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'But You Were Fine Yesterday'

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I’ve lived with mental health conditions throughout my whole life in many ways. I have depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (complex-PTSD to be more precise.) I’ve been dealing with the various battles that come with these illnesses for years now.

At the beginning of this year I was in a particularly dark phase, a phase that found me on my knees (literally) crying out to some void for answers and wishing I knew to be true all my pain would end. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt so low — or the last — but no matter how many times I feel this bad, the intensity can still shake me to my core.

It didn’t end. I didn’t end. The pain didn’t end.

Until it did.

Not fully. Never fully. I don’t think I know a day when I don’t have some part of my mental health impacting me in some way. And to add to it, I have a chronic physical illness that loves to dance on the ledge of my being and pull me under to sit with my mental health companions.

But somehow, for a week, my mental health shifted. Maybe only a little, but from a relentlessly dark place, a little can feel like a whole lot.

Recently I moved houses. I moved into a space that is the first place in many years I can really call home. And for a week or so up to and just after moving, I rode a wave I did not realize I was riding. A wave where my mental health felt a little lighter. I began to see some light and find some purpose and make plans. I felt more alive than I had in a long time.

And yet, I didn’t notice it, not fully. I didn’t notice the pulling in my gut that makes me want to cry out to the world. Or the anxiety that runs and runs and runs through my mind. Or the staring at walls, hiding under the covers because facing the world feels too much. Or the constant memories and reminders and triggers of the traumas of my past weren’t there quite as often. I didn’t notice it because the physical exhaustion of moving kept me firmly held in feeling unwell and at physical unease.

And then today I saw it. Today I’ve noticed how much of a “lighter” time I was having.

I’d love to say I’ve noticed because I feel lighter still, but the truth is I’ve noticed it because for the last few days, I’m sinking in feelings of desperation and darkness and emotional pain that I know oh so well. And yet, it feels unbearable.

I’ve noticed because by contrast, how I feel now is starkly different.

If it had lasted longer than a week or so, maybe I’d have noticed how less unwell I was feeling, maybe I’d have been able to bask in it a little. And yet as it is I can only look at it and wonder how on earth I ever got to a lighter place when I feel like I’ve hit the floor again (figuratively this time).

I’m not in the same place I was at the start of this year. I know I don’t feel quite as desperate and OK, I’ll say it, suicidal. But I do need something to shift, something to change, something to move so I don’t spiral any further.

And maybe I’ve caught it this time. Maybe I’m catching it before I hit quite as low as I have been, many times in my life. Maybe it’s because I felt lighter for a time I can notice the difference before I spiral much further.

And maybe at some point when everything doesn’t feel quite so heavy, I can feel grateful (I do, somewhere deep down I know I do feel grateful).

It’s relentless. Mental illness is relentless. Once these unwanted companions of mine take a hold of me, they become relentless – depression, anxiety, trauma.

I’ve done enough rounds with them to trust there will be a shift. There has to be a shift, one way or another because feeling like I feel right now cannot sustain itself for long. One way or another something always shifts.

Writing this in itself, means something — even something tiny — is already starting to shift. It’s telling me I’m reaching out for some support because my walls have been down this week.

I know I’m not in my darkest of dark places. I’m not even in as dark a place as I was in the minutes before beginning to write this, before I noticed the spiral I was sinking into.

There’s so many times when I get a remark or a look or a suggestion of “but you seemed fine yesterday.” These suggestions make my blood boil, because perhaps I had a mask on yesterday, or perhaps I didn’t and today I just feel like shit. Mental illness (unfortunately) doesn’t work quite so neatly and easily as one day we’re suddenly all fine. For some of us, one day can be a little brighter and the next we can be in the depths of our dark places with little rhyme or reason.

But while these suggestions make my blood boil, I think the surprise I’ve been feeling the last few days at how low I’ve become again is my own way of suggesting it to myself. It’s like my own inner critic is berating me for not being able to sustain the “better” feeling. It’s like I’m suggesting to myself “I looked so well last week” or “I’ve moved and I’m feeling more settled at home so I should be fine now, shouldn’t I?”

Mental health isn’t linear. It doesn’t work in a way where we’re feeling a little better and then it’s all downhill from there. It’s up and it’s down and back up and up and uphill again.

And I’m saying this because there have been many, many times when I’ve not been able to catch myself in my spiral, times when it’s taken someone else actually stepping in and showing me how much support I need.

So if you have a friend who you know has mental health problems who “seems” to be a bit better, please still check in with them and please be there without judgment or disappointment if they are able to tell you that aren’t feeling quite so good.

And keep checking in. And keep being there.

We can’t do this alone. None of us can.

As for me, you’ll find me still here, battling through all of this, practicing a whole host of self-care and making a promise to myself right now to speak to my closest friends in my physical world tomorrow to help me out of this spiral or if nothing else, to help steady me over the next few days.

And if you’re in a similarly dark place please reach out to someone.

You are worthy of support.

You have done nothing wrong by feeling how you feel.

You are perfectly enough.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 31, 2017
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