Openly talking about depression #3 – The nasty reality of suicide

I try to take at least a 2 minute silence every day for the people I’ve lost in my life. My first encounter with suicide was when my best friend killed herself when I was 12 years old. She was 13 nearly 14. The age gap between me and my sister meant at that age she was at University and Sian was like a surrogate sister to me, she made sure I was fine and she looked after me at school and she was the missing piece in my life. We went through Brownies and Girl Guides together and we went on camping trips and I could never have asked for a better friend. She helped me with homework and we’d build dens and she would make people know that if they upset me that they had to deal with her.

When we moved from primary school she was being bullied for her nationality by some girls in her year and then all of a sudden she was gone. I’d moved to a different school and I found out she’d left us when I got home and one of my friends was banging on my door and crying. My world shattered, this strong, ethereal being that had so suddenly come into my life and been like family had as quickly been dragged away.

It’s a weird age to comprehend that someone could push another human being so far that they only had one way out. I didn’t understand that people didn’t consider the consequences of their actions. I’d been bullied, and a lot of people go through it so I knew the misery, and in my head I thought it had to have been 100x worse for her to have been that sad. I presumed it was the amount of bullying that had done it and the severity, not that her inner conflict would be a drastic part in it.

I learnt that in High School, the bullying could be a day or a month or one comment but that is going to spiral within you so intensely that the amount isn’t the one cause. I’m not saying bullying isn’t sadistic and immature, just that some people mentally can deal with it better than others. I was threatened a lot at High School by a couple of girls, I’d never known misery that deep, not sadness, but complete isolation and self loathing, ‘why me’ ‘why now’ ‘am I that easy to put down.’ The lame thing is those girls probably don’t even remember it, and if they do then I forgive them and hope they matured into wonderful adults that have worked off that bad karma and those insecurities.

High School was the first time I’d considered killing myself. Not a ‘I’m so sad I want to die’ but a ‘this is when everyone’s out of the house, here are the letters to my family, fuck this’

Suicidal thoughts come in waves, and then you start getting inventive, and it becomes so natural. That’s the scariest part of depression and mental health problems, it is your normal, you don’t know any other way of thinking, because it’s probably always been there, so you have a day you’re ready to throw yourself out of a car? That’s standard because you considered it last week. I don’t know what it’s like to not want to kill myself, how wild is that?

I’ve lost 2 people in my life to suicide. I’ve seen the devastation it’s caused, I’ve seen the grief and the loss and although I’m stubborn, I somehow still can’t let myself do that to other people. I may convince myself they wouldn’t care but I’ll be damned if I ever put my mum, dad, or sister through that kind of sadness. Because it’s my sadness, mine to carry and mine to resolve, not mine to spread to the people I love. They may help carry the burden and they may get exhausted but I would never pass it over to them, I won’t hand it over and say “HERE, this is yours now because I am done with it”

Everyone’s seen suicide statistics for their country, everyone knows it’s a problem and especially among young people. I celebrated my 18th birthday without my best friend because she couldn’t physically go on anymore and now we’re in a time where people are more open and freely talking about their problems and I don’t want anyone to have to go through that too. I don’t want anyone to think they’re being silenced or wouldn’t get taken seriously. If you are ready to throw in the towel and call it quits then you don’t have to keep quiet. No one would judge you.

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The power of intense emotions and how my brain deals with that…

So I’ve said before that I tend to ‘check out’ which is never ideal, but it’s a fact of my life and you know, it could be worse, when there’s starving children in the world and terminal illness, in reality I’ve been handed a pretty minor situation to deal with.

Hearing and seeing things…

Hallucinations may not be as mad as you think, it’s not all green elephants and imaginary fires. Mine mainly consist of music, music that isn’t there, auditory hallucinations are fun and irritating at the same time. It gets excessive when I’m stressed, so exams in school were the most infuriating thing, how am I supposed to sit a 3 hour humanities exam when I have Blondie blasting in my brain?? (Yes, Blondie, the woman is my hero) and I’m not talking that faint ‘can I hear music?’ it’s like having a radio on full blast, a home one, not a car, I’d have lost my shit long ago if it was on par with a nightclub. It isn’t so bad, but how loud it is totally depends on my emotional levels, if I’m freaking out with stress then it’s LOUDDDD and lasts for a while. If I’m just a little stressed then it’s tolerable and fades out after about an hour. It’s the same feeling as when all the blood rushes to your head…but sound…if that makes it easier for anyone to figure out what in the living heck I’m talking about.

The less appealing one is spiders, I see spiders a lot, spiders that aren’t there, brain’s are such funny things, evidently I’m terrified of them, if I was just seeing puppies then who would really win? The answer is me, I would. But alas, no, spiders. Big ol’ scary, creepy ass spiders. On walls, floors, in my bag, on me, on other people, on planes, in cars, in my shoes. Yeah, that one blows, I’m not a fan of it, but that one’s been taking a backseat for a while, it used to happen every day, now it’s like once a month, so it isn’t the worst.

Then the winner of the situation…*drum roll here* I forget what me and my family look like, and friends. I will look in the mirror or at photos and I haven’t got a clue who that person is. Have you ever had to relearn your face? It’s weird and uncomfortable. Sometimes I think my parents are strangers, because I don’t know who I’m looking at, I don’t know if it’s classed as a hallucination or disassociating but it takes me a while to figure it out, every time, and it’s the most common one that happens. It clicks after a while but sitting there looking at your social media and not recognising anyone is seriously the weirdest thing I’ve ever dealt with.

Hella mood changes…

Mood swings go from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds, I’ll be happy and excited and ready to take on the day then BOOOOOM I’m crying in Tesco. Yeah. I love it, keeps me on my toes, keeps me interesting I guess. Or I’ll be a bit blah about my day and then all of a sudden I want to punch a wall, for no real reason, I’m just angry.

Acting out…

Actively hurting myself used to be a massive issue, that’s the only way I knew how to control my emotions, but even in my worst states now I still fight that urge and haven’t done it in a couple of years. I used to hit myself in the face as well, that was excessive, and annoying and I’m glad I’ve reconditioned myself not to do it. I would scratch, like deep. I’ve had friends that would break fingers when they were dealing with their intense stuff, sometimes it’s the only way you think you can deal with everything, and I’m not saying it’s ridiculous or questioning why people do it because I am ‘people’ but there are other ways and once you learn that and learn new ways to cope then you find yourself doing it less and less and finding rational coping mechanisms that don’t involve physically hurting yourself.

I guess the whole way my brain deals with situations is a little mad, and if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, like, I know I make things sound pretty nonchalant and chilled out but it is a problem, and people suffer with it, I completely get that, because I do, but if I don’t make a positive outcome from it then it would take over my life. There’s always new ways to positively deal with every situation.

 

Openly talking about depression #2 – What the ‘bad days’ are like

That’s what the world sees, someone who is sad and lost and angry.

I know a lot of people think that us depressives spend our down times crying or screaming or angry or hurting ourselves but in all honesty, I would probably class those as the good days. For me, personally, the really rough times are the ones when you don’t feel anything, I don’t even feel human when I’m down. I won’t cry, I won’t be angry, I won’t feel sad, I just don’t feel. I literally don’t care about anything, myself, my family, my friends, my interests, my work, nothing.

I always class my rock bottom as losing time, because I do, it can last half an hour or it can last for months, and that’s time that I’ll never have back, that’s time stolen from me because I don’t tend to do anything, or when I do I don’t remember it, I have no memories of it, it’s like an out of body experience, things are happening but I’m just not present. Now, coming out of that state, that’s when the shit shall hit’th the fan, that’s the anger, the sadness, the need to feel. That’s the stuff that is actively being seen, that’s what the world sees, someone who is sad and lost and angry. The part they never see is the internal suffering, and that’s a lot of what depression really is, yeah sure we can externalise our feelings but we can never really sum up what’s happening on the inside.

I love art, art has helped me with so much in my life and the worst part about the down times is that I can’t even enjoy it, and that’s what really gets to me about the numb part of it all, things I’m in love with just because some mediocre stuff that I don’t care about. I never reply to my friends, I don’t talk to my family, I’m useless when I’m at work, and nothing makes me happy, for me that’s really what defines depression.

Don’t get me wrong, the extreme feelings are horrific as well, but at least they make me feel vaguely human, I’m not in control of them and that’s terrifying and exhausting but I’m present, and I’m feeling, and I’m not a shell of a human. As much as I know rock bottom doesn’t last forever it’s really hard to convince yourself of that when you’re there.

But unfortunately rock bottom is a fact of life, and coming to terms with it or fighting it is all down to how you deal with it, there’s no right or wrong way, there’s no handbook, there’s just survival and will power and even if you lose hope there is always a silver lining and things can get easier to deal with, possibly even better. No one is going to come along and teach you exactly how to cope, but you will learn from mistakes, you will meet people that help you to become more in-tune with your brain. We’re a family, we look out for each other, and all the stigma attached to depression needs to be kicked in the ass because we are strong, we are focused, we are dealt a shitty hand but it’s that shitty hand that makes us who we are. If I could go back and never have to deal with all the stuff I’ve dealt with then I wouldn’t be who I am now, and that’s something I would never change.

 

THE GREAT BIG WIDE WORLD OF DATING…

Hello my lovely hindered souls, I am rubbish at keeping this going but apparently I’ve been trying to sort out my entire life, and will be writing up quite a few posts over the next couple of days and getting those on here.

LET’S. TALK. DATING.

Dating is this weird mix of fear, happiness, and self loathing, we all know that, and as much as the ‘Find you a man that can do both’ meme has been hanging about, we are a whole different breed of daters.

Dating is a whole mess of unknown for everyone, but when it comes to the spectrum of mental health we are hiding way more than our ‘inner crazy’…

Men/Women/Gender Neutral partners that aren’t clued up on mental health are sometimes going to question a lot of what we do, for me it’s wanting to spend time alone, serious trust issues, panic attacks, paranoia, ‘episodes’ and over sharing. Sometimes they think we are in need of being fixed, and that they can do it, that they make us happy so we shouldn’t be feeling anything other than that, sometimes we get smothered when we need someone to let us breathe. We aren’t difficult to date, not by a long shot, it’s just harder explaining to someone how our brain works and why this lack of chemicals or brain activity/excess brain activity/different part of the brain activity/THERE ARE DRAGONS ON THE CEILING kind of brain activity, makes us act differently to others.

So part of my situation involves over sharing…stated earlier…which means I’m what I like to call ‘aggressively honest’ essentially after knowing people for all of a day I will open up like fricking Pompeii about everything going on with me. Dating is definitely an experience for the other person involved, if you ever wanted to date someone that can hear Katy Perry singing from literally nowhere then hello, welcome to the blog, you’ve found me, if you want to know my life from the age 5+ and every single aspect of my mental health and emotional spectrum then talk to me for 24 hours and you’ll know it all. Want a girlfriend that locks herself in any available free room to have a panic attack? BINGO BANGO. Oh and if we’re dating then, even if you’re not, you’re always cheating on me, you can always do better, you’re dating me as a dare or for a joke, you’re with me to get close to someone I know, and my favourite so far is that I’ve been convinced someone was dating me to get a job?? Thanks brain.

There are pros and cons of dating people that do and don’t know about mental health, people that do will over analyse your actions and assume they know (every single person is different mental health wise, even if 2 people are depressed, brains work differently) which can get excessive, if not annoying sometimes if they act on what they think rather than what’s going on with you. But on the other hand they are aware that sometimes things will happen and there are right and wrong ways to react to that. People that don’t, you are going to have to spend some time teaching them a little bit about it and how it affects you, and that all comes down to how you personally are with your beautiful individuality.

DATING OTHER PEOPLE ON OUR SPECTRUM

There probably aren’t enough words in the English language to express the difficulties of dating within our circle, and the magical sense of compatibility you can also feel from dating within the circle. For anyone that has dated in the gang, you’ll probably know the heartbreaking truth of what it’s like when it doesn’t work or when things go wrong, or you may know what it’s like to find your soulmate. What I am trying to express is the ways in which a manic depressive can rub off onto another manic depressive, or the way someone with anxiety can change the thoughts of someone with an OCD, how BPD can be hindered by depression, how a narcissist is going to turn your world upside down. Recovery is a very fragile time, and a lifelong process for most ( ‘Recovery’ being used here for everything that depletes you of all emotional energy, will power, focus, drive and so forth, also for all our hims/hers/theys/yous that recover physically from their inner battles) some of us are more susceptible to pressure and picking up habits, some of us get so wrapped up in others feelings that we start feeling them for ourselves, so if you are two beings spending a lot of time together regularly then, like in any other relationship, you start mimicking each other, which can be life changing or devastating depending on what chapter of your experience you’re in.

DATING ANYONE WILL BE AN ADVENTURE

and that’s the damn truth, you’ve just gotta put in the time to really express how you are and what you need, when you need to. You don’t have to hide anything about yourself, you don’t have to dilute your existence for anyone.

ALL YOU NEED TO REMEMBER IS THAT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY AND YOU NEED PEOPLE THAT CREATE A GLORIOUS HARMONY WITH THAT AND NOT GO AGAINST IT. THAT ANYONE THAT BLAMES YOU FOR HOW YOU ARE IS NEVER WORTH YOUR ENERGY AND THAT YES SOME PEOPLE ARE TRASH BUT PEOPLE WILL LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY FOR WHO YOU ARE AND YOU NEVER EVER SETTLE BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH THE STARS IN THE SKY.

For anyone reading that is reading this because they are with someone that is part of our cult (yes every name for ‘group’ will be used, cult feels extra but I’m not mad at it either) then you can very easily clue yourself in on some minor details of what they have online, trust medical sites or medical studies (studies in psychiatry or psychology will be what you’re looking out for, cognitive not social) First person accounts are trickier because they will be biased on how that person’s mental health is part of their life not a general overview. Remember anything you read about mental health disorders and varieties of, will list a whooooooooooole heap of stuff that comes with it and some people are only affected by some of the stuff on that list, it’s not like a cold where it’s obvious what someone has because of specific ‘symptoms.’ And patience is your best friend with everything, it would be like getting mad at someone with Tourettes for their tics you know? We can’t magically make it disappear.

How Social Anxiety gets me out of things I don’t want to do but stops me enjoying the things I actually do.

I’m here for anyone that needs someone

The NHS describes it as “Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a persistent and overwhelming fear of social situations.”

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I’ve been socially anxious for a majority of my life, only over the past 4/5 years have I actually figured out what it meant and why I was like it. Anxiety of any form is the most common thing people deal with, and for those who don’t it does just look like we’re introverts and shy, or antisocial.

As a kid I was always out of the house, I loved going out and playing in parks and talking to my friends and exploring ‘new land.’ As I got older I found myself getting anxious about being out of the house alone, it was way more evident in my High School years, but like any pre-teen I assumed it was something to do with puberty, or my new found self awareness, like the only reason I didn’t want to be outside is because people were now looking at me because I wasn’t a child anymore. I was suddenly an adult, in my own eyes, and that meant people were judging me, my height, my weight, what I was wearing, how my hair looked, if I was wearing makeup etc etc. Like any person I got on with it, I would go to school, get on buses, go to the shops, by myself and then all of a sudden that turned into what I can only explain as a blind panic, the thought of walking 30 feet to the shop near my house was without a doubt the most terrifying thing in the world. I couldn’t walk anywhere without knowing someone was meeting me, going to friends houses wasn’t a fun thing to do anymore because I wasn’t in my own space. I couldn’t sleep if I was at someone else’s house, I hated answering the phone, so I just ignored it. Later on that turned into ‘I am not going there unless I am with someone I am comfortable with’ ‘I’m not going unless one of my parents drops me off.’

If I had to walk to someones house then I wouldn’t go, if my mum asked me to go to the shop I would cry, I started having panic attacks in busy places, I couldn’t even spend time with family unless I was next to my mum the entire time. Social situations petrified me, staying at home was my safe place, and even with saying that it got to a point where I was only comfortable in my bedroom alone. There is nothing more disappointing than going from an adventurous 9 year old to a 13/14 year old that’s too scared to go downstairs in her own house.

I swear the worst part was during High School actually, because my school was quite far out, it meant a majority of my friends were 30 minute bus journeys away, I’d force myself onto buses (providing I had headphones) or was on the phone to my friends for the entire time, but I would beg my parents to pick me up once it was later. High School is a terrible time anyway because you’re finding out who you are, you’re determined to be known and make friends, you want to be in the popular crowd and even more you kind of just want it to be over. Making friends was pretty easy, like I said, the most common misconception is that we’re introverts, and sometimes we are, but I’m not, I enjoy making friends, I enjoy hanging out with people and learning about them, I’m loud and a bit odd, and I come alive in groups, so the frustration of your brain physically not letting you be like that is unbearable. Imagine wanting to be that person but the kind of person you are is someone that is too scared to even ask a teacher to go to the toilet.

I had a lot of friends in school, and I knew a lot of people but it never stopped the fact that all I could think about was the fear of doing anything perceived as ‘normal’ It isn’t a case of “the more you go out of your comfort zone the better it will be” or “once you’re outside you’ll be fine” it felt like the more I tried to force myself to do then the worse it got. At college, well GCSE’s, all I did was focus on studying and tried to keep my head down, but what I didn’t know back then is that stress plays a MASSIVE factor in anxiety. I missed exams, I’d hide at home instead of going to school and I started getting really weird with all my friends. Some days were better than others but there was (and still is) that voice in your head that just screams RUN, walking into a room didn’t involve finding who or what I was there for, it involved finding the exits or an excuse to leave, it was internal screaming because in my head the entire room was staring at me and thinking negative thoughts, it was trying to figure out when people laughed why they were laughing at me, it was thinking about the uncontrollable discomfort to being there in the first place, it was trying to remind myself how to talk to other humans. I spent 2 years being essentially a mess, all I did was cry when I got home, I never did anything, but I still thought that’s exactly how everyone else reacted to those kinds of situations. Even having friends I never felt like they actually liked me, almost as if it was some kind of joke that they were my friends, that in a weeks time they’d turn around and laugh at me for being stupid enough to think they’d like me as a person.

After my GCSEs it seemed to take a backseat for a while, I was so focused on getting my shit together and sorting out my A Levels, that it didn’t actively get in the way for around 6-8 months, and it was pretty much the calm before the storm I guess, I started having panic attacks once or twice a day. Sometimes during school hours which involved running away to hide in the toilets (with post 16 giving us the freedom to not have to ask to go anymore) sometimes at home, I had a few when I was just walking down the street. It wasn’t pretty. I inevitably dropped out, stopped doing my AS Levels, had my dad call in on the day of an exam and tell them I’d quit and wouldn’t be coming in anymore.

I ended up starting at a new Art college in Hinckley, BTEC course so no stress of exams, all Art subjects which meant my passion for it could really blossom. Got through my first year with really no issues, I was calm, I was happy to be expressing myself, I loved my tutors and my group, they were such a phenomenal and inspiring group to be around. We spent a weekend in Paris, which a year before that would’ve been absolutely impossible. I was happy and contempt, with the odd occasion of walking into a room and getting a sense of dread, but the moment I could hide behind a Mac, camera, paintbrush, chalk, whatever the medium, I managed to keep the ‘flight reaction’ pretty quiet. I turned 18, got a part time job in a nightclub, started earning some money so I could actually enjoy going out and doing things. Juggling studying and working wasn’t too hard, every now and again I would have to pull an all nighter just to get coursework finished but that’s not unheard of. Then the panic attacks started happening at work, my 10 minute 2am break would involve crying in a staff room or toilet or something ridiculous. I had to go and do an English exam at the Warwickshire Campus one day and BOYYYYYYYYYYYYYY the night before I was shaking, I wanted to be sick, I was adamant I wouldn’t go until one of the girls on my course, being the angel that she is, offered to come with me and show me where I was going, it wasn’t bad when I got in there because I was literally the only person in the room so there were no distractions, apart from obviously assuming the invigilator thought I was a moron, would be telling staff about a fat girl that came in to do an exam, the girl that breathed too loudly, you know, the norm.

I managed to make it through my first year in Hinckley, and started my second, but about 3 months into it I just lost any kind of focus I had, all my passion for art went away, I was working around 5 nights a week as well, I’d be awake for 2 days straight and then try to find the energy to work or study and I just couldn’t. I dropped out of school again, and decided that earning money would benefit me way more even if it did mean I would spend all night ready to cry or crying. I ended up having the biggest argument with my mum while she was working away in London in which she told me I would be the “fuck up” my whole family already thought I was. I’d occasionally go out with friends but after the 4th night out in a row that involved me having massive panic attacks in club toilets I decided that it wasn’t for me anymore. I quit my job after a while and stopped doing anything. I think I spent, in total, 4 months in my bedroom, I didn’t talk to anyone, I ignored my phone, I’d lie to my parents and say I was talking to friends so they wouldn’t worry.

Social Anxiety makes you feel incredibly lonely, you could have a million friends but you’ll always convince yourself they hate you, you cut yourself off from everyone, you stop being social, you’re always uncomfortable.

My parents eventually convinced me to get another job, it was a shitty agency job behind a bar, so I’d work events, the people I worked with were awful, they weren’t welcoming at all, everyone was out for themselves, that’s the issue with 0 hours, the more staff then the less shifts you get. It just felt like another blow to the already judgemental thought process I had going on, because these people, in fact, did not like me. I spent another couple of months shut away, then I worked in various bars, although the hours messed with me a lot, bar work never gave me the time to worry about anything else, you just make drinks, take their money, and then your shift’s over and you go home.

My anxiety has definitely calmed down over the past 2 years, the more I learnt about it and the more I could be in control then the easier it got to deal with. I still look for exits whenever I go anywhere, I still get the dread in my stomach before I go somewhere but I hit a point where I nearly missed out on a year of my life through fear of being out and around people. I’ve had one conversation with my family about it maybe 2ish years ago but we haven’t talked about it since;

Not that I’m slating them at all, they’re amazing, they just don’t understand it, and it’s hard for them to relate in any way to how I get, even after many comparisons of “it’s like when you’re afraid of snakes and see one, but instead of snakes it’s when my phone rings or I have to go somewhere, or I’m around people”

I now travel and backpack, I organise trips away with friends for a weekend, I can go shopping on my own sometimes, not always, probably never always, and when I do I have to be on the phone, but it’s progress. I can jump on a train and head off to see friends and I can answer my phone. What I’m saying, is that any stage of social anxiety you find yourself in, there is a way to get to a point where you’re in control a majority of the time, I still panic in big crowds and I always think people are staring but I don’t runaway anymore. It’s a daily struggle most of the time and it makes you stronger as a person, it humbled me, I can pick out people in a crowd that have that look on their face and I immediately know they’re anxious, I’ve talked people through panic attacks, and I’ve helped people find a way to get through anxious situations. I’m always aware of everyone’s body language when I’m in a group, I pay attention to the people I know need it.

I just hope this helps someone who’s in a similar situation, or at least offers them some comfort that they aren’t alone. Your friends love you, talking about it can help, especially so you don’t have to think of lies to tell people for why you can’t go somewhere or do something, because personally now I can just say “I’m not in the right head space for that today” or “my anxiety will not let me do that” and for me that’s such a healthier way of coping. You don’t need to hide it, and it’s never something you need to be ashamed of. I’m more than happy to talk to anyone who wants to know about it, or needs to just vent some worries, I have my email on my contact page so you can send me a message and you can even ask me to delete it straight after or not reply, I’m here for anyone who needs someone.