New Year

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

This is an update on where I’m at, where I’ve been and where I hope I’m headed and an apology for the lack of mental health posts. Firstly, I’m sorry for the lack of posts about mental health. It’s not deliberate and it’s not what I’ve wanted but I’ve just not had anything to say on the topic. When you eat, sleep and breathe a subject, as well as suffering from it, you become pretty overwhelmed and saturated by it and while I’m hugely passionate about it still and am desperate to do anything in my power to reduce stigma and increase understanding, I’m having to learn to not do that at the cost of my own health and to stop before I burn out. I keep thinking up posts to write and getting half way through writing them and then struggling to find the words or be able to focus long enough to make it coherent enough for someone else to read. I’m also struggling because much as I’m a very open person and I pride myself on being honest, that’s not always total. I will never lie, I will never make anything up but sometimes I go quiet so that I don’t have to tell the whole truth. I find it very hard to let people in to the very depths of my thoughts and feelings and most of the time I don’t even let myself go there for fear of getting stuck or lost and not finding a way of returning and regaining control. But this means that I feel I’ve lost my way a bit with my blog. I set it up to tell you all the truth about mental illness. And not just the truth I wanted you to hear or the bits I wanted to vent about or challenge or address. My aim was to tell the whole truth. To tell you all the good bits, the bad bits, the achievements and the deteriorations, the ugly days, the real, hard, gritty bits that almost no one ever tells anyone because it’s just too embarrassing or difficult or upsetting. My aim was always to blog about those things so that you could see inside my world, see that depression isn’t always controllable and also isn’t always crying in bed all day; to see that anxiety controls every fibre of your being but that some days you manage to tame it and overcome it and do something you never thought possible and then the next day return to not functioning again.

I haven’t felt able to be totally honest recently because to me, I’ve failed. I deteriorated a couple of months ago thanks, largely, to the extreme pressure I’ve been put under by my psychiatrist to attend treatment that I cannot possibly attend. I’ve been hoping and pushing and trying to work towards it, all the while fighting and ignoring the anxiety that has now taken over completely that was telling me it was too threatening to do. Consequently, most of the progress I had made over the previous months has been lost. It’s not lost forever, I know that, but at the moment it’s out of my reach and back to being incomprehensible and inconceivable again. This has been utterly soul-destroying for me. I’m a very vocal person and I’ve talked to the people around me and my blog readers about every step of this journey through the world of anxiety and mental health treatment but the last few months I’ve got quieter and quieter about it because I simply don’t know what to say. So I’m here, being as open and honest as I can cope with to try and restore order and balance and to get back to doing what I feel I should be doing and want to be doing on my blog. I’ve written about what my conditions are like to live with, I’ve described my diagnoses, disappointment after disappointment with treatment (or lack thereof) and have previously been very honest about my levels of functioning. I kept pretty quiet about most of my achievements and I hope you’ll all forgive this. I wasn’t trying to pretend I was worse than I was, I’ve never ever lied, I simply didn’t want people using the dreaded “I” word (improvement) prematurely, and then being ‘disappointed’ if I was no longer able to do those things. I have achieved things over the past year and was going outside more often, though without any regularity, and was struggling a little less with it. I was managing to do more things on medication and pushed myself really hard to do a few things that I was desperate to do but none of these things were able to be repeated again. Each time I do something and then can’t again it feels a little bit like I’ve failed. I’m my own worst critic, I know, but I try not to get others’ hopes up prematurely because when I’ve done that in the past I’ve been berated for not trying hard enough or choosing to stay ill if I then can’t do those things again. I now describe good things as achievements rather than improvements because doing something on one day doesn’t mean I can do it again, as I keep realising throughout this period of illness. I was managing to go out more often and more easily and I was definitely making progress and heading in the right direction and now, since October, I’ve deteriorated in my ability to go outside and have only left my flat once alone in over 2 months.

So why haven’t I told you this on the blog? Why hasn’t there been a post about my deterioration, my frustration, my lack of functioning? Here I go with the honesty again – because I’m embarrassed. I didn’t want to have to face the fact that I’d deteriorated, I kept ignoring it and hoping I’d be able to go out alone tomorrow, but tomorrow hasn’t come. I kept thinking that if I just tried harder, it would happen. Ridiculous I know! I, of all people, should know by now that trying hard is not the route out of mental illness, that you can’t just will it away or hope your way out of it and yet that’s what I’ve been trying, very unsuccessfully, to do for the last 2 months. I didn’t want people to be disappointed in me for letting my functioning slide, even though it’s not in my control and hasn’t been a choice and that it slipped overnight thanks to the appointment where I was put under so much pressure. I thought people would be annoyed, or judgemental or unsympathetic because that’s the experience I’ve had in the past when I’ve been in similar circumstances and so I’ve kept quiet and not really told anyone. I’ve tried to deal with it alone and not mention how much I’m struggling and how I feel unable to do almost anything on my own. I’m still fighting, I still keep pushing through and try to ignore how insecure I feel and how incompetent I believe I am at even the simplest of tasks but it’s all there if you just scratch beneath the surface. Yesterday, for example, I made biscuits with my boyfriend and even that was difficult for me. They only contain 5 ingredients and are beyond basic to make but I still had to check every step with him, double check the measurements every time and get his advice on when they looked ready to come out of the oven. I can’t bake on my own because I get so anxious and any little problems turn into catastrophic failures in my head so I have to be babysat for tasks like this. It’s so embarrassing to me – I have a degree, I lived away from home and looked after myself for 3 years and now I’m totally reliant on the people around me to help me with basic tasks because they’re so overwhelming. In terms of going out, there’s very little to speak of. I’m still pushing myself to go to my grandparents’ and my dad’s whenever I can but these visits are more anxiety-provoking again which is so upsetting because I’d really combatted that since the summer. As for going out alone – I can’t. I try, every day but I end up physically rooted to the spot and can’t even open my front door because I’m so paralysed by fear. I do occasionally go out with someone but even that is now back to being very challenging and infrequent. It’s such a huge step backwards and I’m back to feeling imprisoned. Part of why I’ve not written about it is because I try to keep myself busy all day, every day in order to ignore how trapped I feel and how upset I am about this deterioration. I try to keep pushing through, to do at least something useful with my time and to achieve something, no matter how small. But I do feel crushed inside, so disappointed and I try to drown out the failing feeling as much as I possibly can.

So, that’s where I’m at and where I’ve been recently, with as much openness and honesty as I can cope with. As it’s New Year’s Eve and the socially acceptable (practically enforced) time of the year to look forward and prophesise about where we’ll be in future years, I’ll simply say this – I’m working my socks off, every day, to fight this condition, to one day be able to beat it. There are good days and bad days and better periods and worse periods and I’m currently struggling to see how I can get back to the level of functioning I was at 3 months ago, let alone the level of functioning I was at before being struck down by these hideous conditions. But, rest assured, I’ve done it before, and despite not having a clue how to right now and being scared senseless, I WILL do it again! I didn’t want to admit to deteriorating because I like to come across as strong. I’m regularly told I’m strong and I try to be that, to stay strong despite going through adversity, being dealt a shitty hand (sorry Nana), and not being where I want to be in life currently, but I feel weak and defeated currently and that’s the one thing that I don’t let people see or hear, but it’s the one thing that also stops me asking for help, that stops me from expressing stuff and that stops me from showing how scared I am that this will beat me. People around me seem to ‘know’ that I’ll be ok, that I’m strong enough to fight this and logically, I can see that and I know it too but deep down I don’t feel it. Deep down I’m terrified that that’s just a ridiculous, naïve hope and that this is as good as it’ll get for me. I refuse to accept that and I refuse to give up but sometimes those thoughts and worries take over and my strength gets up and leaves. That’s happened for the last 2 months and it’s why I’ve not told you all because I felt weak and admitting that felt like admitting my conditions have won.

So, there you go: mental illness – warts and all. This is an ugly post about the hideous depths mental illness takes you to, the warped thought processes it creates and the shame that often ensues. But I’m hoping it’s also got me back on track to be more open, be more honest and to really, truly tell you all The Truth, The WHOLE Truth and Nothing But The Truth about my life with mental illness. Happy New Year to all of you and thank you so much to each and every one of you for your continued support, for reading, sharing, commenting, emailing, anything you’ve done to interact with me and my blog. Having this outlet has made me feel so much less alone and has given me a platform to be able to help people which is my sole aim and purpose in life. Thank you all and see you in 2016, let’s hope there will be more posts about achievements and eventually even a post with the currently banned “I” word in the title but in the meantime I hope you’ll continue with me on my journey, the good bits, the bad bits, the ugly bits and eventually, I hope, the improvement!

A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!

For me, New Year embodies an awful lot of what is wrong with the world. For a start, everyone has the expectation that it has to be “The best New Year’s Eve EVER” and in reality, it’s a flop for almost all of us, almost every year. I’m of the opinion that in a lifetime you’ll have fewer than 10 decent NYE’s and my current count is 2 in 24 years. I can guarantee that today will not be increasing that number. NYE also seems to incentivise people to decide to make utterly unrealistic changes to themselves or their lives under the guise that everything will be different in the New Year. Why is this the case? Why would a date change affect this in any way? Last I heard, it wasn’t the fact that the date was 2014 that made you fat, it was your insistence on eating all of the chocolate biscuits and having takeaways three nights a week. 2015 will not make those things go away, nor will it decide that you “deserve” to be thin and therefore none of the extra calories you consume will count. New Year’s Resolutions are also a completely ridiculous idea because they add pressure but also give you a get-out clause because everyone knows that almost no one keeps to their resolution for more than a month. If you really want to change your life then start today, don’t wait for the first of January when you’re the fattest you’ve ever been after eating your own body weight in Christmas food, smoking like a chimney due to the added stress from family arguments or vulnerable to deals at your local gym that are only actually deals if you ever turn up to the classes that deep down you already know you have no intention of attending. Obviously, you may be reading this on the 1st of January and thinking that I’ve gone mad and am completely contradicting myself but I’m actually writing this on the 30th of December and really mean it for any other day of the year.

I certainly won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions and will have no one to kiss at midnight because my boyfriend of 3 years will be at work. I will be quietly toasting in the New Year with some form of soft drink (no alcohol allowed whilst on meds) and feeling very flat about the non-event that I should apparently be celebrating. New Year seems to bring with it a time for contemplation of where we are now and where we’ve been in years gone by. I mentioned a lot of this in my last post but am still thinking about where my life has taken me and where I may still get to go. I’m very thankful that I don’t buy into the idea of New Year – New Start or that how your year starts will dictate the rest of it. Last year I toasted in the New Year with two ear infections and a perforated ear drum but I was pretty much the happiest I’ve ever been. I’d been living with my boyfriend for 4 months, work was going really well and I was loving it, I had interviews lined up for a permanent job there, my family life had settled down and I was able to do all of the things I wanted and had an active social life. Little did I know that 3 months later I’d be struck down with an anxiety disorder that has totally crippled my life and turned it upside down. My social circle has become extremely limited ; my life is pretty much restricted to my two bedroom flat and occasionally visiting my dad and my grandparents because their homes are very familiar places to me; and I’ve not worked in over 9 months. This year I will be starting 2015 with an anxiety disorder. But I will also be starting it with a few, very close and supportive members of my family and friends, a blog that had over 1000 hits in the first month and a successful small business that I set up selling items made with a skill I only taught myself in May (if you’re interested I sell crocheted items and greetings cards at Lucy Locket Crafts on Facebook). I simply intend to keep challenging the anxiety where I can and to learn as many new skills as possible while I’ve got the chance.

I will not be making any resolutions because in my opinion they just set you up to fail. I have no specific goals for the year and I have no idea what the future holds so instead I’ll share with you my life’s goal. If I do nothing else with my life but this then I’ll die happy. I want to make a difference to others. When I’m gone I want everyone to say that I made a difference, that I helped change a life, that I was there when no one else was. I want to help those who are like me, who suffer from mental illness, who aren’t listened to, treated, cared for, or understood. I want to get programs set up in school so that we can stop the next generation from developing as many conditions as we see now. I want to help teach children coping strategies so that they’re equipped to deal with stress and change instead of crumbling under pressure like I, and so many others around me do. I want to make people aware of mental illness, of the signs, the symptoms, the help and treatment available, the struggles and the shame. I want to make people understand what it’s like, how they make it worse and how they can help make it better. I want to reduce stigma so that in the future, those with mental illnesses only have to fight the symptoms, not society’s ignorance and judgement. I want to make life different for the mentally ill. That’s way too big to be a resolution, it’s far too important to fail at after a month and it can’t possibly be achieved within a year. In my opinion, the notion that the “slate” is wiped clean at the beginning and end of every year is just nonsensical and you don’t get to “turn over a new leaf” just because the year has changed. Make goals and work towards them, if you go wrong, get yourself back on the right path. Everything I do at the moment is working towards getting myself better so that I can finally go out and help others like me. I will not be miraculously cured as the clock strikes midnight tonight, I won’t suddenly have the motivation I need to shift the extra 3st of weight I’m carrying and I won’t have a personality transplant that stops me from swearing ever again. I will simply continue to work towards my goals, clambering over the obstacles in my path and making sure that I carry on doing everything I can to make a difference to others. A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!!!!!