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.

Goodbye

I hate saying goodbye.

As I climbed into bed last night, once again I was fighting back tears. This time though, they weren’t ‘completely on the edge of a stress related breakdown’ tears. I guess you could say they were happy tears. But they weren’t really, they were sad tears. What they definitely were was ‘tipsy after a couple of drinks and an awesome night’ tears. They were goodbye tears. The ones where you remember silly things and laugh, but then you realise you may never get to do those things again and your chest aches.

Over the last few months I’ve become extremely friendly with someone in final year. We went for drinks together last night to celebrate the end of her exams. It was cute. It was very very cute and I really enjoyed myself. But although I know I’ll see her once or maybe twice more before she leaves, I really don’t want her to go. She’s made the last few months of uni so much more fun, and so much easier. She’s cared about me, and while she’s dragged me into all sorts of things that I never intended to spare my time for, she’s absolutely lovely.

She’s the girl who I said I wanted to be like in a few years time. After a night of laughter, I was sad when I got into bed last night. I don’t want to say goodbye, and whilst I cannot wait to see her again in a few weeks, I know that will be the final time, and I’m just not ready for it yet.

I’m struggling with words tonight. My head is all colours and patterns and I know I might struggle to control my thoughts and sleep. Why do people have to leave? Why do we have to grow up?

I hate saying goodbye. And if I’m feeling this weird about it now, I know I’ll be an absolute mess when the tine comes to say goodbye forever.

Thankful

On Wednesday I went to a high ropes course. I’m a bit of a strange one. I’m terrified of heights, but I always want to give everything a go. When it was suggested, I said I was afraid so shouldn’t go. ‘We’ll look after you,’ came the response. I could hardly turn down then, could I!?

I did okay though. At least, I did a lot better than I ever remember doing as a kid. I went third, out of five. I stepped onto the first wire tentatively, but no problems. I was distracted on the first bit by shouting ‘This is mildly terrifying!’ and the man misunderstanding my accent and commenting on the fact it was a good job that I wasn’t doing an English degree because ‘madly terrifying’ didn’t make sense. So, that puts me 1/7 of the way there. Second obstacle was a wire to walk along and hanging ropes to grab. That one made my heart lurch, but no problem. 2/7 of the way there. I sat on the weird swing like device and pulled myself along. Okay, it was weird and my upper body strength was only just up to the job, but I did it! By this point, this first person had finished the course and was shouting encouraging words at me. I commented that it felt like life coaching. I laughed. 25 meters off the floor and I actually laughed. Convincing myself that the next obstacle wasn’t much different from the first, I made it to the furthest corner from the start point. That’s when things started to go downhill. I stood for an undefined period of time at the wobbliest corner, staring at the rope loops and the hanging wooden logs, only large enough for one foot. I told that girl who was shouting encouragement at me that I hated her. She was the one who had persuaded me to do this. It took a while, but once I started, I asked about the bridge that I could see in the distance, walked slowly across and hugged the next pole like my life depended on it. Suddenly, I was 5/7 of the way there. The next obstacle is a bit tricky to explain without rambling on for hours, but after being convinced that I could hug the poles all I wanted and they were pretty sturdy (and they didn’t lie, they were sturdy!) I made it across, took one last leap, and reached the final post! I was so close! I was still telling the girl, we’ll call her Y, that I hated her. The last obstacle was always going to be a problem. It was just a beam, all I had to hold was my own rope, and I had to get myself across. That took a lot of coaxing. I was definitely definitely scared, and whilst I’d been making a conscious effort to control a panic attack since the weird rope loopy thing, I was now REALLY making an effort. Eventually, I went. My stupidly large feet didn’t betray me, I didn’t trip (as I do probably 15 times a day on flat ground!) and I was back! Yeyyyy! Although she’d been taking it all the way around, Y did just have to clarify that I didn’t hate her. Of course not! She gave me a hug, and for a second, I got that sense of security that I love about a hug. Boom, relaxed.

Somehow, they psyched me up to go again. This time, Y said that she’d follow me. After all, you can have two to a platform, and she said she’d be able to help me. Okay, no problem, I can do this, I’ve done it before. Next thing you know I was clipped in and standing once more on a precarious looking wire. Zip, zip, zip, I made it past the swing. I held onto the pole super tight while Y decided she was going to push off the pole before me to make her swing ride easier. Of course, that made the whole course shake. I climbed along the next wire, and suddenly, full of adrenaline, and laughing, I found myself back at that far corner pole with the weird rope loops and logs. Once again, I froze. Y decided to do the obstacle I just had done on one foot. That of course meant her jumping around on the rope, and really really REALLY making the pole wobble. By the time she reached me, I was full on panic attack, 25 meters in the air and no way back, with someone that whilst I know is a lovely person, I haven’t really known her very long at all, and I definitely never intended for her to see me like that. I was holding that corner so tight that I couldn’t let go, no matter how hard I tried. She was absolutely amazing. I’m sure it comes from being a cub leader. Or maybe that’s just why she is a cub leader. Somehow, she made me change my mind. I took the first step, my heart lurched, and slowly but surely, I made it across. The next bit was easy, the one where I could hug the poles!

And finally, I was back at that last platform, and the last corner. I was back at the bar with nothing to hold but my own rope. By the time X reached me, I was in tears. I wasn’t sure why. A mixture of fear, adrenaline, and disappointment, I guess. And a realisation that student scouts and guides is where I fit in. I feel safe, I feel like I can be me, and it’s beautiful. I’ve finally found my home at university, but I didn’t realise until I was up on that high ropes course with them, completely terrified with no way out. Even so, I didn’t want her to see me cry. I thought if I could stare hard enough into the distance and look deep enough into the mountains I could stop it from happening, or that somehow she wouldn’t notice. Of course, I was wrong. Again, she knew within seconds and climbed around the platform to face me. I turned the other way. ‘It’s okay, I don’t mind. You can’t hide from me anyway, the platform is tiny and there’s two of us on it! I really don’t mind, it’s okay. I know it’s hard if you’re afraid of heights, but I’m proud of you for giving it a go.’ I’m not sure if that made me feel better or cry more. Pride. You may know by now that pride is a tricky subject. It’s tricky for me to be proud of myself and it’s tricky for me to accept that others are proud of me. It makes my heart swell. It made me cry more. I don’t even feel like my parents have ever been proud of me.

She stayed there with me (admittedly, what choice did she have, but we can at least hope it was through caring!). Somehow, she made me laugh again (definitely she made me laugh an awful lot, I seriously don’t know how she managed it and I’m not sure if anyone else I know could have done!) and soon, with gentle coaxing, she helped me turn away from the pole. She held my harness tight, she reached for my hand and promised that she wouldn’t let me fall. Of course I know that if I slipped she wouldn’t be what would stop me from falling, but it made me feel safe. It still took a while but soon I was stood at the edge once more. I put the first foot on the beam, let go of her hand in favour of my rope, she told me that it was just baby steps (again, resisting tears here – that’s something my best friend says to me on my hardest days, and I miss that girl so much!), I shut my eyes and started walking. She didn’t let go until I was so far away that she had no choice.

I’d made it to the end. I was relived. I wasn’t sure why it was so much worse the second time, perhaps the adrenaline had worn off. I sat, away from the instructors and pulled my knees to my chest. Seconds later she sat beside me, checked that I was okay, told me once more that she was proud of me, and within minutes, had me laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe. She said later that as long as I was laughing at least 51% of the time (which I sure as hell was!) then she had achieved what she was aiming for.

We did Jacobs ladder that afternoon. Me, her and another girl went up. Three rungs from the top I wanted to go back down. ‘Just one more?’ Suddenly, we were at the top. I’ve done high ropes and Jacobs ladder before, but I’ve never ever made it to the top of the ladder. Until this week.

She was lovely, all afternoon. Sadly my panic means that I can’t remember everything that she said and did or the timings, but I remember the important bits – the bits that made my heart flip. Sadly, I never got a chance to say a proper thank you. Of course I said it as I got out of her car, but somehow it didn’t quite feel right. But I am thankful. And I’ll always be thankful, to everyone out there who cares and loves, because they’re the most beautiful people in the world.

It doesn’t just ‘go’

A mental health issue doesn’t just disappear. An eating disorder doesn’t just go away. You don’t just get better, and suddenly eat like a normal person. And I know that. I’ve said it a million times and I know it deep down, but every time she tells me she’s okay, I believe her. I want to trust her. She’s my best friend, after all, and she should have no reason to lie to me.

But of course she lies. She doesn’t want anyone to worry, because it could stop the eating disorder in it’s tracks. She trusts and loves her eating and her mind control more than me. But I’m her best friend, and thought that we spent the last five years building equal trust. No, I’m fooled again. I fell for the lies and promises, again. And now I’ve realised, again. And I’m crying, again. Because she told me she was okay and I didn’t think she’d lie to me.

But she did, and it’s broken me.

She’s not okay and she’s never going to be okay, because food will always rule her life. But nobody knows that except me, and boy can she hide it from the rest of the world. From 500 miles away, she knows there’s nothing I can do.
‘I don’t skip meals’
‘I don’t count calories’
‘I don’t weigh myself’
‘I value my degree too much’
BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE AND IT’S BULLSHIT.

Every time she lies, and I realise, she hurts me. She stabs me, and it is her fault. Surely she knows by now that FRIENDSHIP isn’t about LIES. I’m going to worry anyway, I’ve cried myself to sleep the last few nights anyway, just thinking. And soon enough, I found out, anyway. Talk to me. You don’t have to listen to me, listening is hard, but please to god be honest with me.

Yes, I am angry. Yes, I’m very angry. Because I tried to hard to make it easy for you, to help you, and most of all, to be here for you. Don’t you remember where this started? Don’t you remember how this makes me feel? Don’t you remember how much I hate it when you LIE TO ME!? Don’t you remember how bad it got, and how bad you were, and how you just didn’t eat at all? That could be happening now. I wouldn’t know though, you’re too far away. You could be taking laxatives, or weighing yourself ten times a day again. I wouldn’t know unless you trust and tell me. But you won’t, will you? I have 21 assignments to do, but I’m curled up on my bed, crying. Crying because I love you. Crying because you lied. Crying because I’m worried. Crying because it’s not healthy. Crying because I need you. Crying because you deserve better than this. Crying because I care.

I don’t have to read back through my posts from a year ago to know how it feels to see you suffer. But maybe you should try it. I don’t have to read them to see how helpless I was and how much I cared, and how much I needed you to trust me. But I think that perhaps you do.

Lying to me helps nobody, and if you’re going to continue, I’m going to start doubting if this friendship is worth it anymore.

I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know. But friends don’t work unless we’re honest. Friends don’t work unless we care. Friends don’t work unless we respect each other.

I’m not asking you to change. I’m not asking you to get help. I know it isn’t easy and I know it won’t go away. What I’m asking is that you treat me like the friend that you claim I am. Answer my questions honestly, and don’t try to make me feel better because you think I need it.

That only makes things about three billion times worse when I found out, as you’d realise if you could see me now.

I’m broken, I’m hurt, and I’m more afraid than ever before.

Remember Those Who Love

There’s always someone out there who loves us, and we mustn’t ever ever forget that, even in our hardest and darkest times. They may be hundreds of miles away, and sometimes, you may not think they exist, but they do, always.

There’s someone who loves you like a sister, and they’ll never ever let you go. They’re here for you, and you’re here for them. You’ve got to keep holding on tight, and you’ll both stay standing. It’s the only way to stay safe.

So think about those who you love, tonight. Perhaps like me, you cannot be with them on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps there’s memories, happy or sad that will drown you tonight when the clock chimes, but don’t forget them.

In return, I’m sure they’ll be someone thinking about you.

Say Happy New Year, send them a photo, and pretend to give them the biggest hug in the world. They’ve helped you when you thought you were drowning, and they deserve it and much much more.

I love you, you know who you are. I’m nervous about tonight, and not having you on hand will hurt. I miss you, and I’ll see you in less than three weeks. I’ll try to find a star for you, please please don’t forget to find one for me.

Coping Alone

Why is it that when you suddenly decide that you want to speak, there’s nobody there to talk to? Adults make forgotten promises and give false hope, seemingly never there when you need them, or just not saying what you need them to say. I’ve given up with adults, talking to adults is pointless.

There’s one person I want to talk to right now, but I can’t. When this kind of thing is going on, and I’m hearing the news I’m hearing, there’s only one person that I want to talk to. But my best friend is currently 380 miles away, and she’s only going to get further on Saturday when I go to Uni too. It’s not like the summer, or even A Levels, when day time is sacred but the nights can be filled with text messages, sleep is too important now. She’s officially a Uni student, and she doesn’t have time for late night conversations, even if she thinks she does. If she’s not sleeping, she’s working. Every single day at Uni counts, and there is no escaping that reality.

All I want is an email, a text, a phone call, something. Yes, I Face Timed her today but that was just nicey nicey catch up. I just want someone to ask if I’m okay, and to say they’re here to listen. Out of the blue, to ask ‘how are you doing?’ I can’t ask her to do that though, she’s busy becoming a doctor. I miss her so so much, and it doesn’t matter how badly I want to talk, I can’t ruin it for her again. I messed up badly enough the last year or two, I can’t make it go wrong for her again.

Someone said today that we were so close we were like sisters. I love that. I love that we can be that close and I don’t want to loose that but I don’t want to ruin uni and it’s all so hard to decide what to do.

I just want someone to talk to, someone who won’t let me down, and someone I can trust. I don’t want them to interrupt, I just want to talk it out, to let it out. I’m hearing and feeling so much and I’m struggling on my own. Sadly, there is only one person I can think of right now that fits that description, and I just can’t ask that of them. I could write an email, but the response is never the same. You don’t get advice as you go along, and the reassurance just isn’t quite right. I’m sure I’ll be okay though, everything is okay in the end.

Really though, I just want a hug. That, I definitely cannot have.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

The Power of the Written Word

Yesterday, I received a lot of post. I’d ordered a laptop case, and another of my Uni textbooks arrived. My dad had crossed out his name on a parcel and written ‘Miss Alex’ in permanent marker, before putting it on my bed. In that was a couple of memory sticks and a hard drive that he’s bought me. My five donation blood donor card arrived, which was very exciting! Finally though, there was a letter. I recognised the handwriting immediately.

My best friend, who has now been at University for a week, had written to me. I expected a bit of twee ‘this is awesome and I miss you’ but for some reason, what she actually wrote hit me much harder than that. I don’t wish to share the details, I feel like then it might not be as special, but it made me smile, and then it made me cry. Half way through freshers, when I write her a reply, I’m going to struggle to top that!

I always forget the power of a letter, and the importance that can be found within it. When someone takes the time to write to you, it simply makes you feel valued. And that’s a lovely feeling.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw