Here I Am Broken, But Not Destroyed
As a disclaimer, this will not be a revolutionary blog post that’s pretending to be new and different, I know it's not. People before me will have exposed themselves in this way, told their truth and their story. And while that’s partly what I’ll be doing, it’s not all I’m doing. I’m, for the first time in my entire life just going to be real and truthful. Something that terrifies me, if I’m completely honest. For me, this is me pulling back the layers, and demolishing the wall I’ve built, to stand in front of whoever reads this and go, “Here I Am, Broken but Not Destroyed”, —or something clever like that—love that this became the title, it wasn't originally.
Usually, I’m the friend who helps others, I’m the comforter; I’m the one who wants to hold someone’s hand and offer them a warm drink and listen. I’m not someone who likes to talk about their problems, not comfortably anyway. I instead, keep all of my feelings tucked inside, pushed down as much as I humanly can, hoping and praying they’ll never resurface.
In a way, it could have been the contributor to why I’ve grown up the way I have, or it could be just who I am—who I was ‘destined’ to become—but I’ll never know. What I do know is that a year ago, I didn’t have a blog or a website, and I most definitely wasn’t writing a book. I also know the girl I was a year ago wouldn’t have wanted to admit they weren’t perfect, not because that girl thought she was—anything but, if I’m honest—but rather because she hated the idea that she wasn’t, and admitting it now is possibly the hardest and stupidest thing she—or I—has ever done.
Letting anyone in on how my brain works always makes me panic, I begin to freefall, wondering obsessively what they’re thinking and if the emotion that’s written on their face even matches their thoughts. It’s exhausting, so I just don’t do it. I don’t need to feel additional stress, so for me, it’s easier if I don’t share. Because what happens when I find out I’m the only one who thinks the way I do? What if everything changes? Those same terrifyingly real thoughts plague me anytime I offer my opinion, even when someone has asked for it. Disagreeing with someone purposefully is hell to me, and sometimes, I’ve even come up in hives—which is mad, isn’t it? It’s my thoughts, they can’t be wrong, and if we all thought the same, the world would be rather bland, and I believe that because I’ve even said that line to someone else. But I cannot take my own advice, and I do not listen to what I preach.
I just don’t want to upset someone. Ever.
Yes, it’s tiring trying to navigate topics and balancing when best to share what I think, but also, I don’t have to worry as much about what that person is thinking. It also means, when the discussion has ended, I don’t sit there dwelling—as much—whether I could have said something better.
It brings me back to why I don’t share when I’m struggling because, in my beautiful brain, I believe—no matter how hard my day has been—there’s always someone having a harder day than me. Admittedly, to some, it’s probably quite a nice trait to have, but trust me it isn’t. Because it means I never make myself a priority. At times, I’ve even forgotten that I can say no to something, instead, I just do it to save upsetting someone else.
Along the way, by trying to be the best person, I’ve forgotten that I also matter.
Whether it’s doing something I really don’t have the energy for, listening to other people when I really can’t handle anything other than my own problems, or even declining an invite to something I really don’t need to go to. Then there’s the fact I rarely ever—unless it’s aimed at my dog—use the word no. It’s a word that is so simple, it’s two letters. No. N. O. Yet, for me, it’s the most difficult to say out loud.
All of that balancing of everyone else, and ignoring my general wellbeing, made 2018 the year I spread myself so thin I became transparent. The year I looked after everyone instead of myself.
Was it on purpose? Possibly. Admittedly, I don’t think I’m great at handling things when they’re difficult, and I prefer to redirect my attention to something else or even someone else. It even applies to projects, I continuously fluctuate between about four or five just so I find myself stretched and never ‘stuck’. It could be a huge contributor to my stress, but… *shrugs*
All of that, and I guess because I never have, has ultimately led me to want to talk about mental health, specifically my own. For myself, writing things helps me, and I’m hoping by being as brutally honest as I can be, I’m allowing myself to really take note of what is happening in my life, and how important it is for me to make myself a priority.
I was only officially diagnosed in late 2018, but I know for a fact I was suffering from it all for much longer. My first ever round of CBT was in 2016, and in 2014 I had gone to my doctors’ to explain how I was feeling. Ultimately though, no one provided answers until I met the right doctor, and I also don’t think I was ready to hear the answer for the same amount of time I had waited. I had ignored every single sign that shone in bright red lights because I believed that tomorrow I’d be over it, and as you rightly guessed, tomorrow never came.
If anything, tomorrow ran as far away from me until I gave up looking for it. Did I get help? No, of course, I didn’t. Because then I told myself how foolish I was for not coping and that I ‘needed to pull myself together’—a phrase too many people have probably heard. And as expected, of course, I couldn’t, and I had tried everything to pull myself together: CBT, ASMR videos, writing, meditation, you name it, I probably gave it a go. But, the one thing I didn’t do, was to tell anyone—not really, anyway.
My husband knew, but he knew what he needed to be able to give me space. He didn’t know how big the struggle was because I was afraid if he did know, he’d think of me differently (or leave me, which is ridiculous). He has the patience of a saint, and I was so worried if I told him everything, his patience would wear thin, and we’d argue, and then the dog
would get upset, and yeah, I’m sure you get my drift. Whether or not he thinks of me as his superwife—I’ll ask him later—I told myself that’s how he saw me, and super-wives do not have anxiety and depression. How did I believe that I’m not sure? He’s amazing after all, but my mind had become one of those warped-mirror theme park rides where you walk in and everything isn’t what it seems. A thought would go in, seemingly innocent and harmless, and somehow come out twisted into a nightmare that plagued me way after the world had gone to sleep.
When I finally did open up to my family—and him—and the weight of my shoulders did lessen, and after the tears and the hugs, it was unanimous that I had always been an ‘anxious’ child. Always.
That word stuck with me for a good couple of weeks. If I had ‘always’ been this way, why is it only when I became an adult that the simmering pot over boiled? Why had I been a seemingly happy child, but a miserable adult? Yes, there are bills and going to work, things a child or teenager doesn’t have to worry about, but I’m great at organisation and budgeting. If anything, they’re a reward for me—give me a spreadsheet over a movie any day.
But being an adult is hard, isn’t it?
When you’re a child or a teenager, you can’t wait until you grow up and have your own house, no rules, and all your own space. Trust me, if I could turn back time—I’d take that wish back in a heartbeat—and while I love my house, and it’s mine, it is difficult to manage. Juggling bills, responsibilities, and ensuring I’m still seeing my friends, family; walking my dog, ensuring I go to work and remain the best version of myself while keeping up with all my hobbies, and making sure I eat and sleep! It’s a lot, and it never stops and it’s all just so… hard.
If you imagine each responsibility as a plate spinning above you, it’s a lot. And it’s all those spinning plates that make me so incredibly anxious because they never bloody stop spinning. There never becomes a point when you own a house and you can stop worrying because the moment you do the boiler breaks or you find a leak. For someone with anxiety—or in my case—I find I worry about those things happening before they’ve even happened. I later then find myself awake at night, worrying the dog will electrocute himself because the fridge will short-circuit because it’s all defrosted, and he’ll stupidly drink the water and boom, dead dog.
The fridge hasn’t even been acting up, it’s new and under warranty; there’s nothing to make me suspect that will happen, but I worry about it all the same. To the point, I have to check when my husband isn’t looking, or when he’s already at work and I have to lock the house up by myself.
Sometimes, I worry so much about things such as that, I make myself ill. My stomach will hurt and I find I won’t be able to eat—and when I do, I know it isn’t going to stay down; sleep becomes something I hope will come but never does, and my concentration fluctuates and I become easily irritable, snapping at the dog or my husband, and then they’re mad at me, and the cycle begins all over again.
Then, the crushing feeling arrives when I’m lay down, minding my own business, waiting for those sheep to come, and I feel myself begin to panic. ‘What if I never fall asleep?’ or ‘what if I’m not great at my job tomorrow, I bet they’ll fire me’ and by that point, my breathing is challenging to find, and there are tears in my eyes, sweat on my forehead and palms. I’m having a full-blown meltdown silently just so I don’t wake my husband; I have to stuff the pillow into my mouth so I can let out the panicked sob that just has to come out, and I don’t know what to do. If i wake him, will I disappoint him? He has work tomorrow; if I leave him sleeping, will I ever be able to join him?
The one thing I’ve learnt from writing all of this down is for me, you just can’t ‘boss’ being a homeowner with anxiety. Or if people can, can someone come and teach me how?
When I’ve asked other people, they just shrug and say ‘it’s not as hard as they thought’, and then the crushing feeling would return much more intense than usual, grasping a hold on my heart as it tries to squeeze the life out of me. They will talk some more—after I’ve probed for answers on juggling bills—and I hear it in their voice, they just roll with whatever comes their way. So, in the end, I come away, always wondering to myself, Why am I still searching for perfection in an imperfect situation? Why am I striving for a goal where the finish-line constantly moves?
And I’ve always felt that way; exams when I was a teenager, my driving lessons and test. I was, and still am, constantly striving for perfection when I know it’s not needed. But, back then, I didn’t know it was anxiety—and I didn’t know it was high-functioning depression. I just sort of thought everyone expected it from me; I believed the pressure I applied on myself was justified, and the dread I felt someone asked to talk to me was because I had done something wrong.
When, in reality, it wasn’t any of that, it was a mental illness I hadn’t realised I had. Something imaginary to some. Something unseen by the eye, but lived like a monster inside of me, poking out of the darkness when I was having a good day, stealing the sunshine.
My diagnosis, in a way, was reassuring, but it wasn’t a quick thing that came about with one visit. I endured two lots of CBT therapy, a lot of tears, and then at the beginning of 2018 when it became even more unmanageable—after I pulled the duvet over my head and continued to plod on—I spoke to my doctor. Not the first, the first few different doctors I saw just told me it was stress, but thankfully, the last—and my current doctor—was and is amazing.
With all the goods, there have to be bad’s, and because I decided—to drag my feet—to go to the doctors’, by the time I saw him I had gained some rather ‘fun’ symptoms. Insomnia was a fan favourite of mine—not—and averaging a few hours of sleep at best left me looking close to something from AMC’s The Walking Dead. Thankfully, my husband didn’t seem to agree. Some other favourites were obsessive compulsion which I’ve still not shaken off, and a huge loss of appetite—but I still managed chocolate, I’m not a monster.
Because of how much I had unravelled, and my reluctance to try therapy so soon after not glueing with the last, my doctor brought up the discussion of medication. Particularly antidepressants. Just to declare, I’m a huge advocate for medication when people need it, I think it’s absolutely great. If my friend came to me—and I have had friends do this—and said, ‘I’m starting some anti-depressants’, I’d be like, ‘go you for getting help’. The same couldn’t be said when it was me in the driving seat, instead, I just felt like a failure.
This wave of emotions—one I couldn’t even begin to describe—crashed over me, drenching me in tears and sweat like nothing else. Every wall I tried to throw up, didn’t stick, and my doctor looked at me, wondering what on earth he had done. Which was nothing, he is absolutely amazing. Even when I had calmed down, not even the kind words of the doctor could stop the recurring thought that I hadn’t tried hard enough. When I knew I had.
I had tried so damn hard some days, I’m sure it's why I had a migraine, but when I was sat there, poof, all of that was forgotten.
Quickly—and naturally—I spiralled into this swirl of ‘I can do better’ and ‘I promise I’m not that bad’, but he saw through it—thankfully—because he was right in everything he had said, I had done my best and unfortunately, I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think I needed help.
On reflection, I’m not sure if my quick spiral into, ‘Everything’s fine’, is because I didn’t want to admit I wasn’t or if the idea of being medicated scared me. I actually do hate taking any form of medication, not because I’m worried about side-effects, I’m just so darn sure I don’t need them. Again, I’m not actually superhuman, so of course, I do, I just get… nervous. I don’t like surrendering the control I have and I feel when I take painkillers and such, that’s what I’m doing.
Which is bonkers because it isn’t at all what is happening. Far from it, but I can’t train my mind out of it. Even though I know it's not weak, I feel weak when I need help like I should be able to do all of this by myself, and when I can’t, I feel like I’ve let myself down, and everyone in my life. When I know, if I asked them, they’d tell me that was the furthest thing from how they felt, but I still can’t drown out the thought. It just circles, remaining there until the other voices silence, shouting as loud as it can.
I did take the prescription, and I purchased it. It was a step that was so hard to take, but one I knew I needed to do. For the first time, I opened up to my parents, told them everything—super scary, by the way—and as expected, they were as supportive as I expected them to be. But, even with my mum saying all the right things, and my dad giving me a hug, I still felt as though I disappointed them.
That feeling resurfaces every time I’m having a hard day. ‘The tablets are doing their job, why can’t you?’ my brain will say, taunting me with a sharp stick as I plead and beg it to stop.
Earlier this week, I was having a really hard day. There were small piles of things stacking up all around me, and while I’m on medication that should help me to cope a little better, I wasn’t. If anything, I was sticking my head so firmly into the sand I couldn’t hear the ocean. It sneaked up on me, making me hot then cold, stressed and relaxed. The only way I can describe is when you’re gripping on to something, then letting your grip loosen, only to tighten a second later. That’s what my anxiety was doing. On the outside, to those working with me, I’m smiling—I’m even laughing—because I refuse to be the one to put the office down; I refuse to talk about how I’m not doing okay, and how each sound someone makes is close to nails on a chalkboard. If they did ask how I was, I am so sure the walls would have come in, and the claustrophobic feeling would triple, if not quadruple.
Today, I reminded myself it's been two months. Just two, since I picked up that prescription.
In two months, I’ve put myself first a bit more. In that time I’ve opened up more, and that’s huge! I’m hoping, from throwing all this out there and having nowhere to hide, that in another two I’ll have a better grip—I won’t unravel as quick as the last time. For now, I’m going to continue to work on things I love, I’m going to try and check in on here more often with how things are, whether anyone is interested or not because I can’t put my health in your hands, I’ve got to put it in my own.
In my last blog post, I talked about accountability, and for me—for my health—this was the best way I could hold myself to it. A problem shared is not a problem halved, but it does beat keeping everything to yourself.
[Photos taken by myself the weekend this was posted. After I got nervous, the husband took me out to blow away the word-cob-webs]