I am the least sociable person I know.
I would far rather hide away in my room with an episode of Holby City than go out and talk to people. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with other people, it’s just that I am scared of saying the wrong thing; not being the right person or just being so socially awkward that other people recoil with horror at the sight of me and my ‘witty’ repartee.
I am not saying this because I want people to tell me I have social skills. They are miles better than they used to be, now I know I’m not a terrible person who inspires hatred in all who meet her.
My therapist (in the unlikely event that you ever read this, Faye, I miss you.) always used to tell me that the key to recovery and life and all that jazz was to do something different. Change, as well as being as good as a rest and the spice of life, is – I have learnt – a very good way of learning new (and sometimes surprising) things about yourself.
My parents are both sixty this winter. I have not been the easiest child due to a collection of mental illnesses and unfortunate interests, but I do love them an awful lot due to them actually not being bad at the parenting lark. I wanted to say thank you and happy birthday and I love you and I really wanted to throw them a party. However, this posed problems in that I had to arrange everything (ie. talking to people) and then invite people (ie. talking to people) and then actually go into a room of twenty-odd people and socialise with them, all whilst hoping against hope that they didn’t think I was utterly bizarre and weird.
And, do you know what? Despite some initial trying to hide in the room opposite and having to go for a quick moment by myself when everyone was sitting down, it was actually so much fun. Pure, unadulterated being with other people and having food and enjoying myself.
The moral in this is that – sometimes in life – you should take a risk. I’m not talking about leaping from a bridge attached only to a spaghetti strand of elastic. Although, of course, if that floats your boat and is your ‘something different’, go for it. What I do mean is that making small changes can make a really big difference to your life. At the weekends, I have taken to having Fruit and Fibre or porridge for my breakfast. It is my ‘something different’ and – admittedly sadly – gives me something that I actually look forward to during the week. From a purely cognitive point of view, it also means that I have a range of OK breakfast choices.
I’m not going to lie: doing something different is hard. For people living with mental health problems, routine is often the crutch with which they get through the days. Routine is safe. Doing something different is not.
However, I have come to believe that mental illness is a mould which needs to be broken. Bursting out of the confines of something which ties you down and calls you useless is both painful and liberating. It doesn’t have to be a big change, but for every change you make, another part of the illness is trampled.
You are allowed to break free.
You are allowed to live your life without the binds of anxiety.
Do something different.
Even if you don’t expect to, you might enjoy it.
PS. I know I’ve written quite a lot this week. For a while before that, I felt like I had nothing to say and didn’t publish anything. I actually began to wonder if I would ever write a blog post again. I want this to a be a site on which I post when I would like to share something; not where I feel that I have to post every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday because – eventually – what I am saying wouldn’t be sincere. I am sorry if you feel bombarded, or that I am writing too often – I am sure I won’t be able to keep it up!
Also, thank you for all your lovely comments, suggestions and messages. It makes me smile every time someone makes the effort to do so and I am very lucky that my blog is read by anyone at all.