My Heart, Your Home: October 2013   

Friday, 11 October 2013

Here's the thing about mental illness

There is this song that I used to hear a lot when I was younger, it was on one of my Mum's all time favourite albums. I used to sing along to it, enjoying its melody and tune. I knew all the words but never understood the message. Until recently, when that song has started to play in the back of my mind, like a soundtrack to my life. The song I am talking about is Eric Clapton's "nobody knows you, when you're down and out".

Here's the thing I have learnt: "Nobody knows you when you're down and out. When you get back on your feet again, everybody wants to be your long lost friend". I have always believed that people suffering mental illness should not feel like they have to suffer in silence, that we, as a collective community, should listen and support them. No one should suffer in silence because mental illness is lonely enough. But the thing is, that unless you have been through it, you can't possibly understand it and unless you are going through it, then you don't want to hear it. I say this, because this sentiment has rung true to me over the past several weeks. 

Since writing my last blog post I started to think that I shouldn't be pulling my support from my blogging community alone, as great and supportive and wonderful you all have been, you cant hold my hand when I fall down, or wipe my tears when I begin to cry, or give me that hug that I sometimes so desperately crave. I have a wonderful group of loving and beautiful friends who I adore and trust. So I decided that I needed to open up to them, start building myself some foundations as I worry that my suffering is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Mental illness; depression and anxiety, it is "like an onion" to quote Shrek, it has so many different layers and affects its victims so broadly. Not two people feel the same, no two causes are the same and no treatment is the same. It is hard to describe, hard to vocalise and it is, of course, hard to hear. 

People have a very difficult time hearing, believing. The conversation is often shut down before it even begins. I cannot be struggling because what do I have to struggle with? I cant be depressed because what do you have to be sad about? Why would you feel like a bad Mum, when your Daughters are both happy? You must be doing something right. 

I love both my children, with the absolute core of my being and I fight every day to remain patient and tolerant and loving towards them. I fight to be calm and level headed. I fight to stand up and be the Mother that they deserve. On the exterior, sure I probably do look together and calm, but I invite you into my mind, hear the thoughts, feel the emotions. I invite you in so that you can believe. 

In the depths of my stomach I feel this constant rolling snow ball of nervous energy. I wake up with it in the morning and each time I hear a scream, it builds. Each time I cannot get my Daughters to sleep, it rolls faster. Each time I have to discipline the naughty behaviour of my 2 year old, it takes out all the trees. All day that nervous energy gets bigger and louder and my entire body starts to shake, I lose my breath, the tears start to form and my chest starts to ache. I fear I am going to have a heart attack. I fall to my knees and I try to catch my breath, breathing in and out faster and faster until I become dizzy and I lose my sight. I have to remind myself to breathe. That this is just an attack, it will pass, if you breathe. So I sit on the ground, worried about my children seeing their Mother like this, and I count my breath. In, 1, 2, 3. Out, 1, 2, 3.

In the back of my mind I have a constant running narrative that tells me all day what I am doing wrong. Who I am doing wrong by. Where I am failing. This little reminder that pops up in every single scenario to tell me I am not good enough. Some days I am really good at pushing that lousy narrater deep down and ignoring it, but mostly, by the end of the day it becomes me. I doubt myself and my abilities, as Mother and as a person.

Most days I forget to eat and drink. I am just trying to put one step in front of the other, trying to make it to 6pm where I know Anthony will be home and I can take a step back and try and escape these awful feelings and thoughts I have. Evelyn doesn't sleep so there is not a single moment in the day where I get to take 5 minutes to remind myself that I need to eat to feel better. I can't even get her to sit in her room for 10 minutes of quiet time, so I don't get to have that time I so desperately need to be able to be a better person. 

Nobody knows you, when you're down and out. Those words have become so true to me. You can't help but suffer in silence. I may be sick, but I am sick internally and there are no true physical symptoms of my illness. If you haven't suffered then you don't understand and if you have, then you don't want to know. I hold no resentment about these facts, if I wasn't feeling this way then I, too, would want to avoid being reminded of these feelings. Its a lonely and confusing place to live. 

I won't be writing too much here, not until I can clear this haze. So I just wanted to say thank you for letting me write to you, giving me a place to say the things that I need to say out loud. Thank you for giving me my safe place. You have been more supportive than you will ever know. I will come back and write again once I have managed myself.