By Lesley M
I am not through my difficult times. I can’t even explain how I feel. But today has been a normal day and for that I am so thankful for a few hours of clarity.
The word depression is so overused these days, it almost sounds insignificant. True depression is not just a state of mind, it’s a state of body so much so that I could feel it in my head. Not a pain, but some kind of barrier that stops me connecting with the outside world. I can’t focus, can’t communicate, can’t motivate and sometimes can’t even move out of the comfort zone that is my bed.
The anxiety, which thankfully has now subsided, made me agitated, sometimes so much that I couldn’t stop shaking, stopped me sleeping and created such a huge knot in my solar plexus that I couldn’t eat for days.
Combine the two and I was a total mess. I lost myself, I didn’t know who I was. But the worst thing was, I didn’t know how to ask for help.
Why would I? I was the one everyone comes to for help. How could I appear vulnerable and let all these people down? Wasn’t I supposed to be the sensible, dependable one? Now who would I be? I would be a failure. In who’s eyes? My family’s? My friends’? My clients’? Or mine?
In truth I would just be human. Just like everyone else. Could I admit that to myself? Didn’t everyone call me their rock? What if the rock crumbled? I would have no purpose. Really?
I don’t have to be a rock. Isn’t it enough to just be? I am me. I am enough. Am I? No one places more demands on me than I place on myself.
Ok, so if I was one of my clients, what would I tell myself? Be kind to yourself, pace yourself, slow down, nurture yourself, don’t deplete. I’ve said it and meant it hundreds of times to others. Could I take my own advice? If I don’t go to the gym, would I just be giving up? Wallowing even?
I needed to push myself to get myself out of this. I have always advocated taking responsibility for one’s own health, but mental health? I didn’t even have the strength to get out of bed.
But I would try. I would explore every avenue. I owed it to my family and friends, and, of course, to myself.
Some days I didn’t even want to try. Surely giving in would be easier? Would it? Some days it took every bit of emotional strength I had to even think rationally. I had to force myself, to peel myself off the floor, metaphorically speaking, just to get through the day.
If all this sounds dramatic, I promise you it wasn’t. It was painful and torturous and I would have done anything to swap it for the humdrum routine I had before.
I started by being honest with people. That was something that didn’t come easily to me as first of all I had to be honest with myself. They didn’t all have to know every detail but they knew I was ill. I wasn’t ashamed of being ill.
I have always used the analogy that some people in life are radiators and some people are drains and had always hoped that I was a radiator some of the time. I didn’t want to be anyone’s drain! But I have some amazing radiators in my friends and family.
One of the effects of depression is that I felt invisible and insignificant as some people who I once thought were friends avoided me, ignored me or treated me with contempt. At a time when I was already on my knees, this has the effect of completely wiping out any self esteem I may have had, adding to the feelings of worthlessness. This may feel like self pity but it wasn’t. It was a tangible feeling that there really wasn’t any point to me being here anymore. I had nothing left to offer anyone. Thankfully, these so called ‘friends’ were in the minority, but when I was in such a depressive state, their actions became magnified and their impact became over significant.
Thankfully my other friends were patient and supportive and made me feel loved, valued and visible again. Some of these special friends I have never even met. But they are so very precious to me. Sorry for being mushy but as I said, I am now being honest.
I don’t know if I will wake up tomorrow feeling as I did only three days ago when I couldn’t even raise my head. I am still fragile.
And I have no idea if this blog will continue or if it is a one-off entry. Time will tell
I thank you for taking the time to read this and if it helps just one person going through the pain of mental illness or supporting someone with mental illness, my time writing this won’t have been wasted.