I’ve written a lot of angsty blogs of late, the kind that will either put you to sleep or make you want to end it all. I wanted to write something a bit more uplifting, a little more positive, not in a Facebook way, let’s not get carried away now, but something with hope. But I do think you have to go through the dark to find the light sometimes, so dont expect rainbows and kittens. This is still me after all.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve suffered several bouts of severe depression. I don’t wish to speak for anyone else, everyone’s experiences are different, but it’s not something I will ever consider myself cured of. I’m not currently on any medication for it, but I have considered seeing a doctor on several occasions and then occupied myself and tried other ways to combat the darkness instead. I’m not sure how long that will last, but for now, I’m just about coping and I only ever seek medical help as a last resort. December is a difficult time and I may well change my mind, we’ll see. For now, blogging is my therapy.
Talking about mental health has become more acceptable in recent times. I see a lot of people discussing their experiences on social media and in real life. What isn’t spoken about as widely, is what it’s like to be around someone with depression and the impact on friends and loved ones. Because it’s such a varied illness, there is no quick fix, no way of knowing what will happen, how that will change your relationships or alter your behaviour, whether medication will help, if there will be side effects. I know I often wish I could magic it away, get away from myself, so who can blame others for wanting to do the same? It’s not easy being around the mood swings, the occasional neediness, (though I’ve succeeded somewhat in not showing it, if not feeling it), outbursts, anger, mistrust, paranoia, sadness. I still identify far too strongly with a tantrum throwing child, than someone my age should. Thankfully, there are people who can see beyond what I project, to what’s inside.
Which brings me to the positives. I have some wonderful people around me who have seen me through the worst of the lows. My instinct is always to shield others from the worst. I’ll retreat and wallow in a corner. I will put up a front around others, but I will try my best not to be around people when I’m at my worst. I’ve written before about taking a week off work just to cry by myself in the park. That was many many years ago and though I’ve come a long way since then and am less prone to tears, I still like my own space to cope with my mood swings, insecurities and paranoia.
I have a lot of acquaintances and a huge family, but very few close friends. I haven’t so much chosen them, they’ve chosen me and never let go. For someone who struggles not to fall out with people (not entirely down to depression), I have managed to hold on to some of the best people there are. Some of you will have read about my disastrous relationships, how I’m something of a pro at making people disappear. So it’s nothing short of a miracle that one of my best friends is someone I had a relationship with, had ups and downs with, work with closely, see day in day out, and is still there. Someone I’d trust with my life. I’ve hurt him, I’ve pushed him away, he’s seen me at my worst, I’ve failed to give him what he wanted, and it has never changed his behaviour towards me. For someone like me, that isn’t just rare, it’s unheard of. To add to that, he’s never for a second made me feel like he’s doing me a favour or it’s a chore or duty. If I sense that, I run away. The slightest waning of interest, and I push and push until they’re gone. I’ve never had to tell him to be there, he just has and I’m not sure anyone can fully comprehend how much that means to me. To have unwavering support, lack of judgement and loyalty from someone you have given every reason to not stay.
There are others. Good friends, close confidantes, one of my oldest friends from my teens who is the only person I’m close to and have never argued with. I KNOW! They’re not just friends, they’ve filled the role of family too. And there are others, more recent, some unexpected, who have all made a contribution and shown kindness, more than the ones who should be there. Although I’m partly to blame for that too.
This is an awful confession to make and something I rarely talk about, but it’s one of my biggest regrets and a good example of how trying I can be. I have 2 older sisters. Growing up, I shared a room with one and we were incredibly close. There was a fair age gap and I used to follow her around and idolise her, try to dress like her (which was easy as most of my clothes were hand me downs) and act like her. We’d fight as well, both physically and verbally. I’m sure having me around cramping her style was difficult for her. She had no privacy, no time to herself. My parents pretty much left us to our own devices. I’d go whole days without speaking to them. We were fed and clothed, (not always clean) and that was pretty much it. I can’t remember them ever even asking about homework, what subjects I’d chosen, my friends, school, anything. What they did know was volunteered by me. I didn’t have a bedtime, no food restrictions, I was badly behaved and the only times they ever spoke to me was when I was throwing a tantrum and they’d shout at me to stop, which usually just escalated the situation because all I wanted was a kind word, something to show they cared. Quite unfairly for her, I came to rely on my sister for that. She would comfort me when I’d been crying, she helped me with my homework, as I got older, we spoke about boys. All the things I couldn’t speak to my parents about. We never had that kind of relationship and culturally, certain things were taboo.
Then my sister applied to and got into university, which meant she would be moving away, and my whole world collapsed. She had been the one person who had made my family life bearable, I couldn’t imagine her not being there. Even having the room to myself was more painful than exciting and I tried everything I could to make her stay. I behaved appallingly, begging, guilt trips, crying, lashing out. She soon lost patience and I couldn’t blame her. We never really recovered from that. I apologised when I finally grew up and saw things from her point of view. I was ashamed. But she met her future husband at uni and grew up and things were never the same again. I guess being more of a big sister than an aunt to my niece and nephew partly came from that. I want them to feel they always have someone there for them, who they can rely on unconditionally, even though they have a very loving family who take an interest and are actively involved in every part of their lives. Even my parents are far better at being grandparents.
Though I’ve learned a lot from both therapy and introspection, some of the emotions I felt during that time are still raw even now. I felt abandoned and that has been something I’ve struggled with all my adult life too, to the point where I try not to get close to anyone and only those who have (and I mean this in the kindest possible way) muscled their way in and refused to leave, are the ones I call friends. It’s hard to get your head around anyone loving you, when those who are supposed to, don’t. I don’t rely on anyone to boost my self esteem or confidence, only I can do that. Compliments wash over me because I never believe them. Being told you are something and being shown it or feeling it are worlds apart, and you all know how I feel about words by now, they’re easy, empty. There is still so much I need to deal with. So many insecurities and reactions that need to change. I still feel an almost physical pain when people say things that are later shown to not be true, or taken back, or dismissed. I struggle with dishonesty. I beg, literally beg people not to say things they don’t mean because once I start to believe it, it sets me back to learn it’s not true. I struggle with uncertainty and the silent treatment if I’m in any doubt about whether I’ll hear from someone again. I hate not knowing where I stand. I much prefer being brutally cut out of someone’s life than a half hearted token effort. These are all my problems that have to be resolved, I’m not sure they ever will be, but I’m trying to be better and make amends and be the bigger person, even when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I shouldn’t rely on anyone to help me through that, and I try not to, but I have done and those people are worth their weight in gold.
But they’re not the only ones I’m grateful for and lucky to have. There are complete strangers on twitter who have enriched my life, offered support, shown kindness, often more than my family have, and all those people in my phone have a special place in my heart. I’ve not been easy, not even on social media. I’ve blocked and unfollowed and soft blocked, and some of them have just returned, without so much as a cross word, and carried on as usual. I am so lucky, far luckier than I feel most days, far luckier than I deserve to be. Nobody owes me anything, I’m loud and feisty as well as being quiet and introverted, a complex, headstrong contradiction. And yet there are people who want to be around. WANT to. Not have to, not compelled to, not duty bound, but want to be there. Something even my own family have struggled with. Nothing is more baffling, surprising and terrifying for me.
I had my annual cry a couple of days ago. A really embarrassing sobfest where I indulged in self pity and thought back to all the things and people who had hurt me. It was a good 20 minutes of just being completely revolting, followed by shouting along to one of my favourite songs and I felt so much better for it. For now, I’m just trying to focus on the good things, the good people and all the things I’m lucky to have and take for granted. There is always something to be grateful for.