In this day and age, the REM hit from the 90’s couldn’t be more pertinent. There are so many people dealing with pain in their lives. To me, it seems more and more visible the amount of people who don’t hold on anymore and don’t take comfort in their friends. Just recently we’ve seen the loss of a media personality who was always bubbly, always the life and soul of the party and always looking like she was enjoying herself. She was a great actress; she was playing a role each day of her life to hide the pain she was really suffering.
Sadly she’s not the only one who this is true for. At some point each and every one of us will have done this. We tell ourselves we’re being authentic to who we are, when actually we’ve put on our mask and headed out into the world. I’ll hold my hand up and say I’ve done it and still do.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been known as the bubbly one; the one who’ll help anyone; the one with the infectious laugh; the one living her best life. To those in the outside world, it probably looked like I was living the dream – career going well, lots of friends and owned my own flat. I probably even came across as care free. For me, I was quite happy to go along with the assumptions people made about me being happy go lucky.
For many people they probably thought that I had no issues in life as I don’t have kids, I’m not married, I’m heterosexual & I earn money. What possibly could be wrong and what possibly could I have to worry about?? But what they never assumed (at least not to my face) was that I was lying to them each day I left the house.
I had insecurities. I’ve been insecure about my looks, how I come across to people, am I doing well enough in my career and am I making people proud of me. I’ve asked myself way too many times “why don’t I have a boyfriend? What’s wrong with me?” and “am I pretty enough? If so, then why don’t I feel it?” as well as many more. These questions though aren’t specific to me. Many people, in particular young women, have these thoughts and ask themselves these questions but would never dare share how they feel with others.
4 years ago, my insecurities grew ten fold. My body started to let me down as well as my brain when ME entered my life. Not only did I feel judged by society (even though they weren’t really) but I was feeling judged by the medical world and people close to me.
Test after test came back normal. Day after day I was getting worse. Doctors were doubting me and my symptoms so I had to fight to get seen and push for answers as I knew I wasn’t faking it. People who were supposed to be close to me were also judging me – some still do. They kept telling me what I should be doing to help myself. They would tell me to go for a long walk; take the train to work; eat certain foods; go to certain “experts” and try yoga and meditation. I used to let this upset me. I would cry in front of them as I was so frustrated at how they were being but I would never stand up for myself. I would then cry again when I got home; asking myself “are they right? Am I holding myself back?”.
I’ve gone through a lot with my ME. I’ve had to watch as my personal life crumbled and I had to figure out a new way to live. I’m now watching my career that I’ve worked so hard for over the past 22 years, dangle by a thread. BUT I’m not giving up. Instead, I’m focussing on my mental health and those people who truly care for me and don’t make me feel judged.
As part of an ME service near me, I spent 6 months with a psychologist. This was a superb experience for me. She didn’t fix me. She didn’t help my ME. She did get me to take a long hard look at myself and taught me how to appreciate who I am. I had to admit that I was a perfectionist, an overachiever, someone who constantly pushed to do better and better for others regardless of how this impacted on me. She told me that my understanding of what good is, is what everyone else sees as excellent. This struck a chord with me leading me to change parts of who am I. I haven’t done this for anyone else – I’ve done it for me and that’s important.
I now appreciate that it’s ok to speak to people about how I’m feeling and what’s going on with me. I hid how my ME was making me feel for far too long. I also know that it’s ok for me to have anxiety about things and that it’s perfectly ok not to be ok – I no longer need to be perfect. I now feel that I’m a good person, no better or worse than anyone else, and that I don’t need to waste energy on people who want to judge me or make me feel worthless.
Feeling like this is liberating. So many people struggle with online trolls or negativity directed at them. I get that – that’s how I used to feel. But now, now I feel sorry for people who want to judge, want to be cruel and want to hurt others. I look at them with pity thinking that someone must’ve have really done a number on them or they must feel so insecure about who they are that they have to project it on to others. I know that’s simplifying things, but I truly feel they are the ones who need help.
You’re probably thinking that by looking at life this way has saved me. And in some ways it has. It’s allowed me to see there’s still more life for me to live even though my body and brain aren’t what they used to be. It’s made me appreciate the small things in life more. Most importantly, its made me realise that there are more people out there that care for me than judge me.
I’m going to say something controversial, but please go with me on this. I don’t believe in suicide. I don’t believe it’s an answer to a problem. I don’t believe it eases pain. Now I know not everyone agrees with that and I understand that those who go down that route can’t see any other way out. For me though, this belief has saved my life and has allowed me to continue to grow as a person.
We all have struggles. Your own struggles will always be the toughest as you know exactly what they are and we don’t always know what’s going on behind another person’s eyes. But I believe that if we want to change society and reduce the number of stories we read of those who have sadly passed away, we need to learn to appreciate each other more. We need to take time out of our lives to be there for others and trust that they will do the same for us. We need to learn how to help people more rather than spreading the hate and biting when people tweet things that are cruel. Remember when we were kids and our parents would tell us off but say “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed”, that made us sit up and listen a lot more than being shouted at. It has the same affect on grown ups too.
I’m in a good place with my mental health now. My ME is still challenging me, but I’m a lot more optimistic. There are fewer and fewer “why me?” days and a lot more “what can I do to make life more exciting?” days. I have people I can trust and who are there for me. I know I can reach out and that it’s ok to do so. And to be honest, I don’t bother much with those who aren’t there for me but I wish them well in life.
If you are struggling with your own mental health, look up the lyrics to Everybody Hurts and they’ll remind you that you’re not alone.
Rest in peace now those who couldn’t see the light for the dark.