I wasn’t sure whether to post this because of how personal it is, but I thought that it was important for people to read; mental health affects everyone. I need you to know that this isn’t a pity post. This is to help you understand that people go through unseen battles everyday so you need to be patient and kind.
A couple of days after my birthday, I called the Samaritans.
It’s not that I wanted to die; it’s that I didn’t want to be alive anymore if this is what I had to face every day.
For about 2 months, I worked 3 jobs alongside running this blog. Tired wasn’t even the word. I would wake up, drag myself out of bed and go to work at a busy shop in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre. Then I would make my way to my evening job where I would work on reception for a sports hall four nights a week. On Wednesdays, I would coach cheerleading for three hours and collapse into bed around 10pm, ready to start the day again.
Near the end of January, I finished my retail job so only worked on Reception and coached cheerleading.
Fighting My Body
I didn’t realise until recently but I have been fighting my body for almost my entire life. I broke my first bone when I was 6 or 7; I tripped up the steps and broke my wrist – my mum didn’t believe I was hurt because I’d stopped crying, but took me to hospital any way.
Since then I have broken both wrists, slipped a disk in my back, ripped my knee and ankle, and broken my foot. I have also had my appendix and gall bladder removed. When I was 17, I had an operation to remove some lumps in my left breast and had another removed from my right breast at the beginning of February. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 14, and diagnosed with anorexia when I was 20.
So you could say that I’ve had a few things to contend with, but not as much as other people which is why I thought I had to write this post.
It’s important to understand that mental health isn’t a question of yes or no, black or white; it’s the whole spectrum of colour and absence of colour. It’s also not constant.
Fighting My Brain
One day I can wake up and be fine, I’ll be happy and joking and look just like everyone else; my eyes will sparkle as I joke with customers; my heart will flutter with pride when my athletes do all their stunts correctly. The next day, I will struggle to breathe under the weight of my depression. My brain will acknowledge the need to get out of bed and have a shower, but my body will be disconnected and there’s nothing I can do. There are days when I will eat everything in sight and there are days when I will survive on cups of coffee and one piece of toast. There are also days where I will stand on the curb and close my eyes.
My family will tell you that I sit around and do nothing, and they’re right I guess. I buy self-help books like The Magic Of Not Giving A F**K and GirlBoss to help bring me out of the funk that I’m wallowing in, but I can’t concentrate long enough to read more than a couple of pages. It’s almost as if my mental health is shrouding my brain in a fog so thick that only the smallest part of my brain is functioning properly.
People don’t talk about mental health because it’s such a taboo. People will call work and say they have sickness and diarrhea, but they won’t call work and say that they are feeling too sad to come in.
That’s another thing – people will call it anything but feeling sad. Depressed, low mood, helpless, empty… Never sad. But that’s what I am. Sometimes I am really, really sad and not even Jim Carey will help alleviate that.
If you tell someone you feel sad, their first question is why, then they say “cheer up, you don’t have anything to feel sad about”. But that’s not the point. The point is that I’m feeling really sad and I probably need to cry, or a hug, or a cup of tea and a biscuit.
I had a manager once who asked me to come into work for the Boxing Day sale when I broke my toe, she also refused to let me go home when I was in so much pain that I was crying. Physical pain is treated differently to mental pain, and that’s really sad (here I am, using that word again!)
People should be able to call into work and say “I need to take the day off to deal with my mental health” and not feel embarrassed or scared about it. Your mental health can affect your ability to work, so why would a manager want you in the office if you’re only functioning at 40%? That’s not beneficial for anyone.
The Fight That Day
That fight started the night after my birthday.
I hadn’t eaten much during the day and came home to refuse dinner. Mum had jokingly asked “are you on some sort of starvation diet?” and I just shook my head.
Once in bed, I scrolled through Tumblr, looking at the usual pictures of thin people with their hip bones jutting through their skin, and quotes on black backgrounds talking about the emptiness; I felt so connected to those words that I started to cry. I whispered into the darkness “I don’t want to be alive anymore” and I felt a release. My chest no longer felt like something was crushing it and the tears flowed so easily that I thought I would wake people up with my machine-gun breaths.
I reposted quote after quote about feeling empty and lost, closing my eyes every time the words escaped my lips, and I fell asleep crying.
When I woke up in the morning, there was nothing. A tinge of disappointment maybe, but mainly acceptance that I’d have to fight another day, that I’d have to spend another day feeling tired, and then sit in the Reception box with no one to talk to.
When I got to the sports hall, I unlocked the door and went to speak to my Mum (who was working on the main reception desk). She criticised me for something minor and as I walked away, I felt the breath leave my body. I took my phone and left the building, calling Samaritans as I walked away.
Jane on the other end had such a soothing voice that I couldn’t hold the tears back.
I told her about my diagnoses and how I didn’t want to be alive, and it felt as if she already understood me more than my own family. She was sympathetic, asking what I’d eaten during the day and saying that it was ok if I only had one bite of something. One bite is better than no bites.
She told me that I was brave; that it was a lot to deal with, and how calling the Samaritans was the right thing to do. It’s hard to explain that I don’t want to kill myself but I don’t want to be alive anymore; or that I want to not wake up when I go to sleep.
It’s ok to not feel ok, you just need to be sensible about it. Talk to someone; if you feel that you can’t talk to family or friends, call the Samaritans.
They’re hopefully launching an online chat and text service in the near future, but for now, they have amazing people on the other end of the phone.
Please use them. If you’re worried about someone else, call them – they can suggest ways for you to help.