The following words were written on three different days in the past week. I acknowledge that a lot has taken place this past seven days that are more important than my feelings/illness but as someone in the latter stages of a "rough patch" I don't have the constitution to battle about the EU situation right now. Today I cried when someone in a TV show "got a job they wanted", so I don't think I'm ready to go head-to-head with the Great British unrest.
I should say this: I think there is lots of "awareness" about mental health. I think articles like the one you're about to read make other people with mental health stuff feel better for about a couple of hours, but they don't really change things. I don't know how to change things. I wish I was smarter and more inventive and better informed.
I'm angry about how small the amount of the health budget is spent on mental illness. Ideally I would like to retrain all GPs to understand mental health more thoroughly, seeing as though it affects 1/4 or 1/5 people. I know there are many well informed GPs, and my personal experience was fantastic but there is still a lot of misinformation out there and genuine concerns being dismissed. I would limit the time people have to wait to get help. People are dying. A lot. But when you strip services of resources and funding that helps people get help, it's going to implode.
I wish would schools introduce yoga and mindfulness and psychological therapists from a young age, in addition to regular courses would which help young people (AND TEACHERS) identify the symptoms of mental illness before they develop into greater emotional and sociological problems.
But I don't know how to do that. All I have are my words and my experiences. So I apologise if this feels like a futile exercise to you. Sometimes I feel like that too. In the meantime though
One - Written in the midst of an attack
I was supposed to be writing an article on the statistics of mental health.
I was supposed to tell you that mental illness is responsible for 13% of all worldwide deaths. Cardiovascular disease coming in at a valiant 10%, and Cancer still registering at 5%.
I was supposed to tell you that the British health budget is £100billion of which £3.5billion goes to the seven million people of working age who suffer from anxiety and depression, while £30billion goes to 500,000 people who will subsequently die within a year due to some form of physical illness. 30% of the total health budget goes to people dying, not living. Thirty. Percent.
I was supposed to tell you lots of other things but I can't.
I am lying on my couch that is too small for me, crying in my dressing gown at 2pm because for the 12,000th time, asking someone else for help (how to load two separate email addresses onto my new phone, which refuse to be transferred) has failed.
That sentence is intentionally long and confusing. That's what anxiety and depression feel like - one long confusing sentence. We are always instructed to 'ask for help' as people who naturally isolate in times of need. And so the blow is all the more crushing when it doesn't pay off. Again. Even when you are trying to help yourself at something as innocuous as a phone.
The phone is relevant because small things chip away at you as reminders for why you are [insert any number of negative core beliefs you have about yourself]:
- Hopeless at organising
- Hopeless at anything to do with technology
- Getting dumber as you get older
- Incapable of dealing with normal things like normal people
- Continuously buying things without knowing how they work
- Getting more and more out of control, and some time very soon you will actually fall and break and everything you love will go away
The list goes on and on but there are other words to say.
I had a fight yesterday and it messed with my head. I've also had a cold, fever, sniffles, cough for a couple of days as a result of over-working. If I were reading this I'd think, "well she just doesn't know how to take care of herself." And you'd be right and you'd be also wrong.
I know all the things I need to do to take care of myself. Go to bed early. Make sure I exercise. Eat well. Avoid drama. Get fresh air (not the same as exercise if you live inner city). Speak to people. Meditate. I know all these things. I know all of the things I tell my friends who also have mental illness when they are feeling sick. I know that script inside out, but the issue when you have a mental disease is that it tries all sorts of tricks on you.
When you're feeling well, it tells you that you don't need to do that stuff anymore. And every time I feel well, without fail, it tricks me into thinking I might be cured. Six years after my diagnosis and I still think that maybe this time I have it licked...which is truly the definition of insanity.
Or it might tell you that when you feel bad those things don't work anymore. Or on you. Any suffix that will get you out of doing something better for yourself, because it wants to keep you sick.
Ugh. I need a massage.
Two - Written in the aftermath of a 'rough patch'
Two days later and it felt like it was never here. I am light. It is sunny. I remember what I have written above but that feels like someone else's body and feelings and words. Today I only have the remnants of a cold, an emotional hangover from Brexit outcome, and feeling like I really should get out of the house because I'm late.
I can't imagine what multiple personality disorder feels like if this is just depression and anxiety. What an absolute kick in the nuts it is to be at the behest of this crappy disease.
The best part of today was when my mate booked us in for a massage (she having never done it before) and got a confirmation that we were being booked in for a Gentleman's Vanity. We cancelled that one and booked in somewhere else.
Three - It's back two days later
I don't know what the point is really. Of writing this. It's only going to happen again. The only real difference is I don't feel angry today. The easiest way to describe it is, I get clouds: across my head or in my lungs. If they're in my head I feel angry, heavy, distant, furious at the idea of interaction. If they're in my lungs, in my heart, I feel teary, sensitive, vulnerable, exposed. That's the one I've got today. I've had a good cry. And a good lunch. That seems to help. I've had a nice, long walk. I slept a lot last night. I spent time with family yesterday, and friends, and my partner. I went for a big swim followed by a sauna at the pool and meditation in there too, yesterday.
This is the worst bit. When you've done everything and you still feel like shit. What's worse is if I still feel like this tomorrow I'll still have to do the stuff that makes me feel better, even though today it hasn't worked. That doesn't feel like logic, does it? That feels like your parents telling you that broccoli is actually a treat and you're so lucky that they've given it to you with all your other normal dinner. I KNOW IT'S A VEGETABLE, MUM! I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO! Anyway, clearly I've got some dietary issues tied up in childhood trauma that I might have to deal with elsewhere, but you get my point.
So that's the long and long of it. Just a blow-by-blow account of not feeling in control of your own tornado. Hope someone got a half a moment's relief. But if not, keep fighting the good fight. It's just about all we can do.
Australian comic Felicity Ward will be appearing in the Comedy Arena at Latitude Festival, Henham Park on Saturday 16 July
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