It’s mental health week on one of my favourite websites, and after years of posting thinly veiled references to my mental health on my facebook account (articles about mental health, stories about eating disorders, government plans to cut spending to mental illnesses etc) I decided to post a link to this blog – the evidence of me being mentally unhealthy. Mentally devastated. Mentally broken down.
I realised, looking at this very major website as it posted stories of celebrities eating disorders and anonymous tales of struggles with OCD, just how hard it is to be open and honest with the people around me, the people I interact with every day, about my position as a person who struggles with mental health. I realised how easy it was for me to write a post to my friends detailing problems at work, problems in family, and anything to do with my political views, but the idea of simply writing down – ‘I am very depressed today,’ and clicking ‘post,’ was unthinkable.
When I do identify my problems – I, like most people, like to identify in the past. ‘I was depressed.’
‘I had an eating disorder.’
‘I really struggled with anxiety.’
These things aren’t untrue, there have been specific periods of my life when I have been very unwell, but they certainly don’t give the whole picture. They don’t say that every day I wake up and take a little green pill, because when I don’t, I might not get out of the bed. They don’t say that everything I eat, every morsel I put in my mouth, is a tiny, tiny victory. They don’t say that I am a castle of a human being, built with lines and lines of necessary battlements to keep the monsters of anger under control and away from my soul.
So I decided to say it. Say that, yes, whilst it is my past, it is also my present, and might very well be my future. There have been times when my depression has been crippling, when my problems with eating have nearly ripped up my family, when my anxiety has ruined my friendships, and there are times when these things are like a minor headache you fight with some ibuprofen or some paracetamol. Still there, but fading slowly. Today, tomorrow, things are not as bad as they have been, but every time I put my problems in the past tense, I know that I am lying a little bit. I am being a traitor to the truth that I know: that mental illness is not a phase. That depression can be as persistent and brutal as a degenerative disease. That suicide is a symptom and not a failure.
In this place, to the people who have read this blog and followed this journey, none of this will be a surprise. You have watched my broken poems emerge from the darkness, watched my stilted prose try to give shape and name to something I barely understood. But to those who might be looking for the first time, for whom this might be the first moment you have equated the woman on your newsfeed with a mental illness, I just want you to know that since I am done mincing my words about my mental illness, I invite you to be honest too. If you have questions, if you have thoughts, if you want to talk, or even if you have anger and sadness you need to express then I am here for you. By admitting that I am still here, that I am still in this place and working through all of these things at my own slow run, I am hoping I am creating a space for you to talk too, if you need it.
I have depression. I have anxiety. I have problems with my eating. Sometimes I have them all at once, sometimes not much at all, I’ve had them in the past and I might not have them in the future, but mental illness is my present tense.
If it’s yours too, then we are here together, at least.