“Perfect”

Practicing smiles in the mirror

Memorising a charade of perfect humour

To hide the truth of your despair

That in reality you’d rather be anywhere than there

And all you really want to do

Is cry alone on the floor of the loo

Contemplating in life itself

And wondering how you’ll ever reach that shelf

Upon which you’ve placed all your hopes and dreams

That realistically could never be

Because all you’ll ever really be

Is a failure to those who see you as perfect

When you break down and realise you can’t quite work it

Because social situations make you anxious

And often you can’t even say a word

Because self-doubt takes it upon himself

To strangle the phrases from your mouth

So maybe you shouldn’t even really try

Because you know this is only going to end in a cry.


So, remember to practice that smile in the mirror

And memorise that perfect humour

So that if no one looks at you too deep

They might not think that you’re that weak

And maybe if you rehearse the conversations

It won’t seem like you talk to yourself about your anxious reservations. 

I Don’t Want to Pretend

From year 10 to year 12 at school I didn’t feel much of anything.  Towards the end of year 10 and the start of year 11 I had lost a number of people to various different illnesses, and every day from then on, wasn’t about living or enjoying life, it was just about getting to the end of that day.  The only thing that made me get out of bed in the morning was the promise that this day had to end, and then I could get back into my bed. 

It was a time when I hated being alone because that was when I became trapped inside a mind that was plagued with horrible thoughts that I couldn’t get away from.  Yet, at the same time I wanted nothing more than to be alone because being around people meant I had to pretend to be something I didn’t even know how to feel anymore, happy. 

So, I isolated myself, from my family, my friends.  I held everyone at an arms-length because having strong relationships with people would mean that they might notice that something was wrong, and I didn’t want people to think that I was weak.  Everyday was like a game, remember to smile, laugh, be happy.  I don’t think I even realised I was doing it half the time, I became somebody I thought everybody else wanted me to be, I got good grades, I was nice to everyone, I didn’t have my own opinion because I seriously doubted anyone would care.  I was like an empty vessel that waited for other people to show me how to be, because honestly?  The last thing I wanted to do, was think, make decisions and risk losing anything.  

I was clever, and a compulsive liar.  I fooled everyone, people only saw what I wanted them to see, if I was imperfect in any way, it was because I wanted to be, to seem normal.  I thought that would make me happy, until I realised I had never been more alone.

I hadn’t lost myself, but I had locked her away into a part of my mind I reserved only for myself, so that I could become someone else.

I was so repressed, so unfulfilled that as the numbness faded away I was overtaken by anger at the world, at society, for holding me back.  I wanted to scream at everything for making me feel like I couldn’t just be me, but that wouldn’t help.

So, I did something I couldn’t take back, I decided to screw the universe for making me feel so small in so many ways, and I started to open up about some of the issues I have faced, and my journey in overcoming them.  I became the person I really am, and sometimes that’s hard, because it’s natural instinct for me to want to hide away and pretend that I’m fine.  But, I have some of the best friends that I have ever had, because I have opened up to them, and although I still have points when I think it would be easier to just pretend, I know I’m happier now, and I don’t want to lose that. 

This is it for me, I know that in my heart I am going to defeat this depression because I know who I am now, I’m able to embrace that, accept that, and move forward. 

I never want to go back to the days when, ‘this day has to end’ was my mantra.

  Now, I try to live every day to it’s fullest, and that doesn’t always work out, but that’s okay, because I’ll get there, I know I will. 

The Struggle of Truth

A part of me believes that if I continue to pretend that nothing is wrong, then nothing needs to change.  As if willing something to be a certain way would ever actually make it happen, but fear of the alternative makes us hope for something we realistically know can never be. 

You see, I am scared, and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore, because the prospect of telling the people you care about, your family, that you are having mental health issues involving depression and anxiety has every right to fill you with dread. 

I know that what I really need to do, is to stop pretending, to stop hiding, and to start talking.  I know that because it’s what I really want to do, so that I can be absolutely me, rather than having to put on a façade of fake smiles on my bad days, and rather have people surrounding me that actually understand.  The difficulty of this is, I have no idea how I’m supposed to tell my parents, because how do you tell the people that you love most in the world that the daughter they thought was so strong, is struggling, and has been struggling for a really long time?

How do you tell them that without hurting them?  Without making them feel guilt that they have absolutely no right to feel?

It is for this reason I have stayed silent for so long, and every person I do open up to about this side of me, and every conversation I have about these feelings only serves to deepen my own guilt that my parents weren’t the first people that I went to when I started feeling this way, that I favoured talking to strangers over them.  I know to my Mum this would seem like betrayal. 

So, where do we go from here?  It seems inconceivable to me, I’ve gotten myself stuck in a place where I started to seek help, where I took a step in the right direction only to be held back by the paralysing fear of having my relationship with my family irreversibly change because they might not fully understand what I’m trying to tell them. 

Perhaps this is an issue that a lot of people struggling with their mental health face, because what really holds us back is the fear and shame of having the people we most want to make proud realise that you’re not quite managing things as well as they thought. 

Perhaps, really all this is, is my self-doubt that makes me worry so much about my family’s reaction, perhaps if I simply sat them down and had a truthful conversation then everything would be fine. 

The problem with that is, we can never really know until we bite the bullet and tell them, but what happens if that bullet becomes familial suicide that I’ll never be able to rectify?   I guess the only way to find out is to get a grip and fire. 

Belief

God doesn’t stop bad things happening, he gives you the strength to keep going when they happen.’ 

I have not been to a church since I was 6 years old, I do not consider myself a religious person.  I wouldn’t go so far to say I am an atheist, but I am definitely not an all-out Christian.  The truth is I have honestly never really thought about faith and what relationship that could possibly have in my own life.  Until now.  Ever since I have accepted that I am struggling with mental health illnesses I have been looking for ways to change up my lifestyle to give myself every opportunity to have a healthier mind.  In doing so I began to get curious about the church as some of my friends at university go every week, and the way they talked about the community made me think that that was what I wanted.  I wanted to be part of a positive community that would give me something to believe in. 

So, with that in mind I found myself in church on Sunday 19th May for the first time in over 13 years, and I can tell you it was the most amazing experience.  The first part of the service was all singing worship and the music was so hopeful it moved me to tears.  The lyrics just spoke to me as if everyone in the room was telling me that there was hope and there always will be, that I am not alone and that I would be okay.  I found myself overcome with emotion, openly crying in a room filled with around 500 people, without caring, which is incredibly unusual for me as I would usually hide my emotions away.  It was invigorating to feel like I didn’t care if people saw I was upset, because I wasn’t really, I was crying because the feeling I was experiencing was so strongly of hope and happiness, of a belief that I really would get myself, if not cured of depression, then at least to a place where it couldn’t drag me down anymore. 

I realised then, surrounded by all these people that clearly wanted the best for everyone, that would pray for strangers without even fully knowing what was wrong, that even if I was unclear as to what I believed in in terms of God and Jesus, I could have faith in people like these.  I could have faith in the message they were giving, I could have faith that the sheer determination these people had in healing you of your struggles would give me the strength I needed to heal myself. 

‘God doesn’t stop bad things from happening, he gives you the strength to keep going when they happen.’  I think I must have read this somewhere, but I think for me this is what God and Christianity means.  I by no means believe everything Christianity entails, but I do believe that faith gives you something to believe in, and some comfort in the dark times that you will make it to the other side.