The Speech I Will Probably Never Speak

I am here to speak about something that is very close to my heart, mental health.  Most of you listening to this that know me, or even consider themselves close to me will not know the reason this is so important to me, because I have always been afraid to say it out loud.  But, the reason I care so much about mental health awareness is because for a long time now I have been suffering with depression and anxiety.

Looking back, I can say I have been suffering with mental health issues since I was 13 years-old, I am now 19.  The reason I never reached out to anyone around me wasn’t because I didn’t have a loving amazing family that I thought wouldn’t support me, it wasn’t because I didn’t have friends, it was because I felt ashamed.  I was considered a high flyer, I came top of many of my classes at school, I had lots of friends, I had goals, it seemed to others like I had everything in my life together.  But, in reality, I felt like I was drowning.

From year 10 to 11, two people I was close to died suddenly and two others who I had a less close relation with also died, and although those deaths didn’t have a direct impact I still felt their effects.  All of this happened in less than a year giving me little time to process, and I began to feel like everyone was dying, and I started to question the meaning of life itself, what was my purpose, why was I here?  Throughout all of this I tried to act strong, knowing that my parents were struggling with these losses too and not wanting to worry them that I wasn’t coping.  I knew everyone in life lost people, so I felt like I didn’t have the right to grieve in front of others because I didn’t want to bring them down or bore them with my problems which I felt were inconsequential. 

This resulted in me bottling up my feelings to a ridiculous capacity.  I went to school everyday with the knowledge that I had to smile, laugh and act happy around my friends so that they wouldn’t see my cracks.  I wanted them to believe I was perfect, and because they didn’t really want to see anything wrong, they didn’t.  I became an Oscar-worthy actor, able to function through my worst days, able to laugh out loud when I was positively sobbing inside. 

It was the evenings that got me, I became so used to squashing my true depressive feelings down so far that whilst around others I could almost forget they were there.  But then, inevitably, I had to be alone at some point.  It was then that the horrific feelings of self-hatred and self-worthlessness would attack and overwhelm me to the point I would often have panic attacks so severe I would hyperventilate and, on occasion, hallucinate.  I was able to keep this from my family under the persona that I was simply hard at work on coursework, or these attacks would happen in the middle of the night meaning that no one would notice anyway. 

It was at this point that I began to suspect that there was something wrong with me, I didn’t know much about mental health issues back then, all I thought was that if you were mentally ill you also had to be clinically insane.  And so, it followed that I began to think that I was crazy, medically crazy.  This in itself was psychologically damaging because I began to doubt that anything I thought was valid, I retreated into myself, no longer participating in debates at school or offering my opinion because I believed that everything I thought was undermined by the fact that I was crazy.  This only fuelled the fire of my thoughts of self-worthlessness.  I was spiralling, and I felt I had no one to turn to because I was afraid I would-be put-on medication or thrown into a mental hospital.  I didn’t want to be treated any differently, but I knew my friends would never look at me the same if I told them I thought I had schizophrenia, so I held them at arms-length.  I know there are probably others out there that went through that too, a belief that they were insane, and that is why it is so important we have a rise in awareness for mental health.

I just didn’t want people to think that I was weak, because I thought I was weak.  I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t cope with situations that everyone in life goes through.  Because I hated myself, I expected that if others saw the real me they would hate me too.  It was this mindset that, in the words of Wentworth Miller, meant I navigated everyday in a ‘survival mode’ of pretended happiness. 

That’s not to say that I didn’t feel happiness, I did.  It was just that after every happy moment I would find a reason to hate myself in that situation, or to criticise that everything was always going to get bad again, that I would never find a permanent happiness.  My good points were great, my low points were depression.  And, it was with the realisation that it was my depression and anxiety that was making me feel this way that allowed me to understand where these thoughts were coming from. 

The point to this story is that the thing that prevented me from starting recovery and finding healthy coping mechanisms was my paralysing fear that people would find out about my secret.  But, when I finally worked up the courage to confide in someone, to share the weight with someone it was an amazing feeling.  I’m not saying it’s easy, it took me two years from the point that I decided something had to change to me actually telling someone about what I was struggling with, but once I did the knowledge that someone was truly there for me was amazing. 

I had confided in a girl I lived with in my first year of university, and I remember the morning after she sent me a message saying that no matter what she would always be there for me, that I could always talk to her about anything.  This moved me beyond words and meant more than she can ever understand, because I had never had anyone say that to me before.  I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, where someone knew the real me and accepted me for it so readily and so naturally.  I cried out of happiness for the first time in a long time.   

Although I am still working on getting professional help, and I have a long way to go in terms of recovery, I am telling my story to show that even if you feel, like I did, that no one is there for you, and there is no one you can confide in, there is.  There is always someone, and if there’s no one there right now, you will find that person that you can rely on.  I went through a long period where I truly believed I would be alone in terms of friendships forever, with no one I could count on.  That feeling of loneliness is one of my biggest battles, but it starts with talking to someone.

The battle against depression starts with talking to someone, because no battle can be fought alone. 

Screaming in Silence

It feels like you’re screaming in silence

Drowning in air

Like you are sinking in slow motion

But you’re not really there

You have no voice

Except the ones in your head

You wish for silence

But once granted

You wish for noise instead

You’ve forgotten how to feel

Except you know you feel empty

Your feelings trickling out

Through the whole in your belly

The tears on your face tell you you’re sad

Yet three little letters can’t epitomise the bad.

You sigh as you realise there’s no words in this world

That communicate the meaning you’re trying to tell

So you settle with depression

And prepare,

For the judging and assumptions

Of those who have not learnt

Than not all words have one meaning,

and not all meanings have words.

The Beginning

(a repsonse piece to my poem The End, see below)

They say that heartbreak is one of the worst things a person can experience, one of the most painful, I wonder if the people who say that have ever lost a best friend?  It’s a pretty common concept to come across, that the loss of a close friend is as bad as heartbreak, if not worse.  2019 was the year I felt that truth.

The moment you feel them slip between your fingers, the misunderstandings that leads you to drift apart makes your heart ache as you realise you are powerless to stop it. Even if you tried to make things go back to the way they were, they can’t. Not now.  People change, relationships change, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.  It’s a hard feeling to describe, because it’s akin to loss and grief, unless you’ve felt it you can’t know it, it’s not just mental it’s physical.  It’s the bottomless pit in your stomach, the lump in your throat, the tightness in your chest. The constant discomfort that reminds you you’re missing something, or someone.  Although that person may still be here, they’re not here for you, not anymore. 

It’s the unanswered questions that tear at you, running around in circles in your mind, chasing away sleep, making you relive painful memories shrouded in fog because you tried to shut it out, to deny it happened.  The how could you’s and the why’s?  The sheer agony of knowing that one day a person you were closest to in the whole world changed their perception of you so much, they stopped caring about your problems.  The moment they became so wrapped up in themselves they no longer saw you, the real you, the you you hid from everyone else for too long. The moment they decided that you weren’t close enough to resolve it, that you weren’t worth it. 

Worth. That’s what it truly comes down to.  The feeling that you weren’t enough for someone you wholeheartedly cared about, that you loved like family.  The knowledge that if you aren’t enough for them who are you enough for? If you failed them, then who else could want you?

It’s a deep feeling, it rips right through you and leaves you winded.  It’s hurt, wrapped up in agony wrapped up in anger, wrapped up in confusion, wrapped up in self-hatred and doubt.

It’s human.

To lose two good friends in the space of a couple of months made me feel like I was drowning, like everything I had accomplished, everything I had gotten through had been for nothing, because what was the point if there was no one to share the happiness with?  The point was I learnt a lot about people, and about myself.  I learnt that, although friends help you so much through all the shit we have to deal with in life, ultimately, it’s myself I have to rely on, to believe in.  I learnt that self-love was the thing that was going to make me strong. 

Even more so, I learnt that the friends I had been looking for, for what’s felt like my whole life, were right in front of me the whole time, and it took losing the people I thought I needed to see the ones that really cared about me.  The friends that would always fight for me, and me for them too.

It wasn’t the end at all, it was the beginning.

Liv.

The End

I wrote this piece after falling out with a very close friend, to try and transfer the heartache I felt into something physical, a medium in which I could see my feelings, and try and understand them. Recently, I have felt more and more that friend relationships are severly underated, and the fact that falling out with, or losing a friend that you were close with is sometimes just as painful as the heartbreak caused by ending a romatic relationship. Sometimes, the recovery is just as long, as you figure out who you are without that person, and find other people that perhaps deserve your friendship a little more than that other person did.

I happen to believe that these things happen for a reason, and although losing a friend was so painful to begin with, it pushed me towards others, people I fiinally feel at home with. So, although this piece is a little bitter and negative, it comes from a dark place, which I hope I have since grown from.

The End.

The futures we had planned are gone,

The dreams of that shared house,

The friends for life,

The constant neither of us thought we’d have,

The thing we found in each other that made us hold on so

Tight,

Burn so bright,

Would fall short of its year anniversary.

Neither of us saw it coming,

But you made sure there was no recovery.

All those memories I have, for what?

Joy surges for but a moment,

Until I remember why it’s in the past,

Then joy is replaced by that fearsome ache

That presses on my chest,

That constricting hand of death,

Reminding me that though you are still here,

To me you are gone.

If I could only go back,

To warn myself that I was right,

That all this friendship would do,

Is confirm what I already knew.

That you could never fight for me. The way I would you.

By Liv.

If anyone reading this is struggling with friendships, know that it is natural, people grow and change and that’s ok. Sometimes friendships aren’t meant to last forever, they’re just meant to get you through a specific point in time, until you find who you really are, and the people that you are truly meant to be with.

Sleep

Some people probably never struggle with sleep, some people are blessed with being able to drift off, no problem, no worries.  I have never been that person.  For as long as I can remember I have hated bedtime, the idea of getting into bed and doing nothing until you drift off into dreams which inevitably turn into nightmares, is a stress I deal with most days. 

For such a long time a discontentedness with my life, with myself as a person, meant prolonged periods of time alone with my thoughts became a kind of torture, where thoughts of self-hatred and worthlessness would run rampant.  I was afraid of being alone because I was afraid of myself, and that led to a fear of night-time, when there was no distraction from the parts of myself I truly hated.  So, to keep from actually thinking, I’d do pretty much anything, watch movies, scroll through social media, even make up stories and mini movies just to keep my mind from everything that threatened to consume me.

When I eventually did fall asleep it wouldn’t exactly be a peaceful affair.  I have incredibly vivid dreams, purely products of anxiety.  I’d often wake up with my heart racing and feeling incredibly stressed and anxious for no apparent reason.  Sometimes, this would lead to panic attacks in the middle of the night.  The dreams would feel so real I began to confuse things that had happened in dreams with real life, probably due to utter exhaustion, it felt as if I was losing my grip on reality, as if I was going insane, everything was spinning out of control.  It was terrifying and I felt so ashamed to be struggling like this when it seemed that all my friends had their lives perfectly together.  It made me hide away from the truth, and stopped me from seeking help or talking to anyone about the root reasons for not being able to sleep.  Shame stopped me from getting better. 

My sleep issue were, and still are, related to stress, anxiety and worry about things going on in my life and things that have happened in the past.  It is as if all those things I wish I could forget come back to haunt me in horrific clarity right when I’m trying to get sleep.  Before, it was shame, and an innate need to be seen as ‘perfect’, as not being phased by anything, which stopped me from talking to anyone.  Now though, I feel different, it’s taken almost exactly one year since I first spoke about my struggles to someone for me to get to this place.  A place where I’m free from shame, free to feel how I feel without needing to hide it. 

These things I’m dealing with, they are human problems and there is nothing unusual or shameful about that.  It took me almost five years to realise that, because this is something no one talked about when I was at school.  That’s why I have this blog, because fear of being judged held me back from having any kind of support network for such a long time, and now I’ve got past that, I wish I had done it so much sooner. 

Sleep still continues to be an issue for me, I had it under control for the better part of last year, but right now it’s as if I’m relapsing into old ways and I can’t control the thoughts and memories that come to me at night.  It’s easier now though, knowing I have people to talk to about those issues, friends that are willing to listen to the things that are still bothering me and keeping me up at night.  Talking was the first step for me, but I think an acceptance of the problem is the most important part of improving mental health issues, whether it be something as simple as insomnia or something more. 

Liv 🙂

A world without buildings

Imagine a world without buildings

A world where the grass is always green

A world where we don’t have to hide

Don’t feel the need to die

A world that isn’t about death

But life.

Imagine a world without buildings

A world without institutions

Without power

A world that isn’t about war

But peace.

A parallel universe we will never reach

Because extinction looms, doomed

to drown in our man-made creation

of buildings.  

By Liv.

(I wrote this sat in a cafe, sat in a seat by a floor to ceiling window staring out at the bright sunny day, with clear blue skies. Despite the pleasantness of the day, all I could think about was what a shame it was I couldn’t see the beauty of the world itself, because my view was so blocked by huge, grey, ugly buildings. So, my inspiration for humanities penchant of ruining the natural world inspired this poem)

2019 – it’s not an easy world

What a year 2019 was.  So many ups and downs, I learnt so much about people in that year.  I feel like the whole time I was on a long journey to finding the one thing I’ve always felt like I was missing.  A place I truly belonged. 

I went from thinking I’d found it early on in the year, to feeling like I’d lost it and the many low days that followed led to self-deprecating thoughts of being a failure, of being someone that wasn’t good enough or interesting enough for anyone.  Landing me right back where I’d started, in a place where I was beginning to accept that I would always be alone, that the only person I could really rely on was myself. But, like we all have to, I kept going, because when it comes to life, there really shouldn’t be any other option.

I built relationships back up again, refusing to give in to the temptation that it was perhaps oh so much easier to just embrace being alone.  I knew I could never be happy that way, I needed to keep trying until I found the people that got me, that could love me for who I am, baggage and all. 

In so many ways 2019 was the best year of my life, but also one of the most difficult.  I had achieved everything intellectually that at that point I wanted to.  I knew anything in the academic arena I could have done if I had gone for it, I had enough confidence in myself to know that when I was determined I could do it.  It wasn’t educationally that I felt inadequate.  It was in myself I didn’t feel enough.  I didn’t know who I was anymore, I had a complicated relationship with my Mum which neither of us wanted to revisit for fear it would make our relationship even worse, unsalvageable, and I felt like I didn’t have many close friendships that would look past the cracks and see that despite my mental struggles I wasn’t weak, I just needed a friend. 

I was scared of being misunderstood, of people assuming things that weren’t true, I was scared of being treated differently, like I was fragile, when in reality I was anything but that.  I was just tired of pretending all the time. 

2019 did that for me, it sent me searching for the thing I thought was out of reach.  It gave me a place in a world I had started to doubt was even made for me.  It gave me people that wouldn’t judge, people that understood how struggling felt and wanted to stand by my side rather than try to save me like some superior heroic figure.  It gave me people I could rely on, but also people I could laugh with.  2019 gave me back my relationship with my Mum, I worked through some of my biggest fears, and had conversations that I never thought I’d have the courage to do. 

Maybe it was the right time, the right age that meant I stopped being so afraid of what would happen if I was more open, if I became ‘real.’  I was always the girl at school that had to be perfect, have perfect clothes, perfect make-up, be talking to guys, have an exciting, adventurous life.  Perfection gets tiring.  Leaving and going to university I let go of that, I became a truer version of myself, and I struggled with friendships.  Then, I found the real friends, the ones that didn’t care about perfection, I found a place where I belonged. 

So many people struggle with friendships and home life, they feel like they are completely alone in the world, like no one could ever understand them.  It’s different for everyone of course, but loneliness I can understand, I think we’d be surprised by the amount of people that can.  Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest obstacle, and we have to overcome our own fears and insecurities, figure out who we are before we can tell other people, and expect them to accept us.  It’s not an easy world, it’s a judgemental one, but if all the lonely ones were to come together and form a friendship, I have a feeling we’d outnumber those that aren’t.  So, remember that the next time you feel alone, because in thinking that, you’re not really alone at all, and someday if you keep going long enough it will change, and someone will really see you for who you are.

Liv.

(Instagram = the_olive_blog)

You Are Not Alone

Everyone has ups and downs in their life, no one has it easy.  Even if you had it easy, you probably wouldn’t know it, you’d find a way to make the monotonous safety of your life an imprisoning boredom that you wish to escape from. 

We all go through it, and most of us come out the other side, but not all.  Some can’t, some get so low they can’t see the light anymore, or imagine their lives without the darkness.  It’s why we have to talk about it, regardless of whether what you went through was mental health related or not, we have to let go of the dangerous perception that the majority of people have perfect little lives with the closest of friends and amazing supportive families.  Life doesn’t always work like that, and nor should it, that’s normal, it’s just a shame most of us suffer through it alone before we make that realisation much further down the line. 

Perhaps if we were all a little more honest with each other and allowed ourselves to be a little more vulnerable, we could protect others from thinking that they are alone.  In reality, when you think that you are alone, that you are different, you’re probably just the same as every single other individual, that has been taught by society to keep up the mantra of ‘I’m fine’, even when we’re all crying on the inside. 

Liv.

Is humanity defective?

This piece is along the same lines as my previous post, so if you like this one, then check out ‘what should we be afraid of ?’ as well.

I’ve always found it difficult to trust people, suspicious of every motive a person has, suspicious of why they might want to know things about me.  I think that we must all find it difficult to trust to some extent because there are things we all keep secret, things that we will never utter to any other living soul.  Why though? What makes humanity so untrustworthy that we wouldn’t even trust those closest to us with those things. 

I happen to believe that humanity is defective.  Perhaps that is merely my excuse for everything that we have done, because if we are truly made as we were meant to be, then what cruel design it was.  We have what seems to be an uncontrollable tendency towards greed above sustainability, self-preservation above others, self-obsession over empathy.  Why must we fight so hard to control those things, to make people care about the world in which we live? If we were not defective as a species then why is destruction the first path we take, why not preservation?

We claim to be the most intelligent species to have ever existed, and yet we may become the only species to have sown the seeds of their own extinction.  Too wrapped up in proof and evidence and science, all man-made things, when what really matters is that we are harming nature, and we can do something about it.  Arguing the technicalities of who caused climate change, global warming and what proof is there, is simply avoidance, because admitting it means having to allow someone to take an element of control, to impose a regulation on your movements.  People don’t like to be controlled.

No other animal is like us, in fact we see ourselves as so superior that we don’t regard ourselves an animal at all; but we are.  Perhaps we should act more like animals, follow a few more rules of nature regarding our surroundings.  We call someone an animal as an insult, to insinuate that they are some kind of monster, but animals kill because they must, they kill to eat.  Tell me, why do humans of history kill or start wars? I’d argue it’s mostly driven by greed, all war has had some kind of personal gain for someone.  It’s far worse to be called a human than an animal.

I hope that there’s enough people out there that we can change that.

What should we be afraid of?

The world is never black and white, if you were going to paint it any colour it would have to be varying shades of grey.  Varying is the key word.  Nothing is the same, no two people with the same mind, no one with identical thoughts.  Terrifying.  You will never know what is going on behind those smiling eyes planted on the face across from you.  What devilish, twisted thoughts do they hide?

It’s always grey though, as if the world has forgotten how to love, or more accurately how to love others.  Self-love prevails it seems. 

You only have to look at yourself to understand why you should be so afraid of other people.  Think about your darkest thoughts, the ones you hide in the deepest recesses of your mind, the ones you’d rather no one ever knew about.  Those secrets that will never be uttered out loud.  Then think about the thoughts a psychopath might entertain, and then follow through on.  If common perception is correct those thoughts, fantasies even, would have to be much worse than your own.

Why is it though, that our thoughts sometimes, perhaps more often than any of us would care to admit, stray into the deviant, into the psychopathic, into the deranged? What draws us to be so fascinated with the dark side every human contains?  Is it the constraints of our society that make us want to rebel against those that would try to control us? Or is it something more innate within our nature, that makes every human being capable of some heinous act.

If I were to ask you whether you would kill someone in self-defence, if it were a case of either you die, or they die, would you do it?  I can’t imagine a scenario in which anyone would say truthfully that they would lie down and allow their life to be unjustly taken.  If we are to take that as it is, then surely there is an argument suggesting all humans will kill in certain situations, perhaps that situation pertains to self-defence much less often than we might think, or want to think.  Surely, if there is one scenario where killing is acceptable to most, then there are others, after all, have we not all fantasised at least once about killing someone?

Perhaps I will come back to these points, but the bottom line is, when people ask, what are you most afraid of?  The only rational answer in my opinion, is people, because we can never truly know what motivates, what drives another person, we will never know what anyone else thinks about, what they fight with themselves about.  That makes people unknown, but if the only person you can really know, and therefore trust is yourself, then where does that leave us in a world where our survival is compromised by beings of our own species?

So, what am I trying to say? I’m saying be wary, because sometimes people that you think you know surprise you, and you have to remember that perhaps you never really knew them after all.  Or perhaps, you only saw what they wanted you to see.   People are unpredictable and that makes them dangerous. 

Friendships

Is there a relationship more complicated?  I’ve always struggled to be close to people for fear of being hurt, for fear of being vulnerable.  The truth is though, you reach a new level of friendship when you open up to each other, and yeah that puts you in a vulnerable position but I guess it’s the point of a good relationship and being there for each other that makes it all worth it.

I think it’s just as hard as a breakup though, when it all goes wrong.  The loss of someone you were so close to, that you trusted with everything makes you question why you put yourself out there to be that vulnerable.  Makes you remember all the reasons you don’t get close to people, so that it’s easy to pull away, to defend yourself because you’re not emotionally involved.  After all, isn’t the only person you can really count on yourself?

But when you fall out with that person, how do you move on from it? I really have no idea, I’ve never been close enough to someone to end up being in this position before, so it’s a shame it has come to that now.  It just makes you wonder whether relying on anyone else was ever a good idea, when one misunderstanding sends every insecurity, every anxiety you’ve ever had tumbling down on top of you to the point that you wonder if this is what drowning feels like.  You can’t find you’re feet, can’t find purchase in anything.  Where you once felt more comfortable than anywhere else in the world, including home, you’re now unsure you belong all over again.  It makes you question whether things are ever going to settle.  Perhaps we just can’t rely on people.

That’s the mantra I always used to have, keep everything inside and pretend it’s fine and we’ll be alright.  It became we because it was more comforting that way, as if shifting to plural pronouns would trick my brain into thinking we weren’t just that lonely.  But maybe I always had it right to start with, maybe it’s other people that are more damaging and I was just protecting myself.

Maybe.

But then again, I think probably not.  I can’t deny that as complicated and as difficult as friendships are, when it’s good, it is beyond good.  The feeling that people have your back is so special, especially at uni when you don’t always have family to fall back on.  So, I guess it is worth it with the right people, because I’d hope they value the friendship highly enough, that small things can be risen above, and big things can be talked to solution.  Because, at the end of the day we all care about each other, and I hope that’s enough.

Liv xx