Being ‘Well’ (and Then Getting Ill Again).

It won’t be much of a surprise for most of you to hear about my complex, irritating and often self-absorbed battle with mental illness. Years of crippling self harm, depression and now a new wave of devastating anxiety that leads to terrifying panic attacks have all been defining features of my life.

This has been going on for about a decade; sometimes there are waves when it is tolerable, when I’m treading water (and almost have my life together), until it crashes and I am left drowning – with my lungs unable to find air.

It all felt tragic enough to entertain the idea that I would never be happy – that sadness and emptiness made me cleverer anyway. I romanticised the drinking and cutting and fucking. It all seemed too fundamental to who I was to give up. Meds sometimes patched the holes and other times sent me to overdose. Mostly I just flitted erratically through my life, attempting to stem the tide that so often threatened to consume me.

It wasn’t until this summer that I felt truly happy. I mean, I’m sure young me once felt a sense of stability and happiness but I just can’t seem to recall  it. It was this last July to November that I really gauged how sad I had been most of my life because I had finally started to feel happy. The proper kind of happy that left me feeling empowered, confident and excited by life again. It was 5 months of bliss.

It seemed to come from nowhere, really. I had stopped taking the meds I’d been prescribed two months earlier. But I suppose leaving an unhealthy relationship and realising how much better I was for that begun the process of pulling myself out of the abyss. It was summer, too, and that always helps. I found myself surrounded by old friends (and a new one) which gave me the support I’d obviously been needing. It was wonderful to be able to experience the freedom that comes without a persistent storm inside your head. I travelled, I did some wild things and I fell in love.

I finally understood what it was like to exist without the fog. Without this pervasive sense of doom, dread or a crushing sensation across your chest. I could interact in a room full of people with ease and enjoyment. I was excited about my future, my relationships and who I was as a person. I had never felt more confident in my body (despite being the heaviest I’d ever been). I was so full of confidence and power. My life was busy but I was enjoying it. I had responsibilities and new relationship to work on but it all felt like a challenge I enjoyed.

Now, it’s all slipped back. Mornings are awful. I spend hours wishing I was asleep still (because sleeping is like death – but without the commitment). The panic attacks returned and begun affecting my work. My uni grades plummeted which only added to the cycle of panic attacks which only contributed to being unable to leave the house (and thus leading to the terrible grades). I spend so much of my energy getting rid of harmful thoughts – pushing the images of cutting to the back of my head. I have to constantly check myself when I’m around razors/scissors/blades and focus my mind on not picking them up and slicing through my skin. It’s fucking exhausting.

The pervasive tiredness is back, too. I had forgotten what it felt like to be this fucking tired all the time. The kind of tired that sleep doesn’t help. People who don’t feel like this must be so fucking productive because all I can imagine doing now is lying still and not interacting with anyone. The cycle just feeds itself; I sleep for 10 hours and feel lazy yet still cripplingly tired, the anger at myself fuels the tiredness and leads to more sleep which leads to more anger…

Not everyday is this bad. I am still decidedly better than I was 10 months ago.

I have just never experienced such a contrast in my life. In how I feel, act and in what I am capable of. I feel like I have just had further to fall. I feel cheated. As if I got to this good place, a place where I had felt happy for the first time that I could remember and someone just pushed me back into the abyss.

At least before I had forgotten how good it could be to feel so happy. Now, now I am just aware of how far I am away from being ‘okay’ – from having my life together. It seems like the universe played a cruel joke on me. It feels cruel.

Now, my head bobs below the surface and my lungs begin to fill with water and I can still remember what breathing felt like.




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