I’ve realised I’m my own worst enemy at times. I have very high standards and expectations for myself, and consequently I live most of my life feeling like a failure. I need to start accepting where I am right now, and not let it define who I am as a person. I need to stop telling myself what I should be doing / where I should be by now and respect how I’m feeling and what I need in this moment.
It’s taken a lot to get to this realisation. It’s involved conversations with people at work, family, as well as responses to my blogs… but I finally see that I have to put my wellbeing first. If that means distancing myself from people… having time away from work… going back to basics, then so be it.
I’ve got to the stage I no longer seem able to do my volunteering without harming myself, either when I get home or even while I’m there. My confidence has taken a massive knock and I need to start again to build it up. Several times I’ve tried to ease myself back in, but the only time it seemed manageable was when I worked upstairs, alone. Being around people is too overwhelming right now… and feeling like I’m useless and everything I do is wrong. The risk of getting things wrong, or being shown up in front of customers, it gives me awful anxiety. I don’t feel confident or happy. I used to be able to joke with them, and serve people… I felt I belonged and it helped me to feel better about myself. I feel like a totally different person at work now.
I feel like an alien. I feel everyone thinks I’m useless, as I can’t do the things I used to do. They can’t understand I’m different now, because my mental health has deteriorated. So many times I don’t go in now. And when I do go in I’m anxious, on-edge, I’m not as chatty. I avoid getting stuck serving people or dealing with customers. If there’s not much else to do I feel it’s pointless me being there, and I’m just getting in the way. I felt that way last week when I was told to go out the back if I wasn’t happy serving people. I went out the back and hurt myself.
I’m not going in anymore. Not at the moment. And when I do I need to talk to the manager and explain that I’m not feeling good at all, and need to start from the bottom and build up again. I just don’t feel I can have that discussion at the moment, as I don’t want it to be dismissed like it has been in the past. I feel as though nobody understands the severity of my mental illness, and people just think I’m being silly, and need to stay positive.
I’ve pushed myself to try and go back to work but I fall each time. I did speak to the manager at one point about it, as I felt I was letting her down, but she said I wasn’t, and that it’s fine to not come in, as I’m ill. And after a discussion with my nan the other day, I realise I have to look after myself. My problem is that I was always viewed as one of the ‘reliable’ ones. And now I feel they’ll see me as unreliable, for not going in and not being as useful. This may be the case, but it equally might not be. Maybe I’m piling this guilt and pressure on myself. I know that when I’m well I AM reliable. But I can’t control what I’m going through right now. I didn’t choose to be this unwell. If I had a choice I’d have continued to build my confidence, and volunteer, as it was helping. If being mentally ill makes me unreliable then fine, I’m unreliable. But as a person I’m reliable. It’s the illness that’s making me this way at the moment. I have to stop thinking my inability to work defines me as a person. When I’m mentally WELL I am a person probably capable of working quite well – reliable, trustworthy, honest, hard-working… these are my qualities. But when I’m unwell these qualities can’t shine. It doesn’t mean I’m the opposite though. It’s just a time I have to put myself first, in order to find those qualities again in the future. I have to stop beating myself up for my mental illness.
Likewise with friendships – I have a tendency to think I’m a rubbish friend as I can’t be there for people. I feel things became quite one-sided, as I feel it is on Twitter and with my experience of blogging right now too…. I feel like a ‘taker’, not a ‘giver’ – and I always used to be the other way round. I used to give and not get anywhere near as much in return. That was my way of life. But now I take what little I can get, and have nothing left to give. I write blogs, but I don’t so much read. I ask for help, but cannot give it. This makes me feel selfish. This in turn makes me feel I don’t deserve friendships. I don’t deserve help or care from friends, if I’m unable to return it. So I pull away. When I do that and nobody questions if I’m okay, I assume they hate me. I feel like nobody cares, and I don’t blame them. It’s a self-pitying cycle, but it’s started by my mental illness making me unable to do the things I did before.
I used to think I was a caring, giving, generous, thoughtful friend. But when I’m as ill as I am, I ‘split’ on myself and feel I’m an awful person to have as a friend. I have to start challenging this, and hold on to the hope that I’m still that person underneath… that I still have those qualities that make me a good friend, and that they’re just hidden from view because of the depth of my illness right now. I don’t know…. I fear I’ve been changed forever. What if I never find myself again?
I hate that my family have to see me go through all this again. Whenever I harm myself I initially hide it from them, but after a while I don’t worry about it so much – it helps that I have such an understanding and supportive family. I know they accept this as a part of my mental illness. They don’t judge me. They don’t think badly of me at all. But I know it must hurt them to see me this way…. hurting myself so much again. Every time I do it I feel guilty, and like I’m letting everyone down. I want them to see me getting better, succeeding and being happy. I don’t want them to see me like this. I’m not the daughter I once was. Not at the moment. In some ways I am, but in some ways my depression has changed me and I’m not as present as I used to be. I’m really hard on myself for this too.
But again, I have to stop seeing myself as a failure, and just deal with the here and now. I shouldn’t think about all the things I haven’t achieved by this age. I need to think of the things I have overcome… the small successes… the fact I’m still alive and trying my best to keep it that way. I have to let go of the frustration of going backwards in my recovery. I have to submit to it, and prioritise self-care in order to move forward in my recovery. It will take as long as it takes to get back on track. But if I keep fighting what I’m going through, it will take longer.
If I rush through the steps, putting that much pressure on myself to be ‘better’ for those around me, I will end up going nowhere, except perhaps further backwards. So for now my life will be different. It might sound ‘lazy’ or ‘irresponsible’ of me, but I will be taking a break from the pressures of life. I have become that ill that even my hobbies bring me no joy, so I stopped doing them. This is my starting point… for the last couple of days I have been focusing on trying to bring some enjoyment back into my life. As silly as it sounds I have been playing Animal Crossing on the Wii – a simple, chilled out game which brings me comfort. I’ve also been playing guitar almost every day. Writing is another thing I’m trying to do a bit more now.
As much as I should be focusing on work, or on taking up courses or exercise, I have to do what’s right for me at this point. For now this is what my soul needs. I will gradually build on it, by venturing out walking, or joining a group… but in my own time. I’ll hopefully start going out for my ‘write nights’ I used to do… going by myself for a hot chocolate in the evening, whilst writing poetry. Just little things that can build my confidence back up. And then hopefully I’ll gradually be able to be more present for friends, and to start back at work too.
I have to realise I’m ill. If someone had a serious physical illness, they would do what was necessary to recover. They’d rest and take their time to get back on their feet. I have to do the same for my mental illness. It’s not wallowing in it. It’s not using it as an excuse to do nothing. It’s not being weak. It’s being strong enough to recognise what my mind needs, and allowing myself to do it, without piling the guilt on myself.
Just as with a physical wound, you wouldn’t leave it gaping open, untreated, susceptible to infection… you’d patch it up… cover it… protect it… allow it to heal… and you wouldn’t pick at it and re-open it. You’d allow it to become a scar – making it something in the past. I have to allow my mind to heal before exposing it to more potential trauma. This is my theory. Some may disagree. But having tried the alternative and it only adding to my illness, I have to try something new. Some may call it avoidance, I call it self-preservation. If avoidance saves my life then it’s worth doing anyway. I have to protect my mind from the world for now. I have to allow it to heal.
I hope my friends will still be there once I come out the other side. If not then I’m sorry they couldn’t understand mental illness. Work will have to wait. I’ve been putting pressure on myself as next month my colleague won’t be in, so I felt I have to be there to help out the manager… but I will crack if I push myself to do that right now. So I have to do what’s right for me. And the best thing I can do for my family is to listen to my needs, and stop fighting them. Even if people tell me what I should be doing, or what ‘might help’ me – I have the right to say no. Only I know what will help me to pull myself out of this. And I should be allowed to try it my way, without being made to feel it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s a stepped approach – starting with hobbies / interests, to at least make me think there’s something good in life, worth living for… and then getting out… socialising and working… and then hopefully I’ll get back on track to taking the next steps, beyond where I got to before. I really have gone that far backwards that it is like starting again. And the first aim has to be to get back to where I originally was. It won’t happen overnight.
My mind… my ILLNESS is telling me many unhelpful things right now, about myself… about my friends… colleagues… the world. Some may be true – others not so much. That’s why I have to just let myself feel how I feel right now, and give myself some space from these things, so as not to react to my paranoid thoughts.
I know I may have upset or offended people in the last few weeks – or at least that’s what my mind is telling me. I’d never want that, and I’m sorry. I hope in time they’ll understand this is the trouble with mental illness. I hope they never find themselves in such a dire mess as me. I also have to run the risk that people at work will talk about me, or think of me as unreliable from now on. I have to accept that as part of my decision to focus on me. I can’t do both. I can’t be reliable to them, AND look after myself. Something’s got to give. And my reputation doesn’t matter as much as my mental health. Besides my character matters more, and my character is reliable. Who cares what people think and say about me? What I know about myself matters the most. And part of my break from life will be about reminding myself who I am when I’m well.
I will practise self-compassion and listen to what my soul is trying to tell me. It’s the only way I’m going to get well. Life will have to wait for now. I will take it a little at a time, at my own pace. It’s that or I won’t take it at all. But I’m choosing a slow recovery over a swift demise, and I hope those around me can accept this, and will stick by my side in my bid to get well.