Blocking Out My Issues
At some point along the way, I really thought that I was ‘back to normal’. I don’t know what I thought ‘normal’ was, but in reality I was far from it. The issue I had, and I’m almost certain I’m not the only person to do this, was that I wanted to appear on the outside like I was absolutely fine and over everything that I’d been through. I was trying to mask the harsh reality of how I felt on the inside, and every time someone asked me if I was ok, I wanted to say with confidence that I was fine. But I wasn’t, and the people closest to me were able to see straight through it. The problem I had was that I was desperate to be back to the person I was before all of this, too desperate and too eager too quickly.
I don’t really know at what point alcohol went from being a social thing to a “I don’t want to go home, I want to stay and drink” thing. Maybe within the first couple of weeks and I just didn’t realise, or maybe when I’d left my job and had no real responsibility. Or maybe it was when I realised just how much alcohol managed to numb the way I was feeling on the inside. Alcohol numbed the bad feelings I had which in essence made me feel happier, which then meant I wasn’t having to pretend that I was happy on the outside, because I actually was. Or, I was for the short time that I was out of the house and in the pub. It took me a long while before I realised that the heightened feelings and emotions I had once I was home, were probably due to the alcohol I’d just consumed. But back then, I had an answer for that. I’d just try to stay out as long as I could. No going home, no problems, right? Wrong, actually.
A couple of months after everything had happened, I started to socialise more again. It wasn’t regular, maybe once or twice a week, but I think this was the point that I realised just how much being out, around other people and with alcohol, was helping me to feel “normal”. Unfortunately, as I said above, it was once I got home that the feelings and emotions came back again. I was in a relationship before any of this journey had started, and it’s pretty common knowledge that you take things out on the people closest to you. Unfortunately, he took the brunt of how I felt an awful lot. I’m not going to say it was every time, because there were a lot more nights when I would keep things to myself and go to bed and cry than there were when I would take things out on other people. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that almost every argument we had was because I’d been drinking, and I didn’t know how to control my emotions or articulate how I was feeling properly. In truth, almost every disagreement I had with either him or with my parents were due to this very thing.
I felt alone, so alone, despite how many people were trying to be there for me. I just didn’t feel like people understood, and I couldn’t understand why people weren’t getting it. The truth was that people weren’t being fully understanding because I wasn’t being fully honest about how I was feeling. How were people supposed to know how bad I felt when I was plastering a fake smile on my face, fake laughing at jokes and faking my emotions. I started pushing people away because I was feeling guilty for how I was making them feel and how I was treating them. I felt that if I pushed people away then they wouldn’t care about me as much, which would mean I wasn’t hurting them by my own hurt. I also started to feel like people might be bored of listening to how down I was. I felt like I was a burden. So many times did I genuinely think that it would be better and easier if I had nobody around me (which, by the way, I realised later on is absolutely not true). But at the time I was blind to how much love and support I actually had. I look back now and I know that people only had my best interests at heart, but back then, so many times I felt like everyone was against me. I was being incredibly selfish and quite frankly, not a very nice person. On top of this, I was on medication. Medication who’s job it was to heighten my mood and lower my anxiety. At the same time, I was fuelling myself with alcohol, who’s job it is to lower my mood and heighten my anxiety. I mean, I really was doing myself no favours.
Once I’d officially left my job and knew that getting a new one wasn’t right for me yet, I had the realisation that I was essentially stuck in the house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By this point, I’d become so good at acting like everything was ok that I’d even convinced myself that I had everything under control. Unfortunately, this meant that I convinced myself that I’d absolutely be able to go out and only have 1 or 2 sociable drinks, because I was no longer drinking to forget, or so I thought. I think it started by going to the pub with my parents one evening a week. Which became two. Which became three. My parents knew and understood how much I felt stuck in the house, so going for a drink on an evening seemed like something which would help me to feel like I was getting out, even just for an hour or so. But fairly quickly it got to the point where I wouldn’t go home until last orders had been called and I’d gone way past the “1 or 2 drinks”. Again, I was being selfish and ignoring the fact that my parents would have work the next day, because I was out of the house and feeling ‘happier’. Alcohol not only helped me to numb my feelings, but it gave me confidence which I’d lost the last few months. At the time I never realised that how relaxed, happy and confident I felt was a lie. It wasn’t me. It was alcohol, and once that wore off I’d be bumped back down to Earth and back to reality with a bang.
It then started that I’d meet up with my cousin or friends on weekdays and we’d go for some lunch and a “couple of drinks”. And again, those couple of drinks would lead to me having to be forced into going home. At the time, I was taking it really personally if somebody didn’t want to stay out and drink with me. It made me feel like people were against me and weren’t wanting the best for me. I couldn’t understand why, when I was out, happy and enjoying myself, people were wanting me to go home. I seemed to completely forget that people had their own lives. This went on for a couple of months at least. Then there was one night when I’d gone out in the early evening and by 5AM the next day, my parents had no idea where I was or whether I was ok. I’ve always had a very close relationship with my parents and would always text them to let them know that I was ok. And given everything that had happened over the last few months, I knew how protective they were being of me, and how nervous they got when I went out. But fast forward to this particular period of time when I’d become selfish and was only thinking about myself, I was pushing them further and further away and acting like somebody I’d never been. After this night, I apologised and we moved on, but 4 days later I went and did the same thing again. And the worst thing was that I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, not only in terms of my parents, but it wasn’t right for me. None of this was going to be helping me in the long run, but I just didn’t seem to care.
The weekend after, I’d gone to stay with my friend for a couple of days and this was the point when I realised that things had to change. For as long as I could remember, I’d never gone a single day without speaking to my mum. But the whole weekend I was away, she didn’t text me once. I knew I’d pushed her too far with the way I’d been acting and it really hurt. On top of this, I was able to take a couple of days away from ‘normality’, and even though it was only for 2 days, it helped me to see things so much more clearly. I knew that the person I’d been pretending to be wasn’t the person I wanted to continue being. When I got back home, we sat down and aired everything. We spoke about things that we’d all been too nervous to say in fear of hurting each other, and it’s safe to say that many tears were shed in that conversation. But they told me a lot of home truths that I needed to hear, and I opened up to them about a lot of the things I’d been covering up too. From here on, things got better between us and I stopped being the difficult, selfish person I’d been up until now. I needed that wake up call, and I’d hate to think how things could’ve ended up had I not have woken up to the fact that I needed to change.
This whole time really was an awful period. I was in a bad way and I let it take over me. I became someone I never want to be again. I pushed my loved ones away, almost too far, and I’m extremely lucky that it didn’t end up any worse than it did between us. But I had a wake up call, I realised what was important, I stopped being selfish and I stopped using alcohol to mask how I was actually feeling. I started to open up when I needed to and started to be honest not only with others, but more importantly with myself. And if there’s one huge lesson I learnt, it’s that you can’t run away, hide from or cover up your issues, because all you’re going to do is make things worse. Admitting my issues rather than trying to hide them was a really difficult thing for me, but doing all I could to run away from them definitely wasn’t going to be a long term solution. I had no choice but to face it head on, even if it meant things getting worse before they could get better.
Pretending to be someone you’re not in order to appear happier or more fun to others is the worst thing you could do. Because those people will go home at the end of the night and all you’re left with is yourself. You’re the only person you spend 24 hours a day with. You need to make sure you’re being honest with yourself, and being someone who you would want to be around.
The Start of My Battle With Anxiety and Depression
This post is all about something which is talked about an awful lot these days, yet still seems to be a pretty hidden subject. Especially to those going through it. It’s something that has had a huge impact on me over the last 8 months. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week (statistic taken from mind.org.uk). So if this many of us are dealing with it, then why do we find it so hard to talk about it? Depression and anxiety isn’t a one size fits all illness. It can be completely different for every single person dealing with it. It can be triggered by so many different things and it can effect people in so many different ways. The 2 don’t necessarily go hand in hand but for the most part, they did for me so I’ll mainly talk about them together.
It took a few days, maybe a week, for everything to begin to sink in. Due to everything that had happened, I was off work, which meant I had plenty of time to process it all. I’d had a period of time feeling nothing but pure confusion and anger. I didn’t understand why this had happened to me. What had I done? Why did I deserve it? How would I ever get through it all? I had already suffered with depression a few years before so it’s something I was familiar with, but this time, it was completely different. The cause was different, the feelings were more intense and it felt like my anxiety was completely taking over. I was unable to leave the house on my own and I still struggled even when I was with someone. I spent a lot of time wanting to be on my own but I also hated been left alone with my thoughts. The majority of my days at this time were “bad days”, when just getting out of bed or washing my hair seemed like the most impossible of tasks.
I spent a few weeks feeling like I was living in a bubble. I spent the majority of the time in my own little world, but my own world wasn’t a very nice one. It was full of mixed emotions, not enough sleep, racing thoughts and self doubt. I knew that there had to be a way out, but I just couldn’t see it. The only thing I was certain of was that I didn’t want to feel this way. My days seemed to pass by in a bit of an emotional blur and nothing seemed to be getting easier. I spent a lot of time by my phone waiting for updates from the police and felt like I was in limbo. I also spent a lot of time in bed, some days I barely even got out of it. I cried, a lot. I had little interest in anything and some nights I wouldn’t even get a minute of sleep. Because my mind was constantly racing, I had 0 concentration so watching tv, reading a book or even holding a conversation were difficult. I’d always loved reading and thought that engrossing myself in a book might be able to take my mind away from reality. But nothing could shut my mind off and I could read a full chapter and have no idea what was going on. I felt completely trapped inside my own head and I couldn’t escape my thoughts.
This period of time was especially difficult because I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through. The down side to this was that I shut a lot of people out and was ignoring messages and calls. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to explain my anxiety and depression, it was that I didn’t want to explain what had caused it. One of the hardest things was trying to tell myself that time on my own to deal with everything was what I needed, whilst having my anxiety convince me that people were thinking/talking badly of me for not being in touch. Just 6 months before all of this started, I was living on my own in Budapest. I’d moved to this new country and started a job not knowing anybody. I’d made new friends, had new experiences and grown so much as a person. I was confident and was thoroughly enjoying my life. And now, I wasn’t even leaving the house on my own. It made me feel so sad and angry that I seemed to have taken a million steps backwards from where I was 6 months ago. But the positive I had was that I knew, no matter whether it took months or years, I could get back to being that person again. Because I was that person!
During this time I was having regular appointments with my doctor and I was prescribed anti-depressants. I know medication may not be for everyone, but it really did help me. At first I was put on Citalopram, but it didn’t agree with me and caused headaches and trouble sleeping. I went back to the doctor and he changed my medication which suited me much better. I also started counselling (which I will talk about in one of my next blogs), and I began seeing improvements. Albeit, small improvements, but considering how low I was, it seemed huge to me. I began telling my friends what I was going through and openly talking about the situation and how I felt. I started to feel comfortable enough to leave the house on my own and although there were still plenty of bad days, it started to feel like I was having more good than bad ones. Don’t get me wrong, at this stage I was in no way over the worst of it, but I was making small improvements and that could only be a good thing. I’d realised that this wasn’t going to be something which I overcame within a day, and small steps were better than nothing at all. My cousin gave me little tasks such as getting myself out of bed before 9AM. Now that might not sound like a difficult thing to some people, but that’s the kind of thing I had to start with in order to help myself moving forward.
At the end of February, I left my job for good. I knew that I needed to focus as much time as I could on myself and on moving forward. However, after I left my job I started to wonder whether all of this time on my own was being a help or a hindrance. Yes, I could focus on myself but it also meant I had a lot of time to think. Maybe too much time. I started to look for jobs but I was still so anxious that I was panicking about interviews and starting over somewhere new. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to meet new people and I ended up working myself up over it way too much. I realised that I wasn’t ready for this yet. Despite feeling a little better, I still had such a long way to go and forcing myself to get back in to work seemed like it’d do more harm than good. Despite what other people were saying, I knew myself and I knew what I needed. I knew that I needed to take more time to focus on myself and the time would come when I felt ready to get back into work.
Living with anxiety and depression caused me to change a lot as a person, which is expected. I’d always been cautious, but now I was completely over cautious. Things I used to shrug off I was now taking to heart. Something I may have got over in a day I was now dwelling on for a week. And I was overthinking absolutely everything! It effected me in so many different ways, and even though I was taking small steps and seeing some improvement, it felt like I was constantly taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Like I was on some crazy emotional rollercoaster and every time I thought it would stop, we’d go round and round again. I would’ve loved for this to be the point where things started to get better, but little did I know at the time that things were going to get so much worse and my mental health almost won.
Thank you so much again for reading my blog. I’m so so grateful for all the support I’ve had!
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a life that you are excited about. Don’t let yourself, or anyone else, convince you that you’re not.
Quote (taken from Headspace)
There is life how it is, and life how we think it should be. The more we cling to the latter, the more we struggle.
Where It All Started
So, I’ll start with where all of this began. On the night of Christmas Day 2018, I was the victim of a crime. A serious, yet worryingly common crime. I was sexually assaulted. Now, I’m not going to talk about the details of what happened that night, more about the effects this had on me and the people around me. This was the night that would cause my anxiety and depression to hit an all time high. The night that would cause me to deal with excessive drinking and an eating disorder. The night which would result in me quitting my job and struggling to leave the house on my own. The night which would cause me to lose friends and push my loved ones away. The night, which in the end, would cause me to want to end my own life.
Now this all sounds very doom and gloom and I apologise, but that’s been the harsh reality of my life during the last 7 months. However it’s not all doom and gloom! I’ll also talk about how opening up helped me to understand myself better. How counselling was the best thing I did. How I regained my confidence, got a new job and rebuilt my life. How I realised that I have the best family and some of the best friends around me. There’s so many positives now that I’ve overcome the difficulties and I feel so proud to look back and see how far I’ve come.
So Christmas Day night the crime happened. I spent around 6 hours in a police station from 2AM Boxing Day morning and at 8AM I was taken home at which point, I completely broke down and wondered what the hell I’d just been through. When I got home that morning, it was the first time I’d told my parents what had happened and they broke down with me. I was in complete shock and I could barely speak. I was uncontrollably sobbing but felt absolutely numb at the same time. I was told the police would pick me up again in 3 hours to go to the medical centre. For the 3 hours whilst I waited, I didn’t stop crying once.
Boxing Day is my Grandma and Grandads wedding anniversary and despite my Grandad no longer being with us, we still like to do something to celebrate. We’d planned to go out for a family meal but instead, I was to sit in a medical centre for 4 hours having tests and checks done, and by 1PM I was so ill the police sent me home to try and sleep. The following day I met the officer at the police station to do a recorded interview and had to relive the last 48 hours all over again. It was horrific. I’d never experienced anything like it and I’d never cried as much as I had in the last 48 hours. It all felt like I was living somebody else’s life. I felt drained and confused and wanted nothing more than to wish it all away. But it wasn’t going away, it was only the start of a long and horrible time in my life.
The difficulty with going through something like this is that there’s no manual. There’s no guide to how you should feel or how you should overcome it. There’s no time limit on when things will begin to get better, and quite frankly there’s no confirmation that things ever will. It took me a lot of hard work and a lot of perseverance. Plus not to mention, A LOT of support from the people closest to me. And I can’t say that I’ve completely dealt with everything. I still have bad days, I still cry and I still have sleepless nights, but not every day has to be a good day all of the time. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have “bad days”, but as I’ll speak about in a few posts time, bad days aren’t bad days, they’re thinking days and absolutely crucial in your recovery.
Later on in this blog I’ll be speaking about my recovery in full detail, as well as quotes which have helped me along the way plus facts and statistics. I’ll quote extracts from books, blogs and podcasts. And as much as this is my story, I hope that someone, somewhere can resonate, and that in some way I can help someone. No matter what you’re going through, you are never, ever alone.
If you’ve got to the end of this then I thank you, greatly. Blog post 2 will be posted next week talking openly and honestly about the next part of my journey.
The Journey Begins
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton