for others) religion is not something I can see any hope in to save myself.

“These days I believe that it wasn’t myself that I hated, so much as the self I became during depression. I wanted it dead.” If any depressive doesn’t think this, I’m very jealous. We all want the bloody thing to go away.

“Imagine saying to someone that you have a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, and being told to pull yourself together or get over it.” Let’s break this stigma please. YOU CANNOT JUST GET OVER DEPRESSION. Or any other serious mental health problems for that matter.

“Frankly, I’d happily shoot the damn dog and be done with it; but I’ve come to accept that it is both unkillable and, in some sense, unknowable. Certainly, it often takes me by surprise.” In case people aren’t aware, “the damn dog” refers to Churchill’s labelling of depression as “the black dog”. This sort of ties in with the above quote, it’s not something you can just remove, nor is it a reasonable illness.

“Depression…depresses every single cognitive process. Concentration, memory, logic, reason, even the interpretation of facts and actual events are all interrupted.” This is so important for non-sufferers to understand. Everything, everything, is affected by depression and we can’t help it.

“I am, in all these ways, blessed. I am also a depressive. It doesn’t quite fit, does it?” I often think like this. How am I depressed when I have such an amazing life. But unfortunately, depression (and other mental illnesses) doesn’t discriminate.

“I am a case. I am a trial. I am an error.” Sometimes this is just how I feel, going back and forth to appointments, trying medication, frankly trying everything.

“I don’t want sleep. I want oblivion.” Sleep is my saviour. Always.

“Depression is the great thief.” I guess I take from this that she is saying depression steals your life. For example, for me it has stolen my sixth form. A time in my life I should have been learning how to grow up, not how to deal with clinical depression. It steals your entire body and all your attention. Yeah, it’s selfish like that.

“I used to be somebody. I am still somebody.” This perfectly sums up the contrasting feelings between my good brain and my bad brain, AKA depression vs. me.

“I want to die. I want, so badly, to die.” Pretty self-explanatory.

“Today I can’t honour it by calling it an illness. Today it is just a thing that neither of us knows or understands.” Some days I wake up so sick of fighting this bloody thing. I can’t stand it and want to spit in its face.

“I am terrified she will give up on me, that this thing will drive her away. Every depressive has that fear. Why would anyone want us? We don’t even want ourselves.” I think this one comes under anxiety more than depression. There is a constant fear that everyone is going to leave me because I’m a downer and have 0 personality half the time and I am just a pretty nasty person when in the intense grip of my depression.

“Telling somebody in the grip of severe depression that they are being selfish and self-pitying is like telling somebody with asthma that they have breathing difficulties. It is meaningless except as a statement of fact…They are lost in a place without boundaries or borders, where the concept of self has no meaning. They have lost their very self.” We all know we’re selfish. You don’t need to tell us. But as selfish as we are half the time, we are also so very concerned for others the rest of the time, for fear of them ending up in the state we are in. Make sense? It’s human nature.