Unless you have been living under a rock, you will probably know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this week in particular is Mental Health Awareness Week. Personally, although I know everything has it’s own week, month, day etc, I really do believe these events are fantastic. And not just because I can be even more annoying and a social media nuisance more than normal. It really does make people sit back and think, It helps give those a tiny push to share their stories and get involved but most importantly, it sign posts people to where they can get help and support and ultimately, this can, and does, save a life!
Now, I cant talk for everyone, mental health affects everyone in its own unique way so these thoughts and feelings, as usual, are purely my own. What Depression and Anxiety are to me. You yourself may have different ways of perceiving them, or they may make you feel different but as with anything, we are unique to ourselves. It doesn’t mean we are suffering any more or less, it just means we are suffering in our own way. To add a positive spin to it too, we all cope and manage in our own way as well. As I have said before and I will always say, we are in this together. We are each others mutual support, we understand, we empathise and sympathise and ultimately, we are stronger together.
OK, so Depression. Firstly you may notice I spell them with capital letters, like names. This to me was my way of compartmentalising them. If I made them into “beings” it was easier for me to understand the effect they had over me, the control. It was easier to get my head round what was going on and easier to get things out of my head as I could, demonise them, I suppose is the best way to say it.
Depression hangs around me like a dark cloak that at times I find impossible to shake off. He (no offence to the male sex here, not saying you have any links, I just feel they are he’s) really likes to take full control. Of my mind, body and soul. If he manages to successfully infiltrate one of those three, it is VERY hard for me to stop him getting his dirty claws into the other two. He makes me feel worthless, he makes me feel ugly, he makes me feel stupid. He makes me think I am a burden to those around me, that I am just making peoples lives a misery and hanging onto them when I should be letting them drop me and go and make themselves happy. He makes me paranoid, like everyone is talking about me and judging me, that no one loves me and that they are all laughing at me behind my back. It is a horrible place to be. Everything loses it shine, goes dark and dull and even my favourite music can lose that spark it has to me when things are really bad. I listen to the words and hear an alternative, darker story than what I actually know it is saying.
Everything seems so difficult, from opening my eyes on a morning, to walking, to talking. I lose interest in pretty much everything. I get to the end of the day and I feel exhausted. Exhausted that I have had to survive another day. Not live, not when I feel at my lowest, but survive. I also feel anger and frustration. The anger scares me the most as when I lose it, I struggle to control it. In those moments, as brief as luckily they mainly are, I don’t care who I hurt. If I hurt this much, so should they. Horrible isn’t it? (disclaimer – I shouldn’t have to put this here but I think it is sensible that I do, I would NEVER physically harm my children, nor would I emotionally or mentally abuse them. They may see me mad or upset, that is a reality of suffering from a mental health issue. It is never directed at them. Fortunately I have that self control and maternal protection ingrained in me. Just saying. For the record!)
The thing is, Depression is a manipulator. He can get you truly believing these horrible things. He can give you the clarity to plan your own end of life with such terrifying detail and can have you act on it! He does not care, he plays to win. To him, with me, ultimately winning is death. My death. BUT, I have beat him back enough now that although I don’t and probably never will have ultimate control over him, I am using him against himself. All these feelings, all these actions I have done to myself are now my lived experience. My key to my future, to helping others understand, to helping others help themselves. I do very occasionally have fleeting thoughts now, but more about running away than dying. That is a massive relief to me!
Now, Anxiety, Depressions annoying but equally as aggressive brother! He likes to play with your head in the other way, where Depression makes you not care, He makes you care too much. He makes you fear yourself, he makes you fear everything, he makes your head so busy that although Depression is exhausting you and all you want to do is sleep, you cant! He makes my heart beat faster, my palms itch and gives me the worst headaches where even my eye ball hurts. He makes it so I can enjoy the things I enjoy, if that makes sense? I cant relax. I can cant concentrate on reading, I cant sit still, my mind is whirring at the speed of a walzer and one fleeting worry escalates into one massive snowball of an issue! Yet at the same time, he also makes you feel stupid, but in the way that you believe no one would understand. Sleep becomes nigh on impossible for more than a few hours at a time as it is like a blind getting pulled open. A barrage of thoughts tumble into your dreams and before you know it you are watching the minutes pass by and the sun rise, wondering how the hell you are going to cope with what you have on that day. How will you face people? How will you get things done?
I have days where I am great, days where I am good, sometimes I am lucky where I have weeks, though months at a time seems a long way off at the moment. As an old manager used to say to me, I need to learn to walk before I can run. When you fall so far down the rabbit hole, you cant expect to be skipping in the meadow again within a certain time scale. Who knows how long it will take, but one thing is for sure, I will get there! That meadow has my name on it! There will be other rabbit holes scattered all over that meadow, I am intelligent and realistic enough to know I will probably never be able to not fall in one, life experiences and the way my brain functions put paid to that. You know what though, I think I am as OK with that as I can be.
For now, and hopefully for as long as I am trotting around on this earth, I will just continue to do what I can to spread the word and help whoever I can. I can certainly think of worse ways to live my life.