“I used to be like that, it’s not a long way back. You should have seen how they found me…“
When I first moved back to London last April, I wrote out these lines from a Walking On Cars song and stuck them beside my bed. They filled me with hope and reminded me how far I’d come.
I’m not writing this blog in London. I’m back at home in Ireland living with my parents and suffering through the type of depression I thought I’d never have to see again. Hope has been pushed into the winter rain by despair. And despair has a nasty habit of filling up your head and leaking out your eyes. I’ve cried more these last few months than I knew I could.
I came home in October intending to stay ten days but I’m still here four months later. I started to feel physically ill last July: I was fainting and in constant pain. The condition was eventually diagnosed as endometriosis and I ended up so weak that I had to give up my new job which I had just started. No job equals no money so I also had to give up my flat. I thought I could move between friends and look for a less stressful job whilst I got my strength back.
But that didn’t happen – it was the worst timing in the world for my body to give up on me. I’d just gotten back together with someone and I thought we would finally have a proper shot at a fun relationship. One month in I started fainting, and the pressure and stress was just too much, too soon.
I ended up losing my boyfriend a few days after I got home to Ireland. So there I was with a broken body and a broken heart. Then my mind felt left out and decided it wanted to crack too. I blamed myself for everything, and I’ve been filled with shame since. That’s what really stings: the shame that I’ve ended up back in this position again and so utterly powerless. So I’ve been isolating myself from friends and family and finding it difficult to engage with the support that’s being offered to me. I haven’t been looking after myself.
My addled brain became convinced that was it, game over, you see. That this was my only shot at happiness, at making a life in London work. How will I ever get a job again? What if I have no friends left when I go back? I think of the future and I feel overwhelmed by panic.
But something has clicked in my brain these past few days. I can’t fight a war on so many fronts, so I’ve put my broken heart into a box for now, and I’m putting my faith in the universe and serendipity that maybe it will heal. I can’t control somebody else’s feelings. This is one situation where I’m powerless and I have to accept that. I can only concentrate on me.
What I can do though is take back the power over my mind and body and try to make them strong once more. Writing is something that makes me feel good about myself so this blog is a first step out of misery. London, happiness and health all feel a long way away, but I hope I can find my way back.
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…