I'll refer readers back to this blog post I wrote a few years ago - Oiling the Machine
This week has been difficult on the head front. Anxiety attacks are still wiping me out, making me sick to the stomach, and the black dog is quick to follow.
It's now been 13 or so years since I had my last major breakdown. There's been a couple of small ones along the way too, just for fun. Recovering from something so huge in life is never a smooth path, and it invariably feels like 1 step forward and 2 steps back, even if those steps occur in batches of 300. Some people never recover; as I mentioned in the linked blog post above, I met many people during my time in and out of the then local MH unit who never made it back to reality, let alone a fraction of their former selves.
I'm sure I've said before that my first awareness of depression, my first memory of being so unhappy that I wanted to escape, was when I was 9 years old. I've been living with depression for at least 37 years now, and I'd never sought treatment until a couple of years before that big breakdown. There are many reasons for this, I'm sure. Breakdowns are complex; many factors coincide. Something makes the brain snap.
I was told at the time that I was more ill than I realised, and I've never really understood that until late. I understand that better now because I'm finally starting to see more good days than bad. And I'm not just seeing good days; the fog isn't just lifting. I now have an image of myself that finally feels like it belongs to me. I can't begin to tell you how that feels, but I can say that I don't think I've ever had that, in all of my 46 years. I feel real, valid.
But it's also fragile, and I'm very protective of it. For the first time in my life not only do I have a studio space to myself and a small garden to get me outside and be creative with in the open air, but I can also visualise myself in a realistic manner without the dangerous internal cycle that usually comes with it. I've found myself a sense of style that suits me, I have clothes I like that suit this weird body shape that motherhood and years of anti-depressants have give me. I'm far from confident, but I can face it; I can face me. The people immediately around me are supportive and understanding; not critical and judgemental. They see me, not an image of me that they project. My confidence in myself is still easily shattered, but it's repairable.
There are days when I want to mourn the time lost; yesterday was one of those days. I'd started to regain some focus after a few days of fighting the anxiety, and that often comes laden with frustration at what my mental health steals from me. When this is an illness that's blighted your entire life, where you've had to fight tooth and nail to stay on this mortal plane, it's natural to feel resentment towards it at times. It's not healthy to always feel that, but it's just as unhealthy to bury those feelings and not acknowledge them.
The downs are necessary to see the ups as they come. It's all part of the process. And the ups, they do come; I trust that now.