‘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

Is depression a symptom of society?

Everyone my age has experienced sadness, everyone in the world has experienced sadness, but when, at what point does that become depression?  I never know where the line is, if there even is one.  I’d hope for most people that’s a question they never have to ask, but I think that in our present climate that would be a naïve impression to have.  You might think me pessimistic, in fact I hope you do, because that probably means you’ve never suffered depression, but for me, I think most people have at some point in their lifetime. 

I was told once by a teacher at my secondary school, that everyone would experience depression at least once in their lifetime.  I remember being horrified that she could make such a claim in front of 15-year olds, little did I know I was on the brink of falling into that void myself. 

There has to be a reason, that we are all so discontent with lives that we should highly appreciate.  I happen to believe it is our relationship with the world around us.  Greed has the gotten the better of us, society was born to judge us, change us, alienate the real us.  When you feel like you can’t just be an unfiltered version of yourself, when you need to put on a pretence for the ‘social’ world, you lose the real you, and when you lose that part of yourself that makes up your identity, what do you become other than a blank slate for society to write on? With this brings its own problems, because society has no definition of perfection, it is riddled with contradictions and impossible standards that no one can attain in their real lives.  So where does that leave you?

It left me unfulfilled, uncertain, lost, without purpose, without passion.  I only wanted others to like me, but when you are in that position you aren’t living for yourselves but for other people, often strangers that can have no care for your true wellbeing. 

I tricked myself and everyone else into thinking that that was okay when really, I was at the lowest point of my life, and no one saw the signs, how could I have expected them to, when I didn’t even know myself well enough to see it?

The point is though, I did come to a realisation, that I didn’t want to live for other people, I wanted to have my own agenda, I wanted to be someone unique, something new, something no one else could be.  The simplest way of achieving that, was to become the person I always was under all the pretence, to become open about my feelings, about what I went through behind closed doors.  I set myself free from what I saw as the constraints of society, all the stigma, I told myself not to care about it.  That’s not an easy thing for anyone, and I have in no way achieved that completely, but although I still have bad days, and depressive ‘episodes’ I no longer feel ashamed, or feel I have to hide it. 

Liv x

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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.

Polluted planet, polluted mind

POLLUTED PLANET; POLLUTED MIND

When our planet is dying
When our people are getting fatter
When suicide is a leading factor
Of death in first world countries

Do you think maybe there’s a link?
And maybe that’s our connection with the environment?

But if nature is our miracle cure,
Stop throwing rubbish on your mother’s floor.

Olivia.

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“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.