I still feel defined by mental illness. The other day I woke up and was right back in the middle of it: the fear, the confusion, the hopelessness. My whole body felt immobilised. I couldn’t move from my bed. I kept trying to get up but each time I felt the weight of my body drag me back down. I was stuck to the floor like a damp leaf. I told myself to pull it together, but instead I felt like I was being pulled apart. It was scary. I was scared.
In the afternoon I managed to finally leave the house, but I felt sick and thought I might collapse. Horrible feelings stirred up inside of me. I looked around at a world of people, all living their lives. I felt the emptiness of my own hit me like a stab in the chest. I couldn’t breathe. I ran into a side street and gasped for air. My head went giddy. The world seemed to tremble. The thought of wanting to curl up and die was overwhelming. I cried out loud. It was a wretched sound. I hoped someone might find me, but no one came. Only a bird flew past. A gate creaked. The trees shook in the wind.
I realised that even the little bird had more sense of purpose than I do. My life is so small. It’s never been able to grow. It is isolated, barren, sad and lonely. I have nothing in it that brings me joy, fulfilment or meaning. I don’t know what to do or even what I can do. In the past every endeavour and positive opportunity for change I’ve taken up has eventually -and inevitably- fallen through under the pressure of my mental health problems. I have no qualifications, no social network, no job. No nothing. I have me, but I need more than just me. Me alone is not a life.
I walked until I reached the town centre. I sat on a bench in the middle of a busy street. Questions came into my head: What is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? Why can’t I make sense of myself? Where is me among all of this chaos? But I had no answers. I wondered if I was going mad. I felt completely and utterly lost. I was desperate all over again. I know I cannot be anyone else, but I am so tired of myself. I want to start over. I want my past memories to disappear. I want to open up to change and learn to live in the world. I simply have no idea how or where to start.
I AM GEORGIA.
– WHO IS GEORGIA?
WELL, THAT WOULD BE ME.
YES, ME. AND ALSO YOU.
– BUT WHO AM I?
I JUST TOLD YOU. YOU’RE GEORGIA.
– BUT I THOUGHT YOU WERE GEORGIA?
AH, YES. THAT IS ALSO TRUE.
– I’M CONFUSED.
OH DEAR, WHY IS THAT?
– I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM.
I ALREADY SAID, YOU’RE GEORGIA.
– WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.
THEN YOU MUST FIGURE IT OUT.
– HOW DO I DO THAT?
NO ONE CAN KNOW. YOU JUST HAVE TO START BEING YOU.
– BUT IT’S HARD BEING ME.
BEING ONSELF IS HARD. BUT YOU’LL GET BETTER AT IT OVER TIME. THE TRICK IS NOT TO GIVE UP.
– I AM TRYING MY BEST.
THAT IS ALL YOU CAN DO.
– I WANT TO CRY.
IT’S OKAY TO CRY. WE CAN CRY TOGETHER.
– WHEN WILL THIS GET BETTER?
WHEN YOU ARE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY. DON’T FORGET THAT.
– THANK YOU.
NO NEED TO THANK ME. YOU ARE ME. I AM YOU. AND ONE DAY IT WILL ALL MAKE SENSE.
I was making such good progress, but today I woke up and nothing felt right. Life started sliding away again. I’ve tried everything I can to stop it happening, but the feeling keeps getting worse and worse. I am scared. How can one day things go so right and the next day, without any discernible reason, things suddenly seem to go so wrong..?
Everyone has made terrible or dramatic mistakes. Even the most successful or ‘together’ people will have committed at least one or two (if not hundreds) of ghastly errors at some point in their lifetime. We are all fallible and prone to inaccuracy, missteps and lapses in judgement. Take heart in the knowledge that your blunders are neither proof nor validation of your ineptitude or personal failings; they are simply confirmation of your membership of the human race.
The life I have is not the life I want. But this is okay. I have been dealing with mental illness since I was a child and throughout adulthood. I am only just learning how to be a person in the world and what it means to be me. I’ve never had an identity that hasn’t been bound up in mental health problems. As long as I have been alive my existence has been defined by sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, turmoil, self-loathing and destruction. Learning how to survive in the absence of these things is wonderful but also immensely scary. It is the great unknown for me- but it is also something I am finally prepared to confront. I have turned a corner, and I don’t want to go back. Onwards is the only way now.
Do not blame your past self. You could not have known. If you could, you would be living the perfect life all the time. No one lives the perfect life. In any single moment we are driven and influenced by our intuition, feelings, reason, thoughts, knowledge, self-awareness, sense of identity, physiological states, neurological wiring, memories, habits, ideas, associations, as well as our external environment and circusmtances.. to name but a few! If you had complete awareness and control over all of this (which you simply can’t), in addition to the ability to predict how your current actions would determine your future, only then could you have acted differently. This is why rumination and regret are ultimately pointless. The act of looking back onto an impossible reality will not change anything, except making you more unhappy in the present moment.
You are who you are. You’ve done what you’ve done. Let it go! Do not allow a second more of your life to be squandered by imagining that things could have been different. Every second of our lives is orchestrated in ways that are beyond our human comprehension. So many connection and contingencies have made it what it is, and brought you into being on this speculator earth in this vast universe. The most you can do, and the only thing you have true control over, is to look after the thoughts inside your head, and how best to use them in the moment you are currently in. Choose your focus. Shine your attention like a spotlight on the things you want to illuminate. Be hopeful for your future. No matter what your past is, and how dark or difficult is may have been, you are not the sum of your past actions or experiences. Let them inform you, but do not let them control you. You are wonderful and full of possibilities. Go forth and find them.
I am coming to realisations about myself, within myself.
I am still trying to figure out who I am. I am trying to understand why I have been unwell for so long and how to reconcile my past, with all its darkness, pain and trauma, with new hope and a vision of a better future for myself. I know I can’t live anyone’s life but my own. I just don’t know how to do that yet. I want to feel like I belong in the world. I want to know what it is like to live intentionally, purposefully and progressively. I want to uncover the reasons why I have been holding myself back, and what lies at the root of my negative beliefs and intrusive thoughts. I want to know why I have feared happiness and believed only in self-hatred and destruction. I want to know what has kept me from feeling worthy of life. I want to know what it is to truly be me, in a mind that is free from darkness and pain. I want to heal, move forward, and finally come alive.
I believe that I am worthy of good things. I believe I am capable of healing. I believe that my life will get better. I believe that my mind is powerful and will help me overcome any challenges I face. I believe in the timing of my life. I believe that things will work out. I believe I am exactly where I need to be right now.