Journal #1 11th November 2013

Today begins a new series on my blog. I want to share with you what living with mental illness is really like. I know I have over the years, but this time I also want to share snippets from my journals, to show you the depth that mental illness can go to. Of course, not all of my journal entries will be published because it is very private. However I will be sharing the entries I feel comfortable in doing so, albeit somewhat altered if necessary.

Today's Journal entry is from 2013, when I was 18 years old and still struggling to get to sixth form on a daily basis. Please don't read if you feel it may be triggering. A time when my anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies were extremely severe:

11th November 2013

"I've recently read a quote that said write until it stops hurting, so here goes:

Today was a bad day. However, God listened to me and got rid of my bad throat to help me to get to school. Unfortunately, today I couldn't make it but I was ever so close. I broke down and mum had to restrain me. I just couldn't get out of the car. 

I picture my classmates and teachers, especially the teachers anticipating my entry in school; their faces of disappointment breaks my heart because I know they search for me and are delighted when they know I've made it. Even though it creates so much pain, I still struggle. I can't bare to let these people down because I know how much they care. My Mum is in so much distress over this and it's not fair on her. I would do anything to take this pain away. 

I hate that other people can just go to school. I am missing out on memories, friends and education. This is what I regret because I will never get the time back. All of that laughter and learning I cannot access because I'm stuck in my room. Because I'm burdened with this curse. I would do anything, go through any other torture to be free from this. I want my life back. I know I have lost myself and I hope that someday I can be reunited, so I can be happy like any other 18 year old. 

I am not an 18 year old now. I feel I have lost all control and it angers me because I can't be like the rest. I want to get a job and join a club, but I am incapable because the forces are too strong. I don't even have the power to progress with the responsibilities that I'm supposed to have. I've been left to crawl out of the mud, whilst others run too far ahead to ever be seen. 

I just want to wake up happy. I don't want to feel ill every day. I don't want to have such dread that my brain can't comprehend it. I don't want to think that the only way to cure this, is to die. This is not what I want, but it's hard to see an end." 

I look back at this entry and I look at how far I have come. I'm 21 now, and am at a stage where my anxiety and depression is under control for the majority of the time. I was writing from a place of hopelessness, but if reading this tells you anything, it's that you can get from the darkest of times and live a happy life once more. I and many others are the proof of this. Keep fighting.

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx

Dear future me

I was inspired to write a letter to my future self that I would open upon graduation from university.

Dear future Amy,

You’ve finally made it and you never believed you could. You completed the degree that you had been planning for years; you’ve graduated! People always talk about the amount of debt it costs, but the experience that you’ve gained is priceless and even so, there are many organisations out there who can support you. If you’re concerned with the costs, you can always ask counselors about scholarship opportunities, or consider researching alternative ways to save money after college like refinancing debt. Pricelessness has no limit, and for not one moment do I expect that you regret your decision to go to university. Laying on your bedroom floor, in the dark all those years ago, with not even an ounce of hope to hold on to, did you ever imagine yourself to be stood in your graduation gown accepting your degree in front of hundreds of people - I’m so proud! 

Anxiety and depression sucked the life out of you, but it didn’t beat you. Sitting in various different doctors and therapists offices, being drained of the same answers to the questions you always had to answer about your anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies, from watching people go to school and learning to drive, even though it crippled you to walk out of the door and in the darkest of days, when one breath seemed a conscious choice, you carried on. Going to university was the change that you needed and you grabbed the opportunity with both hands. You worked hard to get your degree and receive mental health support that you needed, from continuing with your medication to having the best mental health mentor that anyone could wish for - not to mention the immense support from family and friends which you are ever so lucky to have. You’ve created some fantastic memories with lifelong friends and had some experiences that you will never ever forget; from staying up until daylight, going to night clubs with the majority of your accommodation, walks with your flatmates, indoor cricket, late night talks and finding your first love, just mention a few. 

You could honestly say without a doubt, that it has been the best experience of your life and one you’ll wish to revisit for many years to come. Although at times it has been hard, because you’ve constantly been battling the demons, you’ve bounced back. Each time you’ve gotten stronger and faced bigger and better things, from getting your first paid job, to becoming the president of your university’s mental health society. It’s taught you so much, from budgeting and how to cook (or not as the case may be!), how to look after yourself, pay bills and rent and led you onto getting your first rented flat outside of student life. I know you're sad to see it go, but I know you are moving onto to greater things. As you are travelling back to your hometown, I know you’re going to be questioning what’s going to happen next. Perhaps you’re feeling like you’re having a mini-life crisis! You’re thinking about how you’re going to afford your rented flat, or be able to find a job, praying that your anxiety doesn’t become overwhelming, or perhaps thinking about how you’re going to cope with such a big change or deal with the financial worries of the possibility of working in London. But it’s okay, you’re going to handle it like you have with everything else, with strength and passion. Hindsight is a great thing, but unfortunately we cannot tell what’s going to happen in the future, so you’ve just go to keep moving forward with the knowledge that you have at that time.

Now that you’re leaving, just take a moment to look back at that little nine-year old girl who thought the world was all going to be too much. Brush off her shoulders and tell her, she is going to make through and get to university and achieve everything she has wanted. I know you have never felt that you had that capability within you, but you have and always will. At times you were upset that you didn’t join the rowing society, or missed the odd night out, but that was what you felt you could handle at the time, and that is okay. You took up the opportunities when you felt you had it within you to do so and that is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all on a different journey. 

We are all capable. Mental illness may be something that is within us, but it is not something that defines us.


The end of the hierarchy

It's 2013 and I'm sat in my therapists chair in the doctor's old room, barely holding myself together, writing a list of the 10 things that make me anxious from least to the most. With only just being able to leave the house, the first on my list was catching a bus, going all the way through to getting a job, driving alone, asking for something, going school and travelling alone amongst many others. 

Sitting down and writing the list made me realise how little I was capable of. How I could hardly walk out the door or even answer the phone in my own house. I knew I would have a long road ahead of me, but I was willing to do whatever it took to turn my life around. 

It's now 2017 and I have done it. I've made it. I've overcome everything on my hierarchy from all those years ago. I was 17 then and I'm 21 now. I've changed and come a long long way. Through medication, various counselling and therapy sessions, panic attacks, and very dark days I am finally here; and its quite emotional to write about it. 

I do still struggle with anxiety and depression and some tasks I still do find difficult. But, I've overcome the main areas of my illness. It hasn't been easy and it hasn't always been
happy, but with time and perseverance you can do it. There have been times of hopelessness and times when I thought I wouldn't make it out alive, but I have and you can too.

Now, it's about continuing to build on my confidence and areas I struggle with and hopefully one day I will be at a place where mental illness is almost non-existence in my daily life.

Best Wishes, 
Amy Xx

Perfect isn't perfect

When you grow up, the world around you seems to create this criteria for every stage of your life and if you're not doing it, then you must be falling behind. It's almost like the american dream which seems to be somewhat unobtainable. Battling mental illness isn't in the life that you're supposed to have according to films and media, but that's not what bothers me. Even though I should never try to obtain these goals that are somewhat impossible, my mental illness meant that I perhaps wasn't at the stage of my peers. I wasn't passing my driving test at age 17, or having partners from 13, or getting my first paid job when I was 15. Although some of my peers were living their life this way, in reality there was nothing telling me that I had to be like that and I'm not even sure it was the majority acting like I thought they were. Nevertheless, these goals seemed to plague me for a long time. However, I now feel for my age I have ticked off all the boxes that I am supposed to, but it doesn't feel perfect. 

I wish I had known that even with all of the goals ticked off on your list, it doesn't mean that life is perfect and you're the happiest you can be. I accepted that wasn't like others when I was growing up and that I was developing at a different time and on my own journey. Although this was hard to accept I was reaching my goals in my own time. Now, I feel I have reached my goals that I have been aiming for all these years and I'll be honest, it doesn't feel that I've got my life together. I thought having a paid job, a car, living independently, a partner and so on, would mean I had reached all these invisible and made-up goals and it would be perfect. But, life doesn't work like that and puzzle pieces don't come together to make a whole. Life is a lot more complicated than that. 

I am proud of how far I have come and I am fortunate to have in my life today, but it's ever-changing and my anxiety and depression still throws up its difficulties. But, if I am to learn anything from this, is that there is no date at which everything needs to be done. You are on your own journey and you can do it in your own time and that's okay. 

Best Wishes, 
Amy Xx