So, I have been suffering from what I can only describe as a breakdown in my mental health for around seven months now. I remember the moment I broke very well. I was sitting outside a multi-storey car park, having just been let go from my job of four weeks. They had someone they wanted for the role who wasn’t me. That was fine – I wasn’t particularly enjoying the role – but in order to let me go they had to come up with reasons. So, I sat, shell-shocked, in a grotty meeting room that desperately needed a clean, listening to a manager who barely knew me list 100 reasons about why I am basically the worst person alive. By the end I was broken. I knew none of it was accurate – but nothing feeds mental illness better than doubt. An example of the reasons was, she said, that I was ‘arrogant’ – her rationale was that I don’t start conversations often. This is because I have always suffered from social anxiety and find it very difficult to start the conversation, especially in new situations. But, as many of you will unfortunately know, OCD and anxiety make you question yourself and words such as ‘arrogant’ play in your mind. Constantly.
So here I was, sitting outside a city centre car park, unable to speak, unable to move, with no other way to get home than to drive. I just wanted to be out of there, to run and escape, but my body just wanted to melt into the ground.
Somehow I got home (a journey I cannot remember at all) and plunged into what would be (so far) a seven-month breakdown. Not to do things by half, I got diagnosed with major depression, anxiety and OCD, a cocktail of illnesses which proves impossible to live with. On particularly bad days I would lie in bed, unable to move with depression, whilst becoming more and more anxious and bothered that the door handles on my wardrobe don’t line up completely. With the depression I had no energy to do anything about it, so I would lie, all day, not moving, staring at the door handles and hating myself and the situation more and more.
I went to the doctors after two months, because I became obsessed with the idea of driving my car into a wall at a very high speed. I never wanted to hurt anyone, just myself. I got prescribed the usual meds, however, I found that one of the best ways to ensure I didn’t act on my thoughts was to always have someone – or my pets – in the car with me, because even though no one knew how I felt, I would never hurt them. Their presence, unknowingly, has saved my life numerous times.
I’ve never been much of a talker, preferring to be alone and deal with matters privately. That’s why it took me four months to even tell my husband I had been to the doctor’s. He still has no idea how bad it got and I genuinely hope he never does. He has no idea that I used to sit next to him on the sofa just wishing and hoping I would die, or about the panic attacks I’d have, or the phone calls I missed because I simply couldn’t speak. No one knows about that, because how do you explain that? How could I say, I love you and you have done nothing wrong but I want to die and leave you a widower? So I went down the other route and tried to push him away, telling him often that he needed a simple wife.
Except he didn’t leave, I don’t even think he knows why I tried to push him away. We don’t discuss my mental illnesses often, and when we do it’s not a deep conversation. I don’t know if that’s because of me or him. Instead, I deal quietly and alone. I take my medication, I try to stay alive. I have ways of coping – which I won’t recommend but will say that they work for me.
When I want to hurt myself, I wax. I wax a lot. I treat it as a joke that I’m hairless from the eyebrows down, but really it’s because I know people would notice actual self-harm and I genuinely don’t want them to, and it hurts enough to help in the short term at least. I also bathe – a lot. Sometimes four to five times a day. I have the water really hot and this helps. I clean, a lot. But sometimes I clean with bleach until my fingers bleed.
Sometimes I self-medicate (I really don’t recommend this one) but I find that sometimes nothing will stop my mind from racing except (legal) medication. And sometimes, just sometimes, I drive my car really fast on a quiet road just to remind myself that I am in control.
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