I’m not really writing this with the intention of posting it first and foremost.
Writing is my therapy, sometimes I need it to be viewed in order to feel like I’ve set the words free but sometimes putting pen to paper is enough. Also the sea is good, if you ever feel sad go to the sea.
So it’s #mentalhealthawarenessday for the 80 bejillionth time this year.
Yes I shouldn’t do it down because it does great things, prompts conversation and gives a platform to those who otherwise wouldn’t speak up. However, the flip side is that those who don’t directly suffer or need to address mental health on a daily basis get given an opportunity to wave a politically correct flag, pretend they care by posting a meme or a quote on social media and then slink back into the shadows when the reality hits.
For those who deal with mental health issues, our awareness is everyday. We don’t get a choice.
And on that note I want to write about something a little different from usual. For those that have followed me for years I have discussed everything from anxiety and depression to OCD and Borderline Personality Disorder, how I have dealt with them and how they have impacted of influenced my work/life/friends/relationships etc.
A month ago my therapist told me she doesn’t believe I fit the criteria for BPD any longer – I practically rejoiced. I’ve been feeling this way about that particular diagnosis for some time and although I have never felt ashamed of it, I just didn’t identify with a lot of it anymore.
I have learnt to regulate my emotions better, I am able to introduce my prefrontal cortex to my amygdala in intense emotionally heightened situations. For those that may not understand, that’s my logical part of my brain meeting my emotional one.
I’m less angry, I’m learning who I truly am and I’m learning to have a more “normal” life. I go to the gym most days, I practise a lot of yoga, I’m running two businesses, in a relationship of nearly 8 years, keep two dogs alive and my hygiene is borderline obsessively good – probably why I had “high maintenance” put on the back of my hockey shirt at uni… I mean it’s better than the previous year which was “Sandby Stripper” but that’s another story for another day.
So I have reached an odd fork in the road, I say odd because it’s not really a fork, it has about 8000 paths yet I know which I need to take but I’m struggling to get there.
One of the other conversations that came up with said therapist is that I am much more comfortable in intense and distressing situations – that is not to say I enjoy them, far from it. It’s just all I’ve ever known.
Some of my earliest memories are deaths of family members, funerals, getting heavily bullied at school for being “poor” and being removed from schools because we couldn’t afford the fees (I never wanted to go private anyway! I eventually went to a state out of my own choice), having to move house repeatedly and even having to sleep on the floor of my Dad’s office as a family for 2 weeks because we had no money and needed to keep his business running but didn’t have a home. On top of hearing phrases like “stiff upper lip”, “you’re too emotional” and “stop with the amateur dramatics and hysteria”. All the mantras instilled in me that it was shameful to express emotions.
My therapist described me as the equivalent of a soldier that has come back from the war, they no longer know where they fit and a “calm and normal” life is actually very uncomfortable to be in.
So there began my resolve of BPD yet eye opening that my problem now is not so much my cognitive function / reactions / emotions and actually that I’ve spent the first 23 years of my life thinking that life was “normal” and it was far far from it. It’s taken me until 29 to even begin to process this, 6 years after I removed myself from the environment that I became a product of.
The title of this is setting myself free, because I am scared. I am scared even as I write this that my “family” will read something I’ve written on the internet again because I need to express myself in some way and they will lambast me for it. Not to mention the fact that they are in the legal profession and my entire upbringing involved threatening to sue many people.
Previous things that have happened in the past include a member of my family sharing a tweet of mine, where I responded to a topic on This Morning about toxic people, onto his Facebook whilst all his friends mocked my physical appearance, condemned me for “watching too much ITV” and continued to announce that I was “projecting” when I had tweeted about how they were narcissists.
To the average person a narcissist is someone who loves their appearance, takes too many selfies blah blah. We live in a culture of #bopo and are encouraged to love the skin we’re in, yet when you do you are criticised even though it’s not actually hurting anyone.
But my interpretation of narcissist is very different. I believe I grew up in a household which follows the narcissistic pattern to a tee and includes such characters as the golden child and the scapegoat.
Most recently I have spend time stuck in my own destructive narrative where I convince myself that I have imagined it all, that I made it all up somehow and that when your own mother and siblings reject you (however they will claim otherwise as I had no choice but to remove myself from the situation), then they must be right because essentially that’s a ratio of 3:1. And logically 3 people against 1, well I must be the anomaly.
But then as I grow older I have gotten to know other family units, see friends have children and begin to build a unit of my own. It’s very different to what I have known.
I’m struggling to understand why so many people’s mothers want to continue to be in their lives, why they have an interest in what they are doing and still treat them as their child in a loving and kind manner. I was never quite sure whether I was allowed to be a child or an adult because the role just seemed to be chosen for me depending on what suited the general consensus the most. A prime example of this was not being allowed to do a reading at my Dad’s funeral because “the adults should do it”. I was 23. Yet simultaneously expected to manage my own emotions, finances, living situation, degree, everything – so was I supposed to be a child or an adult?
And I guess that’s where I still reside to this day, I was brought up in a household of no consistency, and again, if you were to hear the other side of this I am “attention seeking, spoilt, selfish” and the list goes on. So I repeat – the fear I still have residing over my life from these people even by writing this is overwhelming. I need to set myself free.
The way I describe the way I feel about them to make it understandable to people who have fortunately never had to face this is imagine how you feel when you are in a room full of people, yet you know one of them hates you. You can almost feel their aura, a darkness, a black haze around them. This is how I feel about those from my past existing in the world.
Some days I find myself envying those who have parents, and that’s normal for people who have lost parents. The other day I cried in Sainsbury’s because I overheard a woman tell her daughter they had to “go and pick Dad up” after this. And my heart hurt at the fact I would never hear that, never be able to do that, never feel that love again.
Then the most fucked up aspect is that I envy people who have two dead parents, not because I wish death on anyone, but living with the fact that one actively doesn’t want you and the one that did has died makes for some difficult processing. And believe me, I’m not playing the poor little me card and “wah wah my parent doesn’t want me”, one of the last things I asked her was whether she even loved me, and she stared straight forward silently before continuing to tell anyone who would listen (including old friends) that I scare her. So it’s fact, not speculation.
That aside, I am now facing a treacherous road of discovery once again – everything I thought I knew for 23 years got turned upside down the day I decided to put myself first. I have learnt a lot about myself in the last 6 years, I have learnt that I’m worthy of love, I’m able to live a “normal” life and I have the ability to break this cycle of damage which by all accounts has been passed down from generation to generation.
I am currently awaiting an assessment for a PTSD diagnosis. I will leave out the issues I’m having with the mental health system for now (postcode lottery…) and explain how this makes me feel.
I am relieved, I am scared and I am angry.
I am relieved because someone finally believes me. The years I spent living in a fabricated “perfect” reality followed by the years of not understanding reality at all because my entire perception of it had been warped by my upbringing, it is finally being acknowledged.
It was much easier to cope with diagnoses that “simply” addressed my emotions/cognitive function etc before because I was allowed to discuss those openly without fear of backlash. Admittedly yeah you get trolls and insensitive people eg. someone recently told me how much I’d helped them see they had an issue yet started it with “I used to eyeroll all your posts”. Fab thanks, that’s really nice… So although a lot of people view me as strong for opening up, and brave etc, it’s still SO HARD to hear shit like that.
Bravery is not what I think when I am writing, I am writing because I was stifled for so many years – made to keep secrets and live in other people’s woven tales of crap in order to protect them, and frankly I can’t do that anymore. I’m a perpetually honest human being, I am empathetic and in every situation I go into it with the kindest of intentions and to leave whoever I interact with feeling better than when we started.
I believe I live this way now because of my previous environment. Being expected to keep secrets, hide things and get scolded incase you slipped up would be intense for anyone let alone a child / teen. I reclaimed my life and my identity by allowing myself to be unashamed, I spent too long being made to believe I wasn’t good enough, or that my presence on this Earth was a deep insult to certain family members born before myself. A child cannot help being born.
Often when I have flashbacks, nightmares or even just memories of the past it can be almost as if I’m viewing someone else’s life, or a film showreel. I struggle to understand that they are my memories and it hurts to consider a child going through that that I couldn’t save, but then I remember that child was me. The gaslighting, the emotional abuse, abandonment – I had been conditioned for a long time to laugh it off, tell the tales like it was a funny dinner party anecdote but recently I’ve come to realise that those stories I used to laugh about, I only laughed to protect myself.
I had designed a role within my family where I was the “stupid funny one who took pictures and made art”. Nothing was serious. I guess because maybe deep down I didn’t have the capacity to face it then so I had to protect myself in some form and that’s how I did it. I never let myself get close to anyone, relationships were kept at arms length and if anyone started to know the “real me” I would run away as quickly as I could. I used to believe that’s because the “real me” was bad, but now I can see that these relationships were triggering things inside me and highlighting to me that I’d never been taught how to emotionally connect. I was the funny one, that was me, and I was nothing more than that – so to get close to becoming more than that was fearful.
I’m writing this because I need to reclaim this part of my life, I need to stop being scared of them, of this. If I get a backlash then so be it, what are you going to do, sue me?
As I get ever closer to my 30’s I think more and more about the person I want to be, the person I am and the person I was. Someone said to me recently that “Your 30’s are like your 20’s, you just have more money, fewer people asking what you’re going to do with your life and you give a lot less fucks.” And you know what, I’m ready for that.
If you have read all of this then I am very grateful, I wrote at the beginning of this that I wasn’t sure if I would publish it but something inside me today has been compelling me to write and to set myself free. I have spent too long trapped inside this cage of my past and with a potential PTSD diagnosis with the intention of being followed by long term trauma therapy I am ready to not be afraid anymore.
You no longer scare me, you can’t control me and I’m setting myself free.
This is my life now, I spent too long wondering whether I should be a child or an adult but I am both and also neither at the same time. I am me, and this is the start of my journey to freedom.
I want to live my life for me again, not in fear of you.
If you need to speak to someone immediately please also don’t hesitate to call one of these UK BASED confidential lines:
SAMARITANS: 020 8394 8300 (24/7)
SANE: 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm – 10:30pm every evening)
CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably – for men): 0800 58 58 58 (5pm – midnight every day)
PAPYRUS (under 35’s): 0800 068 41 41 (10am-10pm Monday to Friday, 2pm-10pm Weekends)