I think this is about to become the most honest post I have written or will ever write and I’m still not sure whether I want to hit ‘publish’ at the end of it but, I’ve been honest with you from the start and I don’t have any intention of stopping, so here’s a post, from one friend to another…
I wrote a post a few weeks ago called ‘breaking down and building up’ where I talked about going through a bad time in my life but that I felt I was finally coming out the other side and that things were getting better. Well, it turned out that my mind lied to me because not only did I stop getting better, I got worse. To put it bluntly, I crashed and burned like a Hollywood explosion.
There is a great deal of positivity online in the travel blog community, celebrating lives and inspiring others to go and chase their dreams which I love but you know what? Sometimes things get out of your control and life is just shit. There, I said it. No pussy-footing around, sometimes life is just shit and there’s nothing you can do but ride it out and hope that it gets better. It’s the sad but plain truth. As much as we want to be able to control our own destinies and forge our life paths; sometimes circumstance just won’t let you.
A few weeks ago I announced on my Facebook page that I wouldn’t be so active online as I had some health issues and needed to take some time out; everyone was supportive and hoped I would get better soon. What I really wanted to say, however, is that I am depressed as hell and it’s probably going to be weeks or months until I find the old me again.
You see, when you say you’re depressed, no one knows what to do or say; conversations become awkward and less frequent, people get bored of trying to make you happy and some people just think that you can simply ‘pull yourself together’. I’d prefer to be physically ill if I’m honest, at least I would have something to show for it, even if it was just a rain cloud that followed me everywhere. When you bump into someone in town or talk to your friends, they can’t see anything wrong with you and, I hate to say it, a lot of the time, people don’t genuinely believe you’re so ill because they can’t see anything wrong with you. You’re not walking around on crutches or working your way through a box of tissues because of flu; everything that is sick is neatly wrapped up in your skull. The only physical signs are likely to be that you look like crap because you’re not sleeping or eating.
I’ve been off work for a little over four weeks and I feel only slightly better than I did on my first day off. Four WEEKS and I still feel like shit. I can’t just ‘pull myself together’ or ‘smile my way through it’ because it doesn’t work like that and I HATE IT! Earlier this year I was content – something which had taken me 11 years to find. I had just returned from Africa, knew what I wanted to do with my life and life seemed bright. Just four months later and I’m someone that I no longer recognise. I’m angry as hell that I’m mentally ill! After a decade of trying to find my own happiness, it disappeared in a matter of weeks. I’m angry, upset, exhausted; you name it, I’m feeling it. I don’t want to be ill; I WANT to be able to do the things that make me happy such as read a book or write like I used to so that I can at least try and help myself but, for whatever reason, my mind and body just won’t allow it for now. I feel like a computer; broken and stuck on ‘sleep power mode’ unable to reboot or fully regain power.
Last Sunday I turned 26. I should have been happy and celebrating but all I wanted to do was stay in bed all day and forget it. I was taken out for lunch and dinner but I didn’t have ‘fun’, for me, it was just an ‘okay day’. That’s not to say that I wasn’t grateful for my family treating me and the lovely gifts that I got, I was, but feeling how I did, I didn’t feel that I had anything to celebrate. Friends and family sent me birthday messages all day hoping that I was being spoilt rotten and having an amazing day – how could I tell them that I wished I didn’t have to celebrate? So I lied. It didn’t take much. A few ‘thanks’, some smiley faces and a couple of ‘haha’ and ‘lol’s’ online and I had most people convinced.
You see, as honest as I am being with you in this post, depression and mental health is still ‘embarrassing’. How can I admit to friends that without my mum cooking me dinner, I probably wouldn’t eat? Or that a trip around the supermarket for the weekly shop exhausts me? I’m 26 years old; I should be in the prime of my life both mentally and physically and yet, here I am…needing to be looked after.
Depression is like being stuck in a bubble; you KNOW what you need to do to make yourself happy…change your circumstances, read a good book, spend time outside etc etc but you just can’t pop the bubble and it’s torture knowing that you’re stuck. It doesn’t just affect you ‘in the now’ either; suddenly everything that you felt hopeful for – your ‘big life plans’ feel like they’re never going to happen so ‘what’s the point in trying to achieve them’? Your whole future looks like nothing but a big hole full of black. And when you do finally stretch that bubble a little and manage to go for a walk or sit outside and read a book? People think that you ‘can’t be that ill after all’ – there is truly no way to please everyone.
I don’t know how long I’m going to be ill for; it could be another couple of weeks before I start to resemble the old me again or it could be months and that uncertainty is heartbreaking. I know I won’t be like this forever but for the moment, the bad days still outweigh the good and I’m getting impatient. I miss hanging out with friends instead of cancelling on them because I have no energy and I miss my favourite food because I just don’t have the appetite to eat. But most of all? I just miss being me.
So there it is. My post. 1276 words of honesty that I wanted to share with you; not for sympathy but to help you realise that it’s ok to admit that things don’t always go our way and that yes, life is sometimes hard. Don’t be hard of yourself; everyone goes through hard times, some worse than others but it is possible to come out the other side of it; trust me. Do the things that you love to do and be kind to yourself with it. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t feel like writing anything for a few days or feel bad because you just don’t feel like smiling much one day…be selfish. Do what you have to to find your smile again and the rest will happen when it’s good and ready –
I’ll take the journey with you.