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.
I woke up yesterday feeling fine. Jet lagged and exhausted, but fine. I went to get my car fixed and by the time I came home, I was so tired that walking up the stairs was difficult. Some days my chronic pain just likes to give me a run for my money. I collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep within minutes.
Then I woke up. I felt different right away. Suddenly the world felt black. I didn't want to move, although I was in pain, that's not what was holding me back. I closed my eyes willing the feeling of emptiness to disappear. It didn't. I sat on my bed, staring at myself in the mirror - mainly staring at the smudged black make up under my eyes. My hand steadily wiped it away but my brain was begging me to lie down again. I looked out the window and felt that familiar nauseating feeling of nothingness. That feeling fills me with dread and makes me sick to the core. It fills me with fear that at any moment my world will collapse, and I won't be able to see or stop it from happening. I reapplied my make-up but still felt nothing. I didn't make the usual "I'm ugly" comments, I didn't look outside and think that the sky was beautiful and I didn't care what I was wearing. I didn't think or do anything. I felt absolutely nothing, like my mind had gone utterly numb from all thoughts and feelings.
I forced myself to work and for the next 7 hours of work and babysitting, I forged ahead. I didn't go to the toilet until I had to leave because I was scared that even 3 minutes alone would bring the nothingness back. I tried to be myself, or the best me I could be with the looming darkness in the back of my mind. I finished babysitting at 11, got in my car and within 20 seconds, I felt it creeping up again. That lonely feeling that nothing feels right and that nothing feels important. I drove around for 20 minutes before going home. I haven't done that in a long time. Driving around is what I did when I was suicidal, depressed and needed something to take my mind off things. I drove trying to feel something. Anything. It was raining, pouring down actually and thoughts flashed past in my mind. Negative thoughts, the ones you hope never to think about again.
I sat in my car outside my house for a few moments listening to the patter of rain, it soothed me but I knew, deep down I knew, that the feeling hadn't vanished. Nothingness is a feeling completely unique to depression. One I had never felt beforehand but one that I had grown accustom to. It's indescribable, no words adequately sum up what is feels like to feel nothing at all. Today I woke up and the feeling was gone. I didn't feel heavy and the world didn't seem so terrible. I went to work, came home, napped for 4 hours (#chronicfatigueproblems), voted and saw a friend for a couple of hours. I didn't have a sense of impending doom all day but part of me was waiting anxiously for the feeling to return.
Depression is unpredictable and it can come in waves. Yesterday felt like I was drowning but today I was back on my feet. Many months ago, a day like yesterday would have knocked me down for several days. I would have gone into the darkness and not wanted to come out. Although I am no longer in an episode of depression, I have moments. Moments where it all creeps up on me without warning, like a huge thunderstorm that blazes through only lasting an instant before the sky calms. The symptoms of my depression still roll in like a thunderstorm every now and then. It knocks me down and scares me but I have faith that it'll soon pass. Today I'm thankful it did. I'm thankful that I could look at the rainbow in tonights sky and see it's beauty. I'm thankful that I got excited to have pizza for dinner. I'm thankful that the feeling disappeared. Yesterday's world was not the same one I lived in today. Although I don't know when I'll be in that world again, I have to have faith that it'll only be for a moment.
When we talk about mental health, people often shy away from the grim details, in fear of getting judged. Many realities of mental health are faced behind closed doors and only seen by those in close proximity of the person suffering. I can only speak of my experience with having a major depressive episode and I'm sure it’s nothing like people imagine. Depression is often romanticised in films, quotes and books when really there is nothing pretty about it, you’re seeing a person during one of their most vulnerable and excruciatingly painful moments of their life. Before I fell ill with depression, the thought of going a day without showering, eating, brushing my teeth, putting make up on and physically not being able to get out of bed seemed unimaginable to me. Then it hit me. I felt like I was stranded in thick, gooey mud trying to get to dry land. My feet simply wouldn't move, no amount of will or determination helped. I would see everyone on dry land, yelling, “Just lift one foot up and move forward”. The simplicity of what I had to do was what made it all the more agonising.
Every normal thing that a ‘healthy, functioning person’ was able to do was something I couldn’t bare the mere thought of. Showering would feel like a monumental task. After you go one day without, the next day and the day after that, don’t seem to faze you. I wouldn’t shower for 4-5 days at a time. I wouldn’t wash my hair for an even longer time than that. I never tell people that, because you get that look of absolute disgust and confusion as to why you can’t just pull yourself together for 10 minutes to wash yourself. But if I was “actually sick” and wasn’t physically able to, no one would question it. I’d be greeted with sympathy and light-hearted jokes. I would go a couple days without brushing my teeth. Which again is something utterly disgusting. I would wear the same clothes for days and days, no matter how many stains it got. I couldn’t find any energy to open my wardrobe and choose something else to wear. My only function was being able to sleep, day and night. I barely drank so that I wouldn’t have to get up to go to the toilet. I did the bare minimum required for me to survive, nothing more. When I would venture out of the house, it was in those dirty worn for days clothes, my hair was a mess, my eyes dark and puffy and my lips all cut up from the hours I’d spend picking them. Nothing in me cared, I wouldn’t even recognise people I knew, let alone stop to talk to anyone. I’d walk into the shop, walk slower than a turtle and space out. My body was there, going through the motions but I was nowhere to be seen. Then there were other times where my level of anxiety and paranoia ate me alive, that being anywhere in public drove me insane, literally and I’d run home and hide out in my room till my mind slowly stopped spinning.
There is absolutely no part of me that understands how depression took my ability to do such basic tasks. It's hard to grasp the despair one feels during depression and the agony of not being able to understand why you can't will your mind to do anything. I felt paralysed, like all my muscles were mush and my brain was far away on another planet. Depression doesn’t care and it stops you from caring about yourself and others. You don’t live during a depressive episode, you’re merely breathing to stay alive. Depression doesn’t just destroy your mind; it destroys your dignity, every last shred of it till you’re lying on the bathroom floor, barely wrapped in a towel sobbing in frustration and mental agony because you can’t will any of your limbs to move and get in the bath. That is what depression looks like, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t easy to stand and watch someone struggle their way through it.
I am sick. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn't enjoy any part of this illness. That’s the thing people can’t seem to grasp, that we are sick. When you break your leg, the bone is in two pieces and the function of your leg no longer serves its purpose, until it is rested and healed. When the brain becomes ill, it too, is like a bone shattered in two; it no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. And, it too, needs rest until it can heal. Sometimes the broken leg never mends itself 100% and we may have to do exercises and take painkillers for months afterwards. The brain is very much the same. Sometimes it will never go back to the way it was before the trauma hit and medication and therapy is needed for months, even years afterwards. We don’t call a person weak for breaking his or her leg, so why is it acceptable to say that about someone who’s mentally ill. It’s one illness that can’t be compared to the other. Pain is pain, whether it’s physical or mental. So before saying something to a mentally ill person, imagine their illness as a broken bone and your perspective might just change.
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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