Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I considered posting on social media about my own mental health journey. But I decided against it. What if my housemates/family/extended family read it?
Revealing my deepest darkest demons could work against me, I feared. So I kept silent, ashamed of what I’ve been through.
But today, a sadness overwhelms me. So many gorgeous, creative, fun people come to the conclusion that the only solution is to die.
I pause in remembrance of these people and all they had to offer the world. And this blog post starts bubbling up inside me. And when that happens, I have to stop everything and write.
I was a sensitive child, one who thought and felt deeply. I still do. I grew up to be extremely insecure- lacking confidence and filled with fear.
I had my good times of course, periods when I felt and looked good. When I excelled at school and college and when I was prolific in my writing. When I enjoyed hanging out and partying with friends, flirting with men, holidaying on Greek islands and adventuring across continents.
But the demon was always lurking, only a scratch beneath the surface. Ready to remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that I’d fail, that there was something wrong with me. That I’d never be fixed.
Brainwashed by this beast, I hated myself and wished I were different. I’d try to be normal but my version of normal was an unattainable, unsustainable perfection. I’d push and compare and question myself so much that I’d eventually be spent, both physically and mentally.
Devoid of energy, I’d withdraw. Afraid to show my face. Feeling as ugly on the outside as the inner voices that belittled me and held me back.
In my teens, I developed an eating disorder and in my late teens, I was put on antidepressants. I stayed on medication for years, hoping to feel better, do better, be better.
But my low self-esteem brought me to people and situations that reinforced my opinion of myself. I gave up hobbies, left jobs, dropped out of college and went on the dole. I didn’t believe myself capable of anything more.
At 22 years of age, I met the man who would become my husband. He begged me to stop smoking and drinking alcohol. He asked me to dress differently and not have male friends. He convinced me to start practising Islam. He wanted me to change my name and wear a headscarf.
I knew I couldn’t succeed at my own life so why not take on a new identity? Losing myself in baggy robes was a relief. Maybe I could be saved.
The relationship was tumultuous. He wanted a completely different wife. Here was yet another example of my inadequacy.
After we got married, I hit a really low point. I was so agitated, I wanted to bounce my head off the walls.
I took a few days off work and when I admitted to my boss that I suffered from depression, she fired me on the spot. I didn’t contest it. I wasn’t able for anything. I wasn’t able for life.
Family and friends marvelled at how I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I was academically clever and I won awards for my writing. I was attractive, articulate and athletic. Yet I consistently doubted myself and gave in to the negative self-talk.
Time and time again, I’d make a decent stab at living in the real world. But before long, I’d wear myself out, self-sabotage then crawl into a hole for another while. I simply couldn’t handle grappling with the monster in my mind AND being a functioning member of society.
In those moments, I honestly believed that I’d be better off dead. I felt lost, alone and so broken that nobody could get through to me. Nobody could love me out of the chasm.
It’s taken me many years of highs and lows, hard work and self-care to get to where I am now. I’m proud to say that I’m doing well.
I’m living on purpose and helping others to do the same by sharing what I’ve learned. I’m showing people that they’re not alone, that we all go through hard times and that there is a way (there are many ways) out of the demon’s stranglehold.
The monster is still only a scratch beneath the surface. When I don’t practice self-care, when I’m not true to myself or when I have a few too many drinks, I tunnel under to where he’s waiting for me. And then, despite all the personal development I’ve undertaken, I can still be hypnotised.
Thankfully, I always catch a glimmer of light and I pull myself back out again. Then I shine that light on the monster and ask him what he wants. I understand where he’s come from and I listen to what he tells me. He’s not as scary as I once believed.
The purpose of this blog post is to tell you that I know how it feels – I’ve experienced the craziness and the desperation to make it stop.
What I’m trying to say is that you’re not alone. How you’re feeling right now won’t last. Nothing does. You will feel better. You’re worth fighting for. Look for the light because it is there.