I haven’t written a mental update in a while, and that’s just due to feeling really good at the moment. Nope, still not on medication, my therapist is remarkable. But I guess I wanted to address the issue of the stigma attached to mental illness, and why juggling it and keeping it a secret is so annoying.
I was watching a show in the early morning on BBC3 called ‘Dairies of a Broken Mind’ and felt really inspired to share a brief look on what I have to deal with being borderline enough not to take meds. The question that got me thinking concerned itself with the notion of the stigma attached to mental health. There is a big issue with this, but like the terrible Victorian treatments it happens to be one of those taboo subjects people refuse to talk about openly with one another or in public. These days mental health is slowly being recognised as something that can affect anyone at anytime. Illnesses that were once seen as normal human weaknesses have actually been given a name. I can’t tell you how many people I know who lost a parent and later depression made them lose their minds focus. Something considered borderline like depression can be dealt with talking therapy and medication, in the past you had to “just get on ffs”. The whole notion of shutting up and just getting on is a stigma that is still attached today, and sadly I have felt the full brunt of it.
It’s hard talking about my issues, as I generally don’t like to talk about personal stuff, let alone pull my walls down for people to see. If you ask someone what mental health is like most of them would say it concerns itself around folks who walk up and down the streets talking to themselves or harming themselves, or even just being angry all the time. I don’t wake up in the morning with an axe by the bed called Fred. For me my issues centre around socialising, paranoia and self esteem. In the end it becomes a viscous cycle and I blame myself.
As most of you know growing up was lonely for me. I haven’t told you the odd things I did to keep myself company. When I wasn’t being hit, kicked or verbally abused by the other kids I would sit and happily talk to myself. After school when the other kids would go to each others houses or birthday parties I was at home reading, or playing ‘real life’ with dolls or just talking to myself for hours on end. I guess that’s where my creative process came in as I was able to create worlds and situations I had never experienced. My dolls would live for me. If I was around family or family friends I was fine as I was paying attention to other ventures. It was what worked.
Things went bad during my early teen years right up until I was 20/21. I learnt to deal with my issues, but also developed a sense of secrecy about them. Upper school is the typical breeding ground for stupid gossip to spread like wildfire, so I had to keep my anxiety, depression and paranoia under wraps. The hardest thing was the idea that in order for people to like me, or even just talk to me I had to be like them. Now, that’s not attitude or behaviour, it was more their accent and tone of voice, physical things. I had this belief that if I copied their way of speaking they would suddenly understand me and assume I was on their level – of course it never worked, but I would never realise until much, much later. That in itself was where I realised my brain had two modes of thinking. My therapist said my rational brain was the one that kept me in check. If my mental side was acting out these scenarios to the point that they were completely real to me, after a while my rational brain would send the right chemicals to slow me down. For example, I meet someone and say something stupid, they then stop talking to me for whatever reason. I immediately start to worry. What did I say? How did I piss them off? Why aren’t they talking to me? – this goes on intensely for a minimum of three days; I sometimes lose sleep due to worry. My rational brain will then step in much later, after a week or so, and remind me that maybe that person isn’t affected by me and maybe they are just busy. To which point my mental side then accepts it as a possibility, but not strong enough. I then don’t talk to that person for ages “just in case”.
Does that make sense?
Here’s where it gets hard. If I were then to have a conversation with said person my preconceived notions don’t allow me to enjoy that person– I put up walls. They notice and then tell me I’m being stupid. At that point, that person has no clue I have mental issues, and then I never tell them. Ever. So I continue to put things to the back of my mind and avoid sensitive subjects or triggers and they then assume I’m just a whiny little bitch. Viscous cycle. The only place I don’t allow my true self to bloom is at work. I will never. That place makes me feel so horrible to be there, and I have tried looking for other jobs and found nothing that suited my college timetable and could pay me enough to pay fees. People at work just see me as a weird little person they can blame or pick on – from the moment I started and so I never thrived. No one knows about my blogs or YouTube and I like it that way. Once I leave there I’ll be out in the big world, but as my crazy self and that’s fine.
There are a small number of people in my life who know of my mental issues. Some are fine, as they still see me the way I was before I told them. Others have slowly backed away. Others just can’t process it and become harsh without realising. When I feel comfortable enough around someone to let some of my walls down, then and only then will I let them in on my little secret. Even now I can think of two people I really want to tell, but I’m holding myself back due to worry. They freak at me when I say I’ll never find love or when I say I’m worried about groups of people – how will they react if I tell them it’s because my brain is messed up? Another cycle.
It holds me back at times, but that’s another post. The only thing that is happening at the moment is building friendships, and possibly a relationship in future.
It’s tough, but the good thing about wavering over the border is the fact that people who are unbeknownst about my ordeal just think I’m a sassy and weird love child – I like that, because the real me is a weird sassy love child, but I can also hide behind that part of my personality. Another bloody cycle!
The only things that keep me sane are books, music, film and tv. As long as I am focused on something my mind is settled. I don’t talk to myself anymore, haven’t done in two or so years, but at any moment my depression and anxiety could be so bad that I end up being terrified of leaving the house again, and create conversations. Haha! Which fella wants to risk a relationship with me? None! My brain just chooses to live its own life, and I have to meditate and/or write to control it. I’m a freak, but staying away from me is what hurts me more than someone pretending to care. I’m 25 next month, and I got this far pretty much on my own. What’s another 25?
Loneliness is normal for me, except my loneliness hurts because I want to be part of something and my anxiety holds me back. I don’t make myself lonely because I want to, I wish I could believe me. It’s hard to make friends, I’ll never be brave enough to have sex with a stranger or lucky enough to land a proper relationship, but I know I can force myself to be okay with it. It hurts. My heart bleeds blah, blah, blah, but it’s fine. It’s just me, my walls and my messed up world.