Progress Report

I started this blog in 2015 for one main reason, and it was to give me an outlet to write. A place to be honest about my experiences with mental illness, and a place to talk about books (my one true love (sorry Michael)).

At the time, every single waking moment was painful. I stole seconds of happiness where I could, but they were always overshadowed by intense fear. I was constantly in fight-or-flight mode. I struggled to communicate how I was feeling, which would often end in tears of frustration. Stuff I saw on the internet would reduce me to a steaming puddle of rage and anger, because I was still learning the vocabulary necessary to even begin to tell myself how some of that stuff felt.

I battled with services. I fought for myself, I advocated for myself. I was not happy living, but I think even then I knew I would get better, no matter what my thoughts tried to tell me. I didn’t think it was good enough to just simply stick a label on my experiences and hand me medication and send me off into the world (not that I have any issue or qualms against medication — it’s necessary for many, but for those it doesn’t work for, its especially hard to). I fought to be heard. I fought to get myself help. I fought to make every second of that help worthwhile.

It’s coming up on three years since I asked to be admitted to St. Pat’s. I’ve had days where I regret talking about it so openly, and then I find myself telling a taxi driver about studies I’m involved in relating to youth mental health services and how important to me it is as an ex-service user that these services be easily accessed, and that they advocate for each and every service user, because every single person that steps through those doors deserves care. It shouldn’t be something people have to fight for. I am happy to start to work my way up to the frontline and advocate for services and service users, and for every single person on the street to know that they are entitled to be helped, they are entitled to be given help, and that they should not have to fight for it, but until that happens I am happy to talk about how much fighting I did.

In those three years – four, really, if you count the beginning of the severe symptoms as starting in late 2014 – my life has turned upside down time and time again. I deferred a year from college, and just before I went back my grandad passed away suddenly. Early last year we got broken into and I stopped feeling safe when I was home. I wasn’t sleeping. Every little noise would wake me. I experienced some health problems that meant I was terrified I wouldn’t finish college. I remember sitting in one of my last therapy sessions I was granted through the HSE, silently crying because my therapist had been away the week my grandad passed away. I managed that week, and every week after. I managed the grief that still spills through, that hits me when I hear someone speak that sounds like him, or when I remember things about him or when I see things that remind me of him. I managed grief, I managed getting sick, I managed to drag myself through college.

At some point in the last year or so my focus switched from mentally surviving to mentally thriving. Like, okay. I still get anxious making phone calls, crowds still bother me, I will sometimes experience a spill of emotion I can’t control, I will sometimes cry and cry for no reason, but the pain is gone out of it. It no longer hurts to live (and I say that with a mountain of irony because of my health issues) . It no longer feels like something is trying to squeeze the life out of me. I get bursts of anxiety that keep me awake at night, and random experiences of agitation that only keeping my mind busy will do anything to soothe,  but it doesn’t feel like my whole life is anxiety and I’m trying to fit myself around it. Instead, it is a part of me, but it fits itself around my life, and I poke at it and try to push it further and further away with every thread I pull on. I also still experience bouts of depression, but I’ve learned how to not let those encompass my life either.

I discharged myself from services at the end of last year, because attending when I wasn’t desperate for help anymore made me more anxious than day-to-day life did but that discussion about services is, perhaps, for another time. I no longer meet the criteria for any significant diagnosis, so I’m now just a person with intermittent anxiety and the occasional cloud of existential depression so no change there, really. I genuinely want to enjoy life now, and do my best to do that. I want good things for myself, and believe I deserve good things to happen for me and to me, the same I would wish for anyone in my life. I made some good decisions about relationships that were no longer offering a positive connection and were toxic for me, but somewhere along the way I stopped blaming myself for things not working out. I learned its okay to let go. The hurt heals faster if you stop trying to attribute blame to anyone. Some things just are, and that’s okay.

I cannot tell you where or how these changes happened, but they did. I was awarded a 2:1 in psychology a couple of weeks ago, and it amazes me that the same girl who cried in the bathrooms and had panic attacks in stairwells and was too scared to attend classes and then too physically sick to attend classes is sitting here typing this. It amazes me that the girl who was so, so depressed and directionless in secondary school but had absolutely no idea that everyone else didn’t feel like that, is sitting here typing this, because I am still that girl, and I’m still here.

I wanted to write this so anyone who finds the old posts I’ve written can see that these stories can have a happy ending. Being listened to and taken seriously and getting the help you need is undoubtedly an uphill battle, but it is not necessarily going to be your whole life. Someday it could be something you look back on.

It gets better. I can’t promise you anything else, other than it gets better. Take those good moments, and at some point they’ll become good hours, and good days, and good weeks. Your battles are different to mine, or maybe remarkably similar. I had no hope for myself but I kept fighting, and I figured out my worth. Figure out yours. It’s not nothing. You’re worth all the things you hope for others in your life, and more. You’re worth at least that. Write them down, the things you’re worth. You might be worth ice cream, or binge-watching 8 seasons of Vampire Diaries don’t judge me, or applying for a job. You might be worth a hug or friendship or a relationship. You might be worth your children or your pet or your favourite chair. You might be worth all of those things. You might be worth more trust me, you are.

It gets better. That’s all I can say, really. It gets better. It will get better.

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