Hi I'm Blue, and I struggle with mental illness.

Some of you will dismiss me, some of you will be scared of me, some of you will blame me, but a surprising amount of you will understand me, because 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues. Considering so many people experience it, we hear so little about it; it's the family secret you can't tell anyone, the fake smile so know one knows, the calling in sick but blaming food poisoning. It's hard for me to write about, but I write this hoping it makes it easier for the next person to speak about it.

I am going to tell you my story of my path with mental illness. I don't know if it has a happy ending yet...

It began with a tough situation at home which triggered the anxiety. It's hard to explain the exact feeling. It's kind of like where you're leaning back on your chair, go that bit too far and you are just about to fall back. That sudden jolt of panic inside your chest, that half second spike, that makes you fling your hands forward and grab the desk in front of you to steady yourself. That 'oh shit' moment. It's that. Only it didn't last for half a second, for even a minute, it lasted years. I thought I'd just have to live with it until the situations improved but even when it did anxiety still clung to me like a scarf of live electricity. That feeling could come when I was alone in a room sitting comfortably with nothing to do and a clear day ahead. The world would spin and tumble, I'd want to put my hands out to grab the desk and steady myself, but there was nothing there. Nothing to grab onto. Over and over.

And so, through anxiety's hot trickery depressions cold crept in. It sat at the back of my mind and laughed at me. "Why are you even trying? It's useless anyway." and when you're fighting a non-existent force from a chair, you're not even really sitting on, it's hard to argue with that. And this feeling spread.

It wasn't that I couldn't feel happy and it wasn't total sadness per-se. I did feel sad but the harshness of depression is that it makes the process of living excruciating. It's like walking through thick treacle with every movement pushed against and held back by sticky tar. Suffocating and exhausting. Even when there's no energy left you still have to walk. This same tar is in your brain slowing your thoughts, numbing your feelings. Even when there's no energy left you can never stop thinking. Then everything feels overwhelming. Even the small things. One task in particular for me, washing my clothes, was a mountain, even to think about it required so much energy. I could wash my clothes… but then I'd have to pick up the dirty clothes, taken them to the washer, open the washer, put the clothes in the washer, close the door, open the detergent bottle, put the detergent in. It was just too much. So, the clothes sat there. I know it's absurd. Everyone else can do it no trouble. So, I thought, maybe I'm just lazy. I should push on. I am a strong person, so I pushed. I can push myself enough to look like I’m functioning normally, but it doesn't get rid of the tar, the sticky molasses in my veins. On the outside I was normal enough but inside I was decaying. My mind was ablaze trying to grab a desk and my soul was swallowed in the bitter treacle. The worst thing was that I never felt at peace, however still I sat. However beautiful the morning, however hard it was searched for, no peace arrived. It was torture and my own mind was the torturer.

I didn't -want- to kill myself. That's messy and probably involved going out of the house, a body, sad friends. I just wanted to be dead. My brain fantasized about it. That sweet release of deep restful nonexistence. It seemed so much better than existing like this. If only, I thought, there weren't people who loved me. (It's a sick twisted logic you don't have control over; to you it all makes sense.) I didn't even know I was depressed. I thought what I was feeling was justified. That life -was- meaningless, I -would- be better off dead. It had been a slow decline into darkness. The light wasn't just switched off, I had no 'oh shit it's dark' moment. I didn't even realise I couldn't see properly because my eyes had adjusted to the dark as the light faded. My mind was replacing reality with it's own twisted night vision of strange shadows and dark half logic.

Yeah, I won't go out today. No, I don't need to do my essay yet, it can wait. They probably don't want to hang around with me anyway, It's not worth it, I'm not worth it, I'm worthless.

So, I hurt myself. Mostly to feel better or to feel something, I'm not sure, but it proved a point. When I saw what I had done to my own skin I had a thought: "This is what sick people do". The thought turned over a few times in my head and twisted into a lump in my throat. "Am -I- sick?" 

That was the first time I really realised it. Despite crippling depression, feeling suicidal, being unable to properly care for myself, I had barely thought I was ill.  I just thought I was lazy, or sad, or worthless. But when I looked at the blood and the damage I'd done,  I knew I needed help.

So, I went to the doctor and yes, I was sick. The slow process began. Full of relapse and recovery. No, it's not over and it may never be for me. It's more complicated than I can say here. But now I can recognise the signs and know what to look out for.  I have learned how to manage my condition.

I'm trying to make a conscious effort to not apologise for taking care of myself; when I'm feeling low it's just not as possible for me to interact with the world how I'd like. Basic activities like making food, showering, and housework take up so much energy that all I have left I have to put into my recovery, engaging in things like exercise, meditation and therapy.

Numerous time I've had a few good days and think I'm coming out of this, then am slapped back with another period of being disconnected and low. It's really frustrating. But each knock down I get a little stronger and I get up a little quicker. I will get better. I will tame this beast.

Recovery is rarely a straight line. I survived and am still surviving. While I absolutely do believe I can overcome my illness and recover fully; the horrible things I went through a long time ago attached this sickness to my soul. Then the damage followed my every footstep for years more before I even recognised it: 7 years in total. I am proud of how far I've come, but this is a huge beast I'm tackling and it's really hard to communicate that online, especially when you're feeling like crap.

People congratulate me for creating a piece of art or running my own business. No one congratulated me when I did my washing. But really, in my darkest time, it was one of my greatest achievements. And, on some future day where I'm feeling bad, putting another load of washing on will be a big achievement again.

I lived a Schrodinger's life for a long time, both alive and dead at the same time; it happens when you feel so bad you spend your living moments contemplating how to not be living anymore.

I’m happy to report things have got a lot better since then!

The amazing private hospital care you helped provide was like emergency surgery. Cauterising, cleaning, and stitching the wound, but, like any serious injury much of the hard work comes afterwards with the healing process. That’s why I took an extended break online. I’ve been recovering with my partners help, found a new hobby (larping) and have been spending time with friends and family. Things are looking up and I’m much more stable now. I’d like to say I was ‘cured’ but the truth is I have a long term chronic mental health condition which is probably not going away completely any time soon. So I’m working on managing it. I believe recovery and remission are possible, but they are looking like they’ll have to be longer term goals. I’ll keep fighting to stay well whatever happens

After years of trying many medications and psychotherapies its clear they are only getting me so far in my recovery.

I’m back at the stage where not wanting to be alive anymore is my normal. So, after spending a morning picking out songs for my potential funeral, I decided to spend the afternoon picking out a new treatment - and I found one.

I’ve started Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) where a magnetic coil is placed against your head which pulses an electric current into your brain, it precision targets the areas responsible for depression and anxiety and over 30 session, changes your brains wiring to help alleviate symptoms longer term. There’s a good evidence base. Two thirds of people see a reduction in their symptoms through treatment and for those worrying about it scrambling my brain - it’s very safe!

Like with any silver lining… there’s a cloud.  The therapy isn’t offered on the National Health Service routinely so I’m having to go private and pay for it myself. Mental Health treatment is so horribly underfunded in the U.K. But hey, if it works it’ll be worth every penny.

I’m hopeful, which is a nice feeling.  I’m not dead. Which for someone who tried to make themselves dead is... unsuccessful in the best way :)

There will be more happy times, I know.Peace, Love and Moving Forwards, Blue xx

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