Sadness without explanation

I have never found depression an easy topic to talk about, I still feel as though people won’t believe me, or they will assume that it is a cry for attention, when in reality it was the complete opposite. I would have done anything to make sure people didn’t know how unhappy I was with my life, because I had no specific reason for feeling that way, so how could I expect people to understand? I don’t blame people when they don’t, I barely understand it myself.

I found this short diary entry from February 2017, when I was going through a rough patch and couldn’t quite convince myself I was worth it. Perhaps this will give an insight into how my brain was working at the time.

Diary entry February 2017:

There is a saying that ‘life gets you down’ because life is tough. We all know that. But what do you do when there is nothing in your life to get you down, but you feel that way anyway?

What do you do when you feel so sad inside and yet so numb and empty at the same time?

My resolution was to talk to somebody about it, but I don’t want to talk about it, because voicing it means that I have to accept that this is real. And it also means that I have to try and explain it, and I honestly don’t even know where to start.

It’s sadness without explanation, therefore it is sadness without solution.

How can anyone hope to understand, when I can barely understand it myself?

How can I feel so alone and yet be sat in the middle of school with hundreds of people about?

Today I wanted to get help rather than run away, but again I am at a loss as to how to ask for it. There’s a hand around my throat that stops me from voicing the words, but perhaps that’s a good thing, too much would change if I was to talk about it, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

Normally, I’m not a negative person at all, I have a pretty positive outlook for the future, and strongly believe that if you work hard enough at anything then you’ll be successful in some capacity. In those times of depression though, it was incredibly difficult for me to stay in that mindset, and I was even more stressed about ensuring other people didn’t see that, most importantly my family, because I didn’t want to also bring them down.

In reality though, when I finally was able to talk to someone, it made such a difference, and allowed me to come to terms with what I was dealing with, and how I could better myself.

First Year of University

Everyone tells you that the first year of university will be the best year of your life, and in many ways it is.  However, in some ways it is also the most difficult. 

What is so often neglected to talk about is also the sheer amount of change that happens all around you, and how sometimes it becomes overwhelming.  There are a lot of things to juggle, making friends, going out, trying to organise your timetable and find classes whilst exhausted (and most probably hungover and coming down with freshers’ flu), all while trying to make a good impression on the people you’ve been told are going to be your life-long friends. 

I don’t mean that to sound scary, because freshers is so much fun, but it’s okay to also feel overwhelmed, unsure and a little scared about it all too.  I think the expectation that first year will be the best year of your life sometimes makes it all a little harder to deal with, because you might feel like you’re doing it wrong if it’s not as perfect as you thought.  I guarantee you you’re not. 

Change isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be unexpected and unpredictable.  There will be amazing high points, but you have to expect that there will be low points too, just like with everything, and then you can make sure you look after yourself until things inevitably get good again. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that, whilst it is true that you make some of your best friends at university, this does not necessarily mean it’s immediate.  So, don’t worry if you struggle to find your perfect friendship group in the first few weeks, or whole first semester even.  For me, my friendships changed so much and so rapidly all throughout first year, and it was only by the end of second semester that I felt I really knew who my close friends were.  Although struggling to find where you stand with friendship groups isn’t something people generally openly talk about, I think you’ll find it’s something a lot of people feel in that first year. 

That’s not to say I didn’t have such a good time, because I really truly did, there is such a wide range of diverse people to get to know, and I’ve definitely cried more tears of laughter just this year than the rest of my entire almost 20-year-old life combined.  It’s just I think too often people say their first year at uni was the best year of their life, just because that is what is expected.  Personally, I have a feeling year 2 is going to be just as epic, if not more so. 

So, if you’re off to university this autumn have an amazing time, good luck, and don’t worry if it’s harder than you thought.  That’s normal!

Just remember sometimes the expectation that something is going to be the best thing ever, makes it a little harder.

“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. 

Living with Depression

Depression is different for everyone, it is a mental illness, and everybody’s minds work differently, so I’m sure that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  For me though, my depression isn’t something that is obvious to anyone around me, such to the extent that I have managed to keep it hidden for 5 years.  It’s not like how you hear in the media, that I had a psychotic break that lead to it, or something dreadfully tragic happened to my family and triggered it.  For me, my depression didn’t surface out of any one major event, but rather it is just something that is a part of me. Depression runs in my family, and evidently, I got the gene. 

There were triggers that made it worse, that made me realise that there was something wrong, of course, but I know now that the things that happened that caused my mental breakdowns really just brought these depressive feelings to the forefront, when I think really they were always there. 

My reaction to feeling like everything was spiralling out of control, like I had no purpose in life, like I was worthless, wasn’t to ask for help, but to put a strong emphasis on how together my life was, so that my friends would think that I was more than fine, that I had a perfect little life with everything figured out.  That could not have been further from the truth.  For me though, having other people believe that about me, somehow made it easier for me to believe that too, or at least it gave me motivation to keep going, to get up in the morning and keep doing well in school so that my perfect reputation wouldn’t be ruined.   

When it’s written out like that, I guess it seems sad that so much of what happened in my school life, I only really did to convince people that I was fine and normal.  Now I want to make sure I do things because I enjoy them, rather than for any other reason.  I called it ‘survival mode’ in which the focus of my life used to be just ensuring that I created a persona that would allow me to get from waking up in the morning to going to sleep in the evening, without raising suspicion that I wasn’t okay.   My mantra used to be, ‘this day has to end.’  Not exactly a healthy or appreciative way to live your life.  It’s not really living at all. 

Not everyday was dark though, I definitely had some really good times and some really good friends too.  It was just in those low moments everything that was going on in my head made me believe that I didn’t have anything good going for me, and anything good that had happened I somehow managed to make into a negative, where I saw myself as not good enough, clever enough, pretty enough.  Maybe it seems shallow to people who can’t understand, but essentially it felt like there was a black hole in my gut and every good feeling I was capable of got sucked in and I was left with an empty void, or just such deep sadness I hardly knew where it stemmed from.  I just knew I needed it to stop but I had no idea how I was meant to just miraculously become happy again.  Back then, I didn’t know it was depression, I just thought that something had gone wrong in my brain, that maybe I was crazy, and so I shouldn’t confide in others, because I would just become a burden. 

Now I know what it is, it’s easier to handle, because I know not to ignore the signs of a potentially bad day.  I can do things to alleviate it, or to lift my mood.  I have a network of friends now that know the truth and I can reach out to if I need to talk.  There are other things too, like exercise that I make sure I get time to do, because it makes me feel so much better afterwards, I feel lighter, happier and like I’ve really achieved something, which helps to expel any negative thinking.  A great example of that was just today, I woke up feeling pretty low, and then my sister was very off with me and I started doubting myself and blaming myself for her low mood, but I got myself out and did a class at the gym which made me realise that it was all in my head, and allowed me to get past it so I could enjoy my day and be productive. 

Sometimes, it’s simple things like changing the way you live, that allow you to lead a much healthier life, both in mind and body.  I have to make sure I take care of myself and my mental wellbeing so that I don’t slip back into old habits which harboured that negative thinking.  I talk to people and confide in them when it gets too much, I eat healthy, I do exercise at least a few times a week, and I have this, my writing which is an outlet I greatly need sometimes.  I’ve never been happier. 

I can’t lie and say that things aren’t still difficult, and there aren’t still points where it feels like I’m getting nowhere, and it’s always going to be this hard, so what’s the point?  The point is, now I have accepted this for what it is, I won’t let it own me, I have my process to deal with it now.  We fight depression because there is a life worthy of living, and for me that is how I get from today to tomorrow, having a goal in my mind of what I want my life to look like, and I know if I ignore my depression then that’s not going to happen, so I face it straight on. 

That’s how I live with it, with the knowledge that I will beat it.   

Are we all alone at heart?

Is a part of being human, being alone at heart?

Are we all struggling with battles that no one else can see, that makes us different people on the inside?

I feel like I’m lost, and not because I don’t know what I want to do with my life, because I’m pretty certain of that, but because a lot of the time I feel so cripplingly alone it’s suffocating.

But why?

I know I’m not, I have good friends, best friends, for the first time in my entire life, I have people who care, that I can talk to.  Yet, it’s like this feeling of absolute loneliness is embedded so deep inside of me its never going to matter how many people I have telling me that they’re there for me, I’m always going to be alone inside.  It is suffocating. 

The worst part is every time I get to a point where I should reach out, talk to a friend, my mind makes up a million reasons why they wouldn’t care, why I shouldn’t bother them, why we’re not as close as I thought we were.  The voices in my head make me believe that I have no one, and I still haven’t figured out how to tell them they’re wrong.  Maybe because, it had been true for so long it’s hard to believe it’s not anymore. 

They say the hardest part is telling someone that you’re struggling.  I think the hardest part is to keep telling them.   

I think that’s why I started this blog, because talking to people about what you went through in the past seems to be something I’ve mastered, but I still struggle to let people in when it comes to the things that still get to me. 

Or is that just a part of being human, that we’re all alone at heart?

One thing we can be certain of, is that we don’t live in a society that is designed to be accepting, but that at least is something we can change.   I hope by being more open and accepting of everything and everyone we can put an end to that.

Maybe then, it will not be so difficult to figure out where it is that I, and all of us, belong.    

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. 

Twists and Turns

The twists and turns that catch you off guard,

 throw you off kilter and drain you of energy.  

The happiness that is elation that gets you so high

you walk the clouds of your dreams,

above the obstacles of life,

but when the depression comes on the next bend you fall from your high perch,

through the floor and down 6 foot more,

until the numbness takes over and you can’t feel anything anymore,

at least until the next turn in that long road and then elation returns,

and you forget there was anything wrong at all

-Mental illness