By way of a quick update, I have just gotten back from the Cheltenham Literature festival which is why this post is late. It was fun, peaceful and more importantly necessary. Because, reader, I have had to take some leave from work. Don’t worry, it’s okay. I just needed a manual reset and I have to remember that this mental health journey is a marathon and not a race. So when a friend suggested that I went to the festival, I jumped at the chance to head down to Cheltenham because it is a place that I really do love and reading brings me pure joy.
I went to a few talks about being honest online and a lunch hosted by a newspaper but the last event that I went to was a talk about Mental Health by Bryony Gordon. She has recently written a book called “Mad Girl” that follows up from “The Wrong Knickers” and focuses on her mental health journey with OCD. It is funny, heartbreaking in parts but fundamentally important. She spoke about being “out” and honest about her mental health. I realise that I cannot compare me being honest about my mental health with someone coming out as LGBTQIA but I think that there are a few crossovers in terms of the journey towards being honest with yourself and others. I left the talk and started to think about when I decided to be truly honest about my mental health and what this journey has done for me.
So, I should probably tell you that I have suffered from what was probably a form of depression for a long, long time. The first time I stopped to think about it was when I was sixteen years old. Now, as a sixteen year old, I had a pretty solid weekend routine. On the bus home from school on Fridays my friends and I would make solid plans for that evening (which was more often than not, just hanging around Leicester Square). Saturdays were time with my Mum and Sundays were for me, Mum and Dad time and I enjoyed that. it worked for me.
But one day, I noticed that I wasn’t really paying attention on the bus on Friday and I was dreading meeting my friends. I had no interest in going out and I just wanted to sleep and not speak to anyone. This went on for a while and my friends picked up on it and asked me what was going on but I would just say that I was “lost in thought” and that seemed to be enough. This was circa Dawson’s Creek time, so saying stuff like that made sense then.
Anyway. Those feelings lingered. Throughout my last year at school, all the way to GCSE results day. I had a feeling of dread that I wasn’t good enough and that no matter what, the world around me would be better without me. Reader, I followed through with something that I deeply regret. I won’t go into any detail but what happened afterwards led me to realise that all of those thoughts and being “lost in thought” were not okay. I needed to do something. And before you think to type it, no, this was not usual exam stress. And here is why. When someone feels exam stress, that can be helped. It can go away. Encouraging talks and parental hugs and the end of exams help. It stops then.
But this didn’t. It lingered and returned. When I was at University and struggling to be comfortable with myself and others and self manage my panic attacks. When I was working for someone who constantly belittled me and then when I got to my current job and that voice would come around everyday and tell me that I was definitely going to lose my job, regardless of how well I as doing and that maybe being so ill that I wouldn’t have to hear them anymore or even go to work would be a blessing.
But, here is the thing. The first time I told someone how I was feeling, it felt so freeing. They took me aside and explained that it is OKAY to get help and it is OKAY to say that you are NOT OKAY. So, after a set of panic attacks and anxiety meant that I couldn’t even leave my bedroom, let alone go to work, I did it. I told my GP. He was lovely and remains to be the most upmost caring and professional GP that I could have asked for. I am managing things now. I believe that I will be okay.
I suppose this is a roundabout way of me explaining how I got to where I am now. World Mental Health Awareness Day and National Coming Out Day give people that are marginalised the chance to say, openly “this is who I am”. And it gives other people the opportunity to listen, learn and support others.
Everybody hurts. Everybody cries. But you don’t have to do it alone.
So, if you are not okay. Please, please tell someone.
Until next time…
All the best,