What I’m really thinking: Living with mental health issues
“Sometimes you’ll find yourself starting a sentence with “ever feel…” and your friend will answer “no”.”
“I’m afraid of being unable to speak and express myself to the best of my abilities. I’m afraid that people don’t truly know me, and will validate my biggest fear. I am an inherently unlikable being. I care too much about others and find myself excused from class in the bathroom crying at half twelve. Alone, because I’m too proud to admit that, professionally, my anxiety is a problem.”
A Week in the Life: 40mg of Prozac, 20mg of Lyrica, psychologists once a fortnight, therapists twice a week. Wondering if you’re good enough and always trying to be. If you want someone to secretly cry in the bathroom during your dinner party, I’m your gal.
I don’t know how I’ll feel today. I can assume I won’t leave my bed but when I do I’ll try and keep whatever comes under lock and key. Before I leave the house, I remind myself of the consequences can’t be so easily repressed. Nervous tics like scratching the skin off my arms really take away from that sexy feeling you get in a sleeveless dress. What is today’s excuse?
I can’t physically attend the majority of my classes. I love my course so I really try. Today, I decide to push myself; I decide to go in and feel my heart beating in my mouth every step of the way. I’m afraid of being unable to speak and express myself to the best of my abilities. I’m afraid that people don’t truly know me, and will validate my biggest fear. I am an inherently unlikable being. I care too much about others and find myself excused from class in the bathroom crying at half twelve. Alone, because I’m too proud to admit that, professionally, my anxiety is a problem.
The rest of my day is spent avoiding friends so I don’t bother them. I go to St. Stephen’s Green to ground myself and think about all the things an awful part of me believes I should forego because I have a problem. Should I ever be in a relationship? Could I ever be happy with myself if I burdened someone else with all this? If my uncle and my father genetically passed this illness onto me, should I ever have kids? I have to remind myself I am lucky. My friends with schizophrenia and eating disorders say that people find them that extra bit harder to understand.
Everyone has some experience of my mental health. People recognise ‘being worried’. Everyone in the world has experienced sadness. But sometimes you’ll find yourself starting a sentence with “ever feel…” and your friend will answer “no”. Sometimes not everyone will get it (even when they try or say they do, sometimes they won’t). I have to remember that that is okay. In these moments, I remind myself that mental illness is not ‘one-size-fits-all’. That we, as a society, need to recognise the various different levels and where we stand.
Some people will never have to use medication. Some people will never go to St Pat’s. Some people will have an episode, some people will have twenty two. Some people will have to recover their whole life, some people will “grow out of it”. What hand you’re dealt is completely random, and that’s the unfortunate truth of the situation.
I know, now, what I didn’t know when I was seventeen; I got dealt a strange hand that until recently I’ve only started to comprehend. To bridge the gap. I can’t compare myself to the people who attended the same treatment centre and got better in a few months. I shouldn’t hate myself for complaining because my friend is currently receiving full time attention in St Pat’s. I’m crazy enough for the average person to think I’m mad, but managing enough to keep a 2.1 average. My mental illness is long lasting; genetic and event-induced. Like other long lasting and manageable diseases, I have no choice but to work with it.
I wanted to write this piece for the others. The undocumented, crazy but not crazy enough. what it is like to be in the middle. Not currently in St Pats but living a life in which there is very little hope of ever being free. Emotions and moods like the one’s I have described, have been bothering me since I was three years old. After 20 years, it is unlikely this will ever change. For anyone who feels alone in this middle void, I write this piece thinking of you. I want you to know it’s okay to be on medication and it’s okay to be scared. You don’t have to be a spokesperson and although not everyone will get it, eventually there will be someone who will. For my future self, when in the inevitable dip, and for the others who don’t hear it enough:
This is a day, a week, a year, forty years or an hour; you are so much more.
You can work with whatever cards you were dealt and make it your biggest asset. Let your life go right to the top and all the way down because for some of us, mental illness does define us, in one small way or another. For in all the pain in the world, there is a certain type of beauty: it makes us see the world differently, and although it can torture me and make me feel like I’m at the end of it all, it gives me empathy and understanding that I would never have known before.