When you were a child, did you ever get lost?
I remember a time when I was with my parents, for the life of me I don’t remember where, but what I do remember is the moment I looked around and realised I was alone.
Of course I wasn’t alone, I was in the middle of a busy crowd, and that was part of the problem, there were so many people moving around trying to get from point A to point B, that I completely panicked, I became part of the mass crowd, I whipped my neck from side to side looking for any sign of my parents, and the more time that passed the more I was filled with dread. As a child, that feeling is all consuming, I went from feeling the panic in my chest, to having it seep down into my legs, and root me to the spot. The more you let the fear control you, the more you begin to lose any semblance of rational thought. The fear climbs into your brain and shuts down any chance you have of being useful, and at last your eyes begin to fill with tears, it’s almost the sign of defeat.
Thankfully, right before I lost it, my Dad’s usually stoic face appeared in my peripheral line of sight, and as I turned I saw his face relax into a face of pure relief, and at the same time I was sure my face was mirroring his. I got a stern telling off for wandering to far out of sight, but I knew that I was safe again, and any feelings of dread, were quickly forgotten.
Over the last few years I’ve dealt on and off with bouts of anxiety and depression. It’s not something that I acknowledge or even think about very often, and yet sometimes it just sneaks up on you and you can’t help but give it all the attention you have to give.
My GP once said to me “there is no such thing as depression, you just need to stop telling yourself you are sad” which is of course nonsense and quite possibly some of the worst advice I have ever received. After he said that I stormed out of his office and subsequently had such a severe panic attack that I broke down in tears in the middle of the street, I couldn’t breath and I spent the next two days lying in bed telling myself that I was just making it all up, hating myself because if it was all in my head, then it was my fault I felt like this. I put in a complaint about him once I had calmed down, and all that happened was he phoned me at my house and told me that I had misunderstood him, and that I needed to apologise to him, as my complaint was not representative of how I actually felt. My faith in the NHS dropped a little at that time in my life.
I only say this because this is the opinion of a medical professional and to be honest the opinion of so many more people. There is a stigma against people with mental health problems, which is exacerbated by the fact that people are of the opinion that we shouldn’t talk about our mental health. But ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.
My own experiences of poor mental health have been quite mild compared to some, I am able to continue working, and have a close circle of friends whom I thankfully can rely on. Not to mention my family, without whom I may not have gotten through the last few years as intact as I have. Yet when I am at my lowest I feel just like I did that day that I lost my parent’s, the dread starts like a knot in my stomach, basic necessities like eating or drinking become easy to ignore, I am filled with a constant lethargy which descends into my brain like mist, impenetrable and all consuming. Yet my body fights it, and so even in the middle of the night, I can just lie awake. Sure my eyes are closed and I am not moving, but my brain is rapidly firing every negative thought I’ve ever had through the mist and try as I might to ignore them, they keep coming back.
But you can only focus on the negatives for so long, before you have to stop and what you end up with is the worst feeling of all.
Indifference. The most terrifying emotion I have ever experienced. I would take the dread, and the angst over and over again to get rid of the indifference cloud, because angst, anger, fear, sadness they are all emotions, and while they can in their own way prove be negative, they are also proof that you can still feel. When I am at my lowest, I no longer feel anything; the negative thoughts are still there, but they have been there for so long that they lose their power. At first you begin to think that it’s a good thing, the void, which has taken all of your emotions, is giving you a gift. But slowly it dawns on you, not only can you not feel sad or scared, but you also can’t feel joy, relief, contentment or love.
Instead you are forced to go through each day focused on the task at hand or nothing at all. It’s almost impossible to think of the future, as anything other than a hardship, even the end of the week seems unattainable yet inevitable. You begin to just let days merge, one into the other, and simple tasks like showering or getting dressed, become arduous and exhausting. The simple tasks become complicated, and the complicated become colossal; going outside becomes a whole new task, because not only do you have to get dressed and function out there with the other seven and a half billion people on the planet; you have to do it in such a way that they don’t have to see just how hard it is for you. You protect others from ever having to see you at your lowest, because “it’s just not polite to talk about these things.”
This morning I woke up and went through the list of things I should be doing in my head, and the more things I thought, I should do that, the less energy I felt to do… anything. Yet I refused to give in, I sat and wrote this, not because writing it was going to change the way I felt, but because by writing it, I was doing something.
By doing something… anything, you can beat the indifference cloud, you can stop it sinking in, it doesn’t matter if your to do list is a mile long and you can’t do anything on it without sinking further into the fog. Do something, maybe something you’ve never done before, maybe something you’ve not done for years. Just do something, because the more something’s you do, the more time passes and you realise you are still going.
Life is for living, but merely existing is not enough, sometimes we have to scream a little louder to remind ourselves that we can be heard, even if you are the only one who hears it. By hearing it you know that you exist, and that should be enough to remind you, that you deserve to exist.
Live each day like your life has just begun. It doesn’t matter if today is hard, let it be hard, and know that tomorrow you can try again. Above all else know that you can do something.