Disclaimer: Post discusses Mental Health
I'm not sure why I was so hesitant to write this post. It may have been fear—fear that someone else would be able to write it better. May have also been embarrassment, because as understanding as I am towards others, I don’t offer the same to myself. It’s likely because of both; my two weaknesses and the same two doubts that feed into everything I do. They bleed out from me, tainting everything I touch or love.
The fear I'm not good enough.
They'll think less of me.
Those two statements are bullshirt, (yes, I swear like 'The Good Place'—awesome show, not sponsored). I am no less worthy of owning a blog or posting about mental health than the next person. It also doesn’t matter what other people think, not when I live with a voice that never silences beating me up more than other people’s opinions do.
Mental Health is not a new thing as well as it's not an old thing, and yet I've only officially diagnosed this year. I have only been told at twenty-six that all I’ve been feeling, how I've been thinking, there has been an explanation for it. The isolating and sorrowful times of my teenage years weren’t me just not being understood. I do think differently; I am different.
If someone else told me that statement, I'd say, "You're amazing" or an empowered "yeah you are! But you're great". When I think it about myself, my inner monologue scoffs, rolls its eyes and somewhat ridicules me with a "yeah, you are" in a sarcastic tone rather than empowered. It's funny really—or, maybe it isn't. Perhaps I think it’s funny because I guess I have to, it's my life after all, and I much prefer to be laughing over it than crying over it.
There's something pinned to the side of my wall at work, hoping to inspire me: If not you, then who? I somewhat believed in it, felt uplifted by it. It called to me when I was writing a difficult chapter for my main character, and it helped me stand up for myself at work. But then last few days hit, and they've been rough and difficult, and I find the phrase mocking rather than inspirational.
Wednesday was the worst day. After opening up to a friend, and them sending me a virtual hug I pulled on my yoga trousers on, determined to fight the emotions inside of me; I psyched myself up to go to the gym at 7.30pm over going for a walk (I usually do neither of those two things—I don't leave the house alone after 7pm for one, never mind head to the gym). I told myself I could do this, that I am powerful.
Less than an hour later, I was sobbing in my car having a full blown panic attack because the world hated me.
At one point, I had lost my car—I hadn't, there were just a lot of white cars; I immediately thought everyone was laughing at me—newsflash, and unsurprisingly, they weren’t. As I sobbed, trying to sing the lyrics to Loyal by Chris Brown—a song I know all the words to—I remembered the inspiration quote, and I sobbed louder, one thought running around and round my head:
If not for my brain reminding me, how else will I be reminded I have a mental health condition?
My brain pulled out the big weapons to bring me back to Earth after what I thought had been a relatively successful few weeks. It made me realise, as much as I want to be in control, I'm not always going to be; as much as I want to beat this, the battle isn't one that'll be won one night. The sun won't come out one day and remain there forever. It will rain, and it will pour, and this week was just one of them.
You're all probably thinking, 'wow Jo, what a happy piece' but raising awareness isn't all about sharing what works for yourself—although they're my favourite posts—it’s also about reminding others that when it’s pouring, they're not alone. It’s allowing ourselves to realise we aren’t bad people or messed up because we find ourselves at the bottom of the hill, staring up at what we have to climb.
It's about realising that stability isn't created in a day—or Rome, whatever saying you prefer.
I've felt super alone all week, super isolated, trapped almost. I've felt as though there was a wall between me and the person I was speaking to, even when I was banging on it for help. I felt like I was a bother, a nuisance, and while my brain has convinced me of that, I know it’s likely that I’m not. It’s more likely that they want to help me, but they’re not sure how, and I’m even less sure how to ask.
When I was crying in my car, holding the steering wheel as I muttered these 'people' aren't loyal (not the lyrics I sang, ha!) all I could think of was, why isn't this working? Why is the breathing, the trying to centre myself, the singing… why am I so broken that this won’t work? But more importantly: What is wrong with me?
And, of course, how will I get home.
I did, though. I mean, this would be a lousy blog post if I was still sat in the car park, beard down to my knees and talking to my steering wheel calling it Wilson. But, even if time had slowed and it felt closer to an hour I'd been sat in the car crying, I did eventually get home.
I called my mum, somewhat crying, and listened to her talk about some ducks from work and how she is thinking of what to have for her tea. It was exactly what I needed, without even knowing it. She literally guided me home with her story that had my eyebrow raised and occasionally snorting in disbelief at her. I also felt less broken, as though she had smashed down the wall and hugged me, even if she was miles away.
Don't get me wrong, the two days that have followed have felt like a hangover from hell—I always get weird panic/anxiety attack hangover-like-things. But, it felt nice to have had someone with me, even though I wanted to be alone at the same time.
Before this week, I'd been having an okayish time. I've made new friends, (Hey, if you're here) and joined a book club that has both lifted me and given me purpose. I've dove into writing again with full force, and trying to doodle again. I'd also been doing things I had never felt able to do before, like driving alone somewhere unknown or walking the dog in the afternoon; I have stepped out of my comfort zone a lot, and I guess maybe I pushed myself a little too far with going to the gym alone.
It's a possibility, but I'm still glad I tried.
People always say the best thing for someone suffering with a form of mental health is to have someone there. It's true, or it is for me—I can only really speak for myself, I'm not a medical professional, just a long-time sufferer. But that person doesn't have to be there physically; they can be there over the phone, over text. If you have someone in your life, you worry about or want to be there for, but just not sure how, just send us a text. A photo of a dog or a cat doing something silly, send a meme, ring us up—if we like the phone, that is—or if not, a voice clip. It can change someones day in a second, I assure you—it does for me.
You don't have to sacrifice hours or try and cram us in after work. It's just nice to know someone is willing to break down the wall, someone to talk about ducks and guide us home. Someone who is willing to shout over the voice in our heads, and remind us we're not as weak as we are made and our brains allow us to believe.
It's also important to remember that something small to yourself can be something large for someone else. My husband never has to think about what time he goes to the gym or if he's alone, but I do. He never has to wonder if it's too late to go to the shop or if they'll be too many people at the event. He can just go, and that's great, I'm so happy for him (even if I am a little jealous). I want to be like that; I want to be able to do something without having doubt creep in my mind or fear of a panic attack.
I also don't want to avoid doing something because I'm fearful of something terrible happening, but right now, I am. And, it's okay that I am. It's okay that I've rolled a bit down the hill I climbed, and it's also okay that I'm not doing as well as I have been, and it's also okay to you, whoever is reading this, if you're not having a great time. It's all okay, and will all be okay, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.
As Ronan Keating once said, 'Life is a rollercoaster, you've just got to ride it'. A truer statement has never been sung by me so much lately.
It's also a pretty damn good song.