S’mental innit, mental health. I have seen so many posts today about the topic, and know my addition is just another piece of thread out there in the tapestry of the internet, where there are thousands of more interesting people telling thousands of more interesting stories, but I have spent so much money on therapy to convince myself that I’m worth just as much as other people that it seems a shame to waste it by keeping my mouth shut today.
My mental health has – like so many people – been a little up and down. Low points include taking all the pills I could find in the house when I was 14 (though that just gave me the shits, and a lot of shame) begging someone who’d just punched me in the face to forgive me despite not knowing what I’d done so wrong, and repeatedly moving house at the drop of a hat, quitting jobs, fleeing friendships, and starting afresh as if a few hundred miles could cure all my woes, forgetting that I would be taking myself along for the ride, so was unlikely to leave behind my issues…
I don’t know when it was that I first began to accept that, actually, I’m not broken, not damaging, not impossible to love, but am just a bit dramatic and maybe need to take some medication to hush those voices, and get a bit of perspective. That perspective gave me space to work on the mistakes I kept repeating, work out what it was I was trying to run away from, and build myself some more solid foundations just in time to be the kind of mother my amazing (infuriating, challenging, delicious) kids need as I became a single parent to them.
That was my fault too – it would be so easy to blame every problem in my marriage on my ex husband, but actually, two people wholly unsuited to each other and to marriage gave it a shot, and both cocked it up. I don’t carry anger towards him for his parts, nor do I berate myself daily for my own – but I acknowledge that I wasn’t at all ready to be in that situation, and needed to work on my own issues much more before I was ready to be in a proper, grown-up relationship. It’s still a work in progress; I’m still a work in progress – but as long as I remember to take those little pills, I’m getting there.
I know that I had some significant contributing factors to my problems – the things that happened to me left me with PTSD, and that’s something I’ve worked through with a counsellor – and it took me a number of attempts to find the right counsellor, to find the right time in my life, and to be strong enough to actually face those things and work through them. I think counselling is the most magnificent thing I’ve ever done, and I’m incredibly proud of myself – and phenomenally grateful to the wonderful woman who guided me through the journey.
And it has been a journey. I have travelled a long way and now, when I look back, I recognise the girl I was, the face in the photos, the feelings in the angsty poems and strange, late night ramblings – but I don’t know how to connect with her. It’s like bumping into someone I once knew and have lost touch with; nice to catch up, but there’s no friendship there – because she’s not me. She isn’t someone I can really remember being – can really connect to – because those feelings are so far away now. The anger and fear and crippling doubt belong to someone else.
I’m still very anxious – I still throw up whenever I feel a big feeling, and I have nightmares that throw me out of my sleep and keep me awake until dawn from time to time – but they are once every few weeks now, not a few times a week – and as long as I take my citalopram, I’m able to handle it.
Anxiety is an arsehole, and it has a huge impact on physical health – people think that mental health just means it’s all in your head and you can shake it off – but your brain controls every other part of your body, and if you can’t keep hold of your thoughts, they take over everything else. The physical impact of anxiety and stress is immense – and taking control over it means you have to battle your own body and mind every day.
Sometimes it’s easy – but usually, not so much. It’s a choice you have to make every day, and every day I toy with the idea of giving in, just for a minute, just for a little while, and letting it snow me under – but I know it’s easier to battle on than it is to dig my way back out of the hole, so I pull up my socks and get on with it. I’m lucky that, right now, I can do that – there have been so many days before when I couldn’t.
So – today is world mental health awareness day. I am aware of mental health. Of my own mental health, of the mental health of the people I love, and the impact that it has on their physical health. I am aware – and I am grateful for how far I’ve come, for the people who stayed with me through the dark days, and for the beautiful family I have around me now that I feel like I’m worth their love.