Life · Mental Health

The Truth About Living With Mental Illness.

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For a long time I used this blog as a platform to write about my life. It was a place of freedom. It was a space where I could write down the uncensored and vulnerable musings of my experiences, to share a little piece of my world with others. Then, last year, I had to step away. I had to stop sharing my opinions, views and experiences on this blog because of the profession I chose. I had to distance myself from the online world, due to my words being misconstrued and misinterpreted by others. My voice was silenced. But now I feel ready to share again. Starting with the truth about what it is really like living with a mental illness. If you are offended by swearing or uncomfortable about the topic of mental illness, then you better look away and find another blog to follow because shit is about to get real. 

If you break your leg, the immediate reaction you receive from others is sympathy, empathy and understanding. They want to know what happened, how long your recovery will be, is there anything that they can do and will your leg ever be the same again. You get a chorus of “Oh, you poor thing, it must really hurt.” People gather around to sign your cast, send you get well soon cards and hold on to you as you wobble your way through recovery.

If only mental illness was treated in the same way.

The shitty truth is. We still live in a world of stigma and denial, a world where people are forced to believe that the only way to deal with mental illness is to shut up, cheer up and take a pill that will numb how you feel. It is unbelievable that despite the fact that 1 in 4 human beings on the planet are suffering with a mental illness, it is still shunned as an unimportant inconvenience and the bottom of everyone’s priority list. Why is the idea of being mentally unwell so difficult for us to talk about?

Well, whether you like it or not, I’m going to talk about it.

I’m human. We are all human. We are supposed to feel, think, do and be. We are emotional creatures. We all cry, scream, smile and laugh. We all feel guilt, jealousy, happiness, anger, loneliness and sadness. We all want to love and be loved. Life is a mixture of darkness and light, good and bad times, achievement and failure, love and pain. We all struggle at some point in our lives. So why do we still fall silent when we hear the words ‘mental health?’ Why is there still a wall of secrecy that people feel they have to hide behind? Why do we still consider a connection to Wi-Fi more important than the connection to ourselves and others? Why, in this modern society, can we be surrounded by people but still feel alone?

Lets start at the beginning of my mental health journey… Anxiety came first. At the age of 18, I developed an anxiety disorder – GAD (general anxiety disorder). It was the beginning of a difficult journey for me, years of panic attacks, mental breakdowns but also many mental breakthroughs. Then, a few years later, my anxiety made a friend, called depression.

Living with two mental illnesses was like standing in the middle of a pair of scales, waiting to see which side tipped first.

I could feel hopeless, useless and unmotivated one day and stressed, manic and agitated the next. It can sometimes feel like I am fighting a losing battle but most days, I find the strength to win. It took me a long time to accept that I have two mental illnesses. No one wants to believe that they are sick. No one wants to be anything less than perfect in this fucked up society that we live in, I was no exception. Only when I actually accepted that what I had was an illness, something beyond my control, something that was universal and not only affecting me but millions of other people, that’s when I started to believe that no matter what, I would be okay.

I have found strength in knowing that I am not alone in my struggle. I surround myself with people I know won’t judge me, they hold me as I cry, listen as I pour my heart out and release the fears and worries that weigh me down. Those people know who they are and without them, I don’t think I would still be here.

Living with a mental illness is hard, living with two can sometimes be unbearable. There is no sugar-coating it. It’s fighting with yourself every single day. It’s trying to silence the negative voices in your head. It’s trying to get through the day without crying. It’s analysing every word of a conversation and worrying about it weeks later. It’s laying awake at night not sleeping or staying in bed and sleeping too much. It’s hoping and praying that things will get better.  It’s fighting for a reason to stay alive.

Do you want to know what the hardest part of living with mental illness is? Keeping it a secret.

When people ask how you are and you respond with ‘I’m fine.’ You’re not fine. You just don’t want to burden those around you with your pain. You don’t want people to judge you. You don’t want to feel the stigma of others. It shouldn’t be this way… but unfortunately it is.

Living with a mental illness is like living in a cage that you can’t escape. It’s messy and complicated. It’s also fucking painful. One day I can be on top of the world, smiling, laughing, sharing positive pictures on my Facebook feed and the next, I could be crying hysterically, clutching my chest, forgetting how to breathe.

My disorder is not a decision. I am not choosing to feel this way.

Sometimes it takes all of my strength to get through the day. My biggest achievement on a bad day might be having a shower and getting dressed. Over the years, I have learned that running away, hiding from my own feelings, smiling and pretending I am okay to please others, only makes my illness worse. The most important lesson I have learned is:

You can’t stop the waves from coming, but you can learn to ride them.

Now, I ride the wave, I feel every emotion no matter how strong it is and wait for the storm pass. I speak up and no longer feel ashamed. I am choosing to blog about my struggles, I am choosing to write poetry about it, I am choosing to be a mental health ambassador to not only help others but help myself.

The only way we will see change is if we fight for it. It was time for me to speak up. Be one voice among the many that will play a small part in that change. 

Writer's Life

Writer’s Block Or Life Block?

typewriterrrr.jpgI was reading Writing Magazine a few days ago and came across an article about writer’s block. It’s something I have always struggled with. I go through phases of no writing at all and I always blame it on writer’s block, I either have too many ideas and can’t seem to pick one or unfortunately, sometimes, I have no ideas at all.

I’m sure all writer’s can relate to this, the ongoing struggle to get the beautiful poetic voice in your head to somehow find its way to the page, to find the right words and put them in the right order and to finally turn an idea into an actual story. However, I’m starting to realize, after reading this article mainly, that it may not be writer’s block.

Every writer has their ‘perfect mood’ to write. Some wait until the world is falling apart around them to finally get a poem on the page and some have to be in a happy state of mind to even consider putting pen to paper. I am the latter. I’ve been through a lot of personal struggles and during this time, I haven’t been writing. Now I feel I am moving away from the shadows and finally feel myself again, I want to write.

Strange isn’t it? Maybe I was intentionally choosing to let life block my writing muse? The events of my life were forcing me to ignore the writer in me. I was so focused on just getting through each day and understand the range of emotions I was feeling. I was failing to do the one thing that helps me get through almost anything and that is to write about it.

I feel like my ongoing battle with depression and anxiety has not only killed my happiness, but my confidence too. I had no belief in myself that I could write anything good, so I didn’t write at all. Silly really. I shouldn’t care if my writing is good or not, I should do it because it’s what I love to do. Only now that I am on the other side of a long, dark tunnel, do I actually see what I have been doing all of this time.

Now, I don’t know if this feeling of being myself will last. So I’m going to make the most of it. My typewriter is sitting on my desk, waiting for me to carve words from my mind and piece together something beautiful. I’m going to do what I do best, I’m going to write and no amount of self-doubt is going to stop me, not this time!

Opinion

Like My Status, Like My Life

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Photo by Tobias Dziuba on Pexels.com

Facebook is part of our daily lives, it’s a mechanical process to scroll down our newsfeed every morning and see what our friends have been up to, but do we realise the truth behind the façade? Do we have the ability to step away from the virtual world and live entirely in the real one?

Facebook has been around for a while now and it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular social media site, it is a great way to connect with friends and family that you can’t see every day, it enables us to like pages, photographs and statuses and it can keep us entertained for hours. Conversely, there is a negative side to social media and Facebook can be psychologically damaging for many reasons, entertainment can quickly turn into and addiction.

Facebook is also a false elucidation, a prism that only shows the sides of our life that we wish to share with the rest of the world. Unconsciously, we build a fictional wall, on Facebook we show the person we so badly want to be but behind the wall, a flawed person stands with many insecurities about how imperfect their life actually is.

It’s human nature to want attention, we crave it and not everyone will admit it out loud but we all want to be liked. Facebook is a platform for this. People, wait for their friends, family members and even strangers to like the events that have happened in their lives. When somebody likes our photograph or status, we get instant satisfaction. Liking a status means that somebody else, whoever that may be likes you and in that moment, that is all that matters.

Delusion is a side effect of being on Facebook. There is an unhealthy gap between reality and the online persona that we create online. We might share our engagements, the birth of our children and our new jobs on Facebook but we don’t share our deepest thoughts and feelings, we keep all the important thoughts to ourselves. There is nothing genuine about our online selves, seeing picture perfect profiles doesn’t only create bad self-esteem but can bring other negative emotions to the surface, such as jealousy, resentment and general unhappiness with our own lives.

It’s almost too easy to manipulate others and pretend to be someone that we’re not. Facebook has many advantages but its biggest disadvantage is its ability to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Social media sites are slowly killing society, the current generation and the ones that follow will no longer know how to communicate and this is worrying to say the least. Facebook and other social media sites have substituted our need for real conversation. I’ve seen it happen, people looking down at their screens at a party because they have no social skills and no awareness of those around them.

How many Facebook friends do you have? Two hundred, three hundred maybe? The important question to ask yourself is how much do you really know about them? You might know their job status and that they have been in an on and off relationship for four years but does it go deeper than that? Do you know their biggest fears? Do you know that they bite their nails when they’re nervous or that they are unhappy with their lives? Facebook creates an illusion that you know lots of people but do you know the real person behind the online façade?

The only way to free ourselves from the grasp that Facebook has is to realise that it isn’t real and it is okay to not be liked by everyone. Facebook can be a great way to connect but don’t forget to connect with real people and live in the present moment. I too am guilty of letting Facebook turn into my whole world when really it should only be a fraction of it.

I know that Facebook is just an illusion and if people want to get to know the real me, then they should look away from my Facebook profile as it only illustrates the highlights that I choose to reveal. Facebook is a great way to document snapshots of your life but as long as you step away from the screen and see the rest of the world around you, well, I guess it won’t do you any harm in small doses. Just remember that life is happening right now, so look up from your smartphone and enjoy it.

Writer's Life

I Love Being A Writer

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I love being a writer. Why you ask? There are many reasons… I love that writers think differently to other people. We see the world in a unique way and we have an ability to create, turn a blank page into something beautiful. Our minds are never empty, we’re always thinking in rhymes and metaphors and we not only want to write, we feel like we have to.

I love being a writer. It’s an amazing euphoria to escape into a character’s world and decide their fate. I love the way words can blend together and inspire others, I love the way black ink looks on a white page and I love the smell of old books and the fresh aroma of a book that has just been printed. I have pens scattered around the house, knowing that inspiration can strike when I least expect it. I could be drifting off to sleep and an idea ignites in my mind like a flame, I have to write it down so I can explore it in the morning.

I love being a writer but sometimes it’s hard. Writers are sensitive beings, we have to keep our emotions at the surface and call us judgemental if you wish, it’s our job to be. We have to analyse the people and the world around us, we have to see the flaws and we live to make assumptions. A person on the bus, a family member or a stranger walking his dog, anybody can ultimately become a character in our minds, so watch out! Writers have a natural curiosity. Being a writer is an important job. We have to create something from nothing. We have to inspire, make readers cry, laugh, smile. We have to paint a picture and make words dance on the page.

I love being a writer. I feel like I am part of a secret club, the non-writers in my life think that I am weird, quirky, posh and emotional but the writers out there know that these qualities are what we all possess. We all have the same burning passion in our hearts. We all hide away in a secluded room and pour our hearts onto a blank page, it’s exhausting, it’s amazing and it’s therapeutic.

I love being a writer.
I love being in a world where words are everything.
To put it simply, I live to write and I write to live.

 

Stories

A Sunday Afternoon

Morgennebel

I sit here, enjoying the peaceful tranquillity of the woods. Silence, almost. Only the symphony of bird song is with me here. I feel nature and it’s presence all around me: I feel liberated. I feel free. Lost in the woods with a notebook and pen and I can write about everything I see, hear, touch and feel. I no longer have to hold my breath thinking about the restrictions that are holding me back.

I am opening up to the many possibilities that my mind can create and I let myself relax into the bench I sit upon. I feel inspired. I write this, that I am repeating to you now. Just my every day thoughts. Nothing special, nothing poetic. Just what is happening here and now. I have found that I write the words I want to say better than when I wish to speak them. I don’t know why this is. No one knows I am here, this is my safe haven. Even the animals carry on with their every day adventures and I just watch them with avid curiosity. I love watching the squirrels the most, they roam free, oblivious of my existence. They pounce from branch to branch happily and the birds, well they sing a tune that brightens even my saddest day, like today.

I take everything in, clear my mind. I can hear children laughing, dogs barking and families talking in the distance and I have a sudden image flash to the front of my mind. It would be nice to come back here again someday, in the future. With my children. After being alone with my thoughts for a little while, I feel the need to explore. I start to walk through the golden leaves that lie on the ground, they crunch beneath my feet, I really love that sound. I try and release the toxins from my mind, I try to replace them with happy thoughts, I no longer want negativity to lie on my chest, I no longer want unanswered questions – I just want to feel refreshed. I focus on breathing the oxygen into my lungs, it gives me strength, it gives me fire. And so, I carry on walking.

I’ve needed this. Just me and nature – no distractions. Finally no distractions. I feel that they never help an unsolved mind. They take you away from your true self. I have found that covering up your feelings, will always lead to an unhappy heart in the end. I’m trying to unlock the place in which I store my emotions and deepest fears. I have a feeling of freedom when I am here. I wish I could just release everything I think and feel, right now, into the air that I am breathing. I’m starting to feel better after this thought and I start to feel myself smiling, a real smile.

I observe that the sky is a mixture of blues and greys and there are still no clouds in sight, but the orange is slowly starting to creep in. It’s getting a bit colder now so I start to head back onto the path that takes me home. The sun is low in the sky but it still warms my face with a glow of happiness, I put on my coat and look back and smile. A new place, a new discovery. I now feel a lift off my shoulders. I should really do this again soon. What a wonderful way to spend my Sunday afternoon.