This post has been brewing a while, but I’ve not been brave(?) enough to sit down and write it. I half heartedly started it during Maternal Mental Health Week, but it wasn’t the right time and I’m not sure now is either to be honest, but I’m giving it a go anyway.
It’s been roughly 18 months since I started my downward spiral into depression and suicidal ideation. It’s been seven ish months since I quit my teaching job and it’s been maybe three – five months of ‘maybe I’m feeling better now’ thoughts. At the very least, I don’t count killing myself as an option anymore and that is quite a big deal.
The biggest realisation I’ve had over the past month or so is that actually I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover. Part of me, or all of me, will remain changed. I feel like a piece of metal that has been through the furnace – still here but twisted out of shape. I don’t quite know how I feel about that yet. I wanted it to be like chicken pox or a broken leg – a definite illness but also a definite return to normal in a time frame that is agreeable. Don’t get me wrong, I have really good days now. Even today, with my mangled foot (another story!!) and staring down the barrel of a nine day stretch of work, I feel light in a way I never thought I would again. I’ve delighted in the beauty of my surroundings, get genuine joy at seeing my partner turn up unexpectedly at work and now I’m sitting by the lake in my car basking in the sunshine while my son naps after nursery. I even don’t hate going to work. Today is a good day and good days were something I didn’t believe in for a long time.
Obviously I still have bad days, but I’m fully aware that the bad days now don’t even come close to the depths of despair I was in on the best days I had during the worst periods. Even when I feel shit now I am able to be mindful enough to know that ‘this too will pass’ and even if it lasts a full day, chances are I’ll feel brighter in the morning. I’m also conscious enough to know that what I’m actually feeling during a ‘bad’ day is now anxiety and not depression. I can often function around my anxiety and no one would notice a thing… and if I can’t function it’s because the anxiety is body-image-based and that is familiar territory for which I have coping strategies.
Something that has been niggling away and making me feel quite uncomfortable is a sense of shame, which I can’t get to grips with. I wasn’t ashamed while I was suffering, I talked about it openly and did my best to access help. It’s now, after the fact, that I feel like I should have coped better, I shouldn’t have succumbed to it. I’ve overcome so many other things in my life and yet this knocked me sideways so much that I wanted to end it all at what arguably was the best time of my life. I don’t judge or look down on anyone else that has struggled with mental health so I can’t understand why I’m subjecting myself to this internal derision. But then I don’t fat shame other people and that’s the basis of my self image so perhaps it’s part of the same thing!
I started writing this five days ago. My son woke up, I took him home and a few hours after that I spiralled so hard it left me dizzy. I was unable to breath without concentrating, the next few days I spent my fifty mile round trip to work wanting to twitch the wheel and fall off the road. I was scared, terrified of the intensity and still am. I feel like it was a punch in the face for daring to give voice to some of what I wrote above and feel some hope and peace. The fight or flight response (and it’s always flight for me) is so heightened that I’m simultaneously wired and exhausted.
Nearly a week on from starting this post I drove to work convinced that I was going to faint through lack of oxygen. Hands gripping the steering wheel, tears streaming from my eyes, I was dragging air in like I was in the final stretches of a marathon but still I couldn’t feel it in my lungs. I don’t even really know why, once I’m in the spiral there is no reason, there’s just panic. Do I need medication? I don’t know now. I’ve always been adamant I don’t and what I need is talking therapy, but I’ve been discharged from the NHS because there isn’t anyone in my local hospital who does the kind of therapy I need.
On top of the panic is the anger now. I’m angry that I can’t control it and I’m cross that I’m struggling and I’m absolutely furious that I was doing so well and now I’m back wanting to scratch the fear out of my veins and let the oxygen in through wounds in my skin.
This is what mental health looks like to me – a rollercoaster in and out of haunted forests with trees that pull at your hair and clothes. You’re blindfolded and the only way you know what’s coming next is when you feel the sickening lurch of your stomach as your drop or the warmth of the sun on your face.
I wanted to write the post I started with and finish on a good note, something positive, but apparently I’m not there yet. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week I would have been able to end it differently but it’s long enough as it is and I started my blog with the intention of being as honest as possible, so here it is.