The importance of quiet. 

Life with depression can have an almost deafening silence or a ridiculous amount of noise to it. Everything can quickly get too much and out of control. It’s important to make time for you, to be ‘quiet’.

To sit and read or listen to music, have a bath watch a film, whatever it may be – make time to do that for yourself. Something that relaxes you a little but keeps you engaged enough that you’re not asleep. It’s good for your brain to have that little time focused on something that isn’t taxing.

Walk a mile in my shoes…

Every person in life will have a different journey. Though experiences may be similar, events, friends & family may be the same, the journey will always be different.

It’s all personal, the way each of us experience the same situations and encounter various people. We’re built up and broken down at different times and in different ways. You may be able to relate to certain things other people say, or do but you will never truly know exactly how the rest of the population experiences things.

People struggle with different things, and everyone has something they are dealing with, whether you know it or not. I happen to be very open with my mental illness journey, ergo many people already kind of know what’s going on with me. However, there are days and weeks where I don’t show just how I feel, where the wall goes up and the ‘smiley, I am okay’ Emily surfaces. This isn’t because I can’t say anything, but because I don’t want to.

I have gotten quite good at my Emily act and it’s very easy for my to keep the sensitive, troubled Emily Rose hidden away to the outside world. Many people who meet me are surprised when I reveal that I suffer with mental illness. It’s almost comical to see how their faces simply can’t compute the bubbly smile with an internal hatred of self. It’s a constant draining battle to keep that façade but ultimately, it’s the way of the world. Most people ask how you are as a pleasantry, not because they’re genuinely interested in the inner workings of your brain that day.

You see, despite most people knowing that I have mental illness, I still feel the stigma and I do feel [insert a million negative emotions] for the way certain things can completely change my mood. The happiest situations can still bring on a negative emotion in my head. Which is then followed with a butterfly effect of things that begin the anxiety fuelled spiral into the darkest depths of my beautifully broken brain.

I don’t think we will ever fully understand each other, but we still need to spend the time being open with those we trust. Sharing our experiences and feelings on the different things we all experience, even day-to-day things. It’s important to talk and to listen. To have that human connection and grow strong relationships with people who can help you along in your journey. To build each other up and support each other through the good and the bad times.

Walk a mile in my shoes!?  All this gets you is a mile travelled and possible sore feet because my shoes won’t fit you properly. However, your feet will heal and at the end of it, you won’t know me any better, you won’t feel anything like I feel.  My journey is mine and it’s never going to match yours.

 

To do

My to do list seems to be growing and growing and I seem to just be too poorly, or too exhausted to get anything done. I’ve been unwell for the whole of this week and it’s grinding me down. I’m fed up, I’m exhausted and my dog, bless his heart, is being a pain in the ass. 

So many things have gone wrong this year, a few things have gone right, but still the bad is outweighing the good. So much for 2017 being my year. Maybe next year, eh?! 

When did your mental illness start?

what is your mental illness story?

This is a really difficult question for most people to answer. I can’t actually pin point the time in my life where things went from Emily Rose to Me. I’ve always been quite a socially shy person, I’d prefer doing something more small group sized, rather than a nightclub or big gathering. I didn’t have trouble making friends as such because I had my friends I had grown up from nursery level schooling with me. I was bullied, I was in a school I didn’t particularly like because of that and my attendance was less than favourable to social services. I would say that secondary school was the time that my life changed the most. I lost more and more of my sparkle as the years have gone on. Despite holding down various great jobs, with some fantastic opportunity. My life hasn’t been unusually sad or negative. It’s probably an average life of a girl who was bullied. Yes it was hard – but I have always had supportive family & friends. Even if I have never really opened up about just how bad I feel on the inside.

In the years following education, I found myself turning down more and more social invitations and then they just stopped coming altogether. I was too ashamed to admit why it was I couldn’t come and would always just say I was unwell. I couldn’t find the words or the moment to open up to all the people closest to me and tell them what was going on and I pushed them all away. I isolated myself, I made excuses and fell deeper into the abyss. My depression ebbed and flowed, I functioned through life, but I always fizzled out any chance of social gatherings and preferred to spend a great deal of time hiding from the world.

I do know that my time living and working in London was a catalyst to throwing me into the worst cycle with my mental health – which is the current one. I came home – I moved back in with my parents and for the first 3 months I did very little in the way of work, apart from searching for a job. I started a healthy eating plan and I exercised regularly, almost daily. This was the summer of 2013. Then I fell, literally and figuratively, I tore all my ankle ligaments and was given a mobile cast thing, affectionately named ‘The Moon Boot’. It was a knee-high black boot that squeaked in the hinge if I walked too fast, so I had to really stop and just slow down. The week after that my granddad had a fall in his home, where he sustained a broken neck – a gruelling couple of days in hospital, a surgery to try to mend his neck and unfortunately a downward spiral which resulted in the decision that his life support should be switched off. That was probably the hardest moment I’ve ever endured in my life and one I relive in my mind on an almost daily basis. The feeling of guilt, of helplessness, of wondering if I could have done more to prevent the fall in the first place began eating me up, and it still does now.

I think that was the real turning point for me. I couldn’t get out to exercise in a time where it had been my saviour, of sorts, from myself. I couldn’t stop the feelings surrounding the death of my granddad. It was a vicious cycle of battles then I was going out less and less. The time between going out was increasing and my home became my sanctuary. The thought of leaving it became a horror story. To even go to the dustbins 6 foot from my front door was a mammoth task that resulted in 3 days of complete and utter exhaustion.
I spent almost 3 years in a perpetual state of fear about leaving my home. I probably left 3 or 4 times in that period. 2 of those I forced myself out of the house with all the might I could to attend family weddings. That was VERY hard. To put on a brave, happy face to all the people and relatives that you don’t always see, that hadn’t seen just how isolated my life had become. I did it though, so that was a massive accomplishment, but it came with  price tag. ‘Oh you went to so & so’s wedding, so you’re all right now’. No, no I am not cured because I managed to get outside.

I got offered my current job in March of 2014. That became my main focus, a distraction from myself and something I so desperately needed to keep me sane, to keep me from the deepest, darkest thoughts in my head. Of course, they still pop up and I still have days/weeks where I feel completely hopeless. I’m just this week coming out of a 5 week stint of utter despair. I am totally exhausted but I am still here.

I begged and begged my mum and dad to allow me to bring a puppy into the family home. I knew I needed something that would force me to get outside, whether I liked it or not, and finally in June 2016 he came home.
img_2039
Einstein, June 2016 aged 9 weeks.

This tiny little four-legged fur ball was my ticket to the outside world, I have to go outside numerous times a day for toilet break and for walks. I have to do it for him, he depends on me to do it. Do you know what? I do. Every. Day. Sometimes we only go in the garden, and I do still hover by the door. Sometimes we go to the park behind my house and sometimes we venture as far as a whole mile away. This might not seem like much, but to me it is incredible. I feel proud of myself for going out there. I even go to the post office and the local shops – on my own. Yes it is still scary, yes the deafening silence in my ears is still there. My heart still pounds, my palms are almost always sweating and I constantly feel like I’ve swallowed a 5 tonne weight that is stuck in my throat and simultaneously pulling its way through my digestive system. It’s never easy and I am definitely not cured but this little puppy is slowly bringing my confidence in the outside world back. I know that I will never be the same person I was, and I am happy with that. I just want to get my life back, one tiny step at a time.

Working with Mental Illness.

When people hear I have a job and that I am also self employed after hearing I have mental illnesses they seem to get this puzzled look. Which they’re desperately trying to hide. Simultaneously replying with something utterly patronising, all whilst trying not to sound patronising. For me it’s half hilarious and half humiliation. Like, of course I have a job, I’m normal?! 

Inside my head my brain whirring away ‘but you’re not normal. How do you have a job?! Of course people think that of you, you idiot.’ I then spend the rest of the day, completely off sorts while internally hurling abuse at myself about my incapability to be a human in society. So that’s always fun…not(!)
‘Oh so you have a proper job then?’ 

Yes I have a “proper” job. I compete tasks and work my shifts. Then it actually pays me at the end of the month, complete with payslips and shock horror I pay taxes too. Maybe that’s because I’m still a person and my mental health isn’t an excuse “to be lazy, like the others.” 

Let’s just address that statement quickly. 

No one with mental illness is ‘lazy’. Most of us haven’t had a decent night sleep in god knows when and spend our waking hours in a constant fight or flight mode that makes it feel like you’ve run a marathon then hopped in the ring with Tyson for an added battering. 

Secondly – I wouldn’t wish my mental illness on anyone, especially not people like you, who evidently would ‘make the rest of us look bad with your amazing work ethic.’ 

Finally – Having a job works for me, that is because I have found my ways of making it work for me and I am very fortunate in my working situation. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else. Mental illness doesn’t work like that. It’s different for every person and every person has different situations. Don’t be so quick to judge and stop writing mental illness off. 
Now that’s dealt with, back to working with mental illness. I am VERY lucky to have my job, it allows me to work from home and is flexible to allow me to mooch off for a screen break if I need. It’s part time and I work varying length shifts on a two week rota. I can prepare myself for my hours. I try and get an early night but let’s be honest we all know that just means getting into bed earlier than normal, tossing and turning for longer than usual and analysing the paint on the ceiling in greater depth. 

When I’m not working there I am – usually in bed trying to catch up on that elusive sleep – also self employed. This is hard because I generally have many periods of zero motivation. Luckily it isn’t my main source of income and is more of a paying hobby for the most part. It’s hard to motivate myself to work, when I’m my own boss and I’m not likely to sack myself. I do however beat myself up if I spend an extra hour or five in bed when I should be doing paperwork or painting or packing an order. I do a lot of my work at odd hours but that works for me. It doesn’t pay millions but it does help me feed the dog and buy the ocassional pretty thing. 

So yes I do work, no you don’t need to look/act/sound so damn surprised by that. ‘Good for me right?!’ 

Can you describe your life with mental health?

I am Emily Rose and I am me. We are the same but we are different.

Well, yes and no.

Yes – It’s a life, lived by a real person, just like yours. I have a job (well two), I have a dog, I have friends and family. For the most part I function, sometimes very well and sometimes not at all. I’m not disabled or incapable, I just take the scenic route sometimes, but the world is more beautiful that way. Mental health often closes doors for people, but that doesn’t stop you opening a window and taking in the view!

No –  Simply because mental health is complicated. It isn’t just one thing or a group of things in the moment. It’s different things, all the time, every moment. One minute can be one thing and the next it’s a million other things. If I had to pick 1 word to describe it I would say ‘Exhausting‘.

It’s draining, all the time – even on a good day, because there is always the fear of it creeping in and taking hold of me at any moment. It’s the need to put out the ‘happy’ face to the world. To be on my guard, have my walls up and be on high alert ALL THE TIME is a constant, exhausting battle with myself.

I think most people with a mental health problem would understand the infinite struggle with being tired, feeling drained and never seeming to get enough sleep, at least once along the journey.

I think that is part of the problem, and why many people think we can simply just ‘cheer up’ or that saying ‘it’s not that bad’ is actually useful. It isn’t. I am well aware that there are people in poorer situations, with bigger problems. I can, believe it or not, see the big picture. I have a chemical imbalance, my eyes work just fine, thank you.

If you are in a position where a person has opened up to you about their mental health, don’t make a silly off the cuff remark about it being a phase, or about how you felt sad once, or ‘oh so & so had this, that and the other’.  Just, don’t be a dick, okay?

Lend an ear, give a hug, ask if there is anything that you can do to help.
Let them know that you are grateful they chose to open up to you and tell them that you love them no matter what, because usually that’s just about the best thing you can say.