Thursday, 29 December 2016

ON CARRIE FISHER, MENTAL HEALTH AND BEING ACHINGLY HONEST.

I’ve been having writers block. Not a new, original or even vaguely interesting revelation for a writer/blogger/journalist/whatever the hell I am, but a truth all the same. I’ve been chasing whispers of ideas for a while now. I’ve scribbled ideas on the back of my flatmate’s bank statements and saved some in my notes with the greatest of intentions to draft, publish, post. The problem with most of the ideas I’ve come up with, and the reason I haven’t posted them on here is that they are achingly and frighteningly honest. To write these ideas down would be to give them to the world, and not be able to reclaim them if I decided that actually, I’d rather not talk about x, y or z with over eight-hundred strangers on a social network. As much as I love writing, (and you lovely readers), I’m still not sure how much I want the online world to know about me and how much I want to keep hidden.

*Note: I haven’t murdered anyone, I’m just not sure I want future employers to know about things like the time I once ACCIDENTALLY alluded to the idea that my granny had died to get out of a shift when I was hungover. She isn’t dead, I touched wood, and I’ve punished myself enough for this - please don’t troll me.*

Just this evening, thanks to the wonderful Bianca Bass and her latest blog post, I read a quote which pulled me out of this rut. The quote was as follows:

“Draw the art you want to see. Start the business you want to run. Write the books you want to read. Do the work you want to see done.” - Austin Kleon

As I read it, the words floated down and settled somewhere within me, and I knew that I had to give my two cents on something I’ve previously kept schtum on for fear of judgement.

Carrie Fisher, as we all know by now, sadly passed away this week. Whilst her acting talent is the stuff of legend and her career accomplishments enviable, what I am particularly thankful to Carrie for is her unwavering view that mental health is something which should, and needs to be talked about openly.

“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.” – Carrie Fisher

Carrie’s public proclamations of being mentally ill stirred up some serious emotions in me. As those of you who know me IRL, or are perhaps just very astute may know, I suffer from anxiety and depression – bedfellows in the world of poor mental health. My battle with mental illness is not something I talk about widely, and because I’ve got pretty high-functioning anxiety and depression, you probably wouldn’t guess that I’m acquainted with them unless I told you.

The crux of the reason I keep reasonably quiet about these issues is that ‘depression,’ especially, still feels like a dirty word - something to be discussed only in hushed tones and never above a whisper. In 2016, I still feel that I should somehow be ashamed of the fact that by some twist of fate I was given a mind that has a tendency to try and self-destruct. That admission infuriates me and makes me sad, and that way of thinking is just a bit boring, to be honest. I wouldn’t tell a friend that suffered that they were to blame, so why do I tell it to myself? The social media circles I run in are supportive and open about mental illness, but sadly real life often tells a different story. On top of mental illness being seen as something offensive which must be swept under the rug, I’ve often come across people who think it’s self-invented. Doctors, family members, and sceptical acquaintances alike have time and time again told me to “cheer up” or waved me away when I’ve tried to start a conversation about issues concerning mental health. These kind of attitudes don’t help anyone.

Cries of “but everyone gets nervous!” are a bit redundant when you are talking about a light flutter in your stomach before an interview, and I am talking about shaking so much that my best friend has to hold my hand, and often my hair back, when I’m vomiting out of pure, unadulterated anxiety because I have to catch a train. Exasperated sighs and the advice to “just get on with it” doesn’t really do it for me when I’m stuck to my bed, sadness crushing my chest from the moment I wake, really.

The amount of trips, nights out and other really fun things I’ve had to turn down because of anxiety is incomprehensible. I’ve booked flights to a foreign country and had to forgo them because of panic. I’ve had concert tickets to see one of my favourite bands that have gone to waste because the beating in my heart and dizziness in my head was too much to deal with. I’ve had all-night panic attacks when visiting friends that have meant hopping on a bus home at 5am, mascara stained cheeks and all. I’ve fucked up possible relationships with people I like because I can’t keep putting myself through the sleepless nights before a date. I’ve missed flights from anxiety and booked flights to escape sadness too many times to count. The reason I have been reserved in the past in conversations about mental illness is precisely due to the fear that people will judge and measure me using incidents such as the aforementioned. Somehow think me less cool, less lovely or less valid because of the daily hurdles I have to face.

If mental illness was a choice, it’d be a bloody stupid one to make.

The most important fact in all this, and the idea that Carrie made comprehensible, is that you can be mentally ill, without being your mental illness. As dull and depressing the missed opportunities I’ve listed above are, I’ve had countless moments of triumph to match and counter them. On a weekly or monthly basis I push myself to do something that terrifies me to my core, and I come out stronger for it. Anyone that battles with their thoughts on top of the shit-show of life, is in my opinion, strong beyond belief. I’ve swung open the doors to companies which house my dream job despite the fact that two minutes before saw me about to pass out on the tube from fear. I’ve gone on blind dates despite the fact my mind was riddled with self-doubt and nerves. I’ve gone to Asia, made new friends, kissed that person in spite of it all.

I may have anxiety and depression - I may be mentally ill - but I am not my mental illness. I’m so much more, and so are you.

Thank you, Carrie, for reminding me of that. 

Sara x
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thank you for your lovely comments, i read and appreciate each one. If you comment i'll definitely check out your blog, however i'm not interested in following only for a follow back xo

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