I will not let a disease define me
I took this picture in 2010, somewhere in Spain. I find travelling difficult – even when I’m feeling stable, it fills a part of me with panic and unease…and usually a few days into the trip I feel foolish at how nervous I was.
Jason Mraz once sang/wrote “The details in the fabric are the ones that make you panic”. I consider this relatively apt – there are so many little idiosyncrasies that come with either a feeling of panic, anxiousness, depression or anger. The list goes on. Basically – little things or actions will trigger you, and usually you won’t even know until it’s happened.
I, for one, have negative connotations with; authority, unexpected change (actually any sort of change) going to the doctors, phoning up people – even people I know well. For example being told to do something last minute is my worst nightmare. I know this may just make me sound like a spoiled brat – but it’s so much more complex than that. I know we all have our negative links and we all have reasons behind them too.
I spent the majority of Secondary School with a lack of friends and confidence. I’d always been a quiet child and I’d cry a lot, but it was never an concern to anyone. In year 10 I started to gain friends and popularity, but I never really felt an increase in my self-esteem. This could be due to the fact my best friend of 5 years had told everyone I forced her to self-harm in an attempt to win a boy from me and sabotage my reputation, or perhaps previous insults and threats and online comments engrained in my head, or even the fact I was head to toe in extremely bad eczema that would flare up whenever I was stressed – and flaring up would stress me out even more. I used to take pictures of myself and analyse everything – I hated myself.
I thought I was managing myself quite well – but really it was just the fact I was surrounded by people. I’d go out every night with my friends and walk the streets, I didn’t know how to be alone anymore. My grades were dropping, I went from an A* student to a failing one – no drama, I was the same quiet girl – but my grades just went to shit. I remember one night sitting in my bathroom, and I just felt this sensation overpower me. I felt nothing at all for the next 9 or so months. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t retain information and I couldn’t ascribe value to anything. I was embarrassed, confused and I didn’t know what I could do to shake the feeling.
Looking back, this was a long, surreal, hazy spell of depression and depersonalization. I don’t care what anyone says – depersonalization is the worst feeling in the world. I felt detached, and although everything was meaningless to me. I felt as though my feelings were intelligent and reasonable – that I’d cracked the code of life that no one else had understood yet. This is what made it so difficult to recover, I felt as though everyone else was oblivious. I think for a long while I believed happiness was simply being oblivious to life. I thought I was smart, genius for realizing this. When really it was just a cloud of nothingness. The only thing that kept me hanging on was the thought that – if I could be happy and oblivious for even 5% of my lifetime, that’s still worth living right?
No one noticed, not my parents, my friends, my teachers. I didn’t want anyone to know. I tried to harm myself – but I felt nothing which made me feel even more useless. These periods carried on for the next three years, for at least three months I’d feel depersonalized and detached from my own life. Sometimes the cloud left me. Each time it did, I’d tell myself that if I can get through it and feel alive once, there’s no reason for me to feel alive again. It helped and after a while I was back to my quiet self. Still no self-esteem, but I wasn’t dead inside.
I started Sixth Form and hated it. Immediately, I wanted to leave. I wanted to be working, in college or on an apprenticeship – I still had goals. But I was seen as a statistic and a grade and I was told I was ill but not offered help. I was so unhappy, teary, angry and my parents treated me as if there was something wrong with me for not wanting to go to university. I had passed my GCSE’s with A*s and As, and I was told this wasn’t good enough. I remember this as more of a manic time in my life – I was harming myself, drinking and self-medicating. It makes me cringe as it’s such a disgusting way to treat oneself. My friends would unknowingly laugh when I said I wanted to die, I was always the funny one of the group and tried to pass it off as exaggeration. They never knew, but I think they did. They were always cautious around me and I could tell towards the end that they didn’t know how to act. None of them knew what I was doing to myself, I hid it relatively well, but they were happy to see me happy.
At this point in my life I had no shame, I was at rock bottom and I thought that was just the way I was living. I remember getting into arguments with my parents about me having to phone up the doctors, dentists, anywhere. Even my relatives. I’d be shaking and crying on the phone IF I ever ended up calling. Once I went to the post office, and upon walking to the wrong cashier I burst out crying and left. I “knew” everyone was judging me and calling me a stupid bitch. If I tripped in the street or bumped into someone, I’d be sweating and trying not to cry. There was no doubt about it, I hated myself. My appearance, my personality, every single thing I loathed. The only reason I hadn’t killed myself before was out of complacency and laziness, but now I was manic and energetic and loathing everything about my existence.
The moment I decided to change. I’d been out with my closest friend and seen my ex on a night out. He was the kind of ex that although you’re not close at all, you’d always give another chance. We spoke all night and it never came to anything so yet again, I blamed myself. He’d discovered my behaviour in the past and (fairly) was probably scared off. I’d been drinking all night, my friend got straight into bed and fell asleep, while I opened a pack of ibuprofen. I woke her up at 4am and asked her if she had any painkillers, I think she threw them at me and went back to sleep. I woke up two hours later and I felt as though my face was melting off. I spent hours on the bathroom floor, on the verge of passing out. I washed my face with cold water over and over, I vomited, meanwhile her family of 5 were just waking up and probably wondering why their house was the set of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
I had a family meal that day, I had to drive 60 miles there and I swear, I honestly thought I was about to die. I had to eat a three course meal and sit through painful conversation.
The problem with depression is that you may hit rock bottom – twenty times. You will not feel the rise after the fall. Only fall after fall after fall, deeper each time. Starting all over, gathering the energy and creating the mindset to begin again, equates (for a “normal” person) to simply living life. You won’t get a medal, you won’t be recognised and you will probably be told you are just overreacting and you must get on with life as it is. Give yourself recognition. Tell yourself that YOU are stronger than you ever imagined you could be and despite your knowledge of the cruelty of the world – YOU are finally going to live a happy, peaceful life. Most people couldn’t rise – but you have, and even if it doesn’t feel that way all the time, you are human and you are worthy of all the love and happiness possible.
I know from experience that if you don’t want to see it, you will not see the light. I heard people being positive for months on end and I couldn’t listen. The truth is not “It will be okay”. The truth is, you may not see the light right now. You may not even see anything. But that’s okay too. It’s okay to feel nothing.
I have learned to love myself. I have realised that if someone has an issue or a problem with the way I want to live my life – then that’s their problem and a fault in their character. It shouldn’t cause me anxiety, and it shouldn’t cause me to shut down completely. I have learned that loving yourself is most important. Others will leave, and change their minds and falter. If your love for yourself is prominent, you can build on that foundation and lead a happy, stable life. Don’t be with someone because you need them, be with someone who can help you grow as a person and who you can help grow to be themselves too. Self-loving is not selfish. Put yourself, your goals, and your needs first. And don’t let anyone tell you different.
I still have bad days, and bad weeks. But by knowing this is a part of me and I can control that, I am so much better. I do not deny it, I understand and work my way around my life with peace and love. I have never spoken out about this, I believed even in the darkest times that if I ever reach happiness, I know I’d regret sharing my story in such a negative light. So, this is my story. And I’m doing just fine.