But I do need you to understand, or try to understand…
Two years ago, this week, I took myself to my GP surgery and asked my doctor for help. I told her I could no longer pretend I was “OK” and that I needed to see someone or get some help, to deal with the overwhelming anxiety and accompanying depression that were threatening to take over. I could no longer fake it. I was done. I was referred into the mental health system, seen and assessed by a mental health nurse, then a psychiatrist, then spent time having one on one counselling and CBT therapy. I have been very open about my mental health, and the journey I am walking. I am still walking it. I am better now, than I was two years ago. I am stronger, I am happy, I am for want of a better word, coping with life, in some ways better than I ever have. I have learned things about myself and other people that have made me realize for the first time in my life who I actually am and I am starting to actually like, and even love myself again.
Some people I have shared my journey with, have understood. Some haven’t. After Emily’s birth. I lost a very good friend, who could not cope with or understand what I been through, or what was happening to me, with the overwhelming place I was in. I wasn’t able to be what she wanted or needed in a friend, she didn’t know how to be my friend when I was deep in the black tunnel of the first serious bout of depression and anxiety I had struggled with since my mother died when I was 18. It still hurts today, that we couldn’t find a way to reach each other.
When someone you know and love is going through the mental health crisis that can come from acute anxiety or depression, or long term, less acute symptoms, it can be incredibly hard to understand, or know what to do or say. To watch someone you know, a family member, loved one or friend, going through what is the hell of anxiety and depression, is I know very difficult and frustrating.
Two years on, I wanted to share my thoughts on what someone like me, and many others might need from friends and family around us as we fight hard to deal with the battle in our mind. I use the first person when I am saying the following…
I don’t want or need you to fix me. There was a time when I thought people I love, who mean more to me than anything else, could fix me. I now know you can’t. It’s not you, you are not a failure. You haven’t let me down. You cannot fix me, I need to learn how to help myself.
I need you to love me, and accept me. I know sometimes it’s hard to live with me. I don’t want to be this way. If I could choose, I wouldn’t be this way. Please remember that this thing that has a hold on me is not a choice or something I want. Please don’t think I love you any less because right now, and for a while, I can’t be what you want or need. Please don’t run away or leave me. Just be there. I am trying to come back. I am fighting hard.
I will say and do things that are hard to understand. I will be angry, or beyond sad or downright unreasonable. I sometimes may seem angry with you. I am not really. Inside, I am angry at myself or things that life has thrown at me, and I am trying to process that, and sometimes it comes out and hurts the ones I love most. I will try not to hurt you. It kills me to know I am hurting you. I am trying hard to get to a place where I don’t hurt you and I don’t hurt myself.
I may withdraw. I might not be or do the things I normally do, or seem reluctant to. I may not want to talk about things. I am may need more alone time, or I may want company. I am trying to adjust and cope. If I cancel plans, it’s not because I don’t want to be with you, it’s simply because I am not coping, or feel I may not be able to cope. Please be gracious with me. Keep inviting me, and one day, the old me will be there enough for me to say yes and keep my promise.
I may not be able to support or help you like I normally would. I may have been “the reliable one” on who people depended. When I am trying to look after myself and heal my battered mind, I will not be that person, or not as much as I used to. It may be hard to understand, or accept. I am not being selfish, or maybe I am, but I need to look after me, and protect me. I want to be the person I was. I need time to get back there. I may not go back to being exactly the same.
I will put down boundaries. As I make progress with therapy, or as I learn new ways to deal with the battle raging in my mind, I might find strength to say no, to start to protect myself, to stand up for myself. The new me might not let you say or do certain things because I don’t like them or they make my anxiety worse. What seemed OK before, was actually because I was too scared to say something. I now have the strength to say what hurts me.
I am not mad, bad or crazy. Inside my head is a broken mirror, that needs to be carefully put back together, to reflect the person I am. I am not a horrible person. I have been damaged and I am trying to heal.
You cannot fix me. I don’t want you to fix me. Just be there, be patient, know it’s not you. I am trying to be the person I need to be. I want you there for me and with me. I still love you and want to be your friend. Bear with me, wait for me. Please be patient. It may not seem it, but I am not broken, I am brave, and I am still there, I am fighting hard, and I will find you when I am ready.
MIND have some excellent resources if you need, if you are someone who has a family member or friend struggling with their mental health.