There is an elephant in this blog. I skirt around the subject briefly, afraid of its stigma, ashamed of the way it makes others view me. It makes me feel weak and even fraudulent to discuss it as an issue, and the words associated with it make me uncomfortable to type let alone to put out there… so I don’t. Mental health. My mental health (trigger warning maybe, I guess).
In the one space that I have to be open and feel like myself (this blog), I cannot even bring myself to disclose any significant information about my mental state. I replace mental with the word “emotional”, I mention terms only when I am too desperate to care, and the rest of the time I keep myself stuffed into this box. I mention my physical health issues with considerably greater ease, and an equal shame. But the two are inevitably linked, and only one (even by healthcare professionals) is ever properly addressed.
This post is going to be hard to write. But I’m not writing this one for me. I’m writing it in the hope that somebody else who hides from the stigma and the shame might feel a little more comfortable in their skin, that they might take the step that I just took. It is so, so difficult to share, and excuse me if there are mistakes because I’m not reading back through it, but this is for other people in my situation – not even with physical health issues, those who simply don’t know how to face the things they are facing some days, who are crippled by a condition that we associate as an emotion and nothing more (see, I still can’t write the “d” word).
Here goes nothing… (Honestly you have no idea how much I don’t want to do this).
It was someone else who sparked my actions. They’ve been through crap, utter crap. And they learned to love again. They learned to love and value themselves again. They felt like nothing, had no self esteem, but they built themselves up into something recognisable to themselves as a functioning person. They overcame. They sought help. They talked. And then we talked, about it all, and I saw this living proof that people do find the other side. They do rebuild, recover, after unimaginable suffering and cruelty. After learning not to feel anything towards anyone, let alone trust or love, people can reach a state where they open the doors to their wounded, lonely hearts and tentatively try to let someone in again. They had been in the emotional state that I am stuck in, and they are so far from it now. They are in a relationship, a long-term one, and it is terrifying to them, but it is healing. It was like looking at who they were, and who I am… with who they now are, and where I could not (until that moment) ever imagine being.
I can’t talk about why. I can’t talk about the events and issues that sparked everything off. My physical health and hospital admissions are a significant contributing factor. But I can’t talk about the other things. I try to open up, but there is no trust, no relationship before I am shoved into a room with a stranger and expected to talk about how I feel. I see a psychologist due to the nature of one of my physical health hiccups. We don’t gel well, I find her unhelpful and a little patronising, although she’s extremely nice. All she wants to talk about is my health (understandably, duh) but for the first few times we met I just talked about everything that was going on at university last year. And the rest of the time I state fact, not feelings, because I cannot open up to people I don’t know (or all but two of the people I do know) due to past experiences. I’ve sat in her office and begged for help, told her that I can’t cope, and walked out without a word being said about the issue other than I’m sorry you feel that way. But she deals with a lot of people with the same diagnosis I have and I am moved on, thrown out into the world having been asked questions I couldn’t answer and been forced to face the health stuff I am running from, and just because I don’t open up doesn’t mean that it doesn’t start a cascade of outpouring emotion from somewhere deep within me.
For a long time I’ve known that this individual and I are never going to get anywhere. I can’t gel with her and I think it’s too late to hope I will. But I have left my denial more often recently, and for a long, long time I have known that I need help with this area of my health (you really do have no idea how difficult it is to write this, and how badly I currently want to delete every word). I knew I needed to find somebody else, just like I know I need to open up… But I would pop back into my denial because that was the only way to carry on at all, and neither of these things occurred (I doubt the latter ever will).
Recent discussions with my mother (who now refuses to act like there are any issues within our family home at all, which frustrates me a lot but makes things so much easier) dragged up the broken emotional state I am often left in by my family. I have been belittled for so long, not even intentionally, that I belittle myself constantly. I feel like less than nothing. And it hurts more than I know how to convey.
I am becoming extremely physically unwell, and my mental health is stopping me seeking treatment. I am afraid in a way I cannot explain. I am living under the thumb of that fear, it stops me acting in the way I know I should. I’m not even afraid of meeting the grim reaper. I am terrified about university and the impact on that, I am scared that everything that happened before will happen again, I’m scared that they’ll make me leave, that they will take away what on almost every day (in the absence of my dog) is my only reason for living.
I am living alone with no flatmates or family for the first time (not through choice). Until this, my family’s dog was an incredible help to me (which I am aware sounds ridiculous) as he was the only thing that made me feel that I was good for something and had a purpose, and that motivated me to carry on for him, because he needed someone to take care of him. I’m finding it really difficult to cope with things alone, and often want to stay in bed because I don’t know how to face the world. I take great comfort in the company of my bonsai tree, because hey, it is a living thing. But even a fish. I’d really like a fish. Or maybe sea monkeys. Something living. But there’s a no pets policy here.
I have had extremely unpleasant experiences in hospital in the past and relive them on a daily basis which causes me a great amount of distress. It feels as if I am living through the same things again and can be brought on by smells, sounds, and sometimes for apparently no reason. I have nightmares about the same events which are so real that sometimes I am scared to sleep. This means that when I’m unwell I leave it much later than I should to go to hospital because the fear is still so fresh, and become much more unwell than I needed to get. This is also ruining my life in many other ways.
On top of all of this, I am trying to deal with the normal pressure of university (although I’m pretty sure it isn’t normal to panic and feel guilty if you’re doing anything other than uni work. I’m up to date – sort of – but I constantly feel disastrously far behind and so, so inadequate and undeserving of my place at this uni) and the anxiety around how they will react about my health issues (they have been extremely unsupportive and unhelpful in the past).
All I can do in the eyes of my family is screw up. My health tore their lives apart almost as much as it did mine. It broke bonds I don’t know how to rebuild. They resented me. When I get unwell now, there’s this huge outpouring of frustration at me sometimes and I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I’ve been told I’m pure evil, that I’m ruining their lives… And then I’m told not to hang onto those words because they weren’t meant. But I have already hung myself with those words, they kill me every time they are shouted. And when I cry, that seems to annoy them more. I am even shouted at for loading the dishwasher – because I didn’t place things exactly how a certain person would have. I’m shouted at if I don’t unload the dishwasher. I’m disciplined and treated like a child, and not even like the one they like because I have always been the second rate sibling and my dad looks at me like I am filth. I will never be enough for them, and when I’m in that house I don’t know how to live with that.
I’m lonely. I never thought loneliness could bring a person to their knees until I moved here. I dread the weekends. There are no lectures at weekends, which means my life stops for two days. It means there’s no reason to see people, and a lot of my friends work or go back “home” for the weekend. I am dreading the four months of summer where there will be nobody about. I dread coming home, shutting this door and being alone. I fear I’ll collapse or die and nobody will know. I watch vlogs on YouTube and listen to podcasts to try and fill the void, but I hate the lack of company, the lack of sight of anything living. I have not felt loved for years and years, but I have at least never felt alone. And I am so alone. I am so lonely that I fear it will kill me, because it almost hurts.
“I hate it when I can’t hide my loneliness […] what do normal people do when they get this sad?” – Mr Robot (I’m actually a little OBSESSED with watching Lucifer but hey this show too)
I considered drinking again. I considered trying drugs for the first time in my life, or placing a cigarette between my lips to suffocate away the pain. I don’t feel lovable. I feel rotten. But I’d rather hurt than be like this. I am craving human company so much I would even prefer to be hit again. Over and over. I hate hurting. I do not want to hurt and I don’t enjoy it at all, but physical hurting feels better than whatever this is. I feel like I deserve it, I feel like I deserve to be punished because I feel like I’m that rotten and awful and abominable (isn’t it amazing the things people can make us believe about ourselves). I don’t care if the company is violent, I just want somebody to want me for something. There is a disconnect between me and humanity, it seems, and now I am shut in this room with more and more room to withdraw and I just want to be with someone. Even if they hurt me. Which sounds as sick and messed up as it is. I’m sorry for writing that.
And there is more, there is so much more. But the thing is, the “d” word isn’t an emotion, it’s a condition which has been linked reduced levels of serotonin in the brain and CNS, which triggers a crippling mental state. And if it was labeled as “cerebral serotonin insufficiency” or something else, nobody would ask What do you have to be depressed about? nobody would tell you to Just cheer up and stop thinking so negatively. People wouldn’t judge.
And I know people don’t just do this with mental health, because I’m equally as shy and reluctant to admit to people that I have type one diabetes. People think type one and type two diabetes are the same. They aren’t. They both cause patients to produce a lot of sugary urine, and diabetes mellitus
essentially just means to pass a lot of sugary urine.
Type one is an autoimmune condition involving the destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas which produce insulin, meaning that there is no insulin produced. It cannot be controlled with diet alone and unless the superfoods people suggest are going to rewind time and prevent the autoimmune elimination of these cells, no amount of berries or whatever else people may suggest is going to “cure” the condition. It is serious. It can kill quickly. You have to do injections or inject insulin via a pump, there is currently no other treatment option for this condition. Type two… The pancreas is fine, it’s happy, it’s whole. The cells just aren’t so responsive to the insulin, for whatever reason. It can most of the time be controlled with diet, or tablets that make the cells a little more responsive to insulin. But people see the word diabetes and think immediately of type 2, because it is associated with obesity and whatever, and the first time I was asked, so when were you fat then?
was the last time I openly talked about having diabetes (there’s a post/article
on this topic here).
But my point here is there are stigmas everywhere, and it is hard to overlook them and have the confidence to do the things we need to do for ourselves, and allow ourselves to openly be ourselves. These societal stigmas in me induce a great deal of shame. I feel weak discussing my emotional state and seeking help for it always seemed pathetic and weak of myself to me… Yet when others did it, it seemed so justified and normal.
But I don’t want to turn to alcohol again, to go back to getting drunk before I even get out of bed because the only way I can face the day is to be too drunk to feel. I don’t want to end up in a situation where I want to end it all. I briefly consider it, and it frightens me. I have known for a long time that I needed help. And so yesterday night, just before midnight, I sat in front of my laptop screen and read through a website full of private psychologists until I found one that seems perfectly suited. One I think I can gel with, and whose approach I liked the sound of. She has a specific specialty in dealing with people with chronic health issues, but also with PTSD, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem (pretty much me, or at least the person I am becoming – the anxiety is a new thing, is mostly focussed around university reacting to my health, and is highly unpleasant). I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to pay to sit in a room and hurt, and squirm, and hate myself for being unable to open up no matter how much I try. But I need to.
Because of all the things I have, I fear this is the area of my health that is currently at the greatest risk of killing me (ok the frequent early acidosis is also a rather pressing issue but…). I am afraid of the thing within my skull. I am afraid of me. And I was suddenly desperate. Desperation is the only emotion I experience that is more powerful than fear, it is the only thing that will overcome everything else and drive me to do whatever needs to be done – it is what makes me give in and go to hospitals, and it is what made me click send on that email. Because I can’t cope any more, especially not without my dog, who (I know it sounds ridiculous) was a huge emotional support for me and was so helpful to hold when I had flashbacks or nightmares. He made me feel special, needed, wanted. I had to function in order to keep him alive and happy, and that was so helpful to me. But I am desperate now. I can’t cope and I can’t pretend everything is fine – there are too many cracks in the mask for it to hide me any more (I am amazingly convincing at acting happy, which is super unhelpful because people always think I am ok – but I’m too ashamed to let them see I’m not and I. Can’t. Talk).
And I’m sharing this because hopefully in a few years’ time (it won’t be a quick fix) I can repost this, against something written by someone in a much, much better place. And I want to be that living proof that there is a way thorough. I want to spark actions like this in someone else just as my friend has for me.
I might even try to find group therapy sessions or an online person to talk to (there needs to be SO MUCH more emotional support and groups out there for people with physical – or even any – health issues. It would end the isolation and the feeling that nobody gets it, and it might have helped stop me ending up here). But anyway. I’m that desperate. I’m that scared that the feelings to just… Go… Might come back, and they always seem to be stronger than I am.
I’m a mess. And I am so ashamed of what I have just written. But this is the start of the end of that mess (I hope, or at least tell myself, because without hope there is nothing left to hold). The hardest step is meant to be the first step, but you have to use the momentum of it to carry you forward. Accepting that you need help and asking for it are a world apart. Engaging with the help that is offered is even more difficult, but I’m trying. I am finally in a position where I am trying. I haven’t showered for five days (this grosses me out too, I am wearing so much body spray I’m surprised I have any left). I haven’t changed my top for three. I was almost late for lectures yesterday because I got out of bed at the time I would usually be standing outside the lecture theatre (20 minutes before the lecture starts, I get so stressed about being late that I like to make sure). I’m usually ridiculously tidy but I’ve let everything slide, there is stuff everywhere and I don’t care enough to pick it up, but at the same time the mess bothers my neat brain. I am in a rut. I am such a mess. But… I want to change this. And I can but try.
It isn’t fair for me to put the pressure of my issues on friends or uni parents. That isn’t their role and I am selfish and disgusting to put them in the situation where they feel they need to try and support me. I don’t know how to talk and probably won’t, but I’d like to find coping strategies and I hope then I might slowly learn to be able to talk to people that aren’t my uni parents.
There’s a huge pressure in living each day knowing you could die, I guess. I kind of forget that. I overlook the obvious huge issue. I am determined to live again, or die trying.
No way but through.