TEARS HAVE BEEN SHED…

My mum came to visit me on Saturday.

As the day started drawing to a close and a blanket of deep blue was being pulled across the sky, I longed for that time not to end. I wanted to draw each second into eternity and ride in her car forever, spending my lifetime suspended in a never-ending state of sub-reality.

Coasting through the undulating countryside, I could see from the peaks of hills into the dollhouses in the valleys down below. In those little paper houses were people acting their lives; telling their children that it was their bedtime, parents easing open bottles of wine and families lying lazily in front of the TV. Moving along above them seemed so simple. My life was no longer entangled with theirs because I was not one of them. I no longer had to be a doll, play a part.

As we got more and more lost in the winding, ethereal countryside, my heart found more and more solace. I love to be lost. If no-one can find me and I can’t find myself then I will hang forever in that state. I will be a memory to everyone and devoid of any connections except to those I have with myself.

I began to imagine those films which are spun from classic books where girls wander in desperation through the desolate countryside, barefoot and bewildered. The only purpose they have to run away from whatever they came from, rather than running to any signpost or mark in the sand.

However, my mum doesn’t like to be lost so much. She wound the car through the intricate bends which have carved themselves through the sweeping carpets of grass and brought us back into the clearing. Then, the pouring rain matched the motion on my own face. Tears fell silently and absent-mindedly from my drooping eyes as I yet again began to detach myself from reality. She led me back down the dreary halls of my residence and I dragged my feet along the rough carpet. I shoved my key roughly in the door, distantly aware of the thumping music coming from somewhere in the background of this nightmare.

I had been returned to my cell. My room. My cell.

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AN EVENING ALONE WITH A BROKEN BRAIN

CURRENTLY MY HEART IS THUMPING LIKE MAD, MY HANDS ARE SHAKING AND MY LUNGS HURT. TODAY I HAVE HAD WORK MEN IN AND OUT OF MY ROOM, A PORTER HAS SNAPPED AT ME AND I HAVE HAD A DEEPLY UNCOMFORTABLE SEMINAR IN WHICH I HAD TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF A GROUP OF STRANGERS.

HERE IS HOW I COPE WITH A BROKEN BRAIN ALONE, THIS EVENING:

1. I will make myself a mug of blueberry and apple tea

I am aware that this is a very British cliche but, honestly, the feeling of a hot sweet tea coursing down my throat is so comforting. It is a pleasant sensation that I can focus on rather than the other uncomfortable feelings occurring in my body right now.

2. I will listen to my favourite band

I adore Paramore and I know exactly what songs of theirs’ to listen to when I am feeling particular emotions. I know the lyrics to their songs so it is not hard listening, I can just let the familiar words wash over me and their comforting sounds surround me. Listening to music which I know inside-out gives me a cosy feeling inside which I really tap into when my situation feels anything but cosy and calm.

3. I will close my curtains

As I live on the ground floor of a large block of flats I have to contend with all the people walking past, many of whom enjoy staring straight into my room as they stroll past my window, looking at exactly what I am doing. For so many reasons I find this jarring throughout the day, so as soon as I can justifiably claim that it is the evening I will take advantage of this and close my curtains. It is easier to cope with being lonely and not having any friends when you don’t have to watch groups of mates giggle and have fun together on a Friday evening right outside your window.

4. I will watch videos

Watching my favourite youtubers is like catching up with a friend in someways. These videos give me some lighthearted entertainment which can temporarily distract me from what is happening in the moment as I can immerse in somebody else’s life which is edited and glossy and not distressing.

5. I will wrap myself in a duvet cocoon

When I am anxious, I very often do not feel safe. For whatever reason I feel vulnerable and on edge and being wrapped securely in my duvet really helps me to quash those fears and reassure myself. Being warm in my bed and snuggling in my most comfy pyjamas feels like such a luxury to me, as a lot of the time I usually spend in bed is when I am frustrated with myself for being unable to sleep.

 

LOOKING AT THE POSITIVES…

I am aware that every blog post I have published on here has been overwhelmingly negative (I specialise in catastrophic thinking and ruminating on all the bad things in life). So today I am going to make a special effort to look at the positive things that have come my way over the last few days which have really brightened my days and given me hope for going forwards (I don’t want people reading this blog to think I am a Moaning Minnie basically:

1. I am so thankful for my Specialist Mentor at University

Meeting my Specialist Mentor this week has really renewed my vision of University life. Since I have come here I have fallen into the lonely and dark cycle of cynicism which meant that I thought this whole experience was doomed and no positive changes would happen in my life whilst I am here. However, the understanding and sympathy which my Specialist Mentor gave me when I met her has really spurred me on to try my best for a change whilst also not expecting too much of myself. She encouraged me that by setting small goals for myself I can over time both re-invent myself and my life, which for years now have both stagnated because of my ongoing struggles with mental health.

2. The idea of exercise

I used to be quite a sporty child; I liked cricket, swimming, running, rounders, hockey and running. However, at the age of 14 I essentially just shut down all my interests and retreated into myself. This was around the time that I was first encountering depression and I convinced myself that I was no good at these things and that I shouldn’t try and gradually I lost any interest or enthusiasm I had for these things. However, my Specialist Mentor really conveyed to me how much of a positive impact exercising could have on my mental health. It may give me more energy and also help me sleep as hopefully I will be physically tired by the end of the day. So, I am going to take-up running again. I am not going to set myself ridiculous goals and aim to run miles and miles when I am only just starting out again. I will be gentle with myself and hopefully I regain the enjoyment I once had for exercising in general.

3. The Wizarding World Loot Crate Box

For the first time ever, I received a Wizarding World Loot Crate Box this week. For those who do not know this is a subscription box which filled with all things Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts related. The things which I received in this box has really helped to make my University room feel more homely as now I can look around and glance at little Harry Potter mementos which make me feel comforted and happy just like the Harry Potter books and films do.

4. The University Housekeeper

This may sound like an odd one but bear with me! Starting University has been quite a lonely experience for me as most people give-up or don’t bother talking to me once they realise that I am anxious. I give off these signs, such as not looking people in the eye and fidgeting, which make people think that I am not interested when really I am just REALLY nervous. However, the Housekeeper for my block (who cleans the communal kitchen once a week, our toilets once a month and is around for general maintenance) is such a nice man and persisted with taking an interest in my life when he really did not have to. He noticed my Harry Potter key ring and started talking to me about it (which instantly made me warm to him) and then he took a genuine interest in my studies and just generally made me feel happy rather than like a failure which is how I usually feel when I am around people.

 

THE LEAK IN MY CEILING

Today there is a leak in my bathroom ceiling. Whilst I am aware that this is only a minor concern, something that can be fixed and really not that big of a deal, today this has really gotten to me.

For some reason when I am in a depressive episode, when something bad or just annoying happens, this small issue takes on a life of its own. Due to the fact that I am already sad every problem seems dramatic and like another weight on my load that I just cannot bear. Also, I take these issues to mean something which they do not. For example, when I discovered this leak in my ceiling (which, by the way, has prevented me from having a shower or even a pee this morning) I irrationally decided that this must be a sign. A sign that I should not be at University, like the Universe is trying to send me cosmic messages about my non-academic destiny through a soggy, dripping ceiling.

Since I have moved into this room at University it has seemed to inundate me with problems, problems which someone in a good mental state could probably handle but for me just keep piling up and never getting solved. My curtain is hanging off its rail, there is a damp problem, there are creepy crawlies EVERYWHERE, one of my drawers is broken, the wifi doesn’t work properly and my bed is rock hard. Individually these are all just little inconveniences but collectively they are piling on top of my low mood and pushing me further down the rabbit hole of depression.

Considering that my room is where I spend most of my time because I am often too socially anxious to go out exploring the campus for too long, I wanted this room to be my safe haven. Somewhere I could come back to and relax and feel comfortable. Now I simply feel that it is a space which is conspiring against me and forcing me to confront more and more problems.

BEING ON AN SSRI

Once upon a time the idea of taking medication to moderate and aid my mental health terrified me. The notion conjured-up drastic and horrible images of people in their most desperate state from the most worried depths of my mind, probably because in the media we only hear about the most severe cases in regards to people with mental health conditions requiring medication. I never thought that medication was a route I would go down willingly, let alone asking my GP to lead me that way, however over time my perception of the issue changed and my understanding of my own mental health solidified. Once I was eighteen I was confident about what treatment I needed.

One point to make is that I only opted to start medication once I felt I had exhausted all of my other options (on the NHS at least). I had tried various talking therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and standard counselling, none of which had any positive long-term effect on my mental health. Some people seem to think that taking medication is the ‘easy option’, as if people use tablets so that they can avoid actually confronting their illness and issues but this is just quite simply not true.

One myth that I would really love to dispel is the idea that anti-depressants are ‘happy pills’. So many people I know use this phrase and it infuriates me constantly, not least because it shows a basic lack of understanding and complete ignorance about mental health and how anti-depressants are used. The SSRI that I take does not give me an injection of happiness everyday, instead it helps to put me on an even keel (for the most part) and then past that point it is my responsibility to take the initiative with my mental health (such as trying to keep my negative thoughts in check and reaching out for talking therapy).

Therefore, taking medication gives me a platform from which to build my well-being. Taking medication doesn’t mean you are weak and unable to confront your issues. It also doesn’t mean that you are taking the easy option and not working at your problems. Remember that people who say this evidently do not know you or your mental health as much as they assume they do.

“Taking medicine for depression and anxiety doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time” – Tabi Baker

 

BEING A ‘LONER’ AT COLLEGE (SIXTH FORM)

Picture a girl with half her long blond hair shaved, a nose piercing and ‘hard rock’ clothing on, trying her best to look ‘edgy’, ‘cool’ and ‘mysterious’. Picture a girl who worships those adjectives like they are her keys to a new world, a world where she doesn’t need to change her introversion because she is admired and envied even without opening her mouth. But, this girl’s legs are wobbling making her stumble occasionally over her own clumsy feet, her face is red and shining due to a combination of acne, embarrassment and nervous sweating and she has tears in her eyes coupled with a lump in her throat as she recognises the familiar sense of panic and foreboding she always gets when she knows she will have to meet new people. This girl was me two years ago on my first day at college.

The people at my college intimidated me. They were vastly more experienced, they were headstrong and confident and they looked years older than me (despite my best efforts to look like a punk I still had the face and stature of a little girl way out of her depth). When asked why I had changed schools I could hardly say that I had become so deeply depressed and overwhelmed with anxiety that a changed had seemed as good as any other option. People bonded over common interests while I curled further in on myself in the hopes that this would protect me from the cruel words which I assumed would inevitably come; they always did.

I sat at the front of classes, knowing that this was the place where people would be least likely to want to sit themselves beside me. Everyday, I brought my marmite sandwich into college in a pristine plastic tupperware as I knew that I would not be comfortable enough to walk into any of the shops or restaurants around my college. At lunch, I would pretend that there was something extremely important or interesting that I had to do on my phone so that I wouldn’t look so lost and lonely. Once I could not feasibly pretend to do this anymore I left the common room after feeling increasingly tense that someone would soon identify me as an easy target; alone, shy and cowering behind too-large glasses and they would start picking on me; they always did.

So I would hide in the safest place I could think of…Glasses and wavesthe toilets. Locked safely inside a claustrophobic cubicle I would berate myself for being such a failure and weirdo before the intrusion of a giggling group of girls into the room would once again prick my anxiety. I would have to flee the toilets as their abrasively enthusiastic laughing and chatting would chip away at my already extremely low self-esteem (it was like their happiness re-emphasised my unhappiness).

In class, I would do my best to disappear, hiding my face behind obscenely large textbooks and resolutely avoiding eye contact with teachers as they posed questions to the class. I always handed my work in on time, not simply to abide by the rules but largely to avoid any conflict with teachers which would bring about communication which, in turn, could only lead to embarrassment and panic on my side. As soon as the teacher ended the class I would rush to be the first person out of the door, pretending that I had somewhere pressingly urgent to go (as if anyone in my class actually cared where the mute girl went after lessons).

I organised my entire daily activity around the other people at my college. I obsessively thought over where was best to go in my free periods to avoid the burning glare of other people’s curious stares as I spent my entire free looking down hopelessly at the same page in my book, never really intending to read anything. I planned my outfits conscious of what would be least likely to attract their intimidating attention. I even planned to the exact minute what the best time to excuse myself during a lesson would be according to when I thought the teacher would finally try to ask me a question after I hadn’t met their eye the whole lesson.

The most ridiculous thing is; I bet those other students didn’t waste more than a minute of their time thinking about me especially after class-time. Whereas, I agonised endlessly about their opinions and judgements night and day.

I had always been from the beginning what I had worked so hard to achieve that whole course; invisible.

NO MOTIVATION

I have gotten to a point where everything seems laid out in front of me; I have gotten into University, my course is about to start and my campus is a hive of activity. So, why am I not feeling more energised than ever? I thrive off of reading and the only validation I ever really get is my good grades, so why am I not raring to prove myself and start off down this track which has been set out for me years and years prior to this moment?

The next chapter of my life is at my finger-tips and I am sitting in a closed-off room trying to do anything but reach out for it.

This, in turn, sets off a spiral of uncontrolled negative thoughts which suck me down into depths of suffocating guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Also, I begin to wonder, if I am not driven by academia, then who am I? What else can I lay claim to? I’m not successful in any other field of my life, I just stay in this small pen which has been cordoned off for me for many years.

Is it because I am scared of failure that I am not excited to start my course? It may be that I am so terrified of falling off this degree and being incapable that I am unwilling to start it because that would mean discovering my own aptitude. Then, I am frightened of what I would possibly do in the event of me actually getting knocked-off this course. I will not be able to find any other path with which to navigate; I will be lost.

[Interlude:Progression through Higher Education is the most advertised and conventional road through life in this country. Whilst this is wonderful because it proves we have a certain level of freedom to access education, is it not also alienating?]

Or am I anxious that starting my University course will be like re-living my college years. College made me feel so lonely, like I was the only one lost in a crowd of people who all knew a secret that I didn’t. They had goals and friends and an individual purpose for each of them (it’s like an intellectual Santa Claus visited them all every year but constantly missed me out). Whereas, I spent my lunchtimes eating in a toilet cubicle if I felt too anxious to go and sit in the common-room. College made me look around as if part of me was missing and I do not want University to force me into recommencing that doomed and fruitless search.

“Always be a work in progress” – Emily Lillian (darling, some of us don’t have any choice)

 

 

TIREDNESS

Tiredness is something which touches everyone’s lives at some point but every time it’s pressure reaches past a certain point, it convinces us that this weight is too much to bear. Tiredness has the ability to crush you slowly whilst using the guise of an everyday ailment which people tell you to ‘get over’ because it is a normal facet of everyone’s life.

Whilst fatigue cumulates and gains more form and substance, it seeps into more areas of your body and life. By the time it builds to become the figure of exhaustion, it takes the appearance of your body and replaces the ‘usual’ you. It gains control of your brain, growing small uncharacteristic errors in basic tasks to large oversights in life and work. It sucks the colour away from your skin like a parasite and gives you back in return lurid blue smudges under your eyes; the mark of the haunted. Your speech loses it’s once distinct character which is replaced with a hollow, unfeeling monotone whose small and lifeless outline barely reaches the ears of others.

Tiredness learns to live vicariously through you whilst also moulding you to it’s shrivelled and decrepit self.

Once it has enforced it’s own impression on your body, it tactically repulses or frightens people away. Short, snappy language begins to seep, like your own life force, out of your mouth and becomes an ugly couple with the ungainly appearance of a disinterested frown which takes residence upon your face.

Tiredness drives you to a place where it caNo Amount of Sleep...n have you for itself; doors and windows securely shut and exempt from the reaches of concern and worry.