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Finding my voice

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

I’m just going to start writing today and see what happens. I have been going through a bad period with my mental health, feeling anxious and depressed at the same time is like feeling all the feels yet feeling nothing at all in fast forward it seems. Well, Matt Haig said it better than me anyway.

Today I have allowed myself 2 hours in my old Starbucks office, sitting about 5m away from anyone and having wiped down the table I hope that I am safe. Safe as I can be anyway in this uncertain world anyway.

This year has been hard, hasn’t it? Surely if we survive it, this year has built resilience in all of us. It seems I am starting to understand how acknowledging how I am coping with external stress and adversity and uncertainty has given me the chance to become stronger. And I am taking better care of myself and my family using all the coping skills and habits I have developed this last 10 months.

In February, we moved house and discovered many problems with our new home. Then straight into a trip to visit my Dad, always an emotional goodbye and then bam - the pandemic hit. Lockdown, home school and relative isolation. My husband and mother clinically vulnerable and my son alone without his friends.

I had started a new job and it seemed that my new career was already in jeopardy as I struggled to stifle the panic and extreme fear I felt about letting my son down by breaking down from the stress of it all. It felt like I was right back in the most helpless times of my life - when I was a small child and worried about my parents relationship, when I was lost at university and my mind first shut down through depression, when I first had my son and I was unable to care for him but no-one listened.

Then as I started to find hope, focus on what I could control, a ‘friend’ intervened to crush me by refusing to acknowledge an apology for words said during crisis, refusing to acknowledge that I was in crisis and instead took me apart piece by fractured piece until not much was left. I had nowhere to turn, no stitch left unpicked.

As the stress built externally for the world, it did so in my internal world:

- what was the point of me, if not to create a world within which my son could flourish and enjoy and learn?

-who was I, if someone close to me could so easily dismantle and destroy who I was and what I stood for?

- was all of this the apocalypse that my daily anxiety and dread had been warning me about?

The reason CBT has not worked for me was never so apparent as I struggled with layers of worry upon worry. I had just gotten too good at asking myself questions about my thoughts and feelings, at wondering what caused them, at debating their truth and falsehood. My brain still believes that if someone else says that I am a certain thing, then it must be true. I value others’ opinions of me above my own.

The same applies to thoughts as far as I am concerned, if I have them there must be a reason for having even the most random, tragic, horrific and graphic thoughts - and this reason must be a bad one, and mean something about me and what kind of person I am. And this is all regardless of what I consider important about others - their behaviour. I measure others on their behaviour and myself on my, and their, opinions, words and thoughts. Ridiculous now I see it.

Today I reflect back on the first lockdown, dominated as it was by those three main questions and I am almost thankful for the barrage, however painful it was. I have learned so much about myself and the power of living my own self authentically. It is chronically uncomfortable to be me and I will continue to talk about it as I know it helps others to know that they are not alone with their struggles.

The fact I have been afraid to write about what has happened this year speaks volumes about how I now value my own voice above that of others. No longer will I defer to others’ opinions about me and it took a shock to the system and the horror that is 2020 for me to understand the necessity and restorative power of this.

If you are still with me, thanks for reading my rambles.

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