Honesty time. I’m stuck, I feel paralysed and I feel like I have zero control of the world around me, what’s happening to me and I am so angry. Loaded sentence, I know but I needed to get that out there. Speaking publicly about mental health is one of the things that I have been juggling from the yes to the no hands quite a bit in the last ten years. Deciding to write a book, or write a few blog posts about it was great, but then, I got so paralysed in the “what would people think of me” mindset that I just didn’t move much, even when I know it’s one of the best things for me.
I talk about my mental health issues here for multiple reasons, but mainly it’s because I want something positive to come from this whole dark part of my life. I don’t want that suffering to be in vain. I want that to be out there, for me to help just one person, and hopefully encourage those who are facing darkness to find the courage to make something beautiful with it.
I don’t live in denial. I am very comfortable saying that I was sexually abused for years and I’m able to do that without having a panic attack, which is a tremendous step in my processing. But I am nowhere near where I need to be, and the pandemic had only made my mental health unbearable. It was a shit year for everyone, but for me, it was destabilising. All of the well-meaning folks around me are saying that things are going back to normal, and that everything will be fine and I’ve not really got it that bad. I get it, you look at me with my currently comfortable life after witnessing my battle with poverty for years, and then wonder why I’m still unhappy. I’ve heard people say that I’m ungrateful, that I am blind and that I don’t deserve it, as though I just don’t want to be happy. Happiness is not sustainable, it’s a moment in time. No one is permanently happy, and if they are, it’s usually a mask, one that I wore for a very long time.
PTSD with repetitive, intrusive, negative thoughts is incredibly hard to manage, especially when there are triggers everywhere and those around you don’t take the time to understand that their words have impact.
“Just get over it;”
“That was in the past and there’s nothing you can do about it;”
“You’re in a better place now;”
“You should count yourself lucky;”
“You just want to miserable;”
“You’re crazy, overdramatising and just like arguments;”
Those statements may not seem like much, but what happens is they tend to make me self-analyse instantly. I’m an analyser by nature. If someone has a habit of constantly reminding about things, to someone like me, my brain does two things. Firstly, it hashtags it with urgency. Secondly, it makes me question myself: what have I been forgetting that this person feels the need to continuously tell me to do this one task, that they say is not urgent. Now a reminding habit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for someone like me, it can undermine my ability to make decisions, act independently, and have control of my life. All they did was remind me about a meaningless task, but that’s not what my brain does.
We all have little quirks and habits. Some are good, helpful and positive, and some are bad, unhealthy and negative. My self-analysis is a very good thing for me, as it helps me stay in check, keeps my body dysmorphia under control (because I’m not fat but my mind lies to me), and allows me to have control. Control is a big one for me, and it’s not controlling other people, but myself and my own environment. My trauma, like a lot of complex PTSD cases are, is multi-faceted. It comes from childhood and the main themes are generally around trust, abandonment, safety, neglect, autonomy and sexual abuse. This is why exercising independence is such a big thing for me, but also why I personally find it very hard to trust people into an inner circle. What would take me six months to build will take a single statement for someone to destroy; and it’s not that the foundation of it was weak, or that I am weak, it’s that the paralysing self doubt is often stronger.
Coping mechanisms allow me to stay functional. I am very lucky that my brain works a little differently, so that I am not so overwhelmed with the concurrent, derailing thoughts that my condition presents in every single moment. The war is never-ending.
“You’re fat” – “No, I’m healthy”
“You’re worthless” – “Actually, no I worked hard for this”
“You don’t deserve this” – “… okay fine you win I’m tired”
Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga help, but they do not bring me to a place to process, they provide an avenue to calm if I get overwhelmed. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that I have to keep busy enough where it’s not quiet enough for those thoughts to infiltrate, but when I’m writing, I’m quiet… and those thoughts just dance on in…
I’m stuck in this vicious cycle of getting ‘better’ and getting triggered with everyone around me trying to be helpful but being harmful simply because no matter how I explain it, people generally don’t listen and hold onto their pre-existing belief systems. It’s difficult to navigate, and it is very tempting to just want to isolate, but even that’s not really healthy. Being aware of that and being able to analyse those thoughts and break them down is key to finding a balance and some mental stability.
It’s also not just people; it’s work too. I have about 15 blogs, written and edited just waiting to be published, and they are not on difficult topics (like this one is), but I just cannot find the “time” to publish them. There are things that I love doing that I’ve completely stopped because I don’t have the time. I have all the time in the world, because I plan my work around my health and my life! But, my mind says I cannot finish that painting I started because I have XYZ work that needs to be done, and another weekend will pass and I would have done nothing on the work or the painting. This is another vicious cycle of self hate, because I haven’t done enough. It’s never enough. But I have to take on different projects to add variety into my work else it’s just boring and that leads to procrastination and all sorts of other things. There is no winning here.
Yet, I am aware of all of this. So I’m trying to be kinder to myself, trying to accept that my mental health is just as important as the physical. The whole point of this written rant was to brain dump some of the thoughts in my head, and also to tell you that if you, or someone you love is struggling, be patient and truly listen to them. If they are closed up it might be because they have explained everything time and time again to no avail, so be prepared to work with them if you want them in your life.
If you are the one who is fed up of explaining, understand that people don’t understand what they don’t know… so be a little easier on them. This might sound very condescending but it works once you can keep your ego and arrogance in check: people are generally in a bubble of their own version of stupid. This helps me detach from my emotions, as though I was explaining to a child, and allows me to switch off the fact that I am speaking to an adult that should know better. Adults are naturally arrogant and blindly ignorant. We all assume that everyone knows something because we know it. I’m very guilty of this with my partner when it comes to tech. “You should know this shit,” is something I say frequently, forgetting that I taught myself three programming languages by the time I was 16. So, assume everyone is uneducated and you have to teach because that puts you in a position of explaining without the emotional state and also ensures that you have actually explained it without glossing over key facts, such as triggers, which is incredibly easy to avoid. However, if you have done this, and the person still doesn’t get it, stop trying to get them to change their triggering behaviour and make a healthy choice for yourself.
Thank you for reading my rant, and being understanding.
Be kind to yourself and others!
PS – Shit. I need to take some of my own advice.