I’ve started another mini series about what it’s like to spend a day living with different mental health problems.
This post is written by Emma who is involved with ECBC Manchester, a non-profit organisation running events in Manchester for people with mental health problems. She is talking about depression. Check out the other posts in this series too about mania, anorexia, orthorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder and emotionally unstable personality disorder.
I don’t normally do this, but I’m putting a content warning on these posts. They might be difficult to read for people who are experiencing or are in recovery from any of the topics I’ll be discussing. However, it’s very important to me that the raw, painful truth of mental illness is exposed. There are many, many examples of mental illness being glamourised in the media, but that’s not the reality we live with day to day. I’m hoping it wont be, but some of the content might be triggering.
The alarm goes off. I set three because I know I won’t get up for another hour. Mornings are when I really struggle. I try and use my first minute of the day thinking of positive things. Often this lasts 10 seconds and then I over-think about everything negative that could happen and then tell myself it’s best I don’t leave my bed today. I often use this time wisely to try and come up with over-dramatic ideas of how I could die in this bed without actually killing myself. Perhaps I have a condition where I just die in my sleep, no one can hate me for dying in my sleep! I also live directly next to a train track – maybe a train could de-rail and hit our flat, killing me instantly. No one could blame me for that either. But then that means other people dying and I don’t want that.
This over-thinking usually lasts longer than it should before I can tell myself I need breakfast. Cereal usually, not too much to prepare and it means I can go back to my favourite place – my bed – and eat it. Do I need to shower today? It’s been 2 days since I last did and my hair definitely needs a good wash….. nah I’ll wait until I smell. I probably already do but I’ve lost the will to care. I’ve got 10 minutes until I have to leave to work, so that means I really have 20 minutes before I leave and then I’m really late to work. I’ll just shove on some clothes and hope they look like I care. Maybe if I wear some lipstick people will think I’m having a good day.
I leave my bed unmade, with greasy hair, unironed unfresh clothes and set off for work. I can’t remember the last time I looked in the mirror and liked myself. Or the last time I smiled, like really smiled not fake-smiling. I drive to work, only 10 minutes but I pray that I get hit or something happens so I don’t have to go to work today and face people.
Once I arrive I can see people looking at me, just a passing look or maybe a ‘morning’ but in my head they are judging me. I don’t care, but I get angry at myself for not caring. I should care. I used to. I sit myself at my desk and dare myself to open my emails. How many people are calling me trash today I wonder. I count down the days until I am fired, see how far I can push people until they are rid of me because I can’t even get out of bed.
When the work phone starts to ring I get this painful feeling in my stomach, who is it? What do they want? What have I done wrong? What can I say? I hide in the back kitchen, waiting until someone else has dealt with the problem. Counting down the minutes until someone comes in to find me and asks me why I’m waiting here. I make a cup of tea to avoid this. I go back to my desk and stare into space, ignoring my phone and trying to push away my negative thoughts. People talk to me, I do my usual ‘I’m okay’ face and try and chat back. I’m empty, numb for most of the day – my depression and anxiety battling one another. Anxiety waiting for a reaction, depression waiting for the dark.
I often get pulled in to speak to my manager, once again asking me what’s wrong – how can I explain something I don’t understand? Also, I don’t want to explain, why should I? Why can’t people just leave me alone? Colleagues push and poke to try and get the negative out, but there’s no release.
Just awkward silence with the sound of the work kettle.
The work day passes, I somehow make it through. I leave as soon as I can and go home. I often nap after work, my bed is my safe place, when I’m asleep I’m not thinking. No one can get me here. I live alone for this purpose, to be able to sleep in my bed without judgement. But living solo seems to make it worse – only my thoughts exist in this place, only my voice. I don’t want to see people though because if they see me, they’ll know something is wrong. I can’t be arsed putting on another smile. I watch TV to escape until it’s late and I need to go to bed.
This isn’t how to live. But it’s the only way to live for now. I need help, I know I do. But how can anyone come back from this? How can I be fixed?
This was how I lived one year ago, how I lived out my days – waiting for the end. Since then I have been through counselling, been on anti-depressants and learned to live with my depression. I have started a new job and learnt to love myself for who I am. Depression is a dark illness, but there is a way out. I found a way out by finally opening up about it – and when my friend turned around and said the exact thing I finally understood I was not alone. We all have our struggles.
Do not struggle alone. Even if your mind is telling you no one will understand. We are humans and can’t be ‘fixed’ but we can learn to live with our mental illnesses and gain control once again.
The purpose of this series is to be real and honest, and I hope I’ve achieved that. I want people to understand that mental illness is real and that battling with your own mind every day is all consuming and frightening. If you have struggled with any of the issues mentioned above, you can find some great resources here.