Stop worrying. Chill out. What’s the matter with you?
I have dealt with depression and anxiety for around two years now, and people still ask me these questions. How am I supposed to tell them that I can’t stop worrying, that I don’t know how to chill out and that everything is the matter with me? That I cannot turn off the endless stream of thoughts, that it sometimes it feels as if my own brain is attacking me.
These are the thoughts that run around my head late at night when I am trying to sleep. I have experienced the lowest lows that a human can experience, I have wanted to end it all. Yet despite this, I am still here. My illness is not going to kill me.
However, I still face the stigma every day. When I have to miss things due to my anxiety, people call me a ‘skiver’. When I cannot get out of bed, people call me lazy. And when I physically cannot stop crying, people call me a cry-baby.
I remember a specific time when I was made to feel so small due to my illness. I had to miss a school sailing trip due to my anxiety and low mood and I was so frustrated with my headmaster’s reaction. The basis of it was that perseverance was an integral part of the school’s ethos and that, if I missed the trip, it would open the door for others to opt out as well. I felt so misunderstood and upset, as if he was simply brushing off my concerns and that they couldn’t be that bad.
The thing is, I have now learned to block these people out. I only listen to the people who matter to me, who make me feel better. After being made to feel so small and insignificant by others, I just want to tell these people that they have no idea the effect that this doubt can have on people. Even though I know myself so well, I started to doubt my feelings and thoughts, even starting to question my sanity. People not listening to me and doubting the fact that I was ill, had a severe impact on the way I viewed myself. This then meant that I was less inclined to talk to people about the way I was feeling, because I thought they would simply not understand nor listen to me.
I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing support system around me – loving parents and sisters, kind friends and a great psychologist. All of these people have been more supportive than I could have hoped for; they are there for me on the darkest days and the brightest, they are there for me if I just want to cry, or just for a chat. These people are the reason I am still here. This is what has made me gradually better. Both of my parents have had rocky relationships with their head, and this has helped them understand and listen to me because they have experienced the same thing.
The problem that people don’t talk about though is that recovery is not a linear path – you feel better for a week, then you have a shit few days, and then you feel better again. And repeat this cycle. It is incredibly demoralising, when you feel like you are making progress to then relapse again. However, there is always someone to pull me back up. Although you feel like the whole world is on your shoulders and that everything is hopeless, always remember that it will get better.
I wrote this to remind people that they aren’t alone. Mental illness can be incredibly isolating and lonely, but remember that there is always someone who cares about you. Someone who will care if you aren’t there anymore. And it may not always be the person you expect. It may be the old lady that you always sit next to at the bus stop. It may be the teacher that you thought hated you. It may even be that nice cashier at the shop who always serves you, and will now miss seeing your face. Just remember that you aren’t alone in this.
There are days that are worse than others, but you will get better.
Life is short. We have to take every opportunity to enjoy it.