I am an overthinker by nature. I always have been. Take something as simple as writing this blog for instance. I have been mulling it over for days on end, trying to write an interesting and enticing read. I have started so many fresh and new statements of intent to write about, and yet, I was getting nowhere. Questions kept running through my head – “What am I trying to say? What point am I trying to make? Who am I trying to impress? To be? Do I attempt a verging on intellectual, factual piece? Or do I just write what is in my mind, at this precise moment in time? And then it dawned on me, I should just stick to what I am good at, and do the latter of the options. Write what I know. So here goes… I’m feeling a little fake.
One of my main troubles with writing this blog; writing my mental health story, has been understanding, or maybe more truthfully, embracing what that actually entails. Strip it back, what is it? I am one of those countless people who walk this earth without a concrete diagnosis. This has left me with an overwhelming sense of being a fake. A fraud. I cannot say that I have been told, definitively, that I suffer from something. And yet the more I considered myself unable to write this because of my own self-doubting opinion, I realised that I do not need a health professional to give me an explanation, and I certainly do not need validation. We do not tell people with a sore limb, that without being seen by a doctor, that their leg doesn’t hurt. So why do so many, myself included, feel that to say I suffer from depression, or anxiety, or something else, that it would have to be legitimised officially before it is true? I know that the mind is most definitely complex, and in no way, am I trying to undermine the importance of seeking help. However, diagnosis or not, I can tell you, with my hand on my heart, I know what it is like to have such conditions attributed to me.
I know what it is like to struggle to get out of bed, or rather, to struggle to move in bed. Lifelessly just lying there. That everything becomes a chore. Even the things that just a mere week ago, made my face radiant with joy. That the small everyday tasks such as brushing my hair or washing my face become too unnecessary a task to partake in. Where the more vital tasks of eating and going out of the front door feel mammoth. I know what it is like to lie aimlessly awake for hours, sometimes the entire night through. This black dog of depression just rampaging up and down the room. I also know the flip side of that coin, where a pneumatic drill going off beside me would not be enough to entice me to open my eyes.
I have experienced what it is to burst into tears unexpectedly in a supermarket all because I had zoned out as I was shopping when suddenly, I was startled back into the real world by someone yelling unexpectedly. When I have a full-blown anxiety attack in the middle of busy street, where the air is suddenly heavy, and I just have to find somewhere quiet and cool, to ground myself. Somewhere safe.
I spend some of my evenings anxious at the prospect of going to bed. Afraid of sleep, with the fear that the night terrors take over and I am thrown back into a place that I just do not need to relive a single moment worth of. Where all my senses betray me. I understand the all too familiar crushing feeling that the blame is mine and mine alone. That there are times in my life where one day I can just be. Then without warning, I feel everything so intensely, that I just ache, and that is then followed the next day, by finding myself in a frozen state of perpetual numbness. I understand how it feels to just want to escape, to make it all stop. Just for a minute, to allow myself to catch my breath. Or for longer, just to bring me some peace.
Whilst a diagnosis is of incredible value, it should not be solely for its realisation or validation. It is for its crucial ability to be a stepping stone to solution and support. It’s taken me a long time to seek out even the smallest means of help, partly through my own fears, and partly because of the stigma attached. And even after eventually getting to that elusive place of seeking out a little support, it has to be remembered that not all physicians are as helpful as they could be, or should be. Some are dismissive, and treat these moments of depression or anxiety, as just mere phases that will be grown out of. Some believe that specialist help or therapy is the way to go so that the appropriate care is given. Sometimes you just get put on a list, to be dealt with at a later date. Wait it out and take it from there. Ultimately, we live in a world shrouded in an incredible need to be perfect, in all senses. And so, despite there being this undeniable emphasis to put names and labels onto conditions and people, the true importance lies in being seen and being heard. By others, and more importantly, by yourself.
We all have mental health, that’s an undeniable fact. And writing this has just confirmed my thinking, that I am not a fraud. I don’t need a confirmed diagnosis to tell me how I feel and what I experience is real. Rather what is needed now, is support.
I’m Laura, a 30 something mum. You can find me with my nose in a book, pen in my hand, or hiding behind my camera. An overthinker. Coffee addict. Find Laura on Twitter.