Before I get into this post, due to the potentially controversial/misleading title if people simply read that and not the rest of the blog, I really want to emphasise the fact that I am not saying in any way that I like having mental illnesses. As you all know, I hate having mental illnesses, and if I could find a magic wand to make them all go away for everyone on the planet then I would do so faster than the flap of a hummingbird’s wing (they do 50 flaps a second just incase you were wondering). That said, I have to admit that recently, at a time in which I am struggling a lot with my various disorders, the fact that I am diagnosed with such disorders, is the one positive thing I am holding onto. Confused? Allow me to explain…
Every morning I wake up exhausted from the previous day yet knowing that I have to basically relive that 24 hours again and fight the same daily incessant battles once more. Everything I do, from showering, making a cup of tea and putting on my slippers to eating a bowl of tomato soup (if Covent Garden are reading this then please be aware that I eat your fresh plum tomato soup everyday and am practically keeping you in business so please send me all the free soup available), is a challenge.
Now if I was to be told that the way I live my life is normal, then to be honest I wouldn’t want to take part in it anymore. If life is about constant fear, dread, terror and anxiety, and if it is normal to worry that your mum will die because you touched a towel wrongly, then quite frankly I would give up right now. I don’t enjoy my life as it is at the moment, I simply endure it, and the one thing that gets me through is knowing that none of what I do is normal and that none of this is how life has to be.
Of course I understand that everyone in life has a hard time. Just because you don’t have mental health problems doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and rainbows, so I am well aware that if I ever get better from any of this, life is not going to be easy or enjoyable all of the time. I do however like to think that general day to day life would be a bit less of a struggle.
It comforts me to see other people out there living their lives differently to how I do, touching doorhandles and eating food without crying, because it shows me a world that one day I might be able to be a part of. It gives me hope and something to aim for.
I like that my being told that the reason I struggle to eat is because I have an illness called anorexia, that the reason I cannot enjoy anything is because I have an illness called depression and that the reason I am compelled to perform futile routines for hours on end is because I have an illness called OCD. By identifying and diagnosing these things as illnesses, it suggests that they are things that one can get better from, just like with any purely physical illness.
Imagine you have the flu. You cannot sit up because your whole body aches in places you never knew existed, you have a headache that feels like there is a monkey in your brain banging a giant gong and waving a tambourine (to be more specific he is trying to play Bohemian Rhapsody but it isn’t going at all well). You go from hot to cold so quickly that half the time you aren’t sure whether you want to be wrapped in a blanket or to sit in the freezer, and your nose and throat are so clogged with flu rubbish (medical term), that it is physically hard to breathe.
Imagine lying there groaning about how horrendous you are feeling, and then someone comes into the room telling you to keep it down because there is nothing wrong with you, that this is what life is like, that this is how you will spend your entire human existence, that the pain you are feeling is “normal”.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I have the flu or any other unpleasant physical illness, the comforting thing is the thought that it will go away, there is some evil germ doing something horrible in my body but one day it will be gone. It may be frustrating that I can’t get out of bed and have to cancel plans to meet a friend, but in a week or so I will feel more up to it and we can rearrange. Yes, it sucks that I cannot breathe through my nose and that I am drowning in tissues soaked in my own mucus (no need to thank me for that glorious image), but soon all the mucus will be gone and air will start flying up and down my nostrils with refreshing ease again.
When something is diagnosed as an illness, you can look it up, find cures, relate to symptoms that you thought only you felt and find inspiration and hope in people who have recovered from the troubles you are facing. Have a headache that feels like there is a monkey in your head banging a gong and waving a tambourine? Does it kind of sound like he is trying to play Bohemian Rhapsody but is failing miserably and should probably try learning to play the piano instead? Awesome, that is a symptom of an illness you have and should clear up in a few days. You don’t like having the flu, but you like knowing that there is a name for what you are experiencing and you like being able to learn that it will not last forever. It would be a hell of a lot harder for Harry Potter to destroy Voldemort had he not known who or what was the villain he was fighting, but in identifying him, he knew who the enemy was and therefore knew his target/who he should be attacking. By being diagnosed with mental health problems and by giving them names, I can therefore learn about them and work on a strategy to defeat the evil little bastards.
So as I said in the beginning, do I like having mental health problems? No,I hate their existence and whatever devilish lair they sprang from, but I still love, and it is of great comfort to me, that I am diagnosed with them. I know that at the moment I am not “normal”, that I am unwell, so like the person with the flu, I am getting through each hour by hoping that one day when I wake up, I will finally be able to breathe again.
Take care everyone x