Let’s talk about….
*enters the room, “right guys, it’s World Health Day, let’s talk about…..no no no, not that! Let’s talk about Anxiety and Depression”
*eyes roll, fidgeting and tapping occurs, mindless staring out of the window with the subliminal begging to not have to start the discussion and delve into the depths of a darkened soul.
But you know what? more often than not, despite this slight uncomfortable notion that descends when these two words come crashing into conversation, many of us have been there. Maybe just for a moment, maybe for a few years or maybe cloaked with the burden over a lifetime. No matter our experience we’ve all heard it and may have even experienced it. So why not talk about it?
It’s a difficult one to broach, not everyone is ready to bare their soul to strangers or even let close ones into this deepest part of them and I get why, its not the most uplifting and inspiring topics of conversation – or maybe it is we just haven’t talked about it.
I wish I could I have had a one time experience of this and that it was well and truly in the past, a moment in my life which has past and is no longer relevant, but that would be a lie.
I suffer anxiety and occasionally depressive episodes but I am normal!
I have been medicated in the past, I have received counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. Now however I aim to try and understand what these two illnesses are and find the triggers so I can learn and adapt my life accordingly.
My anxiety and depression has stemmed from childhood, I have memories from my primary school years whereby I knew my life wasn’t quite the same as those around me. I had responsibilities beyond my years and a breakdown in front of a teacher at 10 years old stemmed the intervention of social services.
Fast forward into high school, life at home became more acceptable in that I knew I shouldn’t talk about what happens at home and that it’s no-one elses business and that I would ruin the family if I talked again. However life at school started to add to the burden that I was carrying. I spent 5 years being bullied on and off, most days I shrugged off the taunts and digs, I acted out a little but soon realised that I couldn’t draw attention to myself, I didnt want home to know I was a “failure” in school as well. So I knuckled down – I took on the name calling and put on a brave face. My confidence was a sham for inside I was crumbling but no one needed to know I was falling apart. I focused hard on my work, got myself into the top sets and avoided the bullies for the most part. I celebrated my own successes and achievements and told myself I was worthy of something despite being told I wasn’t.
Here is an example of something I was passionate about, something I could escape into but being told I couldn’t do this one particular drawing as it was too difficult and I would be setting myself up for failure and disappointment-why bother if I was going to fail anyway. Fortunately I was stubborn enough to prove a point and the final product is still something I’m so incredibly proud of.
I didn’t always rise up to the challenge -sometimes those moments of constant belittling quashed what confidence I had and my determination squandered.
There were moments when the taunting became too much to bear, I wondered why I was here in the first place. I didn’t have many friends, I wasn’t unkind or cruel, I wasn’t odd (well I didn’t think I was) I just didn’t fit, I never felt like I belonged. I had a close circle of friends with whom I finally found during my A-level years and they knew of the world in which I was from having witnessed the horrific messages I used to recieve informing me of my failings and being a disappointment and that no one would ever love me. But I always felt like an outsider.
This was where my first depressive episode started. It all began with panic attacks, the anxiousness I would feel from the mounting abuse was overwhelming. The attacks would appear at random from out of nowhere, almost at points when I was enjoying myself, my body and mind would remind me that this moment wasn’t true, it wasn’t one I deserved, why should I be happy? I was worthless, useless, had nothing to give – I was no one. This dark cloud overcame me.
Eventually these attacks started to spin into a web of constant taunts in my own mind, the voices wouldn’t stop, I would spend hours listening to music just to drown out the sorrowful moans of despair from inside my mind. I was 17 years old and I wasn’t sure if I could do this anymore, would anyone actually notice if I wasn’t there?
Fortunately through the kindness of a friend and her family I found “home” for a short while, somewhere I felt safe, somewhere where I felt I could focus and flourish at something. But I was still lost, I finally realised that no matter where I was or who I was with, I constantly felt lost, like a stranger looking in. I still carry that heavy feeling today.
I would like to say life got easier, the longer I was away from home, away from school, the further I was away from where it all began but it didn’t get easier, it got darker. My university days were shrouded in a darkness and heaviness which saddens me – this should have been a highlight of my life instead it was one of the darkest. Looking back and watching everyone being “free” and having the time of their lives was crushing for I did not feel free. I went through moments of feeling like my old life was being left behind as I made friends and felt a little more carefree but then I was ghosted out of a friendship and the taunts from my past resurfaced. Suddenly I was right back to that vulnerable me. I questioned everything I did, said, what had I done, what was wrong with me?? I painted on a confident face but behind closed doors I shut down – I started to learn how to hide what I was feeling, I could put on a show but inside I was empty. I would spend every day sobbing in the shower so no one could hear me cry, I would berate my failing self, those dark thoughts became deeper, the feeling of wanting to disappear became stronger – I wondered if anyone would really notice, would it just make life easier for everyone if I was no longer a burden?
Over the years I have been up and down, I have faced and come to terms with the fact that my dad is not interested in being part of my life, my relationship with my mum will always be a turbulent one and that maybe I am a lone wolf, always there for others but am I really anyone’s “best friend” the one person someone turns to, confides in etc?? Maybe that is not for me to have in my life but there are many other things I can cherish.
Changing my mindset has been a massive hurdle but one that is proving to be a more long lasting positive one. I still have moments where I am taunted by my own dark thoughts, I sit and question, I wonder what my purpose is? am I worthy? but I have to reel myself back in before I spiral as I have two small boys who need me.
I want my boys to always know that they are loved and wanted – I have spent my whole life wanting to wanted, wanting to be loved, I used to crave affection because I was shown little, I so desperately wanted to hear those words “I love you” because it was always silence. So I endeavour to make sure the people in my life have my affection, I want to show my family and friends I care because it almost destroyed me not having that in my life. My boys have to know every day before they go to sleep that they are my world and I love them so incredibly deeply – never can they wonder.
Being able to speak more openly whether in conversation or written down allows me to highlight the demons that not only live in my life but also in others. It’s not something to be ashamed of – wish I’d had that train of thought when I was struggling after my eldest came home from hospital – the emotional turmoil I subjected myself to was crushing but I didn’t speak out, I pretended I was ok. Sometimes painting on a smile can help, but masking hurt and pain when you really need help does you no favours.
I’m not free from my demons, I don’t suffer as many depressive episodes as I used to but the anxiety still rules my life. Most days I can silence the voices or reason with them – fake it till you make it tends to be my motto but some days the weight of it all is too much to bear and with that comes my signature trait of pulling away and building my little wall of self preservation- the problem with that is I pull back, show the outside world a smile but inside I’m crying.
It’s a hard to break, it’s a shit hand to be dealt but talking about it helps those around you understand. Being able to share those deep dark thoughts allows an insight into a world where others have also walked – finally a sigh of relief when someone else realises they are not alone.
You are not alone, you can talk about it and you should, not everyone will listen but those who do will be invaluable on your journey and will help you to recover and find your way. If this is a lifelong battle, find your triggers, discover how you spiral and learn to halt it in its tracks before you descend into emotional chaos.
You are not alone, you have nothing to feel ashamed of – you are you, warts and all.