My thoughts about Mental Health.

A friend of mine suggested this to me as a theme a few days/weeks ago and whilst it might not be the most “fun” theme i’ve tried to write about, it is most definitely close to home and something which I feel I should write about.

My history of depression is quite a long one. I can remember as a very young child sitting in a doorway, on our porch with a little bag in front of me wondering where I could go to make everyone else’s life easier. I’ve always felt like i’m in the way, like i’m a burden and I honestly have no idea why.

I’ve been very lucky, I have a loving, caring family and have not had anything serious to make me sad, or to feel the way I did, unfortunately, I just think that’s my mind.

I spent a lot of my childhood as a happy go lucky child, I think a lot of the surprise to my family/friends when I started talking about my struggles was the fact that I had hidden it so well. People didn’t believe I’d tried to run away, or to kill myself, or that i’d harmed myself but I only did what I thought was the right thing, to take away the pain, or to stop the suffering of others….like I said, I always felt like I was a burden, in the way, taking time from someone more important, hearing my parents arguing over something (which probably wasn’t me) and being sure that they were arguing over something i’d done, or something I’d caused and wishing I had never been born as I was causing people to have these thoughts…….

Yes, I have since learnt that this is a very egotistical thought but for so long I got used to feeling like the butt of all jokes, the hated part of the class, the idiot of the group – I was never a cool kid and I know that being bullied etc isn’t something no one else has dealt with but it seemed to affect me a lot –  so later in life, when the angry, hurtful and cruel voices started, I listened, in fact, no matter what was actually said to me, I would believe the inner voice. People would give me a compliment and the first thought in my mind would be “why is this person lying to me?” It sounds so warped but one thing my friends know about me is that I will often be self deprecating, and when they ask me why, my standard response is “it saves time” as in, if i’m horrible about myself, then no one else can get in there first.

I didn’t have much official therapy until I first tried to kill myself at 17 – I had started self harm before the age of 11 and trying to leave or run away at age 8 or 9 – I was back in the UK, back in my old school, surrounded by people who were confident, clever, had money and seemed to have their lives mapped out (something I still don’t have to be honest) and this scared me. I came out of a relatively serious to me relationship and I felt totally alone, totally worthless and more than anything, a massive waste of the planet’s space. I went to the riverbank close to my house, and swallowed I do not know how many pills and vodka (a great mix – not) expecting to not wake up and therefore to finally be at peace. Luckily a friend of ours found me about 2 minutes after this, actually made me be sick a few times and walked me home.

My brother was cooking a posh dinner for friends the next day and had asked us all to make an effort, I didn’t want to be involved, I just wanted to hide away but the friend told me he would dress like James Bond (he was a biker pal so this seemed insane to me) and come and get me…..I thought he was joking so agreed, only to be stunned when he showed up at my bedroom door in full suit/tie combo with a flower. How can a girl refuse when someone makes an effort like that? He made me smile, get up, get dressed and be social, it lifted me out of my funk and showed that once again, slapping on armour can really help strengthen you to fight against the demons.

I never told him how much he saved my life (figuratively and literally) but he really did, and i’ve never done something so foolish ever since. I am really lucky that I go no horrible side effects days later so please do not even do this as a cry for help, you may not be so lucky.

Because I was feeling so low, I went to the doctors to talk and ask for help. I didn’t know how the help would happen, but I knew I needed something. I went to the doctors to be told I could see a therapist and take these pills to be better…valium, at 17 is not ideal but I did as I was told as I thought this would make me better.

Nope, not so much. I felt like a zombie, like I had no insides, like I was just a vessel with nothing inside. I stayed on these pills for less than 3 months as I hated the feeling so much. I still felt hateful towards myself but didn’t want to live like that plus, I had the joy of my first therapy sessions.

Thankfully mental health services have changed a lot in the last 20 odd years as the doctor I saw at the time, basically told me that I should blame all of my issues on my parents. Now I understand that these people have a massive influence over the person that I am but this kind of advice really sat against me, my mum and dad may have opinions I didn’t agree with, or might not always say the right thing in the right way but there’s no way that I would just blindly blame them for everything wrong in my life, I have to take responsibility for my own actions.

From the bad few years I managed to rebuild myself. I moved to Spain again for a couple of years and spent a long amount of time just learning to be me. Not as a perfect person, but someone who was good at hiding away again, who was happy with her group of friends (unsure why they were my friends but still) and when I went back to England, I was just stuck in a rut, good friends and people in my life but not enough to keep me balanced. I moved to the South of the UK to escape some demons in Lincolnshire and make my life a bit more for me. I was used to living in my brother’s shadow and sort of wanted to be more me.

One of the biggest things down here was the fact that it was somewhere new, somewhere I was me and if people didn’t like it, I had to decide if I still wanted to be me or if I wanted to change to be more like them, to fit in, to be accepted. Sadly for a while I felt so alone that I did exactly that, which is when I started the worst relationship of my life, with a controlling person who could see my insecurities and who used them against me. He was controlling to the extreme and despite the fact that if anyone told me that their relationship had physical altercations, or that their partner would break their possessions saying that they were next, or threaten to kill their family if you dared breathe a word of what was happening; I’d have told them to run far and fast. I have no idea why or how we stayed together for as long as we did but the straw that (thankfully) broke the camel’s back for this was my accident in Paris.

For those who don’t know – It was Christmas day evening and I fell over, my body went one way, and my knee basically went the other. It was horrendously painful and I had no holiday insurance (yes, I’m an idiot, I am fully aware of this and now everytime I go away, it is the first thing I organise). He spent the night and a lot of the next day screaming at me for ruining his holiday, for making this all about me and made me go down the stairs across the road to the open pharmacy (thank christ for French pharmacies being open on boxing day that’s all I can say) where I asked for the strongest painkillers I could swallow while tears of pain were running down my face. I came back to the UK after a couple of days stuck on Orly airport due to snowstorms and went to the hospital where, after 6 months, they saw the serious damage I had done to myself, I had to have 2 operations and it was during the recovery from that where I finally had my revelation. We had been arguing again and he pushed me off of my crutches and picked it up to hit me with it. I can remember looking at him and saying he needed to make sure he finished the job otherwise if I could get up, I would finish it……thankfully he was out of my life shortly afterwards and it is something that I am forever grateful for.

Anyway, I spent a few months becoming me again, and for this time, I was really happy. I changed my weight, I changed my hair, I felt safe in my own home and a good person, I felt like I deserved good things, and that’s when I met the current man in my life.

I can honestly say the he is amazing, he is like my dream man and when I met him, I felt finally that there was someone who could see inside my mind, and didn’t judge me or try and hurt me for that.

It hasn’t always been easy and we did have a separation after about 9 months together. It was during this time I started to see my last therapist and can honestly say, she was simply amazing, helpful, approachable and the reason I now say therapy can work. The help can help. I was a broken person but the way I came back, has made me proud to be me finally. It’s only taken about 30 years of my life but finally I feel like I am not too bad a person. I’m still very negative about myself but am less apologetic about the person I am, if people don’t like it, that’s just fine. I’ve become comfortable as a person.

She spent a lot of time talking about my life, about my past and my insecurities and she actually helped me to see that a lot of the things I needed to do were to do with me, and the way I treat myself.

Things she taught me:

  1. Compassion is a massive part of my life, I’ve always been compassionate to others and she helped me to see that I needed to give myself a break…. Why expect yourself to be perfect, you don’t expect that from anyone else so why not give yourself a break?
  2. Accept that other people have flaws. Your parents are always going to be your biggest influencers but don’t forget, they are human and therefore capable of speaking badly, of making mistakes and you shouldn’t forget that. I know my mum and I have had a history of not getting on and at times we have both said really hurtful things to each other, but having the knowledge I now do, I think it has massively improved our relationship. (we shall see when she reads this!! eek)
  3. Tell the truth – if you feel like crap, and someone asks you how you are, be honest, if nothing else, you’ll find out who cares and who just gives lip service. I have been much more honest recently and I know that this has helped me to become a better, happier person.

It’s not an easy path to tread, it’s certainly not something that is an easy fix and it is something which sadly can still raise its ugly head frequently, a good example is that today I feel really down, I had bad dreams all night and am in a weird place at the moment, in my life, my relationship and my future. I know that there will be days where i’m flying high and some days where i’ll want to curl up and hide myself and maybe I should just do that. Self care is a big thing now and something that I underappreciated.

I cannot say I have the magic answer, medication, therapy and self care are all important, and each person is different. I would say the most important thing is to speak up, tell someone how you feel, your friends, your family, your most hated enemy, anyone. Tell them you are feeling low and ask for help. I know it’s not easy but I worry that people alone do not know where to go or what to do. I totally understand the feeling of being like a burden and that what I’m telling people to do is incredibly hard. I was made to seek help and actually did it because I was so tired but I have also had someone say that their suicidal thoughts were always there and seen as a break, a rest, a way to lift your pain which is also true and unfortunately the struggle is real, to continue fighting or to just give up.

I have lost a few friends to this choice, and I would always hope that if a friend was suffering, maybe they would contact me as someone who has been there and may understand. I’d hate the thought of people not feeling like they wanted to be a burden, seriously you are not and I cannot say that enough. PLEASE, if you ever feel like you are not enough, seek help. Therapy isn’t for everyone but I would say it’s worthwhile seeking some out, you might just learn something which helps.

Sometimes I feel like everything will work out ok, others I feel totally trapped and unhappy and unable to see a way out. I know there will be a way out but it’s a ways away. I think this is how I have to deal with life now, knowing that there will be bad, there will be good but the thought I have to hold on to is that no-matter what, there is going to be an end to however i’m feeling so to relish the positives and try to diminish the negative……easier said than done but a work in progress.

 

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