In the past 8 months I have only managed to leave the flat a handful of times. Each time has been a real struggle and been both physically and mentally draining. If you have seen me in one of these instances then my previous post will have no doubt taken you by surprise- shield yourself with makeup and smiles all around and it’s easy to fool anyone. You won’t be aware of how strenuous the walk or bus was to get to where you saw me, the pep talks C has had to give me before even stepping outside, the pleads to C to let me turn around and go back to the flat, the endless stops and tears on route as I burst into panic because a car went past too quickly, because the traffic was too noisy, because there were too many people around, because the thought of even being outside knots my stomach and makes me want to vomit, or because, well, because it constantly feels like there is a black cloud coming towards me which will explode at any time and I’m stuck in this perpetual state of dread and panic and fear.
The battles that the last several months have presented have, for the most part, been confined to C and I. However, the response of the few I have spoken with and also from my previous post have been both heart warming and saddening. The kind words have been overwhelming and yet it is painful to know that some of what I am going through is familiar to so many of you. Those that have experienced mental health struggles will know just how lonely the illness can be. It often feels like no one around you understands what you are going through, they try to give you words of encouragement and eventually you find yourself nodding at what they say in the hope that they’ll stop talking; because yes, breathing is important when having a panic attack but when you’re hyperventilating and feel like you’re about to die there comes a point where all words of advice become futile and you just have to let it run its course. And yes, trying to think positive is helpful but when you suffer from depression and feel like you are trapped in a web of despair it is hard to find the positives. So many people endure some degree of mental illness in their lifetime and yet no one ever really speaks of it unless someone else starts the conversation. It is only then in the comfort of knowing that you are not alone and that someone else truly understands (at least to some extent if not fully) and can empathise with what you are going through, that you feel at ease and somewhat relieved to openly talk about it. This is something I hope changes and I hope that one day there won’t be so much stigma attached to mental health illnesses. In fact, this is partly why I started writing about it. Speaking to others that have had similar experiences has always helped me feel like I’m not completely losing control and so I thought I would write about my own experiences in the hope that at least one person that reads it would find some solace in knowing they are not alone.
Be kind to those around you. Be kind to new faces and be kind to old faces. Be kind to familiar faces and be kind to the faces that pass you by on the street. Just because someone looks ‘fine’, or their social media is filled with pretty pictures, does not mean they are not going through their own hardships and troubles. In a world where social media is so prominent in our daily lives we often find ourselves (myself included) caught in the destructive cycle of comparison. We compare our lifestyles, we compare our travels, we compare our adventures, and we somehow even manage to compare our levels of happiness believing the little snaps that are posted to be a representation of an individual’s whole life. That’s something we could all benefit from remembering; they are just that, little snaps. Whenever you meet someone at an event or in the street, whenever you scroll through your newsfeed on social media all you see is a little snippet of what an individual wants you to see: a piece that they are willing to show, a piece that they are comfortable showing. No one really takes pictures of the pain and suffering they are enduring for all to see online. In fact, it is in human nature to do the complete opposite and hide the harsh truths of the troubles we face. We lean towards only showing our ‘best’ selves, our somewhat ‘flawless’ selves, our ‘prettier’ selves, our ‘happy’ selves, some might even say our ‘filtered’ selves. So I’ll say it again, be kind to those around you: behind the lens, behind the exterior, behind all the filters you have no idea what people are going through.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain