Today is World Mental Health Day, and what better way to commemorate it than with a rambling post about the nuances of my own psyche? As most of you already know, I’ve suffered from severe anxiety for a huge chunk of my life. It’s a looming shadow over everything I do, unfailingly sabotaging almost every one of my attempts to Get My Life In Order. It’s something I’ve been deliberating upon a lot recently, most likely as a result of a premature quarter-life crisis, and I’m not really sure where to go from here.
Without a doubt, I am miles better than I used to be. Throughout my school days, it was a monumental effort for me to be able to hold a simple conversation with someone. I was relentlessly overwhelmed with self-doubt that didn’t start receding until I was almost finished with university. It cost me a lot of experiences that I’ll always regret missing out on just because I was too self-conscious to try. It can still be hard for me now, but I don’t feel like I’m a bubble ready to pop at any given moment any more. Most of the time, anyway.
Recently, I had to go home early from work because I just completely broke down. Everyone always has worries lurking in the back of their mind; money will be tight this month, I have a job interview soon, etc. Every now and then, however, all of these concerns shoot to the forefront of my brain with absolutely no warning, at even the most minimal of provocations, and it’s too much. It’s like some sort of hellish game of Bop-It, where I’m forced to concentrate on too much information at once, and also I’m juggling flaming chainsaws at the same time. It’s basically an impossible feat to deal with. I’ve never had such an episode happen to me in a professional environment, and it was horrific. I came home that night feeling like I’d been hollowed out, or like a crumpled up biscuit wrapper.
It stems largely from me not knowing where my life is going, I think. I don’t know what I want to do for a career. Maybe I want to do a Masters degree. If only there were a Futurama-esque device that just relegated me to whatever I’m best suited for. Living with shitty mental health is a double-edged sword in that it takes all of my willpower just to make it through a single day, and yet I’m consumed with fear about the future. I think I’m at the most challenging point of my life, because as a graduate I’m in charge of my own destiny and choices, and now more than ever I’m trying to be positive.
As anyone who has mental health issues will know, there are few things more aggravating than when someone tells you to just cheer up. Wow Sharon, I had no idea you had a Psychology doctorate, can’t believe I just got some free quality healthcare! But some part of me does believe that happiness is, to some extent, a choice. It’s different for everybody, of course, but I’m an optimist at heart, and it helps me to focus on the good things, no matter how insignificant they may seem. I could bog myself down with the fact that I’ve been rejected from yet another job, and I still have an endless list of applications to go through, or I could celebrate the fact that I got dressed and left the house to do a food shop. I just feel like I’ve spent so much time wasting away in misery, and I don’t want to be that person any more.
It’s hard. It is unbelievably hard, and a lot of the time I feel like I’m not capable of it. Sometimes I have moments where I don’t feel like I can do anything, or like my achievements are far too minimal. Even right now, as I’m typing this, there are tears threatening to bubble over, and it’s so tempting just to burrow back into bed and ignore everything, but I’m forcing myself to write. I’m living up to the promise of my last post by trying to be productive, and I’m taking small steps with it. I started a Twitter for drawings of dogs just to keep me doodling. I published my first ever paid piece. When I’m caught up in the flurry of anxiety, I have to force myself to think about the baby steps I’ve made, and how they can lead onto something bigger.
Just remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. You have people who love you, and there are a multitude of helplines. The moments of difficulty are just that – moments. And even though they come time and time again, you get through them every time. You’re so much stronger than you think. I did originally want this post to have a point, but I guess that’s mental health in a nutshell, really: there are very rarely singular breaking points where you can draw the line and say ‘this right here is the exact moment I got better.’ It’s a constant battle full of ups and downs. Right now, I’m trying harder and ever to shape my own positivity, and I hope you can do it as well. I’m going to get dressed and go to Tesco. It’s a lovely day outside.