Today, let's welcome Cee Arr from Diary of a Reading Addict. She is here to share with us about her own experience for this Mental Health Month.
May is Mental Health month in the US. The UK's Mental Health Awareness Week is 16-22 May.
I have depression and anxiety.
There is so much I could write about my experiences, but I can only give a glimpse here. Hope you find it informative.
Sitting at an office desk. My eyes don't see the numbers on the computer screen – everything is wrong, and I don't know how to put it right.
I run to the ladies' loos to cry some more. I can't seem to stop crying.
And it's so useless – so typical of me. I can't even hold down a crappy temp job.
I should be back at my desk, earning the money they pay me. I should be at home, looking after my mother, helping her through her treatment.
(I shouldn't be here, wrecking everything.)
I lean up against the cubicle wall. There are tears running down my face and I can't make them stop.
I try to cry quietly – no one else needs to know, do they? I couldn't stand it if they knew.
They would worry – about me. And there's no need for that – I'm not worth it.
(Nothing. I'm nothing. Why am I here? I am nothing. Worthless.)
I walk back to the desk.
“Are you OK?” - a work-friend.
I shake my head, tears sneak out – I can't stop crying. I've held everything inside for too long.
“What's the matter? Your mother?”
“Everything... I want to die.”
He gets my boss. I go home.
About a week later, the same computer screen.
I'm working 'til the end of my contract. Two weeks, just two weeks left.
I can do that.
(I can't do it. I'm useless. I'm nothing.)
I can do that.
I'm on tablets now. (I want to die.) They'll take at least a week more to kick in. Then I might need a higher dose. (Stupid. Worthless.)
Ten more minutes, and I can take a break and read a chapter. (Stupid. Worthless. Useless.)
Ten more minutes – a nice cup of coffee, and a chapter. (Waste of space.)
Ten more minutes. Ten more minutes… (Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…) Just ten more minutes.
The book I'm reading is The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice.
It's not my favourite book, not even my favourite Anne Rice book, but I will never forget this book. Because it's the candle-light in the dungeon.
It's a werewolf book. You'd assume that would mean nothing to me right now, but somehow it means everything.
The main character is Reuben Golding. I cling to his fur as he runs through the forest. I cry into it, letting it dry my tears.
I hold his hand as he talks to his family, as he tries to figure out what has happened to him – as he tries to make sense of his new life. (Not alone. We'll figure this out, Reuben. Not alone.)
In return, he gives me something to aim for: he is ten minutes away, along with Rice's beautiful prose.
That was me. That was two years ago.
Since then, things have gotten better. I still have dark days – trouble sleeping, days where I feel less than nothing. But the very fact that I've made it this far means a lot to me.
Depression is hard to talk about.
I'm trying to be open, but every word that I type is a difficult one. Because I don't know how people will react. Because I don't know how much of myself I can stand to expose.
I try to be realistic – I'm not a 'draping myself dramatically on the chaise-longue with a hand to my forehead,' type of person.
But this is a big deal. It's not nothing. It's not Romantic. It's painful.
I've written a lot about depression and anxiety over the last year or so – one of the benefits of being a blogger is that I get to choose what I talk about and when.
Every time I write about mental health it feels simultaneously liberating and terrifying. Every time I expect someone to confirm what I think – that my opinions don't matter; that I'm pathetic, useless, stupid.
But the book-blogging community? They've only ever been supportive, and thanked me for speaking out.
And there've been days where a simple 'like' on a tweet has meant the world to me.
I try not to hide it any more – this is an illness, it is not my fault.
But it is the kind of illness which tries to stop you from speaking up – tries to stop you from owning yourself, tries to stop you from being yourself.
It doesn't help that even when people are trying to be considerate, their very often not.
Telling me to cheer up and smile may make you feel less helpless, but it makes me feel more helpless. Because if I could just cheer up, I would have already.
Dismissing a bad day as 'PMS' really does not help. Claiming I'm just tired really does not help.
But I do appreciate that you want to help – honestly. Just… please put yourself in my shoes before you speak.
Book-blogging has given me part of myself back.
People have always considered me shy, but actually, I've always had a quiet confidence (not to mention a random bounciness.)
That changed with my mental health problems. My confidence dissolved until there was practically nothing left.
Book-blogging is beginning to solve this for me.
If authors, bloggers, and readers alike think that my opinions are valid, then why should I carry on thinking that they're not?
Books are a life-raft.
I use books as the metaphorical ladder out of the well. (And it really does feel like a well – the deepest you've ever been stuck down.)
I read while waiting for doctor's appointments, escaping the anxiety of everything to dive into a completely different situation.
I read when I can't sleep – it stops my thoughts from getting too tangled up.
I read to find me again.
With books I can figure out – through reading them, through experiencing them as the characters do, through putting my thoughts in order when I'm blogging and reviewing – what I'm feeling.
Humans are a funny thing. It's easier for us to understand magic, and dragons, and stories, than it is for us to understand ourselves.
Luckily, the one can help with the other.
Cee Arr (Diary of a Reading Addict)