The good, the bad and the ugly..

When you live with a mental illness or two, you find that things ebb and flow. Like the pull of the moon on the ocean. 

 Certain things can lift your mood right up and other things drag it so far down. Many people struggle most with the latter. No one really likes a low mood, whether you’re ‘

depressed’ or not, but some people actually struggle with the lighter side of things.

 You see, having depression does funny things to your brain, you begin to think that you shouldn’t ever be feeling happy if you have depression. When you’re coming out of a low slump and feel that little burst of ‘today isn’t that bad’ it can make you feel like a fraud.

Like your diagnosis, ‘your label’ is the be all and end all of your existence and that you should always fit into that stereotype. 

When people say things like ‘you don’t look depressed’ it could be fatal. That person may already be at the end of their tether. Using all the spare energy they can muster to put on a brave face and go out that day and you’ve just crushed everything with 4 little words. 

If you know someone with depression, or someone opens up about their mental illness, try to think before you make a flippant remark. Try ‘how are you doing?’ Or ‘do you need anything?’ 

Those 4 words can make a difference for the better – this gives you one person that cares. One person that is there for you that day and sometimes that is all it takes to change the mindset of a person. 

Please be nice to people, you don’t know what is going on under the surface, behind that bubbly smile. 
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are very real problems that are not as outwardly shown as other things. The death of person simply because they have a chemical imbalance that tells them death is the better option than tirelessly fighting a losing battle. I don’t think we will ever completely eradicate suicide, but we can certainly make huge progress towards making it less common. 
Right now, I’m doing moderately okay. I’m not jumping for joy but I’m also not planning the route the bridge. 

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.
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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.

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.