What have you got to be sad about?
I have been asked that many times. For all the work I’ve done to be open and honest about mental illness, I have still been asked this question recently.
This question and the attitude that comes with it, is what makes me feel like I have to justify my sadness or anxiety. Sometimes I feel the need to prove that my pain is real and justified. Often when I tell people what I am feeling or what’s going on their response is “honestly I don’t really know how you are functional and smiling right now”. I tell them it’s years of practice.
I have had trauma, I have had bad experiences, I have been heart broken. I have been made to feel by some that no matter what I do or say, I will never be enough or as good as someone else. I have done so much work on myself that I know where my mental illness comes from. I know why I feel this pain. I know how it started, but it has become its own beast now. It may be rooted in my life experiences but it has grown and changed and developed into a dark and twisty part of me. It can pop up from a reminder of trauma or during times of stress. It can also come seemingly from nowhere.
There is also the misunderstanding that just because I am happy in my relationship that all my other problems go away. People assume now if I am sad, that must mean that my relationship is going wrong. That somehow love cures all and almost a lifetime of fighting was all fixed by finding a man. Now don’t get me wrong, my partner is fantastic. I tell him all the time that he is my light in the dark. He helps to keep me from drowning when the waves are crashing in. They still crash though. Those waves, that pain, the struggle, the fight, the mental illness, it hasn’t just been cured by falling in love. Sometimes it can actually be more confusing. I can be in my bubble with him, I am safe, he keeps me whole. However I still have days where I feel like I am going to drown. He tells me that he can see it in my eyes, like he can see me, but he can’t reach me. I am there, but I am not there. I can be both so happy and in love and yet gasping for air and feeling so lost and unable to put into words what is bothering me and how it hurts.
Lately I have felt so up and down, so happy, yet so stressed and unhappy that it has really been affecting my physical health. I have been in so much pain physically and emotionally, that I have started to shut down. I have had a panic attack and cried so hard I couldn’t breathe and then had to sleep from the exhaustion. It has affected me more physically than it ever has before, pain so bad in my stomach that I went to the hospital. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home, a privilege I have utilised a lot lately.
I don’t know how many times I have written this in a blog, or said it to someone… but I seriously need to take my own advice. I tell people “you can’t pour from and empty cup” or “you have to take care of yourself and put your mental health first” or “you don’t have to wait until you have a full breakdown to justify needing to stop and take care of yourself” I say these things. A lot. Yet I have pushed myself again to the point of almost breaking in order to take care of other people before me. My body’s ‘check engine’ light has been lit up like a Christmas tree yet I just kept going. I pushed and pushed and pushed… aaaand then I cried at my boss and told him I needed to take a break.
I took a few days off last week but I still didn’t really stop. I kept pushing myself, I just did things around the house that I don’t usually have time for. By the time I got to the end of the weekend, I decided enough was enough. I have returned to work but I have really stopped pushing myself this week. I have done what I can do in work, then at home I have tried to not sweat the small stuff. So the washing up doesn’t get done straight away? So the clothes are not put away for 27 years after it’s been washed, maybe never, who knows? So the blankets on the sofa are not perfect? Since when did I care about that anyway?! I literally pushed myself so hard that I became a clean freak. Anyone that knows me, knows that this is just not normal for me, I am so untidy!! I did this because I felt like a failure in everything and I wanted everything to look perfect so at least I could say that I was doing something right.
I know I pushed myself too far, because now that I have slowed down I have a cold. I am fully aware that this is my body punishing me for doing too much. My body is screaming “Right, I will make sure you slow down because now I’m going to make it difficult for you to move about and you know, breathe. Take. That.” I’m shaking my head just writing that, like alriiiight I stopped, give me a fucking breaaaak!
I’ve had a lot of setbacks on this recovery road but I have to keep reminding myself that recovery is not linear. I was asked if I was sure I was actually recovering, given my current state. I didn’t even need to think before replying that I am.
Compared to the me of 2 years ago, even a year ago, yes I am absolutely recovering. That being said I will probably always have mental illness. I have come to accept this as a fact and made peace with it. I will have my ups and downs in life as everyone does. My downs may hit me quite hard and send me spiralling down the rabbit hole, but I always come back. It may take me longer sometimes to acknowledge my check engine light, but eventually I do. I stop, I feel it, I take stock of what my body and my mind needs, then I give it exactly that.
Right now what my body needs is rest. What my mind needs is organisation. So this week I have had a balance of both, I have rested and still organised, I have given myself some TLC and worked on coming back. I’m still down in that rabbit hole at the moment, but I’m not at the bottom. I’m taking some much needed time to put my needs and wants at the top of my list.
Stay strong warriors 💜