I’m sat atop a cliff edge. My mental health is the cliff.
It’s no secret that I have suffered under the hands of mental illness for the majority of my life. Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, and Emotionally unstable personality disorder. I often think there must be something sinister wrong with me because those three illnesses cannot be the reason I sometimes feel deathly terrible.
I generally keep on top of my mental health with the use of poetry, writing, and reading. Reading is my escapism from reality – giving my mind something else to focus on has proven to be highly effective, keeping me away from the cliff edge. Writing is my way of dealing with the darkness. I rain my words and those black clouds overhead are a little less full and a lot less black, making way for scatterings of blue sky and the occasional peep of sunshine. I can live with that. I do live with that. But recently, I have felt a decline in my mental health.
This decline can most likely be attributed to three things.
- I’ve not been writing anything but professional, legal things.
- I’m surrounded by emotional vampires.
- When things are really bad, I struggle to find the words that ask for help.
Number one is self-explanatory. I should have made time to write for me, for my mental wellness, but I haven’t. When I don’t write, I find I read less too. I have less concentration to absorb the words on the page, and then what’s the point of reading? If you can’t lose yourself in the words, why the hell would you read?
My writing problem is easily fixed. Write more. Find time for that self-care – writing. Even if it is just five minutes. Do it.
Number two is a harder one to fix, unless I want to become even more isolated than I already have made myself through not leaving the house unless I need to go food shopping, dropping the kiddos off at school, or for the many doctors appointments I have for other health issues. I worked it out last night. I haven’t been out for pleasure in three months. I am becoming a hermit, a recluse, and that’s what prompted me to realise that my mental health is becoming worse than I realised.
I have many people in my life who are emotional vampires. Bear with me and this term will become clear. The main traits of an emotional vampire are as follows:
- They’ll bring all of their problems to you and this will take many many hours of your time. They get you invested in their problems emotionally.
- Once said problems have been resolved (usually an hour after they’ve unloaded to you) they are back to being their happy selves.
- As soon as they are their happy selves, you don’t hear from them again, until things go tits up, or they need something from you.
Note, an emotional vampire can only be their namesake if they fulfil the three criteria above.
These emotional vampires are all around me, leaving me with no one to turn to when I need someone to listen.
Which brings me to number three. I struggle finding the words even when someone is willing to listen. The irony being that I write, I’m never usually short of words, but when the chips are down, I can’t find the right words to ask for help and even if I did find the words, what help do I really need?
No one can take away my mental illnesses for me, nor am I sure anyone can say anything to take them away. I guess I need someone to listen, to remind me to hold on tight, but again, the majority of people around me are the emotional vampires. Those I only hear from when they want something, or want me to be the person to say all the right things and make them feel better.
I spend a lot of time with my mental illnesses feeling isolated; even in a full room. I could be in the middle of the entire world population, but still feel alone. Trapped in my head which is a battle ground of conflicting voices, controlled by depression that tells me how much of a failure I am, by anxiety that tells me to keep my guard up because bad things are about to happen any given moment, and by my OCD that tells me to triple check I locked the front door then to check it once more because three is an odd number, and if I don’t check it, something bad will happen – this in turn gives my anxiety more power and gives my depression a louder voice to chastise me for being so useless.
What I realise from speaking to many others about their mental health is that I am not alone in the way I feel. There are many people out there that understand completely. I realise now that the bastard that is mental illness likes to keep you locked away in your own thoughts because isolation gives it more power, it keeps those thoughts amplified, loud.
This is why I need to focus on speaking up, sharing my experiences with others, reaching out to those who will listen and support me, and in return share my support to those that truly need it, not to those emotional vampires who bleed you dry emotionally and then vanish into the night when you need someone to listen.
My mental illness is a cliff.
There are days where I’m hanging off the edge, holding on, scared I’m going to fall, not wanting to fall but not wanting to have to fight to hang on any more.
There are days where I fantasise with the idea of jumping off the cliff, plummeting into the blackness, the void, the place where nothing hurts, the place where I don’t have to pretend, the place where everything is nothing and nothing is better than the way I feel.
Then there are the rare days where I sit on the edge and watch the sunrise across the horizon and I feel hope. Hope for a better day. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that one day I won’t feel like this ever again. Or just the hope that when I do feel like jumping, I have the strength and courage to breathe, to choose life. To hang on.
It’s those rare days that keep me fighting, keep me holding on when I’m grappling with the sharp edges of life — knowing that one day I’ll smile and I’ll mean it, that my laugh won’t be forced, and that I’ll only ever be on a cliff edge to watch the sunrise.
As a writer I have the ability to make the ugly, beautiful; but one day, I want to write about beauty because its all I can see when I sit atop that cliff.
My mental health is a cliff. One that I’ll only visit when I choose to not because I am forced to.
This piece has been previously published on poetsin.com – the charity I co-founded to help those with mental ill-health gain control of their mental wellbeing.