It has been a while since I published an Instagram post on Faded Spring, nearly two months in fact,the time has almost passed me by. I could blame it on being busy but the truth is I needed a social media blackout, something which I have turned to many times in recent months for the sake of my emotional and physical wellbeing, in the aftermath of dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma. I struggle with mental health issues on a daily basis and while its true that I have posted Instagram Stories, interacted with people’s content and blogged regularly, my decision to not post on Instagram was because I needed time away from something which no longer gave me joy or filled my heart with happiness.
The moment that you begin to see something that you were once so passionate about as a chore is the minute that you need to step away and give yourself a moment to breathe. It wasn’t that I fell out of love with Instagram, nor was social media a trigger for my extensive mental health issues, but living made me feel overwhelmed. Just the act of getting out of bed in the morning and pasting on a happy smile exhausted me, I was tired on a daily basis, unable to sleep at night and riddled with anxiety and worry. I did what I should have done a long time ago, I took time out to focus on me, took space to realize that it was ok to not be ok. I was always someone who was seen as ‘the happy one’, who filled her days with raucous laughter to mask the pain that was wounding my heart. I was labelled as the life and soul of each room that I walked into and seen as someone who was strong, confident and happy. Little did people know that I was someone who spent her life stuck in a cycle of fear, who would feel guilty and ashamed on a daily basis that she wasn’t this happy go lucky character that everyone seemed to think she was. Didn’t they know that those who seem the happiest are the unhappiest of them all?
Behind closed doors I was a mess, having panic attacks on a daily basis, tears streaming down my face as my body would convulse with shakes. I was always someone who felt emotions deeply, whether that was laughter, fear or sadness, and depression was no exception. I used to call it my little visitor, who walked into my life one day and claimed my heart as its own. The dark clouds engulfed me hungrily and spat me into a moody vortex, I was a prisoner in my own mind. I could say that being abused as a child by my stepmother, being bullied as a teen or being abandoned by my mother made me feel this way, that the root of all my issues was due to the trauma I had faced as a child and a young adult. After all I was just 2 and a half when my mother packed up and left me without a word, I was just six years old when the woman I was meant to call my ‘stepmum’ abused me over several years and I was just 10 when I went into foster care. Except my past does not define me, or my emotions. What happened to me was terrible, true, but where my real pain lies is deep within myself, it sometimes hurt me ‘to simply live’. I would feel hurt when I looked into the mirror and saw a vulnerable, miserable person look back at me, and gulp back tears as I struggled to break free from the shackles of my mind, overthinking and analyzing every little thing until the anxiety and sadness threatened to overcome me.
There are many moments in my life where I have tried to hurt myself, where I wanted to end everything and feel the solitude of darkness wrap its slithery arms across my shoulders and rock me into eternal slumber. In September I had a wake up call and realized that I needed help before it was too late. I had therapy and counselling before, but it never gave me that sense of inner peace that I had always craved and I still felt as guilt ridden, ashamed, anxious and depressed as I had been pre-therapy. There was the medication that I had taken to feel less sad, to not see myself as unworthy of happiness, pills that would make all my problems magically fly away, but truth is these were all short-term solutions, and I felt like nothing had changed. So I filled my days with doing as many things as humanly possible because lonely nights filled with the emptiness of just me and my thoughts was never a promising prospect. When I was alone, away from the public eye it was like regressing into my darker self, locking myself away in a big room and throwing away the key.
But it was in September that I had a wake up call, after years of living in a limbo zone, where it would almost hurt to live. It is no exaggeration when I say that I was on the verge of taking my life, something which I have thought about many times in the past. Nor should it be taken lightly when I say that this is not even the first time that something like this has happened; over the years hurting myself both physically and emotionally, as well as thoughts that I would be better off dead or had nothing to live for would haunt me on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be the first time where I tried to end everything and welcome in the darkness nor was it a moment of momentary sadness.Someone once said to me ‘what you are going through now is no worse than what you have been through as a child and teen. You survived then and you will survive now’ and whilst her comment was true-I had been through worse- that didn’t change how I was feeling, how I had been feeling for a very long time. I used to brush off those thoughts and pretend like everything was ok, living by the mantra that the world was made up of rainbow unicorns and happy sprinkles, that I could be as happy as people made me out to be.If only they could see the maggots crawling through my intestines, if only they could feel the crows pecking out my eyes and the demons who would scald my heart.
One night I was overcome with sadness and anxiety, wandering the streets of Central London in full panic mode. I couldn’t breathe, I felt like the air had escaped from my lungs and I was breathing in poison, intoxicated by the turbulence of my deepest and darkest emotions. I was so ready to say my goodbyes, wondered what it would be like to just walk in front of a car blindly without looking. But then something inside me snapped, the car honked its horn, and I ran back onto the pavement, mascara dribbling down my chin. I was shaking, the tears reverberating painfully through my body, had the car gone any faster, I would have been hit, and it was the fear of dying that had held me back. I would berate myself on the messy journey home, blasting myself for not being able to go through with it, for being too cowardly to follow through. I realize now that I wasn’t being a coward for choosing to live, nor was it weak to turn back my cheek on death and walk the other way. No matter how hard it was to escape the alternative, I had no other choice but to join the land of the living, until at last, at 5 Am I came home exhausted, drained beyond the belief. I couldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t sleep, for the first time in my life I would willingly accept and seek help. It had happened too many times for it to be a temporary blip, I needed help, and I needed it now.
Whether it was thoughts of jumping out in front of a car, taking an overdose or hanging myself, whether it was the constant struggle to overcome negative emotions, or brushing my trauma under the carpet, or even whether it was just how I would feel on a regular basis, like I was being consumed by unhappiness, I saw that things needed to change, and if I wanted to continue living I needed to look for the light in the darkness. That same night that I had thought about taking my life, I referred myself over to mental health services in my area, describing my history with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and trauma, as well as chronicling previous attempts, an abusive and toxic past and my issues with self-confidence, self-esteem and knowing my own self worth. I realize what I am writing might be hard to read because it sure was hard as hell to write, but I want you to know that even when days feel bleak and the nights feel long, out there is a support network that is willing to mop up your tears and embrace you with warm, open arms. In the light there is hugs, warm cups of cocoa, a friendly smile without judgement and disdain.
Within mere days I had a phone call with a therapist for my mental health assessment, within weeks I had my first CBT appointment, the therapist told me that it was clear I had been needing help for a very long time and I realized that he was right. I was referred for cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of therapy that looked to challenge and change unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, as well as improving emotional regulation. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, that much was true, but what I did know was that I was finally willing to admit that I had mental health issues and needed to do something about it or else it would be too late. I was in bits the first day that I went into therapy, reading over the form that asked me to rank how depressed/anxious/ suicidal I had been feeling, as well as questions about how my mental health issues affected me in the last fortnight. Never mind the last two weeks, the last few years had been a turbulent whirlwind of emotions that had made me feel anxious because I was worried about what people would think of me, depressed because I thought that I was never good enough and traumatized because I had been betrayed and hurt by people who should have been my caregivers but fed me to the wolves, that were waiting hungrily in the wings.
One therapy session a few weeks later, I came to an important realization, I discovered something that I subconsciously knew all along, I was terrified of being alone with my own thoughts. It wasn’t the abusive past that had made me feel so sad and isolated all the time, nor was it being bullied or abandoned that was the root of my mental health issues. Yes my mental health issues had been triggered by my past, but my past wasn’t what was shaping my mental headspace today. Instead I realized that I was constantly on the go, forcing myself to do as many things as possible at once and always active because when I was on my own for long periods of time, I was prone to thinking badly about myself, as well as over analyzing every single little thing that I did or how other people would react towards me in certain situations. I would question how I measured up to others, was insecure in the way I looked and would obsess over everything from the people I dated/ would be seeing, to needing to be a perfectionist in everything that I would do. You’re probably wondering why this has anything to do with limiting how many times I post on Instagram. After all if I still ‘seem’ to be just as busy as I was before I began extensive therapy in September, then why would that result in me needing a social media blackout when on the surface my lifestyle is still hectic?
I mentioned earlier that I become overwhelmed by living, and what I mean by that is that even the things that I love doing the most like writing, creating content and storytelling can exhaust me. So when I do all these things at once I become burnt out and ultimately I sometimes can no longer keep up with managing all my social media channels and my blog, because looking after my mental health is a full time job in itself. I would feel guilty about not posting as followers would message and comment asking where I had gone, I felt like I was letting them down. But the more therapy sessions that I had, the more that I realized that I needed to change my way of thinking, that I shouldn’t worry so much about what people thought and accept the fact that I couldn’t do everything no matter how hard I tried.
If I was just running my two Instagram accounts and other social media channels, then chances are the social media blackouts wouldn’t be as frequent, nor would this kind of post ever be fully chronicled on my social media. I might allude to it, but on the surface you would see someone who ‘appeared to be enjoying life’ when in actuality, she’s living in a fantasy world that borders on magical realism. What I mean by that is that I push myself so hard to get these amazing experiences that I am truly grateful for, but sometimes doing what I love can manifest into a love/hate relationship. I have never fallen out of love with writing, after all writing is the bread and butter that keeps me going in life, but with social media things are different and I don’t know why. It might be because my tendency to over-analyze means I can never post something which I am not at least 80% happy with, or it might be because I am that much of a perfectionist that everything has to be colour coded, cohesive and in line with my brand. Whatever the reason it’s a plethora maze.
I should probably go back to my earlier point, where I mentioned that therapy had shown me that I was not comfortable with being alone. My therapist challenged me when I said that I was used to being on my own, when I spent large amounts of time with my own company, even if I also spent large amounts of time with other people too. He stopped me right there and uttered these words that I would never forget; I don’t think that you are comfortable with being alone. You told me already that you keep yourself busy to block out the negative thoughts. But you also told me that when you are by yourself that is when you are feeling at your lowest. I’m going to give you two men in a case study, he went on further to explain, both have been dumped by their partner, but their reactions are different.
One man is devastated beyond belief, he can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and feels like the world has ended. He utters these words ‘I will never find someone again, I have no other choice, I can’t see a way out, my life is over’. The other man who has been dumped by his partner has been through a similar experience but his thoughts are different. He acknowledges that he feels hurt and is saddened by the breakup, but he will get through it and sees a light at the end of the tunnel. He speaks from the heart and says ‘ I am upset that we broke up and I am hurt by how things ended but I know that with time the pain will pass and I will find my inner peace. After all there is plenty more fish in the sea. The therapist then turned to me and asked ‘what is the difference between the two guys who went through the same experience’? And then it hit me, yes it was obvious that the first guy was depressed and the second guy was sad, but it also showed me just how I was dealing with pain and hurt myself, how my mindset would often parallel the thoughts and sentiments of the person who was suffering with depression because I struggled to see the positives. Except unlike the first guy, I would distance myself from my suffering by claiming that I was always ‘ok’, saying I was fine when I wasn’t and pasting on a happy smile for the benefit of others.
I have this saying where I am all about rainbow unicorns and happy sprinkles, and yet that sentiment was at times hollow and empty, failing to shine the same rainbow light on myself as I would do to others. My therapist told me that I would use this ‘storytelling device’ to detach myself from my ’emotions’ and life events because that was the way that I dealt with trauma, but subconsciously my ‘actual thoughts’ would mimic the guy who was depressed, even if on the outside my words would repeat what the guy who was sad would say simply because I A. did not want to worry others, B. absentmindedly believed in what I was saying and C. had convinced myself that I was speaking the truth. But here’s the T, I needed to learn to be comfortable with ‘being uncomfortable’ , otherwise I would be stuck in the same vicious cycle, swamped with mental health issues and not knowing how to move forward without hurting myself in some way, shape or form. It was a cry for help, a period in time when I needed to accept support, and do my homework in return. The only way that I could truly heal from how I was feeling was to for once acknowledge that I was suffering, accept that I was hurting and believe that I had been in pain for a long time and truly wanted to get better.
There is more to this therapy story that I would like to address in another post, because I have truly grown in the last seven months that I have had professional help. It has helped me far more than pills or counselling ever did in the past and I have become a better person because of it. Because of therapy I have been more open about my mental health struggles in order to raise awareness and show others that what you see on social media is not how a person feels or acts all the time. Because of therapy I have learned to let go of the past truthfully and not cling on to bad habits that made me feel depressed or anxious in the first place. Because of therapy when someone asks me if I am feeling ok and I am not, I will be honest and say that I am not feeling great. But unlike before when I would say how s***tty I was feeling and then say but ‘I will be fine’, I acknowledge that some days I will feel down, I will feel depressed and I will feel low. I am realistic about my mental health issues, no longer painting over my depression and anxiety with the same sentimental romanticized brush that I tell my fantastical stories with, but at the same time, like the second guy from the case study I am now truly and authentically optimistic about a brighter future, and that is a beautiful feeling to behold.
Life is not perfect and neither am I, but I’m beginning to see how beautiful living can truly be. I relish the feel of a lovers arm wrapped around my naked body, caressing my skin, I delight in the taste of a freshly cooked curry, laugh at the crudeness of animated TV shows. I count my gratitudes and whisper positive affirmations in the shower, trying to shed kindness in moments when I am alone. But when the bad thoughts do crawl in, when I feel low or bad, I sit with the emotions instead of pushing them at the back of my mind, challenging myself to remember that even though its a massive cliche, there is always, always a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of therapy I am truly being kinder to myself, saying no to opportunities that do not benefit me, being more active in how I approach my physical and emotional wellbeing and above all am being more mindful in how I use and prioritize my time.I am working on cutting down my time and energy on people who don’t give me the same time of day as I give them, I am learning to say no and quelling the urge to feel bad or feel like I am letting someone down if I don’t say yes and most of all I am learning to be ok with my own company.
I have a long way to go but I’m relishing the journey.
Have You Ever Been In Therapy? What Is Your Experience With Mental Health?
P.S alongside therapy I also joined a six week Mindfulness Therapy group therapy session, which ended this week, which I will chronicle in an upcoming post on ‘Why I Needed And Wanted To Have Therapy’. While I preferred and found the CBT to be more beneficial as it was on a one to one basis, and enabled me to truly get to grips to all the issues that made me anxious, depressed and gave me trauma, mindfulness did introduce me to a great group of people, allowed me to see other peoples experiences with self care and above all helped me focus on my breathing and be more mindful about how I approached my physical and mental wellbeing.
If you or a loved one is dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal thoughts or anything else please do talk to a professional. Remember you are not alone and there is always someone out there who will listen to what you have to say. Please don’t suffer in silence. I have listed charities and helplines below that specialize in mental health.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon to Fri,10am to 5pm & 7 to 10pm. Weekends 2 to 5pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Abuse (child, sexual, domestic violence)
Children’s charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.
Phone: 0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)
0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)
Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm)