What is ‘The Scary Part’?
Mental Illness is hard and painful, and scary. It is heartbreaking watching yourself transform into a person you don’t want to be or a person who you know you are not. No matter if it is anxiety, depression or any other mental illness, it leaves you feeling lost in your own body; and out of control.
The sad part is that this too often then becomes ‘normal‘, anxiety, depression, OCD, and all that comes with these mental illnesses becomes something you factor into your day-to-day life. I would never schedule an appointment before 1 pm and ideally 2 pm. I would never go to bed the night before plans to do some exposure therapy or to do a triggering activity, without having my clothes ready and doing damage control. I would never let the house run out of coke, in one form or another, knowing it will trigger me into a relapse.
Then you start to cope, you manage and you build techniques to make your days easier, you form coping mechanisms, learn distraction techniques amongst other things. Then comes the scary part.
When your mental illness shows up, and arrises in your life, you tend to find your self in situations where you cannot calm down, and you have a panic attack or leave promptly, anything of that sort. It hurts, I remember the time I found myself at school and I left 5 minutes after entering as I lost control, anxiety and panic took over. and fear won. This day was the day I finally couldn’t beat the rising anxiety, building panic, and I couldn’t be strong enough to walk through the corridor to my classroom.
That was really hard, but what I know is so much harder, what I know will be so much harder is walking up that school drive, and staying, and being strong enough, recovered enough to stay.
I chose to leave school and I have chosen not to return, my time in classrooms and taking tests is over for now, and my journey is heading in a different direction. The summer is coming and the sunny weather is reducing my anxiety and bringing more of me to the surface. I am recovering, I am seeing a change in myself that I have been fighting to see all year.
I have been for a few walks, I have been into a supermarket without rushing, I have been to the park. These are all things I would have found impossible just 6 months ago. You would have seen the anxiety spilling out of me, as I clenched my coke can tight, bit my fingers, pressed at my gums, and as I walked around the aisles rushed and dressed in a mixture or PJamas and loungewear.
It is truly amazing, and I am so proud of myself.
But what really scares me is doing the things that I used to do before, living without considering my mental illness. The prospect of attending a party, it is greeted with an endless list of questions. Is there a spare bedroom I can go in if I panic? How will I leave if I need to go? What will I wear that is warm, nice and won’t trigger me?… I could go on. And then, right there, at the back of my mind, is what if the same thing happens as the last party I went too? The idea of going to a shopping centre, restaurant, so many places and things are greeted just the same.
The scary part about recovery is doing the things that you never thought you would ever be able to do, or do again, without your anxiety crippling you, depression hanging over your head or OCD staring you in the face.
I am writing this as, I was invited to a party, I am measuring up whether pushing myself to try is worthwhile the consequences if it backfires. The truth is it seems stupid that mind is even contemplating it, as I know I struggle with the idea of going 5 minutes down the road to Matalan. But the truth is the desire to go to Matalan and a party differs largely.
I don’t think I am ready for a party just yet, but I think I am ready for something smaller, I am ready for something. (Updates on if I go to the party will be on twitter btw!)
Recovery is a battle, a battle that is never linear, and rarely fun. But it is worth the miles you walk, the sweat you drip, tears you cry and sleepless nights you endure. Tomorrow is worth the fight.
A goal of mine, a goal I am only now confessing to anyone but myself, is to one day, walk up to the top my Sixth Form drive, into the building, and share my story. With nerves, but without anxiety, well maybe a little.
This may be in a year, or 2 or 5 or 10. There is no rush, but I want to one day be able to tell the students at my old Sixth form the power their voices have, and the impacts they make on every single person they meet.
It is scary when you meet the wrath that is mental illness, it is scary having your first panic attack, and second and third and thirtieth. But nothing is scarier than facing the thing that truly broke you and finally realising you are okay.
Mental Illness, no matter how scary, has a comforting notion to it, anxiety, depression and OCD, for example, all have a feeling of safety and home, that is why they are so hard to escape.
I have anxiety and the only thing that seems scarier than facing it every day for the rest of my life. Is not facing it every day for the rest of my life.
I haven’t written like this in a while, I haven’t had these kinds of thoughts to share. It feels nice, it feels like home. I hope I make as much sense as I do to myself, to you.
Oh, and a final note, hold on to tomorrow, it may be a scary prospect, but it doesn’t make it the unhappy choice.