Mental illness

dating a liar.

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts.
Facts can obscure the truth.”
– Maya Angelou

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Serving suggestion: Best read with “Breathe Me” by Sia playing in the background.

Honesty. Truth. Integrity.

They have been fundamental values to me for many years, ever since I had the consciousness to make that choice for myself. And for a long time I prided myself on my honesty.

It was my dad (Hi, Dad!), in particular, who ingrained and influenced my value of truth and honesty in me as a child. Later, in my teens, my parents emphasised the importance of integrity to me. So, I have them to thank.

But why have I thrown my values out the window? (more…)

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dreamscape.

Relearning how to dream…

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Print and photo by the talented Jasmine Dowling.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
– T. E. Lawrence

“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”
– A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

 

Whilst catching up with friends recently I’ve noticed that I have been getting rather excited when talking about my plans for the year and for the future in general. Look, it’s better than reporting that “not much” has been happening (seeing as it renders catching up somewhat redundant), but my enthusiasm is bordering on geeky.

Although it is a bit lame, this quietly marks a significant personal achievement.

How??  Well, let me explain.

See, one day nearly two years ago I came to the rather awful, heartbreaking realisation that I had no dreams.

None. None at all. Unless you include “passing all of my subjects this semester” as a dream.

My dreams had been erased and scratched out and burnt. They had disappeared and vanished. Life, which had once been in high-definition, had become a foggy blur where my dreams were completely indiscernible.

It was a rainy, grey winter’s morning in Sydney and I was sitting with about 30 strangers at a one day event for young adults which I had been invited along to. They had advertised it with inspirational guest speakers (including a non-Rugby sports star) and free lunch. Hence, I was sold.

Our morning session began with a motivational speaker (the one who wasn’t an elite athlete) presenting. As it so happened, he spoke to us about the power of our dreams and how to achieve them. Between scribbling down some thoughts on the very pretty notebook we’d all been given at the start of the day, he turned the question to us: “So, what are your dreams?”

Uhhh… Well, this is awkward… What are my dreams? Hmmmmm… Ahhh… Errrr… Ummmm.

It was at this moment that it hit me that I had no dreams.

As per usual, I didn’t really put all of the pieces of the puzzle together at the time. However, looking at it now, it makes perfect sense as I was actually in a really dark place at that time. Everything was a struggle. I could barely see past the next few days, let alone months or years ahead. Depression is a bit of a b!tch at the best of times.

I find it saddening just to type it, but I simply didn’t have energy or cerebral space to contemplate the future. Thus, I had few plans and little to look forward to. I had nothing to aim for because I had no dreams to fuel those aims, which only served to compact my depression a bit more.

However, my lack of dreams was not fixed as simply as just, well, dreaming. No, in this case it took working on the depression before I was eventually able to start dreaming again…

****

Cut forward nearly two years. A fair bit has changed and I have come a long way… and I guess one of the inadvertent markers of how far I’ve come is that I’m dreaming again.

In all honesty, I can barely remember anything that that motivational speaker said all that time ago. Oops. I was listening, I promise! The whole ‘dreams’ thing had dropped off my radar fairly soon after that day. However, they’ve finally come back onto the scene. I think this has been aided by now being able to countdown my days left at uni and being inspired by my friends and peers, who have reminded me that we can all do some pretty awesome sh!t with our lives.

And now that they are here, oh, are they here. A bland, ambivalent, vague future has been replaced by ambitious, vivid dreams which I am feeling pretty damn passionate about.

That doesn’t mean that I have complete clarity or that I’m not confused about which path to take (Ha! What a novelty that’d be!), but man does it feel good.

It feels so good to want something – to be driven and to have a capacity for desire which extends beyond chocolate.

However having dreams isn’t entirely straight forward.

See, now that I have dreams, I have to do something with them. Good work, Einstein. 

This would be simple if I had simple dreams, but, naturally, they are rather grand and not the kinds of things which can be pulled off in a day. Yes, that is probably part of the inherent nature of dreams – that they are long-term things to work towards and look forward to – but I didn’t imagine that having dreams would be so… problematic.

See, now that I have some dreams I am actually slightly afraid. No, that’s not a word I use in relation to myself very often – I use it very rarely, in fact. But articulating my dreams has churned this up in me because once I say them aloud then I am, in a way, committing myself to make them real and they could well take me down some very different life paths to the one I am currently travelling on. The unknown is exciting, but it’s a bit scary too. In addition to this, I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed articulating my dreams to others because I feel that there are other people who are far more talented and better-suited to my dreams.

In writing this post I revisited my pretty notebook from that day nearly two years ago (twas the 5th of June, 2012 if you’re interested). As it so happens, during his presentation the motivational speaker talked about how the main thing which prevent people from realising their dreams is what he called the “Fat Bastards” – also known as our negative self-talk which causes us to doubt ourselves, place ceilings over our heads, allow fear to fester, getting us stuck in ruts and allowing what other people say to discourage us.

His advice was to program the voice you do want to hear to speak louder than the Fat Bastards. The negative thoughts are unable to be erased entirely, but they can be dimmed so that they are barely audible.

Well, thank you notebook from 2012 and thank you hoarder Alex for keeping said notebook. See, I told you it would come in handy. 

Well, if it’s as simple as over coming negative self-talk then, in theory, I should be able to do that pretty easily (seeing as I have done it quite a few times before)… but it can be much harder in practice, can’t it?

So, although I’m not ready to type my dreams out on the interweb (which you may find ironic considering some of the other things that I am willing to type about), I have started to tell some of my close friends about where I’m heading…

… and, as it so happens, I didn’t really have anything to be fearful of in the first place.

Alex x

this is a post about mental illness.

“What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties!
In form and moving, how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel!
In apprehension how like a god!
The beauty of the world!
The paragon of animals!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii, 291-298.

Do you know what depression actually feels like?

Maybe it’s me, but, despite its unprecedented awareness, I feel that for lots of us mental illness remains a vague, hazy concept. We understand what it is on paper, perhaps. For example, many of us are probably aware that nearly 45% of us will suffer from some form of mental illness during our lifetime [1]Which is quite a major chunk, just quietly. Or, perhaps, not. Perhaps it’s all much more foreign than that to some of us.

This, gorgeous rascals, is a post about mental illness. More specifically, it’s a post for anyone who has ever wondered what things like depression and anxiety can feel like. (I say ‘can’ because the spectrum of experiences is, without a doubt, very varied and I’m not going to pretend that my personal experience is either definitive or normal.)

I guess now would be a helpful time to give you a brief synopsis of my life in recent years, wouldn’t it?

I guess it’d be fair to say that the past five years of my life have been my hardest thus far. A big part of their tough-factor can be attributed to an eating disorder followed up by some depression and anxiety being thrown into the food processor that is my life. That’s a lot of fun stuffed into the one blender. Although I have come a long, long way and I am generally going really well, particularly compared to previous years, it continues to be a long, difficult slog… but, despite that, it’s definitely the best and most worthwhile slog I’ve slogged at to date. I have changed so much in so many (positive) ways and I am actually very thankful for going through this.. because I’m glad to have moved on from being the person that I was five years ago. I was a crazy-lady perfectionist, for one.

But, that’s not to say that the crap days aren’t sh!t. Because they are. They really are.. Even when my depression and anxiety are, thankfully, on the ‘mild’ (i.e. things-could-be-so-much-worse) end of the spectrum.

I know that even for some of my closest family members, getting their heads around what mental illness is, what it can feel like and how it can manifest itself has been truly perplexing. So, if this is of use to you, then I’m glad.


What depression can feel like on a bad day: some firsthand experiences.

Everything feels hopeless. 

I feel like a sad zombie. Not in the ‘I have a craving for brains’
sense, but in that I feel like I’m in a very glum daze.

Everything feels really hard. Things which would normally feel
achievable feel so very far from my reach. Frankly, even bog
standard daily tasks feel like a challenge.

I feel sad, really sad. Sad without any particularly good reason.
Bit of a given with depression, but hey.

I feel overwhelmed. 

I can barely think straight. 

Sugar. I need sugar. And starch. Please. Now. Damn it.

I really just want hugs. Lots of hugs.  

Struggling to remember what I love about life.
Struggling to get away from the laptop
(aka Primary Mind-Number which isn’t actually that cathartic at all).

Generally, body image and self-esteem are subsequently pretty average now, too.

My room, invariably, looks fairly disastrous today.

Negative thoughts abound.

When is this (down patch) going to end?

Today feels lonely.

Remember how much I would like to do and achieve
in life and how much potential I like to tell myself that I have.
Result: feel worse.

Categorically do not believe in myself at the moment.

Am I allowed to give up yet?

Should probably just sleep it off. Invariably I just stay up late instead.

I feel enveloped in bottomless hopelessness and sadness.

I feel paralysed.

I feel numb.

Thankfully, the vast majority of my days are happy, normal and even-keeled, but I still have down days like that which I’ve just described, too. I know that, to an extent, they’re just a part of life. But for me they’re also something which I’m still having to work through. In the meantime, a large part of me just wants to get through this stage and just get on with the rest of my life.. but I guess this obstacle is helping to shape me and the direction I want the rest of my life to go in..

Ok. And now that I have scared off any potential suitors from my life for the foreseeable future, I shall go back to Tinder..

Alex x


PS: On an editorial note, I don’t expect that mental illness is going to be a reigning feature of my writing going forwards. It’s not my plan at this stage. (Partly because writing about failing at life is a touch more amusing and enjoyable for me to write about, for starters.) But, if you would like to continue the discussion, or have questions or you’d like to share your own experiences of mental illness etc, you’re so welcome to get in touch. Ax.