Often, people talk about the effects of mental illness in the moment. They talk about what it feels like in that specific moment that you feel suicidal, the sudden impact of an anxiety attack, the short-term loss of being anxious to leave your house or how it feels to be in the middle of an eating disorder. All of these are important issues to talk about, though a common misconception is that recovery is a one-time process and that things are better.
Once a friend told me he wasn’t sure if he should laugh or be worried at the jokes I make, I told him to laugh, in all honesty he should probably also have been worried. Regularly I make jokes at the expense of my mental health, and whilst I often am in good spirits and it is not a cry for help, it is in some ways a coping mechanism and occasionally a mask. I’ve never been good at expressing my emotions, I can’t explain why but I’ve always felt this obligation to be the strong one and hold those around me together. When my father died, I cried twice, I cried the night he died and one tear at his funeral, I’m also the first to make morbid jokes (I promise they are actually funny) when talking about him. All in jest, of course.
I’m much the same with my mental health, I might stop making effort to talk to people as often, there might be an increase in the nights out that I have, I might stop eating randomly… a co-worker told me that she always knows when I’m stuck in my head because I become overly animated and enthusiastic. Another front, this is one that I wasn’t even aware I did. The longer I live, the more aware I become of the things that my mental health has stolen from me.
I was confident. I was that obnoxious kid that everyone hated, I liked public speaking, I loved school, I wanted to be an actor. Those were some of my deepest passions before I turned 12. When I lost my ability to be happy and confident, I lost a lot of passion. I continued to do drama throughout high school however stuck to minor roles. I hated being the centre of attention, I hated people looking at me.
I lost my ability to do the things I loved. This extended way past passions previously mentioned. As you all know, I love music and going to gigs, if I were the person that I once was I wouldn’t have missed the things I did. Beyond going to gigs, I stopped going to social events and birthdays if I was afraid. I was afraid for many reasons, I didn’t want to go alone, I didn’t know many people going, I’d somehow convinced myself that every friend I had ever had hated me.
That last point is something that I can confirm 100% effects my ability to maintain relationships and friendships. I know that I become so insecure that I let it affect things in real life. The worst part about my mental health is that I know that most of it is in my head. I know that I don’t have a reason to ever wish I were dead, and I know that I don’t have reason to be so constantly scared of life. Yet I am.
My mental health also stole my physical health from me. It stole my ability to love food, my ability to work out without obsessing. My ability to live life without numbers and feeling inadequate. I am so much better than I ever was, but there are so many lasting side effects from my eating disorder that are hard to talk about, both physical and psychological. I wrote a post about life in ED recovery here.
I spend my life fighting feelings of inadequacy, fear and a desire to die. I’m doing okay, and there is no need to be worried about me, but I hope that if you read this you might think twice about Emma who lives three doors down, or Hannah who randomly stopped replying to your messages.
Check in on your friends. Remind them that you care, that it’s okay to not be okay. Becoming mentally ill meant I lost friends, family, quality of life. It extends far beyond immediate thought, mental health stays with you for the rest of your life. You’re always fighting.
Be kind to one another.
If you, or someone you love, is struggling you can contact lifeline (Australia) on 13 11 14
If you have any questions relating to today’s post please comment below, I’m more than happy to elaborate, conversations are the best form of awareness.
Have you read the 52 gigs series, inspired by my anxiety and love of live music?
Have you read about how Gang of Youths saved my life?