I'm sat on the tube going to meet my mum and some family friends for lunch and I'm waiting for that tiny little voice in my head to start pounding my brain with fear. On days when I really put all my energy into helping myself I can use some of my CBT techniques to calm myself down but some situations always bring out an intense anxiety that no amount of coping strategies will help, for me travelling is one of those things.
"There's a suitcase over there, no one is touching it and loads of people have gotten on and off"
I'm starting to scan all the people sat by it, willing my brain to try and figure out who's it is as my anxiety starts feeding itself off my fear. I start tapping my leg and picking at my lips. I'm looking for anything, a quick touch of the suitcase, a glance in its direction. Anything to acknowledge whose it might be.
"There's definitely a bomb in it. You should get off the train, Jasmine. You know I'm right, just get off at the next stop."
My leg tapping gets quicker and my eyes are darting from one side of the train to the other. I'm now worrying that people are looking at me weirdly. I desperately try to focus on the music playing in my headphones but it isn't loud enough to drown the voice in my head. I start debating whether I should get off at the next stop.
"No wait, don't get off because then the whole plan of the journey is derailed. We spent time this morning worrying about being on time and everything going to plan."
My mind is racing, do I feed into my anxiety and get off the train or do I push through it so I don't screw up my journey? Suddenly I notice the next stop is mine. Ok, one more stop and all this is sorted. What are the chances of anything going wrong within one stop, I mean really? I stand up and move my way through the crowds of people to get by the door. I can feel my breathing changing and I'm willing myself to calm down before a panic attack starts. Finally I'm off and for just a second all my fears have vanished, I can breath.
"You're such an idiot, why on earth did you think there was a bomb on that suitcase? You know you shouldn't listen to me, I'm always wrong but you're stupid enough to fall for it every time."
And so starts the next phase, the beating myself up over what just happened. This one lasts the longest and is often the most painful. You see, I know all my anxieties are irrational and I know the likelihood of them actually happening is pretty slim but it's that tiny chance they could that gets me every damn time. There's a voice inside my brain that overtakes my whole body and makes me believe every whisper it utters. I try my very best but anxiety's voice is a powerful one.
Next time you see a nervous mess of a person, don't stare because you don't know the demons they are battling. Offer a reassuring smile and continue doing whatever it was that you were doing before their fierce leg tapping caught your attention.
When I think of how my life should be right now, I’m hit with the reality of what it actually looks like. Now don't get me wrong, I've come a long way from the person I was even just several months ago and if I was looking at my life with a practical perspective, it is good. It is simple. I get through my days and work hard but I yearn for so much more than just 'good'. A year or two ago, finishing school, the image I had for what my life would look like is far different than what is sat in front of me today. I still feel stuck in some senses. Stuck in my security blanket that is home and a familiar job (which I love!). I've always been the 'safe one', never venturing too far out of my comfort zone but I knew finishing mainstream school and starting uni was finally my chance. Except it wasn't. I became unable to do so many things and the effects of depression crippled over me. Uni and even going back to any type of school filled me with dread and sickening anxiety. Why? Because depression convinced me for SO long that I will fail. Not that I might but I most certainly will. I suppose part of me, two years on, still believes this to be true.
When I look back to 2 years ago, although I had mild anxiety and low moods, for the most part I was the bubbly, always laughing and blabbermouth who was friends with everyone. I had high hopes for my life. Since the age of 13 I wanted to become a social worker and I had never steered away from that path. I geared all my subjects towards it, read mountains of books on social care and scoured the internet for every documentary on the subject there was. I wanted to live away from home in a big city, find love and have the perfect little family. Then depression and severe anxiety knocked me down without any warning. The bubbly person I used to be disappeared. I became quieter, I questioned everything and everyone around me, I would spend hours upon hours locked in my room in pitch black. Nothing made sense anymore. I felt as if everyone else was making leaps and bounds in their life and I was still stuck at the bottom of that hole, with no light up above. I questioned all of my worth, doubted my abilities to succeed at anything, let alone make it through University. Social work seemed like a mistake and that I wouldn't cope with the pressure. I no longer thought I was worthy enough of love and couldn’t imagine being a mother when I couldn't take care of myself. The dreams I had dreamt of since I was little seemed near impossible, like my depression was playing some cruel joke on me for believing I could be something.
I fought hard to ignore those thoughts but there was always that nagging voice in the back of my head that persuaded me I would never amount to be anything more than a continuous nervous mess. It's been 2 months. 2 months since I started thinking that uni was in fact going to be an option in my life again. That because I have defeated the darkness, I will somehow be strong enough to handle school. I want so much more for myself and never wanted to become a settler but I have, although not purposefully. I had succumbed to the conclusion that my depression and anxiety are right. Whilst writing this I've continuously put present tense, then read back through correcting it to past tense but maybe I do feel all these things, still, in some way.
In some ways I think anxiety was a huge part of my life before I ever realised it. I constantly needed a plan in place, even if it changed with my varying moods, it brought me comfort to have an idea of what I wanted in life. Now, I'm kicking myself for not even thinking that my life dreams would possibly change through time and heartache. I'm constantly wavering between different things that I want to do, even though right now I feel pretty settled in my choices. Yet, the anxiety and grief for the things I haven't yet done, at times make me want to dive head first into everything to make up for lost time.
It's hard watching life go by and feeling like you can't take part. Some days it still gets me down that I can't do everything that all my friends do or that I haven't achieved as much as some of them. But I've learnt to let life live itself, I can't control everything, as hard as I may try. I may not have gone to university last year, gone on a "girl's holiday", or to festivals etc but there's time. I have time to do all those things, they don't have to be done at certain points in life despite my anxiety convincing me otherwise. Grief comes in many forms and I believe all those that suffer with mental health, have in some ways, got to grieve. Whether it's for opportunities missed, things you can no longer do or people you have lost along the way. And just like with other grief, it comes and goes, it's a constant process of learning to live in the moment. Learning to be okay with where your life is at any given moment despite the uncertainty that comes with mental illnesses.
I am the only one who sees myself as a failure and reminding myself of this, often times makes me feel better. No one else sees what I haven't accomplished because their goals are not the same as mine. We are often times our own worst enemy but just remember you are not your shortcomings, you are everything that you do despite them.
As we grow up we have many best friends, it's something that's forever changing. We get to 15-16 and things start to settle, you begin to see people for who they really are and the friendships you have become stronger. Yet, there is never a guarantee that these people, who you love with every part of you, will stay in your life forever. And it hurts, it's heartbreakingly painful. Sometimes it's over silly things that you will come to realise over time, never really mattered. But sometimes you lose people through the big, heavy deep things and when you come out the other end, you'll wish that your friendship had weathered the storm.
I lost one of my very best friends, in the midst of my fight with depression. Now, I'm not going to sit here and spill out all the details of what happened because I would never do that to them, even though I'm 99% sure they've never seen the blog. It wasn't simply all down to the fact that I was in a deep darkness that the people who loved me most couldn't pull me out of. Many things happened that are personal but depression was the catalyst.
Depression steals so many things away from you. Your happiness, confidence, energy, laughter and much more. But I never thought it would take away someone who meant the world to me. It's not their fault, but it also isn't mine. Even though I am still ridden with guilt to this day about how things came to an abrupt end with us. I am learning that I can't forever blame myself for a chemical imbalance, that I tried my damn best to overcome. The depression wasn't the finale straw that resulted in me losing this person, but it was the beginning. And oftentimes, what starts the hurt and distancing, is the very thing that ends it.
Part of me will never get over the loss of this person. I don't think you can ever grieve the loss of a person who is still out there living their life, without you in it. They were without a doubt like my right hand and lifted me up through everything. However, with hindsight and perspective (two fabulous things that never occur in the moment), I can see how my anxiety was the flame that never stopped burning. I was in need of constant reassurance, anxiety consumed many of my relationships. I was constantly paranoid and as much as I tried my very best to control it, I rarely could.
At the time, I blamed myself for everything that went wrong, I was convinced that I should have been able to stop the anxiety and depression from seeping into friendships and causing problems. After all, it was in MY head not anyone else's and I fully believed I had control over it, but that's not how mental illness works. It works the way it wants to, not the way we want it to. I still struggle to not blame myself, in moments where I relive things, I see everything I did wrong but nothing they did.
My mental illnesses were to blame- not me. Although my suffering was/is painful for everyone, it's tenfold for me. I have been on both sides, the one living in it and the one watching it from the sidelines. As much as it is painful to watch someone you love hurting, being the one to suffer is excruciatingly painful, it's feeling nothing and then all of a sudden feeling everything at once. I exhausted myself day in and day out trying to be the person that was there for everyone and even though I succeeded in that, it ran me into the ground. I thrived off people needing me. I still do. But now, I don't compromise my mental health for it.
When it happened, I was in an extremely bad place and depression made me believe that losing this person was the end of the world. It convinced me that losing this person meant everyone else would walk away too. It certainly felt like it and I didn't see myself ever making my way back after that. Nearly a year later, those few weeks feel like a lifetime ago. I feel like a different person, with a whole new mentality about the suffering I experienced and equally, the suffering I caused. Thinking of them still makes my heart ache slightly but it doesn't make me cry anymore and occasionally seeing this person doesn't send me into a despair like it used to.
I will never be able to show this person how far I've come or thank them for all they did for me. But mostly I'll never get to say how I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not believing you when you said it would get better, because it has. I'm sorry that I couldn't believe you when you said you weren't angry with me, because I now realise how my anxiety made me perceive things differently. I'm sorry that you had to see me at my worst, I can only imagine the pain it caused you. I'm sorry for many things but mostly I'm sorry that depression took me away from being the person you had grown to love. Although those two words don't always mean much, I say them with the utmost power that they can possibly contain.
Life gets messy and things happen that hurt like hell, but we move on. Despite all the heartache and pain we feel in the moment, we forge ahead. I never thought I would make it out of my depression, just like I thought I could never live without this person, but I've done both. They've both made me stronger and although I wish neither of those things had ever happened, they've made me a better person. We can only take what life throws at us and make the most of it. Things happen even when we try our absolute hardest because I think life always seems to know what's best. In a few years, I think I'll be able to see why life took that person out of my life and whilst I can't quite understand it yet, I have peace knowing that they're happy.
The most valuable lesson that I learnt from losing this person is that I can't love people beyond their capacity to love me back. I love fiercely and I need to feel that intensity back, I can't pour out all of my love into people and hurt myself in the process. It takes time for this to sink in, (it took me months) but once it does, your outlook on many things will change. I see my worth a whole lot more than I ever did before. And I am worthy of many things, even when I am in the deepest, darkest depths of depression.
P.S- Annoyingly cliche quotes used to break up the never ending babbling that seemed to happen in this post, sorry not sorry :)
I have a confession to make, I'm losing my mind- slightly. Not in an hysterical way that I've ran away, radically cut my hair and changed my lifestyle. (Although I did recently cut two inches off my hair- I know, I know, it was a huge deal for me too;) But in a way that I feel frozen as everyone and everything around me is buzzing past. I'm frantically trying to keep up but I'm coming up short, every damn time.
Truth is I do want to run away, not from my life but from the loud noises in my head. Anxiety takes many forms and although this post isn't specifically about anxiety, it's a huge factor in my temporary craziness. In fact I'm not too sure what it's about, the frantic typing and hopping from one thought to the next represents exactly where my mind is right now. My mind is anxious about the present and the future. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going in the direction I want to be going in? I mean does anyone know the answers to those because I sure as hell don't. I'm stuck in the middle of a road and my mind is racing faster than 1,000 marathon runners combined. I've long searched for the answers to what would make me happy and I am still caught between two ideals of what I want my life to look like. Both comprised by the uncertainty that is mental health and chronic pain. I don't deal well with uncertainty, it's the very poison within my anxiety. Looking back my 13 year old self really had no idea how much the universe would laugh at her life plan. Finish school, go to university, meet the perfect guy (I have since learned perfect is not real- no matter how perfect you think he is ;), have adorable babies, be a stay home mum till said babies were in school then immerse myself in my career. The universe is now looking down at me hysterically laughing at how naive I was.
I have no plan. No plan b, c, d or e. Or as phoebe (from friends- duh) once said "i don't even have a pla". I'm lucky if I have the next month planned out to a point of being successful in the main areas of my life. I have a million plans, all different and exciting but not one that I can see myself getting through. The loud noises filling my head at the ungodly hours of 12am-3am are the anxieties for the road ahead of me. Or rather, the road I haven't yet taken. I plan, I am a planner. Ask anyone and I have things planned to the minute but finally at 20 years old, I'm coming to the conclusion that I can't plan life. Yes, well done Jasmine, it took you long enough. And it has been because anxiety has clouded my every thought and action. From deciding what subjects to study to what to wear to drunkly kissing a guy who's name I don't know. Every action has a series of anxiety repercussions, that unlike getting a punishment and serving the time, I go over for hours brutally beating myself up over. My constant need for reassurance and affirmation has caused many angered texts from friends, boys and loved ones.
Is it fair to blame all my poor choices and misfortune on anxiety? No, I can be blindly stupid at times and rightly so. And whilst some mistakes have been made with the cheering of my friends, anxiety has always disregarded whether I'm having fun or not, or happy. It's good at sneaking in on life's unplanned and joyous moments. But it's exceptionally good at sneaking- no more like bashing its way in on quiet nights as I try to sleep. The night I wrote the first half of this post, I was up till 5 am. I had not yet slept and the looming hour of 6o'clock was fast approaching. I had to succumb to the fact that work was not going to be an option. That functioning on no sleep was going to be damn near impossible but that didn't stop the guilt that consumed me. I have two incredibly understanding employers however as much as I feel guilty for not going to work, I feel ten times more angry at myself for failing. Calling in sick isn't what most would associate with failure but to me, every short coming I have is a direct reminder of the things I am not doing properly. Inadequate, I suppose it's only a fancy way of saying 'not good enough' but right now, it sums up where I feel in life. I feel like am inadequate and this life I'm living is inadequate. I feel like there should be more, that I should be doing more and demanding more of this life. After all, I have had a hell of fight to stick around. Yet I'm at a loss of how to fulfil that desire that somehow I should be doing more. I'm sure if you were to ask friends and family, it's the opposite of how they would describe my life because they see the huge mountains I've climbed. Whilst I focus on every step I'm taking and notice every bump in the road. Maybe it's time I look at how far I've come and not every mistake I've made along the way.
Something from Grey's Anatomy that has always stuck with me (even though I watch it on repeat over and over and have an unhealthy obsession with it) are these two quotes. They are everything I needed to hear right now, because although not all of these feelings can be helped, wallowing in my own self-pity is sure as hell not going to get me anymore from life. I'm okay with where I am but I want more, so I need to have some fire and to stop accepting things that are taking me places I don't want to go. Do I want to be in an "okay" place for the rest of my life? No I don't because I am finally realising that I deserve to be in a GOOD place. Deep down, that little voice in my head is constantly putting me down and stopping me from really living the life I want to live but it's time. Let's all make a pact to start demanding more, shall we?
Even after all that being said, I'm starting to have some glimmer of faith that life is not meant for planning but for living, and that what is suppose to happen to me will happen. I no longer resent the world for giving me depression because I now know it was meant to happen so that I could share my story and be an advocate for the mental health community. Knowing that doesn't take away my fears of what my life is going to become but it sure helps having a place to come and vent my worries. Because I know that you reading this understand where I'm coming from and that most likely have at one point felt like the world was rushing past you whilst feeling glued to the ground. If you're there at the moment, know that I am too. We aren't alone, the world is not rushing past us, people are just going at their own pace. There's nothing wrong with standing still for a while and taking it all in because life really can be overwhelming. I'm breathing it all in, going slower and learning that I can go at my own pace, too. Imagine we're standing there together because somehow that comforts me and I hope it can comfort you.
Hey there, I'm Jasmine, your average 20 year old working as a nanny and play assistant. Maybe Tomorrow follows my journey living with mental health issues and chronic pain, all whilst trying to have some fun along the way.
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