Monday 14 May 2018

Welcome, come on in, the kettle has just boiled.

Inside my head is a busy and often confusing place. Some days I wake up and things are fine. Things are going ok then something ever so minor will cause me to feel bad. That feeling will stay with me all day. I might not even recall what it was that caused the feeling, but it will be there.

Other times getting up will be an actual struggle. Physically I will feel heavy and immobile. My head will barely lift off the pillow and my body will shiver at the thought of moving. When I do get up I will be clumsy, uncoordinated and more than a little cranky.

The days when I bounce out of bed are almost worse. Everything will be done in record time. The house will look spotless and I will be moving constantly. By the time the boys come home I will be worn out, but I'll keep going anyway. My fitbit is pretty much overheating and I'm far too wired to sleep.

It's not always possible to know how someone will react when you open up about mental health. I was careful for over 30 years to not share with anyone in case they judged me for it. I kept up the facade of being cheery and 'normal' so that no one would know there was anything wrong with me.  The quiet challenge of keeping myself together was tough and required more strength than I thought I had a lot of the time.

Then I spoke up on this blog and it felt safe to say that I'm not ok a lot of the time. It's taken far longer to realise that it doesn't make me 'mad' and that I don't have to be ashamed. I still don't talk to my family about my mental health. They have experienced me in the worst of it, but it just doesn't feel like something I can do.

This year has been exceptionally difficult in terms of my mental wellbeing. In addition to the ever present depression and anxiety I've experienced bereavement which has knocked me right off my feet. I tried to talk to real life people about what I was struggling with - some of them were there with me, in the same state of grief. In this big shared space of sadness I found others who knew what it felt like too.

When people have been kind or praised me I've dismissed it as, 'well they obviously don't really know how horrible I really am.' After all what do they know about the 'real' me ? This was reaffirmed when I opened up to someone I've known for many years. I made the difficult and terrifying decision to talk to them honestly about my mental health. It wasn't the right thing to do. All my fears of rejection and being judged and despised for not being 'normal' were proven right. It reminded my why it's not safe to tell the truth about what goes on inside my not quite right head.

Even after all these years I really don't understand why I am like this, but the people who matter accept me. They are there for the times when I'm on good form and for the times when I'm a mess and can't cope with anything. There are dark days and even darker thoughts, but I know I am not alone.

In that I am very lucky.

I don't recall ever sitting down with Hubbie and saying, "here is what's wrong with my head." One day he said something that made me realise he was on my side and he wasn't afraid. That made it possible for me to feel less afraid too. He works around whatever is going on for me and if he sees I am struggling he finds a way to tell me he has noticed. It is such a relief to have an ally who isn't judging or trying to 'fix' me. He holds me metaphorically and literally through the worst of times and is with me for the best ones.

If I could make one thing happen during mental health awareness week it would be to take away the stigma and fear. Even if I could just do that for the people I know that would be something wouldn't it ?

Mental Health Awareness Week is from 14th-20th May

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