Scars

I haven’t responded to a Daily Prompt for ages. Ages and ages. Today I stumbled across it when I came here to write a post. It fitted my thoughts and feelings perfectly. It summarised what I wanted to write, so I am using the Daily Prompt today. It means I have to think a little less, and that will help.

I am revising for exams at the moment. One of my units is, essentially, about the brain. That of course means studying mood disorders: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, the list goes on.

I find the brain so engaging and interesting and mind blowingly cool (excuse the unintentional pun). But that doesn’t make some of the topics any easier, when I have to revise them over and over again. Studying the brain makes me revisit memories, scars, I guess that you could say. It makes me remember things that I try my hardest not to think about. It pulls at my heart and pushes me over, and it breaks me. I’m trying not to let it break me. This is science, and it doesn’t have to involve looking back at the things that hurt me, but it does. I just can’t help it.

Leavers dinner, afternoon’s in coffee shops, summer drives, tears, late nights, fear, worry, love, pain, friendship.

It hurts. I’m trying not to cry. I have to take an exam on this. I have another three weeks of revision to get through before that exam. But memories are impairing my revision, and I need someone so badly to come and hold me and tell me that I don’t need to worry about the past. I want to be safe, and I want everyone else to be safe. But nobody is ever really safe. Everyone is haunted by their past, scars never go away, mental illness doesn’t go away, and it makes me fear for so many people in my life.

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Mental Health

They told me that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with a mental health problem. I nodded.

They told me that depression is a serious illness, and you can’t just ‘snap out of it’. I nodded.

They told me that the stigma of mental health needed to be broken. I nodded.

And then mental health started swallowing the people closest to me, and suddenly nodding wasn’t enough any more. This was real, and nobody ever taught us how to cope with that.

I think, I calculated when drunk last night, that there’s around 10 people who I’m not sure I could live with out. I think half of them have an issue with mental health. Eating disorders, self harm, depression, and other variations much more complicated than I’m ever able to understand. Some days, even for me, it can be a battle of fear to get up. Im terrified of a slip that will mean I lose them forever. I’m worried about them, and I think about them all, every single day.

And then, in ways much much less serious than my friends, demons started swallowing me, too. I’ve never admitted that to myself before. I’ve never accepted that in my own little way, I’m not normal. But it’s true, and I’m very lucky that right now, my life is going very well for me! This past 6 months or so has been awesome.

But mental health, especially when it concerns those who you really care about, is scary. I wish I’d written this post when I thought of it. Last night’s panic wouldn’t have happened if not for the alcohol, and 100 meters of darkness. Last night’s panic wouldn’t have happened if I’d had written this post last week when I first thought of it. Last week, when one of my very good friends took an overdose, and tried to commit suicide.

It’s scary. It’s absolutely crushingly scary, but I carried on with awkward laughter through my last week at university. And then I realised that I also had a million deadlines, and I wonder why I’ve had a headache for a week!

I’m lucky to be able to say that it wasn’t the end. My best friend told me, a long long time ago, that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end yet. Perhaps one day the end may come while it’s not okay, but for now, we have to live our lives with hope. I have to jump back onto the mountain that I fell off last week, stay as positive as I can, and bash out another set of exams, just like I did in January.

Sometimes you need to cry, and that’s okay. That’s human. Especially when it involves close friends and mental health. Life was never designed to be easy, but it’s a shame that school never made us better prepared for these situations, when they rolled off their facts to a classroom of nods.

Now, in my degree, when before lecturing on schizophrenia or depression, they give us those same basic facts that they told us in school, I don’t just nod. I breathe, I swallow, and I think, love and hope. It may just be facts for many of you, but it’s my reality, and I wouldn’t change my friends or family for the whole entire world.

Rainbows

‘Lets paint a picture of rainbows and flowers and we can all be happy.’ There’s a joke quote, something along those lines, which circulates my floor at uni. I don’t really get ‘it’ because I’m not really in ‘the crowd’. It’s never really bothered me, because I’ve never been ‘popular’ and I never wanted to be popular. I like my close knit friendship group. Now I’m at uni, it does bother me, and it bothers me probably more than it should. But that’s another post for another day, because today I’m feeling positive, and I plan to keep it that way.

At the end of every rainbow, there’s a pot of gold, so the legend goes. And, my own personal edition also notes that at the bottom of every lake there’s a pile of rock. When you’re faced with a challenge, you’ve got two options. You can leap up high into the sky and onto the rainbow, and follow it’s path, or you can jump into the lake and go for a swim.

The rainbow is far up, and it takes all your might to jump, grab the edge with your fingertips, and hoist yourself onto that bright, sunny, and colourful path. Once you’re there though, the going is easy. The path may be long, but it’s flat and it’s solid. There’s no hills to climb, there’s no monsters to get in your way, and if you can persevere for the days and days that it takes to walk the path, you’ll reach the pot of gold and reap the rewards at the end.

At first glance, a swim in the lake may seem a much more preferable option. It looks calm, flat, and much much easier than trying to hoist yourself onto that rainbow. You simply splash into the water, and you break the glassy surface. The water ripples and whooshes around you, and the creatures which you couldn’t see from the bank begin to surface. The crocodiles surround you, the water burns your eyes, the fish swim just that little too close, and then something wraps around your ankles, pulling you down. You’re drowning, you cannot breathe, but still you’re pulled further. You try to get to the surface, but the pulling only gets harder and stronger. You drop down into the deep, icy water. You pass out, and your head smashes against the rocks at the bottom of the lake. You’re helpless, your fate is decided for you, and you lost all choices after the moment you broke the surface.

Life’s a bit like that sometimes; choices of lakes or rainbows. In a new year, people make new resolutions, and while I won’t, for fear of failing, I can try to consider a change of attitude. Stress, panic, and to some extent, depression can be likened to choices of rainbows and lakes. When faced with a decision, the positive thinkers will choose the rainbow, while the pessimists will succumb to the icy but deceptive waters of the lake. What’s different in these scenarios however, is that while the lake will pull you down, and the fear and panic will take over, hope should not be lost. It’s a little crazy to say that to a negative thinker. To them, hope is lost, and I should know, because I am one. What I’m learning, however, is that there’s always a second chance. There’s always the possibility that someone might put their hand into the water and risk their own fate to pull you out. Even if they don’t, you might get strong, and find it within you to beat the creature away. All that you have to do then is pull yourself (or get a leg-up onto) a rainbow, and you’re walking the path to positivity.

I say this, because right now, for the first time in a long time, I’m walking along that rainbow. With a little help from a friend of mine, I’m trying to change my attitude. Of course, when a mindset is so deeply engraved into you as mine is into me, it’s not easy to change. It’s really really not easy to change. It’s hard to climb up onto that rainbow, there’s no denying it. What’s important though is to remember to take baby steps, and whilst I may not be able to yet say ‘Everything will be perfect and I’ll get top marks in my exams,’ what I can say is ‘I’m going to work really hard, and it’ll be okay. I’ll at least pass, and I won’t get kicked out, and I can have tonnes of fun when they’re all over.’ That’s a massive improvement for me. Usually, I’m very much ‘I can’t do this it’s too hard, I’ll fail and I’ll let everyone and myself down,’ with plenty of tears and frustration to go along with it. I’ve had the leg up onto a rainbow, and my friend tells me that she’s proud of me. That means a lot, because this isn’t easy.

Of course, I’m only taking baby steps, and even then, I’m not always perfect. Sometimes, I think my positive attitude is just as much about lying to myself as it is everyone else. As my trust for my friend has grown, I’ve relied on her to pull my out of the water. I still have secrets to tell about why I am who I am, and feel how I feel, but I’m ready to tell them. Hopefully when I see her in a few weeks, I will tell them. Perhaps that will make this walk along my rainbow a little easier. My rainbow is a bit wonky here and there, and there’s the odd hole that I need to avoid, but slowly, I’m beginning to really believe that I can be positive. I don’t think it’ll last forever; I’ll wobble every now and again. One day, I’ll probably fall. What I know however, is that actually it’s much easier on the rainbow (even my slightly mismatched one) than it is in the lake, and I’d like to stay here as long as I can. If for any reason I do fall, I’d like to think that someone will help me to climb back up. I’d like to think that even from the lake, I’d remember how amazing the rainbow was, and somehow, I’d jump back up again. For now though, I want to keep taking baby steps and walking on this path. It’s warm and it’s bright, and perhaps one day, my rainbow will be as solid as I need it to be to walk along it without thinking, or without the help and support that I need right now.

Music Is My Drug

I took the drive home from the leavers concert this evening as a time to reflect. The sky was a baby blue, cut through with marks of bright orange and coral, carefully blended to sugar pink around the edges, and a deep ocean colour as it neared the horizon.

I’ve just listened to two hours of beautiful music, produced by my peers and friends. Our year group is full of fantastic musicians, many of whom will go far. For me however, I decided that three particular performances stood out.

Second in the programme was a flautist. She played a beautiful piece which I will not name for fear of an incorrect spelling. It was calm, collected, dreamy. I was enjoying the performance, relaxing in the music. Towards the end, I realised that I had tears in my eyes. It took me a while to figure of where the wave of emotion had washed from. Of course, it made perfect sense really. That’ll be the last time I ever hear her play. That’s the girl who I aspire to be like, to be as good as. That’s the girl who came and collected me from my grade seven and took me out for coffee. That’s my best friend.

Another girl played a piece from memory on her saxophone. I have no words for this, only feelings. I shut my eyes and absorbed the music. I drank it up like it was a drug. I felt all the anxiety and worry that I had been feeling earlier in the day leave me. I felt myself physically relax. My shoulders dropped, even though I didn’t know they were up. My hands relaxed, even though I didn’t know I was clutching them into fists. I felt free, safe, and happy. For a girl who merely hours previously said that she was so worried that she just wanted to curl up in a ball, it was a little strange. I said I didn’t even want to play the flute ever again, I just wanted to climb into bed. But the music this evening had me firmly in it’s grasp. It wasn’t letting me escape.

Our school have an amazing band. They played last. In their encore, a few of us clambered onto the stage to sing and dance along. That’s a memory I love. It’s like music tour, and it makes me laugh. It makes me smile. And tonight, I really needed that.

I just hope that one day I’ll be confident enough to make it up onto the stage out of choice. Because I know that I’ll live to regret not performing tonight.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

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