I think i’ve realised why I dont feel I could blog on a regular basis. Not only because I choose to blog when I feel I want to put my thoughts onto ‘paper’, but also because in order to blog regularly I guess there needs to be an element of organisation. What I mean by this is that regular bloggers I have encountered are able to choose a topic or a thought and isolate the post to be solely centred on that topic. I, however, am truly terrible at sticking to one thought, and so I think my blogs tend to be more of a ‘word splurge’ than of any clear structure. I wish that I could choose one thing to write about, and focus my thoughts onto that topic only, but that’s not how my brain works. I suppose if I tried to regulate my blogs so that they were structured and point-focused, I would be presenting a misrepresentation of how I think.
My experiences of mental health have led me to struggle to control the direction my thoughts move in, for example I often feel I have to write really quickly before the idea in my head ‘falls out’. Is that something alot of people experience? The lack of ‘structure’ of my thoughts is something that I guess is quite pivotal in the way in which anxiety manifests itself within me (note I chose not to say my anxiety). At my worst, I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t just write an essay like everyone else, I couldnt just put my mind to something and ‘do it’. I felt like I could not hold onto a coherent thought long enough to consciously acknowledge it.
The reason this concept of anxiety has been brought to my attention is because I’ve recently acquired a strange sleeping pattern. Ironically, previously on this blog I mentioned how much I love to sleep and escape reality. However almost as if the posting of that blog was a trigger, I have really struggled to sleep and further to stay asleep. I am aware this is a symptom of depression but it isn’t one I’ve particularly encountered before, most commonly I struggled not to fall asleep and to get out of bed. Anyway, I’m particularly restless recently, and so rather than allowing myself to get worked up and frustrated, I decided to record how I felt. It’s funny because I almost dont remember writing this, possibly because my mind was finally beginning to rest and allow me to sleep after I’d offered my mind a physical outlet through writing:
Time: 23:02 (Incase you’re wondering, I’m usually asleep by this time – I am not a night owl).
Just quickly interrupting my past self here, but I just wanted to highlight that I’m not unwell with a virus or anything – this I hope demonstrates how anxiety physically alters my body state.
Known cause?: Not particularly, unless unconsciously worrying about my path after graduating.
Mentality: Unwanted thoughts – 1 topic in particular. Anxious about tomorrow and being too tired but too restless now. Feel ‘on the brink’, cant organise thoughts coherently, head feels fuzzy. Just feel uneasy and wrong. Very panicky.
‘Fuzzy head’ is a phrase that I’ve coined over the past few years to describe how I start to feel if I’m anxious. Again, I don’t think it adequately explains the feeling, because I cant seem to find any words which are sufficient to portray the feeling to someone who hasn’t experienced it before. The fuzzy head is the concept that clouds my judgment, causes my agitation and, I believe, is somewhat responsible for my decline in academia in my second year. I don’t think a blog is probably the best place to turn to try and establish what exactly ‘fuzzy head’ means, because blogs require words and words are not adequate for ‘fuzzy head’. I’ll give it my best shot though.
Fuzzy head [fu-zee-hed]
Thoughts are far from coherent
Head ache, mostly around the temples but can be more central
Two blog posts in very close proximity. I guess it comes with the nature of writing when you need to write, rather than writing for the sake of writing, that the frequency to which I post will be somewhat sporadic.
Anyway, this is by no means a lengthy post, and it’s also not a post designed to brag. I’ve just received my first set of third year exam results and I am really proud of myself for the marks i received. Basically, I’ve always worked very hard and I think this has been reflected in my grades. However, as mental illness began to engulf me, my grades began to drop and I felt pretty hopeless to be honest. Grades have always been particularly important to me, and whilst I know they are not the be all and end all, it’s something that I’ve always had paramount anxiety over. Ask anyone I am close to, particularly my close family, and I have no doubt they’ll confirm how obsessed I was with doing well and getting good grades. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a really terrible attitude to hold and somewhat unhealthy, but that’s my personality and that’s ok.
Anyway, as my mental heath really began to deteriorate, I felt like I was drowning in academia. I was working incredibly hard, and pushing myself, but those demons were holding me back and preventing me from excelling. As a result, my grades from my second year of university reflect my deterioration in health. They are not diabolical, but they are not what I know I can achieve. Whilst that sounds like I’m quite full of myself, what I’m trying to suggest is that I can almost use my grades as a marker of my mental health. Whilst this fluctuation left me feeling exhausted and I suppose hindered my self esteem yet further, today marks the day where I can use those grades positively.
Today I’ve received 2 sets of grades that I am over the moon with. I’m not elated simply because I did well in my exams, but because it demonstrates to myself that I can still do well and that I’ve not been completely destroyed by depression and anxiety. It also marks one of the first days where I can truly say that I am recovering from mental health and that it is no longer defining me, and this is reflected by my achievement in my exams.
Importantly for anyone else who may be reading this, please don’t think that I’m suggesting achievement is illustrated by success in academics. I am not. I’m suggesting that these grades, personally, provide evidence that I am getting better and becoming the person I once was before this awful illness took over. What I’m saying is, it demonstrates to me that I (and therefore anyone) can beat mental illness and come out the other side happier than before.
I spend a lot of time watching various vloggers on youtube. I think I do this as an escapism from my own mind and life, but that’s a topic I could write an entirely separate post on. Anyway, I like to watch all different types of vlog, but one that particularly resonated with me focused around mental health. In the vlog they comment on feeling like they’ve lost who they were, and this is something I thought only made sense in my head, but hearing someone else say it made me realise that perhaps it’s more common than I first thought. At my worst, I felt like a stranger in my own body. I still get this sensation now and again because I am not the person I know I used to be, but I know i’m getting there. I can remember what I used to be like, and whilst before I felt like i’d completely lost that person, now I’m starting to feel like I’m getting them back. I think in a way I was experiencing ambiguous loss of the person I truly am. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but I think I began to hate myself not only because the demons had warped my thoughts, but also because I’d morphed into someone that I’m not and the person that I thought I was seemed to have died almost. I can remember being the type of person that most people liked being around (I hope). I was very social, loved going out with my friends, loved school, was very motivated and hard working. I genuinely think I was content. Then one day I began to lose myself. I can’t pinpoint when I finally realised I was lost, nor can I pinpoint even when it started. I’m sure for many people that will seem bizarre and I understand that, but it’s the only way I can describe the way I was feeling with the use of words.
I look back at old pictures and genuinely do not recognise myself. I think that’s the same for a lot of people, but the reason I don’t recognise myself is not in terms of physical appearance, but because I vaguely remember the happy-go-lucky person I was in those pictures, in comparison to now/in my recent past. Although sometimes it feels unbearable to look at those pictures, or to think of those memories, it is again another marker that I am getting better and that mental health can be beaten with time. I look at pictures now and remember how I was feeling at the time of the photograph, and I think I feel better than some of those moments that were captured. I also feel like I recognise myself more now. So whilst I’ve known for a long time that i’ve lost myself, it’s only recently that i’ve begun to piece myself back together and I feel like i’m starting to become who I know I truly am. I’ve got a long way to go, but writing down who I think i am versus who I think i have become was hugely influential in making the first steps to recovery.
I thought I’d note my conclusions on this blog, so that in the future I could look back and see how far i’ve come. Maybe some of these feelings may resonate with anyone who finds time to read this post, and maybe that might spark a motivation within themselves to find who THEY know they truly are also. I think this may be the darkest piece of writing that i’ll have exposed publicly, and in that sense it’s quite a big deal to me as I’m presenting myself in my most vulnerable state. However, as I keep reiterating, this blog is designed to help me move forward, and secondly to encourage those with similar demons to move forward also, and i think in order to achieve this goal I need to document both the good and the bad. More importantly I need to reflect on the ways in which the bad thoughts and moments of my life have influenced the person I know I am.
I think for me, the hardest part about living with depression and anxiety is that you are alive, but not really living. Whilst that statement seems extremely poetic and somewhat cliched, I think it’s the key indicator of depression for me. In my darkest moments, I would be pushed very close to the edge, I would be distraught, exhausted and bored of my own existence. In these moments, I certainly wasn’t living life how I feel a person’s life should be led. In the less extreme periods of my life, I was managing to outwardly live. What I mean by this is that I could (usually) attend lectures, push myself through work and reading, converse with other people and sometimes feel happy in social events. But whilst outwardly I may have appeared alive (although somewhat boring/moody), inside I felt numb. Numb is the only word I can find for these experiences and I’m not sure it’s really the most accurate word. I felt exactly like I said, alive but not living. I was functioning and doing the things I know I should have been doing, but there was nothing behind it. I genuinely felt like my eyes were a mask, and that behind my eyes I was empty. The only feeling I could relate it to is when you’re so tired that your eyes sting unbearably, and the only way to stop it stinging is to zone out. Maybe some people know what I mean, it’s hard to express. I got through the day as adequately as I could, but it was exhausting and I’d crave going to bed and sleeping.
Sleep is a funny thing for me. I remember when I was feeling particularly low, squeezing my eyes shut as tight as I could in the hope that I’d instantly fall asleep. I was always aware that this was probably not the most proactive of steps to be taking, but I did it anyway because being asleep was easier than being awake. But then particular demons, as i’ve mentioned previously, began to seep from my consciousness into my dreams, so that I could never escape them. With regards to those demons, they still very much exist, however either I have become better at controlling them or perhaps they are starting to lose the battle against my desire to live happily. Whilst I think they are much less intense than a year or so ago, or even a month or so ago, I am not naive in thinking that they will be gone for good, and I have moments where they come back and everything seems unbearable again. These demons were/are relentless. Sometimes I’d put on music and go for walks, in the hope that the music would overpower the poisonous thoughts produced by the demons. Needless to say, it never worked, but walking and reflecting was certainly not a hinderance to my wellbeing, and so i’d suggest that in that respect it was a helpful activity. I still often go for walks, not because I particularly enjoy walking but because I am able to remove myself from reality for a little while and amerce myself in a different life.
However, whilst the demons ‘allowed’ me this time to reflect, they also coerced me into developing a completely altered perspective which I really struggle to put into words. It’s like I was seeing and experiencing the same things as most people would, and the World was continuing as it always does, but yet the way I processed the external environment was somewhat warped. Or perhaps it’s not warped, but it’s definitely more intense than I would like. I think to make any sort of sense from this, I need to write down prominent examples, and unpick exactly what I think makes them warped and ‘led by the demons’.
So firstly, people. One thing that I love about my character, is that I have the ability to see the good in everybody. Some people may suggest that that’s a naive thought process, and argue that some individuals are ‘bad’, but I stand my ground. Whilst I understand that people can do terrible, hideous things, I seem to be able to look past that to an extent. However, with that thought process comes another thought process that is not so forgiving. That is the thoughts of how people perceive myself. At my worst, I believe that every single person I cross paths with is staring at me, judging me, talking about me, thinking I look ugly. I even talk myself into believing i’ve accidentally given someone a nasty look and offended them. I would punish myself for comments i’ve made, no matter how trivial and go over them again and again and again until something external pulled me out of my own head. I would constantly think people were jeering at me, resultant of my rock bottom self esteem. I’d walk to work or something and think that every person i passed was thinking how ugly i was, how overweight i was, how weird i was. I would turn my music right down so that it was barely audible even through headphones let alone to a passer by, because I was convinced they’d judge me on my music choice. I know this sounds ridiculous, and to some perhaps it could be interpreted as attention-seeking, but I’m almost certain that other people experience similar sensations to those i’ve described. I think that’s something I’m learning more and more, that I am not alone. Since seeking help from my GP, I think one of the most dramatic differences that I have noticed is that I am less sensitive to my surroundings. Obviously I am aware of what is around me, but I am less conscious of every movement and noise that I encounter. For myself, and I think many others, when I am experiencing a high level of anxiety, I find myself extremely sensitive to sounds, movements (especially quick movements) and potential hazards. This constant state of ‘high alert’, if you like, has calmed down now.
Sometimes my anxiety would inject itself into my conversations, and so I would accidentally offend others. For example, I have a huge phobia of vomiting, and if I know someone in close proximity has had a bug, I am most often completely inconsolable and my anxiety uncontrollable. As the only coping mechanism I know, I try to remove myself from these situations by keeping my distance from the individual to relieve (in part) my anxiety. However, i don’t like to draw attention to the fact i’m anxious and so I rarely explicitly tell people when i’m feeling unbearably uncomfortable. Instead I act like I’m either joking, in a bad mood or tired in an attempt to explain my bizarre movements and actions. One time, my anxiety was sky high as I knew someone I was in close proximity with had a bug, and I could feel myself falling into a sort of frenzy. I was in a situation where I felt too anxious to tell anyone that I had a genuine phobia of vomiting and couldn’t work in that environment. So instead, I made a jokey comment to the person which was taken offensively and I should have just told them that it was something I really couldnt handle. Instead, I spent the rest of that period anxious about the bug AND that I had really offended the person who i’d ‘joked’ with. This was probably about 9 months ago now and still to this day that memory crosses my mind and leaves me cringing and cursing myself for my behaviour. Im sure this person barely remembers that encounter, but my anxiety holds me hostage to thoughts of the past and future.
I guess in a similar way to my perception of people, my perception of objects is somewhat skewed. Obviously I had a coherent concept of what an object was, and its function, but there was often toxic thoughts about the object. I’m hesitant to go into any further detail than that, because it’s not pleasant for those who know me to read, nor is it something I feel particularly able to share at this moment in time. Hopefully as my demons become weaker, I will become strong enough to voice this perception, but I have a gut feeling that now is not the time for that. I know that reading this back, I will know exactly what I am alluding to, but that is not important for this post. Lastly, I think the ‘demons’ manipulated my caring and genuine personality traits, to become something toxic and I suppose self-destructing in a sense. Whilst I hope that I present myself as a caring and approachable person, I think my anxiety and depression has influenced me to be particularly aware of scenarios in which there is a victim. To put it simply, I went through a phase of being hideously angry with the way in which people interact with others, and the lack of morals seen in some individuals. I suppose now with a clearer state of mind, I can see that some of my angers were valid, and I remain angry about them to this day. However, others were somewhat irrational and perhaps exaggerated within my head.
To demonstrate the way in which depression and anxiety manipulated my nurturing and caring personality, into an angry and I guess inaccurate perspective, I will insert a snippet of something I had written as an outlet for myself. This was written a year ago today:
“Imagine a world where nothing is ever right, you are never content, always laughing but yet never smiling and you are selfish. So unforgivably selfish, always wanting. Wanting something more, wanting to be liked, loved, desired, envied, intelligent, beautiful, unique, cool, happy. Always wanting.
Imagine a world where failure is inevitable and happiness is an act. A production so deep and true that you cannot escape. “The world is a stage…” and oh, Shakespeare, how right you are. This world is full of villains, but are there ever truly heroes? The villain in this world is disguised as a bunch of neurons, an unfavourable balance of hormones, a genetic deficit. The villain is a metaphorical monster unleashed by a series of unfortunate events. The villain is resultant of a misplaced wire, a lesion to a part of the brain people pretend to know about. In reality its none of these things, it is me. Welcome to my world.
But what is the point. We live, we worry, we die. And for what?”
The greatest thing about looking at this piece of writing, is that I can now answer my own questions. Yes, there are heroes, and I can honestly say that I am surrounded by many of them in my personal life. We live because we were born for a reason and we make other people happy and we are loved, and we can make a difference to the world. I now know the villain is not me. That particular sentence really hits a nerve for me, and I think it’s because it demonstrates that I let myself get completely absorbed by the thoughts injected by the demons of mental health, and I let depression define me. To take a positive stance, whilst this extract is dark and unhealthy, it provides evidence that things can get better. I don’t think in that way so much anymore, and for me that is an achievement.