Sexism doesn’t exist, you say?…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to call out colleagues on their unintentional sexist remarks or attitudes. This has meant having constructive discussion with some of them about why I hold those opinions and explaining my standpoint. This is certainly a positive thing as it calls into question why I hold certain beliefs and values, encourages others to consider that, enables me to explain thoroughly and logically so that others can truly understand the everyday experience of being a female.

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Minor breakdown…(back in July)

Hey guys, meant to write a few days ago but haven’t really felt up to it recently. It’s been a pretty draining week. I spoke to my mum, which was really emotionally difficult – I’m glad I told her, and I guess it will help in the long term, but I have been dealing with this for so long and obviously all a mother wants is for her daughter to be happy and I think she thinks she can just fix it and is jumping into all this research on dealing with MH problems. And I do appreciate it, but it does feel like she’s undermining me slightly. I know she isn’t meaning to, and I know it’s difficult to relate to someone when you’ve not had those feelings, but it’s been a pretty hectic stressful week.

The reason I spoke to my mother (who told my dad, who so far has been ok – just hadn’t said much) was because I was pretty bad at the beginning of the last week, and ended up deferring an exam. This means I’ll have to take it in August, which just means dragging out my final exams for even longer, but I just didn’t feel capable of taking it. I’m in a smaller room, and I’ve got extra time, but I just got completely overwhelmed. I was unable to concentrate, feeling incredibly low and panicking a LOT. I was distracting myself by playing video games and trying to watch funny TV shows but nothing really helped. Anyway, after the stress of that, my mum came down to see me at the weekend – we had a fun day out, having lunch and shopping in town, and as of Saturday I have been ok-ish (although it’s still up and down, as always).

PARTAAAAY

So recently, I’ve been going a tad crazy. And no, I don’t throw that word around lightly, I am actually pretty confused and feel like my brain is deteriorating. I have been super hyper and pretty manic recently, I cannot focus on anything, I keep wanting to go out and do things. I went on music tour with a band I’m in to Dublin and it was incredible, I had an amazing time, busy all day and out every night, making music and having a wonderful time with over thirty friends. I got to know everyone much better and it was so good to get away from England for a bit, to escape the place my head feels trapped in. I can’t bear staying in one place, and hopefully I’m going to get to go travelling next year, but I’m super stressed about organising it and I just can’t deal at the moment with my final exams coming up, which I cannot concentrate to revise for. I submitted my last piece of coursework of my degree the other day, so that’s pretty terrifying, but my first exam is in less than a week and I just do not know what to do. I have been really chilled out recently, which has been good mentally, but isn’t so great for exam period. When I was doing exams at school, I used to work constantly every day, I wouldn’t see my friends, and there was that time in my life where I would exhaust myself mentally and physically by letting out all the stress forcefully. I know I shouldn’t do that, but I don’t know where to send the stress any more. If I worry too much, I’ll start shaking. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but in the last week they have seemed a lot more likely.

My housemate has been having a pretty tough time recently, and I just want her to be ok. Her boyfriend isn’t being very supportive of her MH problems and it’s the last thing she needs because she’s so amazing and so strong and she’s actually seeking help at the moment, which is great, and should be seen positively and encouraged. I worry about her a lot, she has been incredibly panicky, and I haven’t seen her get like this in over a year, so obviously I’m concerned. I’m just glad that she has me and I know she knows that, which is as much as I can do at the moment. I’m also glad I seem to be in a better state so I can look after her.

Yeah, so being in a better state = maybe not entirely healthy etc but not numb and upset and ill and unmotivated to do anything and everything the entire time. I’m on triple the original dose of meds I was given, so that’s 150mg of Sertraline daily. And I think I may have written about the side effects initially, which luckily are a distant memory now, because that really was awful. I am starting to think maybe they are taking some effect, but it’s really hard to tell. I think I am possibly bipolar, as my behaviour across the year as a whole seems to fluctuate a lot, although admittedly this happens within the days too, in a much more intense way than it used to. So it usually goes October/November pretty low, Christmas ok, February onwards really awful, April/May maybe ok and getting better, excellent at the beginning of summer, and then August it plummets…September is stable – ish. It helps to write that down. It’s so hard to understand or explain what you’re experiencing when you can’t even make sense of it yourself. There are so many ideas and thoughts going around my head the entire time and I need some way to let it out. Which is why I made this in the first place, although obviously there are really low points where I just don’t want to write, or I can’t do anything, or where I pretend that I’m ok or where I convince myself that the ‘bad’ side of my head is right. I haven’t believed the bad side of my head in a few weeks now, so that’s positive.

Last term, I was seen by someone at DAS (the Depression and Anxiety Service), who said she’d refer me for a proper assessment with the county MH team, but that was two months ago, and I was worried I hadn’t heard. I was discharged from DAS because I was ‘too high risk’ then didn’t hear anything, which kind of seems terribly unfair and awful if you ask my opinion. I am finally actually asking for help and everywhere I go they send me away, I just don’t feel good enough and don’t know how to cope with that on top of everything else. Luckily, my doctor Jo is amazing, she will see me as often as I need and within half an hour of seeing her and explaining about not hearing from the MH Assessment team I get a phone call telling me I can have an appointment next week. So that is really great. Again, they might refer me to other people etc etc, but hopefully they’ll pass me on to some more professional help, they have contact with psychiatrists etc and I would really like to know what is going on in my stupid head. I am really nervous, because explaining everything again is so tough and I’m worried I will panic. I am so so so much better at talking than I used to be. I used to not explain anything to anyone and just be angry at the world and shut myself off and cry and be unable to convey my emotions and avoid people, but now even opening up to a few people, some friends, some strangers on the internet, has helped me realise that it doesn’t always have to be like this (at least occasionally, anyway).

Since I’m always honest on here, I may as well get it off my chest that I’ve been thinking about my sexuality. I kissed A, and it didn’t feel wrong. It was a drunken thing with someone I had become close to on tour, and I shouldn’t have done that to T, but he has forgiven me, and I am so grateful. I think maybe I kissed A because I think I probably have feelings for girls too, and I don’t know, maybe it was a way of clarifying that. But I am so in love with T, who is incredible in so many ways, and I am so lucky to have him. I think it shouldn’t matter what gender you are, you can love who you like for being them, and no matter what my sexuality is, I don’t need to define that because I know that I love T more than I’ve ever loved anyone, and I do not want to lose that, ever.

E

Honesty

It’s so hard to express oneself truly just through words. I’ve kind of neglected writing here; it’s been about five months since I last wrote. 165 days since my first post, apparently, as I’m starting this. A lot has happened. From the things I said before, you might have thought of me as a happy young free thing. It’s really not like that. Well, sometimes it is. It’s pretty hard to explain how this brain works. But I’ve felt like there’s a lot I’ve needed to get out recently and I’m having a bit of a block with my work (I’m in the third year of a degree), so I thought if I let some of my thoughts out, maybe it will clear some space to focus on studying.

This is my life, this is how it goes, pretending to be ok, all the while struggling with the voices in my head. This is going to be a long post. It doesn’t matter if no one ever reads it; this is about me having somewhere to let out the raw and damaged version of me, a place to be honest. I started writing as a place to be positive and maybe bring some positivity into other people’s lives. It’s kind of ironic, since I rarely take my own advice, and reading back over the things I wrote before, and although they might seem like a few simple posts to the outsider, I’m amazed at my own strength. I have depression and anxiety, I’m a recovered bulimic (three years and counting) and I had some form of OCD around the time my bulimia was at its worst, so basically life is pretty up and down. I don’t feel like anything is constant. My head is all over the place all the time. So I thought by telling you I could make some sense of it to myself.

I’m home for Christmas. And no, it’s not a joyous time. I have to produce over 9,000 words of academic work in the next few weeks, but that doesn’t even matter. Instead, coming home is a stressful reminder of past battles and my lowest moments, surrounded by people that don’t understand me and don’t try if I do open up. I want to talk about my past. I need to. Because everything is so taboo, and it’s not fair. It isn’t my fault I have mental health problems, and it’s really hard to remember that. And even when I do remember, it still feels like the world would be a better place without me in it not appreciating all the good things that are there. I feel like such a hypocrite: I always encourage others to talk about their problems, and I stand by the fact that having a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, just like having a physical illness is not one’s own fault, but I find it hard to admit to myself that I am ill – well, sometimes I do and then I start to make progress in treating myself, but then the other side of my brain gets the better of me and I decide I don’t deserve help and I should do this on my own, I should not be flawed, I have always been able to achieve things by fighting through alone, being anything other than perfect is not good enough when I let the B-side take over. I call it the B-side because the A-side is what everyone sees. Maybe people have B-sides that are pretty similar to what most people see, but the B-side of my brain is like a whole other record and you won’t know just how different it is unless you listen to me, to everything I have to say. In the end, I have an illness that has a pretty high death rate and it’s kind of terrifying when you look at it that way.

I’m going to start by talking about my eating disorder, because it’s something I so often ignore, push to a dark corner of my mind and hide from people, but I shouldn’t have to, and I think treating it like that makes it a lot worse when I start to feel as though I might relapse. I rarely tell people it’s still something that comes into my head. It’s not so much a feeling of wanting to make myself sick but a feeling of needing to release the stress building up inside me. I think what used to manifest itself as being sick now manifests itself in pure terror and anxiety attacks because I’m so scared of going back to that place that I’m not able to physically control my behaviour in those moments. Being able to type, let alone speak, the word ‘bulimia’ is pretty new for me, because it is so hard to trust people when you don’t know how they’ll react. It isn’t my fault society doesn’t understand that eating disorders are mental illnesses, beyond your control. The thing that’s so dangerous when you’re in that place is that it is as if you have control and suddenly everything in your life revolves around maintaining that control. I refused to accept that I had an eating disorder probably until after I’d recovered. I say I’ve recovered and I really hope I have, but sometimes the feelings do come back and I know that people have gone years and then slipped back into the nightmare cycle of getting to that awful mental place, being sick, and becoming further and further consumed by the mental abyss where nothing makes any sense. When it is your brain that is ill and is the thing in your mind telling you how to live your life, what else can you listen to? It’s not so bad now, but there are two voices in my head and they are always arguing and it’s absolutely terrifying when you can’t get out of that because it is literally a part of you. I said I’m scared of how people will react, and that’s not an irrational fear.

Talking openly has been a real battle for me and I have no idea why. You might not think it now, but it’s only really been in the last year or two that I’ve truly been honest about what’s been going on in my mind with those closest to me, and I’ve always found it so much easier to communicate by writing or typing things so I don’t have to actually open my mouth and look someone in the eye when I’m trying to explain how I feel. Maybe that seems detached, maybe it is detached, but it’s progress and I need to hold on to the idea that things will improve, things are improving, even when there are steps backwards, (because there will be), at least I can recognise that sometimes things get a little better and there are certain points in the year when I know I’ll be extra fragile and I should be prepared for that instead of pretending things will never get that bad again. So when I was fifteen, I told my mum I’d been making myself sick. No parent wants to hear those words and maybe if I hadn’t said them, things wouldn’t be so bad with my family now.

I think I’ve been depressed for a while, but my parents attributed this to puberty and therefore I just thought I was a terrible person, but I’ve come to realise that a lot of the feelings I had growing up were not just ordinary ‘symptoms of age’. I can distinguish between sadness for reasons and the way I feel when I’m truly depressed. Take the example of this summer: I was with someone who ended things quite abruptly and I was pretty cut up about it, and I was an emotional mess, but I wasn’t in a low place at that point, and it really made me see for myself how the feelings I experience aren’t always normal compared to say heartbreak, or upset. How was I supposed to realise this before? You only get the one experience of growing up so when people tell you you’re being ‘stroppy’ that’s how you view yourself and that certainly negatively impacts everything. It’s really hard when your parents don’t understand the nature of your illness, so much so that you won’t admit to them that this is something that directly impacts your everyday life. This is why we need a better mental health education. People of my generation are getting better at accepting that people have mental health difficulties, whether they have any idea of what this constitutes, but the important thing is for us to educate ourselves so we can be there for those that come after us too.

My parents’ attitude to mental illness makes me really upset. My great uncle killed himself and my parents are always saying how selfish he was. I will never believe that – I think it is tragic that he found himself in a place where he felt there was no escape from the overwhelming emotions and loneliness he must have been experiencing. Of course it impacted his family, and that is terribly sad for them, but it is not his fault, just as it is not one’s fault if they die from cancer. The more we talk about these things, the more can be done to treat these things. The less suicide is viewed as a selfish act, the more people will be willing to open up about their feelings and the more likely it is that these issues will be treated or at least acknowledged before one reaches crisis point. It makes it very hard for me to approach my family about the problems I’ve had and am currently experiencing when these are the kinds of responses I get from those who are supposed to love and care for me no matter what.

I feel like I’m pretending to be someone else when I’m at home, and that is damaging my relationship with my parents, especially with my mother. Earlier today (Friday now – I’m writing this when I feel in the mood so it may take a few days), my mother, brother and sister thought it would be funny to shut me in with them in my parents’ bedroom and that really made me freak out, because I get quite claustrophobic and the smallest things must trigger a fight or flight response within me. I don’t know why, and it’s not nice, but it’s there. And my mother finds this hilarious for some reason. The fact that I get panicky should not be something to make a mockery of, it’s something that you should approach me about and discuss calmly and not aggravate the situation when you can clearly see I’m in distress. I hate that I get distressed so easily but it’s just who I am and it’s meant I’m removing myself from a lot of situations at home where I know I would get distressed or negatively retaliate in the past.

My parents know I used to be bulimic, which has resulted in a lot of very degrading comments from my father, the lock being removed from the bathroom door (because taking away any privacy I might have is really going to help…) and a lot of attention being paid to what I’m eating, how much and how often – this was the opposite of what a recovering bulimic needed, but no one cared what I thought because I was being difficult, or selfish, or childish, or vain, or stupid. My mother often asking me if I had been making myself sick was not helpful at all, and it’s ok now I’m recovered, but it has been quite triggering at points in the past when I have been just about getting to some point of ok and have felt huge amounts of shame by being reminded so explicitly of something I’ve been resolving on my own. Because my parents were no help at all, the battle through mental illness is something I have to face on my own. And I say through rather than against because it is not something separate from me: I have finally accepted – just about – that I have and have had mental illnesses, and realising that is hopefully a step towards slowly dealing with how to cope with that fact.

I used to outright refuse that I had an eating disorder, which is just ridiculous, and it’s that other voice in my head that was winning for far too long that convinced me of that. My mother sent me to CAMHS at first, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – everyone I’ve spoken to that has made use of this service has had the same response I did. It was a humiliating experience, sitting opposite a supposed ‘Doctor’ on an uncomfortable sofa on the other side of the room with my mother seated next to me. It made me feel like I had done something wrong – and I know what I have done to my body is wrong but I was not made to feel like I was going to be ok, I was treated like an outsider and if anything, attending those sessions made everything worse. They weighed me. The fear of being weighed and seeing if I had put on weight was another stress to add to the millions of stresses (whether justified or not) that I felt anyway. And I had been weighed at the doctor’s surgery before I was referred to CAMHS (my mother had taken me and I couldn’t speak – it’s that mental block I get – so she talked to the doctor and I sat embarrassed and ashamed wishing I didn’t exist). The focus on the physical aspects of my eating disorder certainly did not help, people need to realise there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, literally. The fact that the doctor had to weigh me before she considered whether I was ‘deserving’ of some kind of supposedly ‘psychological’ help demonstrates the total lack of understanding surrounding mental health, even among the health professionals.

I saw a private counsellor for a while after CAMHS was such a failure. It didn’t do much different. I refused to speak to her. I remember sorting buttons, whatever the point of that was. I had to do a session with my mother there. I refused to speak again, and after that I didn’t see her again. She was kind and well-meaning, not like the woman at CAMHS, who at one point asked if I minded having seven psychology students observe me through two-way glass – I said yes because I’m the sort of person that can’t say no to things, but it was the most horrible experience and I was so embarrassed and ashamed when I met them afterwards. I think my mother thought carting me off to various professionals would make the problem go away, but if anything I felt further alienated from those who didn’t even try to understand me in the first place. I basically didn’t talk to my parents properly for about two years, and I still find it difficult now. Seeing so many different people and having to explain things over and over again is such a challenge, and the system makes it very difficult for people who already have trouble expressing their thoughts or admitting to one person that they might need help – it feels like you’re jumping through hoops to be heard and you aren’t cared about in the same way as a physically ill person would be.

The eating disorder is not itself the physical manifestations such as not eating, or being conscious of weight, those are the symptoms of something much harder to comprehend: it is about the way you think and the way you deal with situations – it is your brain not quite being ‘normal’. Take the brain of an anorexic person. I have a very close friend who was hospitalised last year and during her treatment they showed her that the structure of her brain was slightly different, I can’t remember the details but there was something that in most people’s brains connects the ‘I’m hungry’ part to the ‘registering that I need to eat’ part, and it was absent from her brain. If only more people were aware of this, maybe people would be less dismissive of those struggling with serious eating disorders.

I think the media does have a big role to play in negatively influencing body image in the minds of young people, particularly the focus on the idealised female body, and I could (and might) write an entire separate blog post on this issue. However, at least with the illness I had (I am finding it really hard to write the word having used it so many times already), it was really about me having absolute control over everything. I was certainly a perfectionist (I still am a perfectionist in some ways) and everything had to be a certain way. If I decided to do something, I had to do it or I would punish myself for not being good enough. I used to have to do everything possible and do it as well as I could: I ran competitively for the local team and school; I swam at a local club and captained the girls’ Sixth Form swimming team; I was taking piano grades and played for my school’s choir in rehearsals, and even took part in the choir for a while, which you’d never believe now; and I played a lot of clarinet, in the Concert Band, in the junior concert band helping out, in the Orchestra, in the Chamber Orchestra, in the Clarinet Ensemble; and yet somehow I was also working incredibly hard at school and getting good grades, getting involved in a bunch of charity and editing stuff, as well as helping out with some younger classes and getting my D of E Award. I have no idea how I did it and I’m proud of the achievements I have from that time but I feel like I’ve wasted my youth by being so unhappy in myself. (Yes, I’m still pretty young relatively, but now I’ve got to think about the whole job thing and face the real stresses of my finals in less than sixth months, and that is pretty terrifying).

I pushed myself so hard, and when I compare myself to the person I used to be, I feel so sad that I’ve lost so much of her. I was really good at my running, and I never thought that of myself at the time, and I was pretty good at Art too. I’m trying to get back intro drawing because I know I once did it so well and I don’t want to lose my creative side. I still have my music and I’m determined not to let that go. Finding all my old artwork made it really hit home that I’ve lost part of myself somewhere along the way. I gave up my Art after AS-level, because I was getting pretty stressed about getting into University and since I wanted to study Law (for reasons I cannot comprehend now), I focused more on the academic subjects. Yes, I somehow managed to get three A*s at A-level, which I’m proud of, but that was at the suffering of something I valued pretty highly, and I lost sight of the fact that things matter now too – it’s not always about trying to get to the next place. If you’re so unhappy in the present that you’re constantly reaching for something more, to get out of this place, then I don’t think you’re doing the present right. And I’ve only realised this in the last year. Everything takes time and I know I needed to realise this on my own but I hope that other people see this too, and I worry about my sister missing out on happiness now because she’s so focused on doing well in her GCSEs – I try to remind her to make sure she has time for her friends and she stays happy, but I don’t want to undermine her either, because everything is relative – it’s a pretty hard balancing act, and I appreciate that my parents go through this with all three of us. But I still disagree with their whole approach to how to raise us, especially as I’m now twenty and I barely feel any sense of freedom when I’m living back at home for the hoildays.

This section was supposed to be about my eating disorder – and it has been – as it was a pretty huge part of my life at secondary school. It’s pretty sad that I can’t remember a time when I was a child when I wasn’t so conscious of my brain having all these contradictory and overwhelming thoughts constantly – I know she existed, it’s just about finding her again. For example, right now, my brain is telling me ‘you had beer earlier’ and the other side is quiet today but it’s saying ‘take a sleeping pill anyway, who cares, it’s better to be away from all this, it’s so loud here, this is your only escape, it’s better when you don’t wake up’. I think writing is helping me make that voice a little quieter, and maybe the young carefree me wasn’t affected by any stresses in the way she is now because she was able to express her creativity without anyone questioning it. Society makes you feel you should act a certain way and certain things are expected of you. We all get lost and forget that everyone is different; we should all have different expectations for all the unique individuals in the world. We should not be fighting to be copies of one another: nothing would work if we were all the same and I’m slowly learning to express myself in my own way rather than be another statistic for an exam paper. My parents were never the kind of people who forced me into going to University. My mother went to Art College, which is what she wanted to do, and my father dropped out of a Biochemistry course his mother had wanted him to do after the first year and got odd jobs here and there until he started getting into cameras because he happened to get a decorating job helping out in a cameraman’s studio – it’s not like there was any pressure from them, and I’m glad my parents always encouraged us to pursue what we want. Which is what I thought I did. But it turns out I didn’t. Exams don’t mark your achievement; exams mark a tiny part of your achievement, that is, the academic, in any given subject that you happen to be examined on. There is so much more to life than that. And if the ‘achievements’ you gain don’t’ make you happy, why bother? We should be measured more by our differences than whether we can all get the highest grade on a paper. I’m getting a little sidetracked here – I think I might write a separate blog post about figuring out the future, when I’m feeling in a positive mood.

My family doesn’t know about my depression or anxiety (the latter of which is quite recent, but I’ll get to that later). My parents’ past response and general attitude, which I alluded to earlier, hasn’t exactly made it easy for me to talk to them. Last summer my granny went into hospital because of low sodium levels, which my mother was convinced was an effect of her antidepressants. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it was because of this that I discovered that my granny has depression – apparently it kicked in after her menopause, which is irrelevant to my point. Why should this have been a taboo subject? I personally think it’s important to know if a family member has a serious illness. I have a very good relationship with her, yet she has never mentioned this. But I suppose I haven’t mentioned mine either. I have been considering talking to her, but I feel like I would be betraying my mother by not telling her – my mother gets so easily upset if I want to spend time with my sister or I talk to her about private stuff and going to her mother rather than my own might upset her rather a lot, and I don’t want to be the cause of that. I just feel like it might help to have someone related who has similar problems to talk to or even just to let her to that I am there for her if she needs me anytime and that I will never judge her, because I love her unconditionally and I really care about her. My mother’s assumption and blame of the antidepressants on my granny’s illness last year shocked me quite a bit, because, although I have been affected by antidepressants’ side effects (which I will discuss later), she seemed to completely dismiss the fact that the antidepressants that may or may not have caused the issue are also used to treat a serious illness, and might have prevented us from losing my granny in the first place: I’d rather she had low sodium levels one summer that was treatable and we got her back than she hadn’t been given the antidepressants and she was no longer with us.

While I’m on the subject of family, I’m going to talk about my illness and my siblings. I feel like I couldn’t tell my brother or my sister because I’m the eldest. I’m supposed to be the strong one for them to look up to, I want to be a good example of an adult for my brother who is now eighteen, and I want to be there to support my little sister (who is now sixteen) as she grows into a young woman. But this has been scaring me recently. I get panicked if she spends a long time in the bathroom, because those with other bulimics in the family are more likely to suffer it themselves and I’m terrified of anyone, let alone anyone close to me, having to go through the experience I did. (Just on a side note here, the fact that I’m talking about it in the past tense is amazing. When I was in the middle of it, I always felt like this would be a part of me, three months would go by, five months would go by, and it would be back.) And I’ve been getting pretty sad about it (back to worrying about my sister now). I want her to able to talk to me about anything and I hope that she knows I’d be there to support her no matter what, so I should feel the same, and I do talk to her about a lot of other stuff. Ironically, it’s always her giving me advice on relationships rather than the other way round, and I tell her silly little secrets because ‘you tell me everything, don’t you’ is the kind of relationship we have. I feel so guilty for hiding something that is such a huge part of my life from her, but I just really don’t want it to be a part of her life too, ever. I don’t want it to be part of my brother’s life either, he’s always seemed very together, aside from the teenage angst stuff, but then again, you never really know what’s going on in someone’s head. This is true of everyone and it makes me really angry and upset how quickly people judge someone or jump to conclusions when they have no idea about another person’s life or what they might be going through. People everywhere need to have a little more consideration and respect for others in life.

Speaking of respect, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. At home, I’m not treated with a lot of respect. If my parents don’t view me as a mature adult, how do they expect me to respond, especially when I am trying to be serious with them and they consistently revert to an incredibly immature state? Often I feel like I’m the parent and they’re the children. They’re always bickering, my father has no respect for my mother and everyone speaks in a horrible manner to each other. I don’t really want to talk about family stuff now, maybe another time. This post is about me. Because at the moment I need to focus on me. T is really helping with that, in more ways than he could ever realise, and I have so much respect and appreciation for him, and I don’t feel like I deserve it at all. It’s really difficult letting someone in when you’ve been hurt and when you know that the other side of your head could take over and start to push them away when you really don’t want it to – it’s just a protective mechanism, and it’s not fair, on either of us. I don’t want my messed up brain to get in the way of something that’s becoming pretty beautiful. I’m so scared, for so many reasons.

So recently I was on Sertraline 50mg for a month or so, but I didn’t go back to the doctor, because it’s pretty hard when you’re having a bad day and you feel incapacitated by the illness that you’re trying to treat. And it takes a lot of courage to ask for help in the first place, and I think people forget that. And to admit that you have a problem to anyone is absolutely terrifying, because you can’t unsay it and go back to the person you used to be pretending everything is ok and being super hyper all the time in public and then being a complete mess and crashing when you get home. The side effects when I started the Sertraline were so awful that I missed a deadline. I’ve never missed a deadline in my life, and it was a horrible feeling. I was physically incapable of moving or even texting to let people know where I was, I felt so dizzy and on the second day my eyes would barely open. I just didn’t feel like a person. It was like how I usually feel on the inside inside when I’m low was manifesting itself on the outside so that people could see it, and that terrified me. I know I need to keep up the medication to see if it really has an effect, and I’m scared because this happened last year too. I was on Citalopram 30mg just before Christmas, but my prescription ran out while I was home and I didn’t want to deal with the faff of being a guest patient at the surgery here or justifying to my parents why I was going to the doctor (yes, I might be twenty, but when I’m living at home, my mother must know where I am at all times, despite the fact that I spend three months away at University and I could be anywhere at any time of day or night and that is just fine). The same thing happened at Easter – my prescription ran out while I was at home for Easter, and every time this happens I convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m stronger than this and I’m ok. But that isn’t how it works. I feel like that now, because relatively, my brain is pretty stable. My depression is not something I have to be ‘stronger’ than; it is something I have to cope with.

But then summer happens, and I remember I am not stronger than my depression. Maybe it’s because I spend so long at home, stuck in the place where things were worst when I was growing up, or maybe it’s a coincidence, but for the last two years, around August is when I usually get suicidal. Very few people know that. You wouldn’t guess it from the outside. In my family holiday photos I might be smiling on the outside, but I’m screaming on the inside. I’ve learned to hide my feelings pretty effectively, which is useful because I don’t want to let people in when I’m in that state, but also makes me feel incredibly lonely. Last year I nearly took myself to A & E because I just did not know what I’d do if I was left on my own. I put my ex-boyfriend through hell, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to get out of my house and walk the few minutes to his, (sometimes breaking down halfway, which was pretty embarrassing), burst into tears and rock for hours on end without saying a word. No one understands how bad it can get until they see me at my worst, and barely anyone has witnessed that. This summer was really bad but last summer I was looking up effective ways to kill myself – I block out the fact that it has been that bad, but when I write it down, or when I’ve said it to the doctor, it feels so much more real and terrifying.

I’ve opened up to a few people in the last year and I want to take some time to talk about that. I got pretty close to a good friend, G, and I relied on him a lot between May and September, until he told me I was too much to handle and he couldn’t deal with it anymore – I completely understand and I feel so incredibly guilty for being so dependent on him during the holiday, but I will never forget how he was there for me, even when he had a bunch of his own stuff to deal with. The fact someone even made a little bit of time for me kept me going when I was reaching crisis point again. We’re still friends now, and we do check in with each other now and then, but we have quite similar problems and sometimes that can be hard when balancing your friendship. Also horrible that they know what you mean when you tell them how you feel though. It’s really nice too though, to have someone who understands a bit of what you’re going through, I will always remember the times he was there to listen and get me out of my head were some of my best memories from the past summer. I’m just sorry that I lost sight of the fact that he needed someone just as much as I did, and we could only be so much of that for each other.

I’ve got an amazing friend, B, who I don’t know how I survived without for the first year of University. She totally gets the depression and anxiety thing and we know exactly how to behave with each other, and I’m really lucky to have found such a special friendship. I went to stay with her for a few days in July, when I was having a ‘normal person low’, and just spending time with her being silly and forgetting about everything else was pretty wonderful. On my way back from B’s, I had a pretty wild weekend with H, and I remembered what it was like to live for those few days with those two very different, much loved people. B and I tell each other pretty much everything, definitely too much information everything, but it doesn’t matter, because we’re always there for each other, and she’s been such a great friend. I just hope she knows how much I really appreciate that. There’s another girl, R, who has had a pretty tough time over the last year, and we don’t talk loads, but I hope she knows I think about her a lot and hope that she finds the right people to talk to about everything that’s going on in her life. She listens when I need her, and we’ve had some pretty deep conversations. I don’t like to burden her with my problems because she’s pretty angry about a lot of things already and I don’t want to make her stressed, but together we complain about the mental health system and sigh at life in a matter of fact kind of way, and it’s nice to have someone that is open about their depression with everyone. I admire her a lot; she’s very brave for being so honest – but why should it be something to be scared of? She makes me think about that. I’ve only just started being honest with myself, and being honest with other people is terrifying.

Then there’s I-C. She’s a great laugh and we can be super silly together but she gets pretty panicky like I’ve started to and has had other similar problems in the past. I tell her a load of stuff as well. She interrupted her studies a year ago and that was pretty difficult for me. Last Christmas I had a major panic about life and whether to change degrees and I rang her up and she told me she was leaving and of course that’s so good for her, that she’s made that decision and she’s doing something about her situation but I felt so sad at losing her from my life. I saw her a few times over the next eight months, which was quite strange after seeing her at least weekly since I had started University, and every time it was wonderful and nothing had changed between us. She’s back now and it’s amazing. If anything, I appreciate her more for it. I still don’t see her enough, but that is the problem with the stresses of University life in itself, let alone battling with depression and anxiety on top of that.

When I’m at University, I’m not great at staying in contact with my friends from school. Everyone is off doing different things all the time, deadlines fall at different points in term, term dates are different and I manage to get the odd phone call in here or there. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have such great friends at University. There are two great girls who have been there for me throughout the whole of first and second year: S and H are absolute babes and I wish I could find a way to thank them properly for putting up with me, whether it’s breaking down or shutting myself away or having a laugh through all the stressful times. They deserve their own post, so won’t talk much about them for now.

I opened up to someone round about May time this year. JB became a pretty close friend pretty quickly and we confided in each other about some personal things. He had a girlfriend at the time and we gave each other advice on dealing with our exes now we had both moved on. I thought it was pretty innocent, and I became proper friends with B and JB on tour to Prague and I was feeling pretty happy around April time this year. S and H kept teasing me about JB but I didn’t think of it as anything more than platonic. Yes, we were very emotionally close very quickly, but I was just genuinely really glad to have made a new friend, someone who brought me ice cream when I was having a really low day and someone that I trusted. Looking back, I do trust him, I just felt slightly betrayed when I had let someone get so emotionally close when I felt so vulnerable. He had broken up with his girlfriend, we were both very drunk and he kissed me, the day after I’d told him I was seeing JH. I was in an emotional state, I can’t remember why, and pouring floods of tears and was completely taken aback that he wanted to kiss me. The point of telling you this is that I trusted someone, and it had always been something else to him. I suppose I should be flattered but I just felt upset, and we didn’t talk for months after that because he wanted something more and our friendship ended, or rather was radically altered, because I wanted to be with JH, who I never told a lot of stuff. I might write another post about JH. It was a fleeting but wonderful time in my life and I was incredibly happy, but it’s in the past now and I’m glad things with JB didn’t ruin that brief time we did have together.

There are lots of people in my life, I’m not going to go on about all of them, but someone who is particularly important in my life at the moment is T. I want to keep the greatness of what’s going on there to experience in reality and not write too much, because that’s all happening now and I want to do nothing more than to let that happen. I told him about my problems and it was the best response I’ve ever had. If you’re reading this, thank you so much for letting me pour everything out at once, not running a mile, and sticking by me when I’ve made things difficult this term. I’m sorry my head isn’t quite right, and I appreciate you more than I could ever express in words.

I’ve finished writing about people, and I want to briefly talk about my anxiety before signing off. So, this one’s pretty recent. I had my first panic attack a couple of years ago, but that was kind of out of the blue. It’s kind of difficult to deal with sudden attacks that come from within. Your immediate response when something attacks you is to fight back. But fighting back at yourself is either impossible or results in me getting hurt, which isn’t always the healthiest approach. I’ve seen the doctor and I’ve now got Clonazepam and Propranolol to take for those terrifying times. Luckily I had stopped by I-C’s house when I had my most frenzied hysterical panic this term. I think it was something to do with all the new drugs my body was suddenly having to process. Unfortunately, her housemates and a couple of others were about but I was so beyond caring when I was in that state and she helped a lot. I don’t know what damage I might have done if I’d been alone. The doctor suggested I think of things to do when I feel like I might be getting in a state so I guess writing is one of them. I need to be creative again. Writing is part of that. Drawing is another. I need space in order to do that. I want to get back into reading as well. I read about fifteen books in two weeks over summer, somewhere to escape to. Maybe I enjoyed life more when I was younger because I wasn’t stuck in my own head but exploring all these imaginary worlds – I never really liked toys, I liked the outdoors and I loved reading, and I was a happy child, I know that. I just hope one day I can be a happy adult too.

Sometimes I feel so lonely. Even when I’m in a crowded room. Even when the people I love are all around me. If I push people away, it’s because I don’t want to hurt them, not because I don’t care or I don’t love them. The more I care, the harder it is to let people in. The only reason I’m still here is because I know it will hurt people if I escape. I have a lot more I could say. I could probably write a book about all this. At the moment this is private, somewhere for me to let a lot of stuff out where you don’t know who I am, you don’t know where I come from and you don’t know how I appear to the outside world.

Everyone has a story. This is just a tiny hidden part of mine.

-E