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.

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 🙂

‘You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for’

‘You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for’ Wentworth Miller

I never understood the suggestion that mental health, depression, anxiety, feeling suicidal etc. are a cry for help or attention seeking in some way.  For me Wentworth Miller’s quote rings completely true, I felt that nobody could help me, so why would I reach out to anyone as the only thing I would gain from that would be becoming even more of an outsider than I already felt I was. 

It was more important to me to hide what was really going on, so that people would assume I was fine.  I wanted to deal with everything behind closed doors, hide my shame, hide what I thought was my failure.  I had always come across as the strong one, the one that was never phased by anything, I wanted people to continue to think that so badly it got to the point where I was almost living a double life.  The things that were going on in my head were concerning, and definitely suggested a need for help, but I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t admit that something was wrong that maybe I was mentally suffering, it would have been an acceptance of weakness for me, I wanted to believe that if I could just keep pretending that I was fine, that I would be.  Like some kind of strange Halo Effect. 

Needless to say that didn’t work, and I ended up eventually seeking help and talking to someone about the thoughts I was having.  This was after almost 5 years of struggling in silence, and even then it took me almost 6 months from having decided to talk to someone, to getting myself into that room.  Even now, I haven’t been able to muster up the courage to go back, even though a part of me desperately wants to.  I still struggle with those feelings of shame, of being a failure because my brain seems to slip into depressive thoughts so easily when all I want is to try and be positive.   That’s why I have this blog, it’s my outlet, my alternative to talking about it vocally, because that’s still such a difficult topic to broach. 

So, don’t assume that people who are struggling with mental battles are seeking attention in any capacity.  You don’t know how long they have been suffering, you don’t know how much courage it might have taken that person to simply get to where they are.

Be kind to all and you won’t mistake the good ones for the so few that are faking. 

Liv x

Panic and anxiety attacks

What are you doing, why are you here, they are going to judge you, what are you wearing, they are going to wonder where you’ve been, they’ll notice that you’ve been crying, they’ll notice you’re not eating, they’ll notice you are eating, you look a mess, you’re life’s a mess, why does everyone hate you, why do you have no friends, why are you lying to your friends, people think you have no friends, why do you smile when you want to cry, you have so much work to do, why are you so tired, you have no money, you’re an embarrassment, you’re stupid, no one will ever love you, you’ll be alone forever.

I think a lot of people wonder what it feels like to have a panic attack, I used to have them a lot in secondary school and 6th form, and I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that I often felt like I was dying.  The majority of mine happened in the middle of the night, usually when I was lying awake plagued by dark thoughts, consistently coming one after another, but feeling as though I couldn’t at all control where my mind was going, it often felt like I was losing my mind.  It was then it would usually start, I began to notice the early symptoms and I think that only served to make them worse as I would start to panic about having a panic attack, oh the joys of anxiety. 

It would usually start with feeling hot and cold at the same time, like my core was on fire but I was still freezing, then the pins and needles would set in, beginning in my hands and moving its way up my arms.  It was the frantic beating of my heart that would really scare me though, I felt like my entire body was jumping with its intense beat and rate, as though it felt my body was doomed much like my mind, and it was trying to escape.  When this sets in it is like nothing really makes sense anymore, I’m never fully aware of where I am, often trapped in the confusing thoughts of my mind.  I know once or twice the panic attacks led to hallucinations, almost like stress dreams but I was awake, the one I remember most distinctly was when I was convinced I had somehow pushed my Mum’s entire business off of a skyscraper, I promise it was scarier than it sounds. 

I never really worked out what exactly caused them, I know that I was very unhappy towards the end of school, and I’m sure that added with the stress, and the insecurity of my friendship group at the time, all contributed to it.  I can only be grateful that I rarely experience them now, or that they have filtered out into smaller anxiety attacks, which although are still unpleasant I find easier to manage, it’s more of a mind over matter situation for me now.  If I become afraid or anxious about something irrational, I know I just have to force myself to do it, force myself out of my comfort zone, even if I’ll hate myself for it for the moment, I know it’ll be fine in the end.  Sometimes, it’s just a case of taking myself out for a walk, putting on some upbeat music, so I can clear my head and put things in perspective, and remind myself that putting the bins out is not something to get anxious about.  That’s the thing I think most people forget, anxiety isn’t just about social situations, for some people, its not about that at all, sometimes it’s the most menial tasks that trigger you for no reason at all. 

At the end of the day though, we just have to do every little bit we can to try and overcome it, small victories to some people can be big for us, so as long as you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough. 

Liv

“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.