Mental health problems can do many things to a person: bring feelings of shame, embarrassment, stop you stepping outside your front door. Most of all, it makes me lose a sense of who I am. It stops me from doing things I want to do, from saying what I want to say. But only if I let it.
It is time to regain my voice, to speak out against the feelings of doubt and fear that make it seem impossible. Here are some of the things I wish I could say to the people around me.
Thank you for looking the other way as I sit on the station platform, a table in a café, a bench in the park, with my head in my hands, foot tapping incessantly on the floor while I breathe deeply. In these moments, I would love nothing more than to disappear, and you turning your head allows me to do just that — to remember that what is happening to me is not a big deal helps me fade into the background, feel normal, feel like part of the world.
Thank you for not judging me. Thank you for taking me away from triggering situations and getting me to a safe space. Thank you for noticing when something is wrong and asking if I’m all right, seeing past my pathetic response. You know just what to do to make me laugh, to make me realize a phase of bad anxiety is exactly that, a phase, merely another bump in the road. I would have forgotten all the good in life without you, all the things I love and new things to learn to love. If I don’t want to do something because I am not well, you understand and do not question it. Even if I don’t want to talk, knowing you’re there should I need to is more than enough. It’s like having an army behind me.
Thank you for helping me piece my life back together – until you helped me do it, I didn’t realize how broken it was. Thank you for pushing me to stand on my own two feet while still being there behind me to support me if I take a step back. Thank you for teaching me it’s all right to fail and that I will get to where I want to be so long as I try hard. You’ve helped me in ways you wouldn’t even understand, and for that I will always be grateful.
Thank you for trying to understand, even though it involved changing your whole outlook on life. Thank you for knowing when I didn’t want to talk about it and that a simple hug was enough. Thank you for looking after me and showing me there are decent people in the world who can understand if they try hard enough,
I know it was difficult to grasp what was happening at first with so little information. I won’t lie, your first attempts at help made me want to punch myself in the face. You tried to lecture me about my own problems as if you knew my mind better than I did. But you realized you were wrong. Thank you for making an effort to understand, and cater for my needs. Especially you, Grandad. Thank you for standing up for me and letting me know I’m not the only one to go through these situations. It has made us all the closer.
You didn’t know me before this all started. I used to sometimes think I wish you had – you’d see how different I was, going about life in my slightly odd but care-free manner. I probably wouldn’t even seem that different – I still sing to myself when I walk down the street, I still watch embarrassing TV programs, I still really want to have the perfect slow dance. But a lot has changed, not that you would necessarily notice – it’s all on the inside, most of which I try to hide from you. Except, because of you, I know I don’t need to hide it. Thank you for teaching me to acknowledge the traits of my anxiety make me who I am. You tell me you love those parts of me, that they make me kind and caring of others. And I’m slowly starting to believe it. Thank you for holding my hand when I didn’t even know I needed it and never letting go. Thank you for walking beside me and encouraging me to take steps I never thought I could. But most of all, thank you for staying when so many others wouldn’t. Knowing you’re there makes me want to be better, for us and our future.
Thank you for making my life difficult because you have taught me to fight for what I want and never stop until I have it. You make me accomplish that little bit more than everyone else in getting there. Thank you for telling me not to do things because it makes me want to do them even more. Nothing feels as amazing as proving you wrong and showing I can do whatever I want. Thank you for making me overthink things because you allow me to put plans in place to keep you at bay and take control.
Thanks to you, I’ve learned who I am and more importantly, who I want to be. You’ve made me realize what I love about myself and what I need to change. You’ve made me realize who I am grateful to have in my life and who is not worth my time. You’ve made me remember why I wake up every morning and fight as hard as I do – for everyone around me.
A last final thank you – you’ve given me a voice to say what I’ve always wanted to. I hope you can do the same for others.
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Thinkstock photo by adisa