A Note About Mental Health: On Good Days and Bad Days

The last few months have been pretty difficult for me.

Oddly, as much as I enjoy writing, I’ve never really put these words down anywhere, preferring instead to tuck them away in a quiet corner of my brain, or to bawl them down the phone to my friends while eating pizza in my PJs at 6pm in the evening. I’ve always been very open about my depression and anxiety. Hiding it doesn’t make it go away, and I’ve always thought it was better for friends and family to know in case I ever needed someone to reach out, but it’s still not something that I’ve ever considered writing about. Mostly because, it isn’t the easiest thing to discuss.

And like I said, these last few months have been pretty hard. It started getting bad around the time I finished my dissertation. Knowing I was so close to my target grade of a first class made it very difficult to concentrate, and then I got shortlisted and knocked back for a funding scholarship and, even though I knew rationally that I’d done all I could, I still felt that bitter stab of disappointment. At myself, for not trying hard enough, for not pushing myself just a little bit further. At my boring, mundane world, which seemed to be closing in on all sides. At the people around me who seemed to not only be able to get the grade I’d been slogging for with ease [never the case, I know now they worked their asses off] while going out clubbing til four am and casually taking themselves off for trips around Europe with their best friends on a whim. They appeared so relaxed, breezing into class five minutes late, somehow managing to fit in exercise and dating and friends and all the latest movies and things, and here I was, only leaving the house to go across the road to the supermarket so I could buy cookies. My hobbies were falling by the wayside, and in the wake of query letter rejection, I couldn’t even bring myself to write.

It’ll come as no surprise to learn that I survived that awful period. I got my first-class degree, I got into my first choice university [the only one I’d applied to] to do my research masters. I still had friends living in the area, and it felt like a fresh start. Most importantly [at least to me] I met someone and fell in love and for the first time in my life I stopped mocking whirlwind romances and started experiencing one of my own. It was great too, because here was someone who was volunteering to be there for me, even when things got bad. He knew how to comfort me, how to tease me out of my silence and tears, how to soothe the pit of worry gnawing at my stomach like a vat of battery acid.

As much as I’d love to write my own happily ever after, to say that from then on, things went perfectly, I would be lying. Things continue to be a mix of good and bad, and unfortunately there are still bad days. There are days when the mess of my housemates makes me want to throw all our dishes out a window and cry for six hours straight. There are days when I hide in my room and pretend that I’m not home, just to see if anyone cares to see if I’m around, or if they simply forget about me. There are days when I argue with my boyfriend, and as much as I hate it, these are the days when the anxiety really takes over. My ex, who I was absolutely head-over-heels for, pulled the Break Up card totally out of the blue, ending things with me when, for the first time in my life, I’d let my walls come down. I’d let myself be vulnerable to another person, and for that I earned myself a broken heart that took three times longer than the actual relationship to heal, and even to this day, I worry about putting my feelings on the line. Of course, arguments are bound to happen, and relationships are never going to be a hundred percent smooth-sailing, but I get so conflicted.

On the one hand, getting anxious about breaking up every time your partner gives you the cold shoulder [or not even the cold shoulder, but is dealing and reflecting on their own stuff and not focusing on you] seems ludicrous. I hate that I know, deep down, I’m probably coming across as clingy and needy, unable to discuss our issues without bursting into tears or throwing up from fear, and I panic that this will be the very thing that drives us apart– this constant need to reassure me that we’re okay, that I haven’t done something wrong, that I’m still loved, even when my boyfriend might be dealing with his own work problems, his own friendship dramas, his own health issues. Why should he always have to reassure me and set me at ease when he’s had about ten minutes of sleep and has a bad head and just wants to lie down? Everything is over-analysed in my head, constantly being weighed up into lists that, if I was to tell anyone about them, they would sound like a crazy version of he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not; we haven’t slept in the same bed for three days [bad], we went to the cinema together [good], he held my hand when we were walking about [good], he didn’t come into my room to say good morning like he usually does [bad], he didn’t say I love you when I said it to him [bad] but he did make time to eat dinner with me [good]. It starts to get ridiculous, and I’m well aware of that, but anxiety is like a leaky tap I can’t turn off. It’s always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, trying to tell me that everything I’m doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m never pretty enough, I’m never smart enough, I’m never likeable enough, and I’m always going to be this weird ungraceful lump of a woman who trips over her own feet at least once a day, has to be co-erced into going to the gym, never raises her voice above a mumble and can’t bend her body into very many shapes during sex, despite reading Cosmopolitan and believing that everyone else in the whole world can.

And on the other hand, there’s the attempt to take a deep breath, to try and remember that I’m being irrational, that we’re not going to end things simply because I complained at him for gaming too much, or because we were too busy to eat dinner together. I’m on the waiting list for help with both the depression and the anxiety, and in the meantime I’m trying to find ways to help myself. I’m attempting to go to the gym more often, I’m trying to keep in touch with friends so I get out of our shitty little flat every now and then, and I’m trying to ease up on myself when I do have days which are filled with me lying around in bed and watching re-runs of Gossip Girl and my greatest achievement of the day is that I’ve brushed my teeth. Everyone has flaws, and unfortunately for most people, mental health is a reality we have to live with. For me, everything is cocooned by this need to be the ultimate, perfect person at everything I try my hand at– relationships, sports, academia, blogging, writing, and it’s about time that I try and accept that I’m never going to be that perfect human being. Nobody can be, because it just doesn’t exist beyond fiction.

And that’s okay, really it is. Because even though I might sometimes struggle, I think I’ve finally come to accept myself, flaws and all. And there will be bad days, there will always be bad days, but just like S.J Maas says in her ACOTAR series ‘don’t let the bad days win.’ Even as I’m spewing all this out on the page, I’m not really sure what I’m trying to achieve here, except to say that  I think I’m finally in a good place in my life. I can finally relax, and take a breath, and return to all the things I’ve been telling myself I’m not good enough to do.

The time has come to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with my life. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if sometimes you can’t see it.

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