So I wanted to write this for a couple of reasons really. 1) Because sometimes I’m not even sure where I’m at myself, and I feel like writing it down can make things a little clearer. 2) I realised that though I’ve mentioned living with mental illness on here & on Instagram, I’ve never really clarified what/where/when/how etc. I haven’t felt like I’ve needed to.
I still don’t feel like I need to. Tbh, the thought of oversharing what I’ve got, what it’s done to me or what I can be like, makes me feel naked and over exposed, and that’s NOT something I’m comfortable with. But what I’m even more uncomfortable with, is people not understanding me. I don’t need everybody too – I’m all about not having to explain myself and I’ll be damned if I have to sit in front of ANYONE and defend an illness. What I’m saying is, I want to clarify a few things – really for myself – as I don’t think I’ve been clear in my last few posts or on Instagram. I can’t expect to make a difference to the world or to myself if I’m not being a little more open. & I can’t tell you where I’m at, without telling you a little about where I’ve been first.
So I’ll start with this. I live with anxiety, depression and panic attacks. One of the biggest things that’s come of all of that is I’ve pretty much made a recluse of myself and haven’t left the house on my own (save for going to my Nan’s, who lives on the same road as me). It’s been months. Alot of my anxiety is social – people freak me out. Particularly big crowds, busy places. I remember being in my local Lidl which is notorious for getting pretty packed/claustrophobic, and I just started shaking/crying and felt like all the walls of the world were closing in on me. I felt so dizzy and disorientated, I couldn’t speak properly. & that was with my bf. See I can go out if I’m with someone – but not anywhere stupidly busy. & when I say ‘with someone’, I’m very particular about who; my boyfriend mainly, my grandparents, my best friend, or my in-laws. I won’t do trains, and I’ve not been on a bus or a tram for a looong time. Other than that, I haven’t left the house on my own – until very recently; I’ll expand on that later.
Don’t ask me where it comes from, the social anxiety. I guess since being ill I’ve felt exposed all the time. Depression, in my experience, has been crippling and relentless. Alot has happened that I’ve been unable to deal with, and alot of the stability I thought I had, suddenly wasn’t there anymore. My life just changed. Like, alot. I’ve felt paranoid that people can see right through me and judge me. & I think one of the biggest setbacks is the total lack of control I’ve felt over my life – I’ve not felt in a long time like I can look after myself, and I guess being in public or around people frightens the shit out of me because of that. It’s been easier to hide away and not have to deal with anybody else, because I’ve not been able to deal with myself. It hasn’t made my life easier though; being reclusive doesn’t cure a damn thing. I can be just as bad at home. There have been days where I won’t even leave my room. I won’t socialise with people in the house if there’s too many of them, or if there are people I’ve not met or am not used to. I basically have ZERO confidence. My bedroom has become my prison cell.
Until very recently.
I love Autumn. It’s my favourite season of the year – the colours, the fresh crisp air, the leaves, everything. & I’ve pretty much just watched it through a window. I’ve let myself be a prisoner. I woke up last Friday morning, looked out on the Autumn morning, and felt the now normal pang of sadness that I couldn’t go out on my own. I don’t know what happened; I think I felt this unusual surge of what I’ve been affectionately calling ‘fuck it’ – I threw my boots on, wrapped up like a polar bear – all the while looking out of my window – popped my keys in my pocket & I took myself for a walk. I didn’t allow myself to think about it or to convince myself into not going. I just went. By my bloody self. For the first time in months.
See immediately, I feel like I now have to say ‘I know it sounds pathetic’, or ‘that’s a big achievement for me’ – I feel like I have to justify why that walk on my own is such a big deal for me. The people that may not understand or appreciate what a mental health illness is like – the naysayers and the judgey people – they’re the ones who popped into my head straight away. & that pisses me off. Because why the hell should anyone who suffers with a mental health illness have to explain themselves or not feel able to celebrate the little things? It’s wrong.
So where am I at?
After last Friday, I’ve been out once more by myself – yesterday in fact. I took myself over my local park, early in the morning so that I could see the frost on the leaves and the sunrise, & I fu*king loved it. I put my artsy fartsy photographer pants on and took some pictures of all things nature-ish, and didn’t care a button that dog walkers were looking at me like I was bananas.
Where I’m at is, I’m getting there. Slowly, and baby steps. My biggest hurdle has been the reclusiveness – and I’m going to keep going. I plan on seeing the Christmas lights in London (which means trains, ahh), meeting up with a girlfriend for cocktails in a few weeks and taking myself to town to look around the charity shops (or what I like to call ‘treasure hunting’!). If I manage all three, amazing. If I manage just one, amazing. If I don’t manage any of them, then it’s ok. I’ll just keep walking til I can.
I’m still working on not caring what people think – not feeling like I’ve got to defend myself. The long periods of depression have melted into spells and I’m now determined to beat the anxiety into a ball of playdough that I’ve got control of. So yeah…where I’m at isn’t too shabby just now. Being able to talk about it like this is an achievement, & I’m proud of that.
If you’ve kept with me this far, THANK YOU SOO MUCH. Sharing little victories means the absolute world.