I’ve been having a funny time lately in terms of knowing how I feel, I’ve been feeling stuck. Stuck is the easiest way to describe it, the easiest way to articulate a mixture of confusion, frustration, anger and exasperation toward myself, toward how I’ve ‘coped’ or ‘dealt’ with things. Things meaning my reaction to my mental health, or – really – the factors (traumas – I guess?) that have left me acting a certain way, living my life a certain way, being unable to cope with certain things, feeling lost at being unable to live ‘normally’ (which doesn’t help when I compare myself to others… that’s a messy void of thought that I like to fall into every now and then).
A couple of months ago I really fell into the mindset and belief that nothing had changed for me in a long time. I mean this in terms of personal development. Everything felt frayed and really uncertain. I felt unable to go about normal things that ‘others’ could – I felt unable to hold a conversation with someone due to the huge, unstoppable doubt that the person I was talking to thought I was just being stupid, or that there was ‘something wrong’ with me. I felt that I’d not been able to open up to anyone in a long time, and that even though I had plenty of lovely, wonderful people around me I was just living my life completely alone. It felt like something huge was missing – and whatever it was that was missing felt unobtainable.
My fears and beliefs didn’t help when I took stock of my everyday actions – over the last year or so I’ve fallen into a pattern of going to work and then getting home and doing nothing. When I was home from work all I wanted to do was eat ridiculous amounts of food (or not at all) and hide away from my housemates, from the world – and myself. I’d socialise as normal at weekends, but every possible moment I could I’d be asleep – trying to block out the nothingness. I’m surrounded by quite active people, so I’d fall into a trap of comparing my life to my friends lives – they’d be going out for workouts, for meals with friends, on dates, to see their family, to the pub, for brunches, even grocery shopping together – all pretty normal stuff – yet I’d feel incredibly ashamed at myself for not doing any of this. I’d then start thinking ‘heck if I can’t even do that how am I ever going to move forward, how am I going to meet new people, how am I going to be normal?
The other stomach-dropping, mind-dominating thing for me was (and still is) past events that I’ve not spoken about, but feel I need to speak about. A couple of months ago my thoughts suddenly and overwhelmingly shifted toward me feeling that everything that is wrong or missing in my life is a result of the way that I have responded to past events. I felt (and do still feel) that everything in my life was ‘wrong’ or I couldn’t do things, or I acted in certain ways because of specific events. That may well be the case, but I came to this conclusion so suddenly and on my own, without talking it through with anyone that it became unbelievably overwhelming and unbearable. I believed so strongly that nothing would ever change and that I would simply be going through the motions, smiling at all the right times, showing up when I was needed, and then melting away, alone, in my room at the end of each day for the rest of my life. ‘Dramatic’ I know – but boy was it intense, and bloody terrifying.
For about a week or so, after this sudden horrid realisation, I couldn’t quite manage to talk to anyone about it, and it felt as if it was taking everything away from me – I had no energy, no desire to do anything, I didn’t want to go to work, and when I had appointments with my mental health team I couldn’t quite find the right words, or expressions to articulate it, so instead I chatted crap about something else, and then switched off whenever it felt too uncomfortable for me to talk/think about. This then left me feeling incredibly frustrated and ashamed at my inability to talk to those willing to help. I felt so upset that I’d spent a session weaving in and out of silence and conversations unrelated to the huge, energy-sucking mess of belief and fear thanks to my sudden realisation. All I wanted to do was somehow get rid of this horrible mess – or at least I wanted someone to jump into my mind and understand exactly what was going on (and maybe remove all the bad stuff whilst they were there). I needed someone to help me figure things out, but I really couldn’t begin to put it into words, or make sense of it. (Well actually, the nothingness and hopelessness I was feeling made complete sense to me, but the problem was nobody else knew, and it was a bloody heavy weight to carry alone).
I completely crashed after my appointment, but thankfully there was a tiny part of me that felt desperate to try and figure this out (and when I say tiny, I really mean tiny). It took me two days but I pretty much dragged myself out of the house and went and spoke to someone. A big fear of mine is when I’m not doing so good other people get involved, so crisis teams, or hospitals etc. I didn’t want to end up in hospital, I would have said anything to not get admitted. Thankfully, the person I spoke to recognised – or rather, did a brilliant job at deciphering my shambolic attempt at articulating what was going on, and contacted my care team and helped arrange the support I needed.
The biggest thing for me from that experience was not wanting to move forward, or at least – not feeling able to move forward. So the day I went and spoke to someone I really was at my wits end, and I desperately needed someone to know how helpless and terrified I felt. I didn’t want someone to tell me that really it’d all be okay, I just wanted someone to understand and help me deal with things in the moment. It took a few days for the helplessness to start shifting (or rather, I felt like I could eventually talk about things and work through them – which although it meant things were still pretty intense everything felt a little lighter).
Naturally and surprisingly for me things then really started shifting… for the first time I felt able to actually speak about past events honestly. It was as if I knew that if I didn’t things would end up feeling the same, and I’d end up doing the same things over and over. I’d really come to the realisation that if I didn’t speak about past events, or at least try to make sense of how they make me feel and act then things would stay the same. It doesn’t mean that I dived right into to talking about things, it just meant that for the first time I felt willing to talk about things. And for me, that’s something I’m quite proud of. (I cringe at that statement… of feeling proud of it, but I really do acknowledge that it’s a big step for me).
I’m still getting waves of helplessness, of feeling that things won’t change – and of panic that I’m not dealing with things fast enough. But I’m really trying to deal with this in a productive way, and I’m trying to do it in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘things can change’ but felt as though I had to change everything in the space of a week. That doesn’t work for me (I don’t know if it works for anyone?) But I’m trying to figure this out, and I’m making an effort – and most importantly I’m willing to work with those who are trying to support me through this process.
Earlier today I saw a post from one of my friends on Facebook, that led to me writing this post…
‘It is not what happens to you that defines you, it’s what you choose to do afterwards.’
I have no idea if this is a quote from someone of significance (I know I could Google it, but I’m feeling lazy) – but it popped up on my newsfeed just at a time when I was feeling a little deflated, and it made me think of my own journey and the things in life that I have let define me. It made me realise how much I want to move forward, and of the things that I’d like to change, and it was just the inspiration that I needed.
I feel like recently I’ve been faced with having to deal with things that I never thought I’d be able to deal with and it’s been a very difficult and empowering journey. I forgot it was actually possible to change certain things, and I’m still learning how. I’ve still only made a few steps forward, and there’s still a very long and scary way to go. But I’ve felt so much more positive since having this ‘realisation’ and I’m terrified, but willing to see where things will go.