It’s not just for people with a family history or people who have been through a trauma.
It’s for me. It’s for you. It’s for our family, our friends. It’s for the woman sitting across from us on the train and the man who serves us in the shop. It’s for everyone and even the strongest, capable, talented, clever, witty or happiest can’t avoid it. It doesn’t discriminate and in the blink of an eye, your mental wellbeing can start to fail you and it’s not your fault.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for long enough to tell you that all the above is true. I was clever (ish), funny and outgoing. I had hundreds of friends, a fantastic social life – sometimes too fantastic when I would turn up for sixth form drunk the following morning. A string of boyfriends, some which last way longer than others, some which only stuck around for a few weeks. But I was never afraid to meet new people. I was never afraid of new opportunities. I was never afraid of anything. Until I was. Until anxiety struck and I became afraid of everything and you wouldn’t be able to recognise that girl I described above.
Now, 4 years, 2 counsellors and hundreds of anxiety attacks later, I still suffer. My struggle has changed and in some aspects I manage myself better than others and better than I did before but the underlying fact is that I still have anxiety and sometimes, it’s so bad, I feel like that’s all I am.
If you saw me on social media and didn’t know my story which I’ve spoke about here, I doubt you would even consider the fact that I had a mental health problem. In between my happy tweets, my excessive emoji use and my sarcastic comments, there’s a girl that sometimes can’t even bring herself to wash her hair. A girl who sometimes struggles to leave the house or go in a shop or drive a car – even though I’m quite capable of doing all of those things. A girl that sometimes lays in bed sleeping until half past 2 because she just can’t bring herself to get up and have to face the day or a girl that cries non stop for hours over everything and nothing all at once. But that girl will more often than not, be around on Twitter, chatting and smiling and sharing photos of those rare good moments in her life to ensure people that I do have a life, despite the fact sometimes I feel like I’m just crawling through, trying to survive.
So if you’re looking for the face of mental illness, look around you. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, colours and ages. Various states and intensities. It’s the dark cloud hanging over someone’s head when they should be feeling but instead all they feel is numb. It’s the unwanted adrenaline pumping through someone’s body, making their heart beat speed up and making their palms sweat just because they have to get on a bus or a train. It’s the dread someone feels when they think too hard about the future and it makes them want to crawl into a hole and die.
Mental illness doesn’t have a face. It’s faceless. It’s heartless. It doesn’t care. It’s that unwanted guest at a party. The feeling that there’s something else, nestled in every part of your being, that shouldn’t be there. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia, bulimia, schizophrenia – they’re all parasites. And they won’t beat us.
This post is for everyone suffering with a mental illness – whatever type, however intensely. You’ve got this.