Never Judge A Book By Its Cover…
I used to ride through life pretending I didn’t care when the bullies called me names, that every birthday without fail my mum would forget to call, that I was invincible and intolerant to emotion. Yeah well its all a lie, a front I put on to pretend that I am stronger than I am. I don’t want people to know how I am behind closed doors, how at night when the lights go out I lay awake thinking about the future and it scares me. How long will I be a prisoner in my own mind, scared to rock the boat because of its mental limitations? But noone sees this image, to them I am this invincible girl who breathes happiness and joy, who would never judge a book by its cover, who is fun, confident and free-spirited. Except last night things changed. After work I went out with my friends and was the life of the party, squealing with schoolgirl excitement. It had been a while since I let loose and so the drinks began flowing.
Except here is the thing, I am not really meant to drink that much because it makes me very sick and not in the hangover kind of way either. But still I kept drinking and when I drink things rise to the surface and I become very emotional. I started crying, unexpectedly out of the blue and I didn’t know why at first. I am so used to keeping my emotions in check that showing the world my true state of mind was never intended to be a public display except it was. You my readers know that I had people who I was close to die recently and whilst it might have been three months ago now I never acknowledged my grief. I swept it under the carpet and carried on with life because people tell you that ‘life is too short’ and expect you to wipe away the tears and move on. I thought I did and I was happy but maybe the grief never goes away, maybe the pain lessens over time but there will always be an empty space in my heart where their souls used to be.
So I drank and I drank, reveled in male attention and laughed my little heart out. It was my way of saying look I am fun and exciting, never judge a book by its cover, least of all mine. It turned into a spectacle soon after and I have no idea what the trigger was but I felt really sad and alone in this moment. At some point I left the bar/club sobbing my little heart out and I was an absolute mess. I sat at the bus stop crying and crying, anguished tears blurring my make up into smudgy black lines and two strangers set beside me and held my hand. All it took was that one simple touch to get my story out, how lonely I feel in London, how sad and broken I feel losing loved ones and how I always felt like second best throughout my childhood and teenage life. I know they say that you shouldn’t let your past define you, but how could I let go of it when it was controlling my life? I so desperately wanted these strangers to take away my pain, to provide a salve to my wounded struggle and detach me from the emotions that were eating me up inside.
I was rambling but suddenly it was like I couldn’t stop, they held my hand the whole way through. I told them how ugly I felt in that moment, how people made me feel like I would never be a somebody and how every time I tried to find someone to love that person would do something so bad that all my trust would be gone. Honestly I was so embarrassed confiding in strangers and I kept apologizing for ruining their night to which they replied that I hadn’t. Eventually I found myself at the station and had a panic attack. I don’t know if it was brought on by the stress or grief but I couldn’t move and had to lie on the floor and curl into a ball because A. I was in pain and B. it felt like my heart was broken, I was a mess. I kept telling myself that I deserved to feel like this, that I shouldn’t have been so stupid to go out and try and consume my grief in a toxic environment, but despite the negativity that was clouding my mind, these kind and thoughtful strangers gave me hope and a shoulder to cry on. Not once did they judge me, not once were they condescending, patronizing or unwelcoming. They were unflinchingly warm-hearted, generous with their time and would never judge a book by its cover, no matter how broken that cover might appear to be.
Two train guards came and got me up and I felt humiliated, I didn’t want them to think that I was drunk because I wasn’t, I was just sad. They understood and helped me get up, it was 4 in the morning by this point and even the short 13 minute walk to my house from the station seemed impossible. Somehow I managed to get 5 minutes away from my house before I collapsed on the floor again and this time a young guy approached me and asked if I wanted to be walked home. Normally my stranger alert radar would be on speed dial but I was so upset that I agreed and luckily I made the right choice. I couldn’t walk and had cut my ankles when I had fallen, so he supported me along the way, while I apologized profusely for taking up this guys time. Even writing this now I am crying and I think it is because I am ashamed.
Ashamed that I let people see me like this, I didn’t want people to think that I am a freak but I sure as hell felt like I was. After all how could I say that you should never judge a book by its cover, when I was always judging myself? He was so nice and walked me to my door, even helping me get into my house because I couldn’t see through my mirage of tears. I never caught his name or the two strangers in the blur of the moment but I want to thank them for taking the time to listen and for making sure that I would be ok. Because let’s face it I have family members and even so called friends that couldn’t give two hoots if they tried. The fact that complete strangers understood what I was going through and even better were there for me restored my faith in humanity a little more.
This morning after three hours sleep the room was spinning and for a moment I had gone blind. I couldn’t see and felt sick to my stomach. I was in pain and when I tried to get out of bed I hit my head and blacked out. I have no idea how long I was out for but I didn’t feel any better when I came to. I felt so sick but couldn’t throw up. I was nauseous and my chest felt tight, my legs were shaking and my vision was blurred. I was sick to my stomach and for hours I couldn’t even leave the toilet I was so dizzy. Friends called and I had to lay there on the floor with my friend on speaker phone because I couldn’t open my eyes. Time seemed to go really slow and I had no concept of what I was doing or what I was saying. Eventually by mid-afternoon I finally threw up and as disgusting as it sounds it made me feel a little better. I was still dizzy and in pain but my stomach had finally settled and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Sometimes when I get into this state I get so bad that I have to go to hospital and the last time I was there I was kept in for 7 hours because I was so sick. I had a flashback to that moment, leaving the hospital early morning, being shouted at by a random stranger. I sat at the bus stop again still feeling ill and he invaded my personal space, called me names. Told me that my parents didn’t care, he is right to an extent. I digress, I have a fear of hospitals so I was thankful that the pain began to lessen by the evening. But that didn’t change the way I feel or at least the way I felt last night. I used to think that writing was the only counselling I would ever need but I think maybe just this once I am wrong and I do need help.
I need to change the way that I look at the world and myself. I need to never judge a book by its cover, that cover being me. I need to be less anxious, less jumpy and committed to self-love and care. Most of all I need to remember that it’s okay to not be ok, because life isn’t sunshine and rainbows, I can’t always block out the pain. And while it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed or swept up in the vicious turbulence of my emotions, it’s time at last to try…
Have You Struggled To Shake Off Your Inner Demons?
* Updated to include some mental health support services below. This is not an extensive list but just some of the resources that are available to you. Since 2018, I have found that therapy has helped me massively, and even today as of 2020, I am still receiving support for my mental health. Ultimately I am in a much better place and have learned to never judge a book by its cover*
NHS (with a list of counselling services and types of therapies offered in your area)