Coping with myself

You know that feeling you have, every time you read the news and something horrible has happened? That feeling of sadness, yet comfort in the fact that at least it would never happen to you. With a lot of things that’s true, very few of us will experience the really bad things that’s out there. Terrorism, murder, rape, homelessness and starvation. Most of us will never be directly affected by any of the horrible headlines the media throw at us, but that doesn’t mean we are completely safe from misery. That we’re untouchable.

I have seen my share of misery in my life. At the age of twenty eight I have experienced things people twice my age haven’t, things I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but at the same time I don’t feel I have the right to complain, because I know there’s always someone else that has had it so much worse than me, someone that has had it more difficult than me. Thus I never have felt sorry for myself, nor have I ever allowed myself to let the world as such get me down. That is, until now.

Nearly two years ago, I woke up in the early hours of the morning with stabbing pains in my stomach. Speaking as someone who didn’t cry during childbirth, these pains brought me to tears, they were so severe. Still, they subsided slightly, and by the time I saw the doctor later on that day, I felt slightly silly about wasting her time. The doctor prescribed a two week treatment for gastritis, a course that I finished and for the following year and a bit I never really thought about it again. Both the doctor and I put the episode down to a particularly stressful period, and as I hadn’t actually felt particularly stressed or out of sorts I decided I couldn’t really be that ill. After all, if I was that stressed, surely I would have noticed?

In March of this year I went to the doctor again, this time because I had been feeling a really sharp pain in my breast which had lasted for over a month, and although I suspected it was from a pulled muscle, I was getting a bit concerned about it. I never thought to mention other symptoms that I had been feeling for several months, the worst of which was waking up every morning feeling like I had severe morning sickness, despite not being pregnant. The doctor examined me and didn’t find anything, but asked me to come back in a few weeks, at which point I mentioned the other symptoms. My stomach felt constantly unsettled, from waking till about noon I feel severely nauseated, for several years I had suffered from randomly getting the sensation that I couldn’t breathe, something I had been told was simply in my mind and thus I had given up mentioning to doctors, this now happened much more frequently. I had heart burn constantly, something I thought might improve after giving up smoking, but it didn’t. The doctor gave me a prescription, then two different prescriptions, but rather than getting better, in the months that followed I was getting worse.

I have always struggled with anxiety on a milder level; I never liked crowds or being around large groups of people, whether they were people I knew or strangers. I have always been incredibly shy around people, but dealt with it by forcing myself to be outgoing. I dealt with my fear of crowds by going to football matches. I had the occasional panic attack, but it was never severe, and a few minutes later I would be fine again. I miss those days.

Depression was one of those things that I thought would never happen to me. After all I have been through, and come out the other side not that much worse for wear, how on earth could I submit to full on depression just because of something as trivial as stress, the very emotion I have thrived on throughout my life? Those and others are questions screaming in my mind every day, some days I don’t think I will ever find the answers to those, or any questions for that matter, but on more reflective days I realise that the answer is quite simple. It was just the final straw, my body and my mind hit their limits and now my mind is doing its best to reboot. Or maybe restart; I haven’t quite decided which I would prefer yet.

It bothers me that depression still remains a taboo, or hushed up subject. Not in the media, the media loves mental illness; they love to give advice and to “educate” the public. However, the public themselves aren’t that good at talking about things; some people simply dismiss any kind of mental illness as a need for attention. It isn’t, and it isn’t something that you can turn off, it isn’t something that ever goes completely away, like any physical illness, it can come back. According to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 4 people will have to deal with some form of mental illness during the course of a year. With numbers that high, how can people continue to pretend it isn’t real? How can you expect people to seek help, when health professionals don’t really have the time to help, and the people around you do not either understand or want to understand what is going on inside your head?

Being depressed, suffering from any form of mental illness, it doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you human. That’s something I am still struggling to cope with. Waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats because I’m worried about something, my heart beating so loudly it’s all I can hear because I’m in a situation that makes me incredibly nervous, when a couple of years ago it wouldn’t have. Feeling a compulsive need to continually flick my left middle finger off the thumb on the same hand every time I feel anxious, nervous, stressed, or to enable myself to simply focus on walking home after dropping my daughter off at school. Knowing that most people assume I am fine because I don’t look ill, because most of it is going on in my head, all of that makes me feel weak. It really does, and it makes me angry with myself, because I don’t want to be like this, I want to be able to make that phone call that could get me a contract for the business I am trying to build for myself without struggling to breathe after dialling the first two numbers. I want to be able to go to the shop without needing to force a smile when paying for the groceries, when I’m shouting on the inside and want anything but to be around people. I know I’m lucky, because I can still make myself do the everyday stuff. I don’t have a choice but to walk my daughter to school or to go to the shop for milk or bread, and I’m glad that I do not have that choice, because without the responsibility I feel towards my daughter I would probably just stay in bed all day and stare at the wall, giving myself repeat mental beatings. As it stands I do the dishes or the ironing or the cooking whilst in my mind I repeatedly remind myself how useless I am, how weak I am and how it is no wonder I do not have any friends, because who would want to be friends with me? Most days I question why my fiancé is with me, because I feel worthless. I feel like a rubbish parent, even though I know I am not, and whenever I look at my daughter, when I should be remembering everything I have accomplished, what I see is everything I have failed at.

I want to get better, that’s the important bit. I have things I want to do, things I want to accomplish, and right now all I feel like I am doing is going around in circles, not really getting anywhere. I’m in a better place than I was a few months back, I’m not bursting into tears several times every day, or arguing about everything, physically I am at least slightly better. My confidence is shot and I have lost all faith in my writing, the one thing I have always loved doing, which in itself is keeping me from improving too much. Writing is how I process life, and when I cannot write, I cannot move forward. I really do want to get better, and I know that one day soon I will be. At the moment I am letting things get to me, things that in the past wouldn’t have bothered me, people talking about me, making up stories because they have nothing better to do. I have never been someone to care about what someone else says about me; someone else’s opinion about me never mattered as long as I was happy with who I was and what I was doing. Sometimes I wonder if people stop and consider just how much damage they can cause someone just because they are so blinded by their illusions that they don’t stop to consider that their irresponsible actions could really hurt someone else. That’s one of the things I look forward to the most, once I’m better. Being able to not worry about the small things, not get upset because someone who doesn’t matter is trying to hurt me or those I love. I miss being able to brush things off, but I know I’m rebuilding, and I’m making myself strong again, and one day soon I will be able to do easily everything that at the moment feels so hard, and I really cannot wait for that day. But I do not know how I am going to get there.

I feel like I have rambled a lot, I hope some of it makes sense. At the end of everything, over the last two years I have learned what matters, who matters, and who are worth my time. I’m learning to put myself first a lot more, because I never did, and that’s part of why I have hit the low point that I have. More importantly I have learned that you should never dismiss anything, however trivial you may think it is, when it comes to your health. If I had dealt with things sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to the low point that I have been at, and maybe those around me wouldn’t have suffered.

I never wanted to be in this situation, but now I am in it I am trying to adapt, I am trying to work my way out of it, doing it my way. I know how lucky I am to have my family, to have a partner and daughter that love me unconditionally despite of how I am, how I have been. I don’t care if I am judged, I do not care if I am ridiculed, all I care about is getting better, and healing, and in order to do that I have to be honest. I am exhausted from pretending I am fine, from smiling and doing and saying what I should, just so that everyone else can live in the illusion that everything is fine. I never wanted to feel like this, but I will get better, and in the meanwhile I have learnt to appreciate those who have been there when I have needed them so much more. I don’t feel good at the moment, I have such a long way ago, and this is me saying that I am tired of pretending that I am alright, when I am just not alright. But I will be. I never wanted to be feeling like this, but one day soon, I will feel better, although I am terrified at how much it will take out of me to get there. I’m not weak. And I will get better.

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