Life changes every day.
This is why I cannot and will not ever believe that suicide is the right answer. This is why you have to hold on tight. This is why you have to stay alive.
I’m not going to lie: the past few weeks have been tough. A couple of weeks ago, I had a week where I felt so stuck that – at times – I wondered whether out was the only way through. For some of the days, I was holding on by my fingertips to something that seemed to crumble further every time I moved. For all of the days, I felt hollow – as if I had already let go. It’s probably important to say at this point that I did not, during this time, ever feel actively suicidal or begin to plan the end of my own life, but I was moved to a place where the desperation was such that I could imagine utter and complete darkness. All encompassing nothingness.
I felt useless, brittle, exhausted.
At home, I wanted to be at work, busy and with something to occupy my time. At work, I wanted to be at home: safe and silent; away from decisions and people and the constant thick swallows of anxiety; away from the feeling that everybody must hate me because all I could feel for myself was tepid, leering hatred. I felt that I had let everybody down; that I was a burden.
There wasn’t anywhere that offered me what I sought.
Even sleep was full of thoughts of blind panic and confusion. The only way out seemed to be to switch off my feelings, or to switch off entirely.
Fear is partly responsible for this. Imagine having a burn and being told that the pain will always remain the same or get worse. Imagine trying to plan normal life when you’re so nauseous you cannot stand up straight. Imagine having a migraine and being forced to sit on a hard plastic bench in a launderette lit by slightly fault strip lights and thick with the smell of other people’s overly-perfumed detergents. Imagine that seeming the only plausible reality of the rest of your life.
This is what the bottom feels like. For many, it’s depression that flings them into the hole. For me, it’s anxiety. The constant burn of worry and fear and what if.
Except, this is never the way it always will be.
Anguish, depression, anxiety. They’re only ever temporary. Whilst that doesn’t mean they will always be mild, or fleeting, it does mean that there is – there will be – a time when they dissipate. Everyone knows that happiness will not and cannot last forever. It is the same for all the emotions: what goes up must come down. And, for the most part, what goes down bounces.
It goes without saying that getting through is not easy. When the lizard brain stops telling you that survival is the primary goal and you have to make those choices consciously, it’s really bloody difficult. Having an unending and seemingly eternal conversation with yourself, trying to weedle, cajole and lambast yourself into choosing to live is exhausting. Made even more so by people who choose not to be kind, belittle or make everything harder.
(Sidenote: it’s easier, healthier and all round better to be nice to people. Be gentle. Kindness is both free and infinitely valuable. It will never ever hurt you to make other people feel happy and good about themselves.)
And, so, here I am, trying to keep going.
Sometimes, it helps to establish routine. When your whole existence wants to stop and get off, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Saturday will always come after Friday; that lunchtime will always follow breakfast and that nighttime is for sleep. Sticking – syncopating – with other people is very soothing. Generally, the worse you are feeling, the more you need to treat yourself as an infant. Get up at a time when other people get up. Involve yourself in Eastenders. Force down Coco Pops. Text everyone in your contacts.
Talk to someone.
I am monumentally bad at this for reasons I have not yet fathomed, but telling people that you’re feeling rougher than a badger’s proverbial will make a slight chink in the armour of your desperation because other people’s voices are a powerful tool against your own monologue of despair. It is difficult to believe when you’re cloaked in utter misery, but love is a really very wonderful thing. If you can’t talk to someone, then write a letter or a text or phone a helpline. A massive part of the battle is spitting the poison out – letting someone else see it in its inky black, acidic form. It’s less powerful that way.
Whatever you do, please, please do not hole yourself up with the tick tock of towering thoughts chasing across your mind. Please do not decide that the only way to stop them is to stop everything.
Remember that, even when it seems impossible, or too difficult, or too painful, that things change. Every day, things change.
Two weeks ago, my brain was a throbbing, aching mess. Now, I am wearing ski lift pyjamas and listening to the rain and there is a new Jellycat rat that I really, really love. I have spent too much money on the Joules sale. I’ve got some beans and some raspberries to pick on Monday. I’ve noticed that my strawberries grow better in pots that they do in the ground. I had a cream cheese bagel and two cups of tea for breakfast with my sister. Today I napped and pottered and it was damn near wonderful. And yes, the anxiety fire is still there. I can still feel the what ifs in my chest, but it got better. It changed.
It can, and it will.