This will probably be the hardest part, I don’t talk about myself or my past much, to put it on paper (well virtual paper…) makes it real and that’s embarrassing.
Why is it embarrassing? Well, throughout my journey of life, like most of us, I’ve made mistakes. No big deal really, everyone makes mistakes that’s how we learn isn’t it?
Well I should be a philosopher then….
Not only have I made mistakes, I’ve repeated those mistakes several times and been judged for them before I’ve learnt my lesson, glutton for punishment maybe? Not quite.
‘A’ made me, ‘A’ loves seeing me fail and because ‘A’ has been in my life the longest I listen to what it says.
Its familiar, it’s easier. It’s uncomfortably comfortable.
‘A’ has been with me long before I knew what anxiety was, before I even knew about mental health and way before I could identify or understand it. I still don’t know whether ‘A’ was with me from birth, hiding in my genetics and was always going to be with me no matter what or whether my upbringing had a part in activating ‘A’.
My personal opinion is that I had the genetics at birth and the extreme ill health and exposure to bipolar disorder has brought it out of me.
I don’t feel that doctors know the best course of action either. (It might just be my doctors). Every time I go to the doctors for my mental health, I get asked to fill in this pointless questionnaire about suicidal thoughts which the doctor then scores me off, (I quite often lie with my answers because honestly I find it easier to describe my last shit in detail, WITH DIAGRAMS, than answer how many times I’ve felt my life wasn’t worthwhile in the last month) then I get prescription drugs thrown at me that are likely to make me feel 100% worse in the next two weeks. After that I just battle with side effects and feel like everyday is a Monday morning after a 123 hour marathon and my mind has constant brain freeze. I personally can not live like that anymore, I did it for 10 years.
I called my hitch hiker ‘A’ because although I’ve been a bit of a slut and had relations with other mental health disorders, such as, depression, bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder and anorexia, anxiety has been there from the start. The more time I spend looking back the more I see ‘A’.
- I see ‘A’ how come no one else saw it?
In my previous post I mentioned that I spent a lot of my childhood petrified of catching what my nanny had (uncontrolled bipolar disorder).
- What if the people around me saw it in me but choose to brush over it?
- Should I feel let down by them or would I have known my hitch hiker either way?
When I look back now it feels like it was a choice to mask it with medication and words of encouragement (* insert sarcastic emoji here…) like ‘get over it, pull yourself together, and snap out of it’. Words that are no longer welcome, words that have been identified as destructive to someone who is suffering from ill mental health.
- Did I stand a chance either way?
I have been at war for over 20 years with ‘A’, a war that at times has defeated me but there have been victories, breakthroughs and setbacks. There has been treason and betrayal and unlike in the Hollywood movies the only love story apparent here is between myself and ‘A’.
Who could possibly ever choose to love me? I’m broken.
I stand before you today as a mental health veteran.
In my previous blog I mentioned that I was one of four daughters, the runt of the litter. I call myself the runt of the litter because my three sisters are healthy; they have no illnesses and weren’t born with any defects or disabilities. I however was born with all sorts of issues.
I was a gross, scabby little runt.
I spent so much of my time in hospital and that’s where I think ‘A’ manifested. From a young age I felt like I was diseased and disgusting. I honestly don’t know how my parents and grandparents loved me. My eczema was so bad that even to move my skin it would crack and bleed; my mother use to have to change my bed sheets every day because through the night id cover them in blood. (I’m sorry for the image!)
I use to be wrapped head to toe in medically treated bandages and then had my clothes over them. I use to scream and cry my eyes out, I hated them. I remember one day removing them from underneath my leggings before school and half way through the day my leggings stuck to my legs (because of my weeping scabs… again sorry for the image) and I had to go home and be bathed in salt water so they could be removed without ripping off skin. I spent days and days being left in hospitals wrapped up in bandages or on oxygen, screaming for my mum. I would over hear doctors telling my mother that my skin would be scarred for life due to the eczema. I would come home from hospital (once my eczema had healed), my older sister would say she’d play games with me now that I looked normal but once the scabs came back she wouldn’t.
So matter of fact.
- Harmless things children say to each other without thinking aren’t they?
I was always thinking, always reading into what people said and how people looked at me.
- Surely this kind of upbringing was always going to bring out the ‘A’ in me?
I was subject to being left alone from a young age which built up a fear of being abandoned by people and it prevented me from attaching to people in my life; I was always withdrawn, always preferred my own company and I still do. I find it hard to be myself in public and it exhausts me, once I’m home I feel free.
I had my first anxiety attack before the age of 10; I can remember it like it was yesterday. At that age that’s not something I could have brought on myself, it’s not something I could have made myself do.
It was brought on by fear . I felt so much fear for a small child.
Asthma attacks were scary, I had many of them and if I left the house without having an asthma inhaler in my pocket I would have an anxiety attack; pretty sure they were linked. My hands would curl up, I would get pins and needles in my hands and face and I would cry, uncontrollably. The shortness of breath would make me think I was having an asthma attack and this was the time death would finally claim the runt.
My mother was magnificent, she would act as if it was nothing.
I was fine, and everything was going to be ok.
So when I was around my mother I felt safe, like nothing would go wrong because she was there. I know most children feel this but mine felt strong, i never wanted to leave her side. Even at the age of 11 going into high school I cried my eyes out leaving my mother at the doorstep. There was one other person I felt that safety with and that was my grampy. He was there when my mother couldn’t be; I always had either my mother or my grampy at close range. As much as I loved my nanny I couldn’t’ depend on her good days.
‘A’ manifested through my ill health when I was growing up, ‘A’ caused panic attacks, worry, fear, and irrational thoughts, further ill health and a lot of tears. My grampy spent his life looking after my nanny with ill mental health and I know he saw in me what he saw in my nanny. He spent my lifetime trying to make me mentally stronger. He would teach me not to fear, how to break my bad habits of being controlled by my ill health and I owe him a lot. He did more good than any doctor has done for me because he had firsthand experience, he had lived through it.
As a child I never took part in out of school clubs, I never went on school trips or school days out, I never took part in any school productions and I never stayed over school friends houses.
‘A’ made sure of it, ‘A’ controlled me. I was very much under ‘A’s wing. As long as I did what ‘A’ wanted the anxiety attacks were kept at bay, the worry was to a minimum. The older I got the stronger ‘A’ become, I could no longer keep ‘A’ a secret.
People were starting to notice I was troubled but it wasn’t ‘A’ they saw, it was a stranger.
At the age of 14 ‘A’ took a vacation, literally up and left me, no warning and no timescale on its return. For 4 whole years I was anxiety attack free, I still worried about every single thing but I wasn’t controlled by the fear of an anxiety attack. My eczema cleared up and was barely noticeable, no scars, no scabs and my skin was soft. I choose to do drama in school and took part in talent contests.
I lived without fear and it was magical.
…..Until the next hitch hiker took ownership of my body……
…….You’ll meet it next….it isn’t pretty.
I accepted ‘A’ into my life, we had a mutual agreement, but this hitch hiker….. well…… lets just say it did what it wanted, it ripped me apart and it took no prisoners.
I finally caught my nanny’s virus.