I am going through a very happy period of my life at the moment. I have moved back to London and started a new job which I love. I’ve started dating someone lovely, I see my friends a lot and I am (whisper it…) enjoying my life! I still have anxious moments obviously and there have been a few teary meltdowns, but I am prioritising being as physically healthy as I can be in order to protect my mental health.
I have been struck by the novelty of feeling this happy and free. I caught myself stopping to smile at a cute cat on the walk to my morning commute yesterday and wondered what the hell was going on! A cute dog I always notice, but a cat?! I thought about it all day yesterday and came up with the conclusion that I feel this good because I finally feel like I have taken back the power over my own life.
I feel well enough now to dictate my own choices instead of having to make choices based on the needs of my illness. Last year I had to move home as I needed the support of my family. I was also given incredible support by the wonderful people at Pieta House (an Irish charity which offers therapy to those in suicidal distress), I had six months of therapy at Pieta House and it completely changed my mindset. I let go of hurt and pain that I had been carrying around for years and I finally stopped blaming myself for being raped. I am now well enough to be independent again and there is a huge sense of empowerment that comes with that. I don’t feel invisible anymore.
I feel part of the world again precisely because I am well enough to be out in the world and connecting with people around me. I mentioned something to my friend Rosie recently which perfectly illustrates how far I have come in the past few years; I told her that I have been amazed at feeling comfortable enough to sit in the staff room on my breaks and chat to my new colleagues. Rosie and I used to work together a few years ago and when I started that job I was so anxious that I would have to go and sit in the bathroom on my tea break. I simply could not sit in the staff room and chat to others, the mere thought of it stressed me out. I am self-aware enough now to know that I will have bad days at my new job and I’m sure there will be days where I won’t feel like sitting in the staff room but that will be a choice, and not a daily necessity. The power that comes with these little choices shouldn’t be underestimated.
The feeling of being seen has also had a huge impact on my mental health. I felt invisible for so many years when I was at my lowest because I had to withdraw from the world as I couldn’t deal with it. Other people had to look after me and made decisions for me and I hated it. I’m incredibly stubborn and I hate being told what to do! Being independent and making my own choices is all I have wanted for a very long time and I am determined to enjoy it and never take it for granted. There is a whole world waiting out there for me and it feels incredible to be well enough to enjoy it.
And finally a little word about cats and the weirdness of stopping to admire them on the street! I am putting this down to staying with my friend Mary when I first moved back to London and falling in love with her lovely little cat. I feel guilty though so please nobody tell Dougal…