Journals: Good or Bad?

Journals: Good or Bad?

I saw something on television today about how keeping a journal is potentially harmful because it makes you stew in your own feelings and accept negative emotions rather than confronting them and changing it.  It was all about how writing about your feelings and emotions doesn’t actually affect them and that there is no advantages of writing about your misfortunes.  While I accept that opinion, I don’t agree with it.

I started writing in my first journal when I was 12 years old and I have every journal I’ve ever written in, saved on my bookshelf.  At first a journal was just a way for me to express my frustration and feelings during my teenage years and moaning about school and friends, talking about who I had a crush on and how I planned to make them marry me.  It was immature fun and it gave me an outlet, I didn’t have many friends as a teenager and my journal was in a way, my best friend.

As I got older my writing became more serious and reflective, it was about expressing feelings that I couldn’t express to people, talking about my worries and fears, and my dreams and hopes. I felt lighter and free after writing about my feelings, it made things easier for me.

Now, reading back through my journals has proved really useful, not only does it remind me of little happy moments I’d forgot about, it showed me how depression entered my life.  I was diagnosed with depression at 18 and I’d always believed that it had started at 16 after my parents divorce and after I’d been through some bullying.  Looking back at my journals though, I can see now that it affected me long before I realised.  When I was 13 years old, I wrote about killing myself for the first time and periodically after that, I mention not wanting to live and wanting to give up on life.  I wrote more often between the ages of or 12 and 15, and it was all very depressing and now I’ve come to identify my depressive behaviour, I can see that I was depressed long before I realised.  It wasn’t just normal teenage hormones and mood swings, it was a constant feeling of darkness and I described it in my journals as this blackness inside me, that tried to ruin any happiness, I wrote about not enjoying life and feeling not well.

Reading back has helped me, it’s showed me that my depression isn’t because of my parents divorce or being bullied, it doesn’t come from a negative or traumatic experience, it just is.  I didn’t believe in depression as a biological illness, I always thought it was triggered by trauma and I felt guilty for having depression when I knew that some people had experiences a loss worse than mine, people have it a lot worse than me.  Now I think that maybe depression was just always there in me, maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about feeling the way I do when I have so many good things in my life.

Reading back through my journals has also helped me understand where my anxiety stems from, I was always a shy child and I preferred books to people and I enjoyed learning new things, which made me different to other kids and kids can be cruel to someone who is different.  I let classmates walk all over me, I let them say mean things and laugh at me, and I did it because I wanted to fit in.  I tried to follow the trends and change myself to be more like my peers but it never worked, I was always still singled out and it caused me to sink into myself and choose to avoid rather than confront.  I started to run away from situations instead of standing up for myself and that’s why my anxiety has come to be as bad as it is.  One of the things that stands out most to me in my journals is the days I would fake being ill to get out of school because there was a presentation that day or a group project and I was terrified of being humiliated so I did whatever I had to do to fake sickness and get the day off.  I wish that I could go back now and just face my fears because by avoiding them, I never gave myself the chance to prove I was good enough, I made it impossible to build my self esteem and confidence because I found it easier to hide away.  It’s really sad to think that I was so terrified of my classmates opinions and actions towards me and I wish that I had been stronger and stuck up for who I was instead of hiding and trying to change myself into someone else.  I’m 23 now and ever since the age of 12, I’ve avoided any experience which I thought could cause me humiliation, and by doing this, I’ve never given myself the chance to prove my fears wrong.  Just because some kids at school laughed and said horrible things, doesn’t mean everyone is going to do the same and even though I can see that logic, it doesn’t help me because I’m too used to thinking that people will dislike me, so I avoid people and situations where I could be vulnerable.  Just being in public makes me panic, because I have so little confidence in myself and I see people laughing, and think they’re laughing at me, I see people talking and automatically think they are making comments about the way I look or behave.

My journals have shown me where I went wrong, they’ve shown me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being depressed when I’ve had a much better life than some.  They remind me of better times and make me proud of some of the things I’ve overcome. That’s why I think journals are beneficial, especially when you suffer with a mental illness because you can track your mood and identify triggers and behaviours that may signal a relapse.  It’s like writing this blog piece, it lifts a stress from my shoulders and allows me to say what I want to say without that face to face fear of judgement.  It allows me to reflect and think clearly which is really helpful.  I don’t know how I would have got through most of my life, if I didn’t have a journal to write in.

Everyone has their quirks….

Everyone has their quirks….

I definitely have some odd habits, that I never realised were odd until I started living with my Fiancé (Johnny)  I like to think of them as my quirks, and they make me more unique.  I’m sure everyone has their own little quirks and when other people see them, it makes them stare in horror or confusion.   I thought I would list a few of my little quirks and rules that I live by and see if anyone else out there shares the same odd behaviours.

  1. Never shower or have a bath without looking the front and back doors of the house.  I never noticed this until I moved out and began living with Johnny and its something he still laughs about.  I sometimes double or triple check the locks on my doors before I have a bath, because I actually worry that someone may just walk on into my flat, straight into the bathroom and see me naked.  It’s not a rational thought, but I can’t seem to set my mind at ease, I cannot step foot in the bath if the doors are not locked.
  2. When closing the curtains, make sure that there is absolutely no gaps.  This stems from a childhood fear of seeing a face between the gap in my curtains and now if there are any gaps in the curtains then I am convinced that someone will be able to spy on me.  It doesn’t even help that I live in a first floor flat so someone would literally have to levitate to reach my window, I still can’t have gaps in the curtains.
  3. I cannot finish a drink. This is something that drives Johnny crazy!  I buy 2 litre bottles of fizzy pop, or a litre of juice and I can only drink three quarters of the bottle. Once it gets past the three quarter line, I cant drink anymore because it tastes wrong.  I literally have five bottles of drink in my fridge at the end of the week with only a quarter left in each of them.  It’s the same with drinking out of a glass, I will always stop drinking a few sips from the bottom because after that it starts to taste wrong to me.
  4. In my bedroom, I have a big built in wardrobe and I cannot sleep at night if those wardrobe doors are open.  It doesn’t matter that the only thing in the wardrobe is clothes, or if the doors are ajar, I cannot sleep without them being shut tight.
  5. Never go in an empty shop.  This probably stems from my anxiety problems but I can’t go into a shop unless there is another customer in there as well, because I feel like the shopkeeper is just watching everything I do and then I have to buy something so I don’t seem rude.  I will stand outside a shop and wait for someone else to go in first, before I enter.  On the opposite end of the scale, I also can’t go into a shop if there is a large crowd of people in there, or my anxiety just triggers panic attacks and I can’t cope.  So basically I can only enter a shop with a minimum of 1 person and a maximum of about 5. Frustrating!
  6. I hate touching food that has gone cold.  You know that situation where you’ve eaten dinner and just want to relax so you leave the plates on the kitchen worktop and promise to clean them later, I can’t do that.  Once cooked food has gone cold, I cannot touch it, it literally makes me gag and flinch in disgust.  It’s the same food I was eating an hour ago but once it’s no longer hot, I can’t bear to even look at it.
  7. The milk to cereal ratio is critical in my house.  Johnny cannot make my cereal because it’s just too stressful for him and I end up having to do it over anyway.  So I have to have about 3/4 cereal and 1/4 milk, there needs to be enough milk to wet the cereal but not enough to make it soggy because once it starts to go soggy, I can’t eat it anymore.  I know people that absolutely drown their cereal in milk and it drives me mad.
  8. The before bed ritual.  Again this is probably something that comes from suffering with anxiety.  Before I can attempt to sleep, I have to run through a checklist of things and it something that really frustrates Johnny because he’s just drifting off to sleep and then he hears “Did you lock the door?” and he grunts yes “Are you sure?” and he grunts yes louder.  “Did you turn the lights off?”, “Did you turn the cooker off?”, “Did you turn the heating off?” and it goes on and on, did you do this and did you do that?! It almost always ends up with Johnny getting up and going round the house checking everything which he knows he’s already done, because he knows I’ll end up getting up and triple checking it all myself.
  9. My serial killer bookshelf.  I sincerely hope I am never investigated for a crime because my shelf of serial killer books will definitely give a bad impression.  I can’t help but enjoy people’s reactions though when they run their eyes down by shelves and it’s all Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Classic Literature until they come to the bottom shelf, this is when their face turns to one of worry and horror because there is a whole shelf filled with crime books, serial killer stories and forensic textbooks.  I do have a diploma in Forensic Science and Profiling so it’s not that odd, I am just interested in the reasons behind crime and how crimes are solved.  I do like to remind Johnny when he’s annoyed me though how I have a shelf of ways to kill him and hide the body…….
  10. Eyeliner will help me survive in an apocalypse.  I have an addiction to buying eyeliner, my sister does AVON and every order I put in has at least one eyeliner.  It doesn’t matter that I have a perfectly good eyeliner that’s brand new, if I see a slightly different one, I have to buy it in case it’s better than the one I have.  The funny thing is I rarely go out because of my illness so I don’t wear make up regularly.  I literally buy eyeliner and add it to a box of about a hundred I already have.  I’m convincing Johnny that when the apocalypse happens, those eyeliners I’ve spent so much money on will be useful somehow.

 

So there are ten of my quirks and behaviours which make me a unique person.  They might be odd to some people but to me, they are a part of me and I embrace the crazy.  It’s good to have something which makes us different and sets us apart from everyone else and it’s also fun to meet someone else who shares one of the same quirks.  So let me know if any of you have similar quirks, lets all be quirky together.

Unfair Benefits System

Unfair Benefits System

Be prepared for a bit of a rant here because it’s a subject which I have had experience with recently and I can relate so much to the story I am going to share.  First, here is a link to a story about a woman who has just committed suicide because of an unfair PIP assessment.  It’s really heart breaking.

Article

This woman suffered from ME which is something I also suffer with.  It’s a debilitating disease which makes you exhausted constantly, it causes sleep to be unrefreshing which means sleeping does not help or rid the exhaustion.  It causes muscle and joint pain which requires a lot of pain killers and sometimes cannot even be treated with that, it leaves a lot of sufferers bed bound.  It causes a lot of symptoms cognitively, like memory issues, brain fog, lack of concentration.  There is no known cause for this disease, I contracted it after having Glandular Fever.  There is no treatment and barely any research, a lot of Doctors believe the condition to be a mental illness in which the brain signals pain when there isn’t any but recently studies have been carried out which show it could actually be a problem with the immune system not working properly.  It is an invisible illness though, which means it is ignored and misdiagnosed a lot.

I recently had my PIP claim (Type of benefit in UK) reassessed.  I’d been receiving the benefit for two years, due to the fact my severe depression and anxiety had prevented me working.  I have been suffering with ME for close to two years and it’s been a nightmare getting any treatment or help, I have to sleep almost constantly, I get about three hours a day where I am able to do household chores and that’s it.  I suffer with horrible back pain and pain in all of my joints and muscles which I take strong painkillers for and I rarely am able to leave the house.  Despite this my reassessment was rejected.

Like this woman in the above article, I had a face to face assessment.  It was carried out in my home because my anxiety prevents me travelling to places I don’t know.  During my assessment I felt extremely uncomfortable and my anxiety was so bad that I could only give one word answers.  What annoyed me about this face to face was, the assessor never asked questions from a mental perspective, my main issue is mental illness yet she only asked me physical questions “Can you get in and out of the shower”, “Can you dress yourself”, “Can you use the toilet”.  I can do all of these things but as people with depression and ME know, just because you can physically do these things, doesn’t mean you do.  I have no energy to get dressed or take showers, which means I  an go a week without washing sometimes because I am that exhausted and can’t get out of bed.  I need a lot of prompting to take care of myself and this was completely ignored.  I was asked one question about my ME and the assessment was over in 40 minutes.

Three or four weeks letter I received a letter to say my claim had been denied.  I received no qualifying points and the letter I received which explained the decision was disgusting!  It stated that the face to face assessor had written I appeared completely relaxed and showed no signs of anxiety.  This was completely false, I was sweating profusely, my heart was beating erratically throughout and I couldn’t talk.  The letter also stated that because I had not attempted suicide in over a year, my mental state was fine.  This comment is extremely offensive to me and I am so disappointed in my countries benefit system.  Suicide is such a sensitive issue and they basically told me I don’t deserve help because it’s been over a year since I tried to take my life.  The letter went on to say that physically I was able and healthy and did not warrant any further financial help.  It was a completely false report of my condition and it left me devastated.  My Mum went out of her way to appeal the decision and luckily I have a great GP who wrote a letter also.  I know how the woman in the article felt, because I felt the same way, I felt so betrayed and unfairly judged by my country.  These people are supposed give benefits to people who need them, they are supposed to help.  How many people sit on jobseekers allowance and don’t lift a finger to find work, yet they get money ever month no problem.  I suffer with illnesses which may be invisible but they are extremely real and I don’t deserve to be ignored and shoved aside simply because my illness are to complex for the benefits system to understand.

The woman in this article took her own life because some person in an office somewhere decided she wasn’t worth the trouble, that her condition was to complex and since it’s invisible, it can just be ignored and turned away.  I don’t know how this assessor can live with themselves knowing that they ultimately made a decision which ruined someone’s life and made them give up on life and choose death. I used to think my country was a fair one, I used to be proud of my home but I am utterly disgusted by it now.  The government doesn’t care about how unfair their system is, they spend no time investigating the people that claim benefits fraudulently and instead spend their time taking if off people who are vulnerable and can’t stand up for themselves, they force people with invisible illness to suffer and struggle because it’s easier to ignore something you can’t see than to address it and take it seriously.  The woman in the article took her own life surrounded by her benefits letters stating that she was healthy and able, basically calling her a liar.  I know how this woman felt and it’s so saddening because these assessors made her feel like her life was worthless and unimportant, they treated her like a case number and not a person.  People suffering with illness deserve respect and understanding, they deserve to be listened too and treated with kindness, this woman was given none of this and yet nothing will be done about it, the government and the benefits system will lock it away in some filing cabinet and forget about it.

I’d like to say at this point that my own benefits decision was overturned and I did receive my claim.  I had to fight tooth and nail for it, I had to send piles of evidence and statements from people who know me.  It made my mental state deteriorate badly and my illnesses were made worse by the stress and anxiety I had to deal with.  I got no apologies for the way I was treated, no sorry for the completely false statement given by the assessor and no support during the time I had to wait and worry about the decision.  It may have come out positively in the end for me but it doesn’t for a lot of people, so many people are put through more suffering and ignored because their illnesses aren’t common or easy to see.  I’m disappointed in my government and I’m disappointed in the people that are supposed to help us, who are supposed to make out lives easier and help us live independently despite out illnesses.  It’s unacceptable.

 

 

Sometimes, Opposites really do attract.

Sometimes, Opposites really do attract.

I’m not sure how I, the shy, antisocial bookworm ended up with my Fiancé Johnny who is outgoing, sociable and ambitious.  We are opposites in every way, he enjoys going out with friends, meeting new people, keeping fit.  He is positive and ambitious, always looks on the bright side of things and keeps himself motivated.  I on the other hand hate socialising, I always see the negative in a situation, I prefer staying in to going out, reading to socialising and my expectations of life are low.  Despite this, we seem to work.

I met Johnny online shortly after my third suicide attempt.  My family had encouraged me to join online dating sites because my anxiety and depression really limited my abilities to meet people and I’ve always been extremely shy.  I’d had a couple of bad experiences with online dating before meeting Johnny and I wasn’t really looking or hoping for anything.  I was in a really bad place, I’d attempted suicide a month before and as a result had to give up my job.  His message was straight forward and simple, he started off commenting on how we both had an interest in the WWE, it was innocent and not at all like some of the inappropriate cheesy messages I’d received before. Talking to him made me forget what was going on around me and I felt like a normal 20 year old.  It wasn’t long before he asked to meet me and he lived half an hour away so it was perfect.  I almost didn’t agree to that meeting, I was struggling with depression and I didn’t want anyone being dragged down by me, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  It was my Mum who pushed me to meet him, she told me that sometimes we have to take a leap in life, and if it didn’t work out then at least I gave it a go.  It was at this point I told Johnny about my anxiety, I couldn’t just go out to dinner like normal people and for the first time, it didn’t put someone off and we agreed to meet at a park which was quiet and pretty.  My mum drove me and I begged her to turn around and take me home, my anxiety was crippling me and I didn’t think I would be able to go through with it but my mum pushed me and dropped me off.  I’ll never be able to thank my Mum enough for pushing me that day.

Three years later and we’re engaged.  Johnny came into my life at an extremely tough time and sometimes I think he was meant to find me then because he saved me.  I had resigned myself to being alone, depression is a hard illness to cope with and it takes it’s toll on the people around you.  Johnny never swayed though, he remained patient and understanding.  He came to my doctors appointments and learned about my medication, eventually taking over the responsibility of making sure I took my medication and keeping it locked away so there was no risk of me overdosing again during low periods.  There is a six year age gap between us and he’d experienced a lot more of life than I had, he’d been through all the partying and dating, he’d had lots of girlfriends.  I’d never been to a club, never really drank alcohol and had one relationship in my life.  We couldn’t have been more different but it worked because he pushed me and encouraged me to do things I’d been too scared to do.  He took me shopping and to the cinema, he pushed me to go out for a meal with him and to stay at his place at weekends.  It seemed like nothing to other people but my anxiety had stopped me doing these things for so long and he pushed but never forced me to try new things and he never left my side doing them.

Johnny is the most amazing man I’ve ever met, he’s been through his own share of troubles but he’s always made sure I was okay first, he’s done everything he can to support me and help me recover.  Depression is a terrible illness and it doesn’t work on a schedule, I’ll have good months and bad but Johnny never gives up and he reminds me every day that he’s not going anywhere.  For the first time I feel comfortable being who I am in front of someone, I don’t have to put on an act or pretend to be anything I’m not.  Johnny continues to be this upbeat, positive and ambitious person who encourages and motivates me.  He may be my opposite but I’m thankful for that because If i’d ended up with someone just like me, I’d never have had the courage or motivation to be better, I’d never have experienced some of the things my anxiety prevented me from doing.  It works both ways too, being with me has calmed him down, he’s not the same party animal who enjoyed drinking too much alcohol and being an idiot. Johnny helped me recover and heal and I helped him settle down and realise what he wanted.  We may clash and argue about the little things, he may listen to his dance music too loud and bore me with his football talk and war movies but I’d never want to be with anyone else.  He is my soulmate and no matter what comes at me, I know he’ll be there to help me through it.

So sometimes, opposites really do attract.

My Name’s Heather and I’m a book hoarder……

My Name’s Heather and I’m a book hoarder……

I’m pretty sure if there was a book addiction/hoarding group then my Fiancé would send me off there with no hesitation.  I am a complete book addict, I have two full size bookcases crammed with books and a kindle which is also full.  I’ve been a complete book addict all my life, as a child I had a wardrobe that was filled with books instead of clothes and all my pocket money went on books instead of sweets and toys.

As I’ve grown older, my love of books has grown.  Books are my oldest and best friend,, they’ve been with me through all my struggles, they’ve offered me guidance, confidence and taken me to a completely different world when my reality has been tough.  As a result of my love for books, I’ve built up quite the collection, my favourites being my huge leather bound collection of classics which weigh a ton and take up a lot of space.  There is nothing better though, than looking at a bookshelf full of books and running your fingers over them, knowing that each book is filled with a different adventure.

Unfortunately my love of books has led to a huge issue with giving them up.  I’m sure most people will read a book and then lose the connection to it, it will be donated to a charity shop or thrown away.  I cannot bear to give books away, it’s like sending away a part of my heart.  I’ve gone through my collection many times and made a pile of books which I would consider giving away….and then a day later, they are all back on the bookshelf.  It would be okay if I resisted buying more books, but any chance I have to buy a book I take and then I come home and my Fiancé gives me an exasperated look and says “Where are you going to put that?”.

I tend to read multiple books at once so each night I’ll bring a different book to the sofa and read away till bed, the next night I’ll bring another book to the sofa and so on.  By the end of the week, there is a pile of books by the sofa and on the coffee table, and my Fiancé is wondering why I bother having a bookcase in the first place.

I also have a crazy OCD attitude towards my book case, my Fiancé will put books back in an attempt to tidy up and I’ll go crazy because he’s put it back in the wrong place.  I order each shelf of my bookcase and split up genres and topics so I know where to find everything and I get a little insane if people move books around.

On top of my huge collection of books, I have a kindle full and the one click buying option on Amazon will be the death of me.  My bank statements are just full of tiny amounts going out on random books I’ve downloaded and I also have an aversion to getting rid of kindle books, I keep them all in my cloud storage and can rest well knowing they are all in this invisible place waiting for me.

I am a book hoarder, a book addict and I wouldn’t change it.  Books are so underrated, so much new technology comes out these days and young people don’t want to bother with boring books when they can be playing all the latest games or chatting online.  It’s a shame because my childhood was filled with books and I’ve been on so many adventures through them, I’ve learned so much.  When I have a child of my own, I’ll treasure the times I get to read fairy tales to them and introduce them to all the fictional worlds I love, I’ll give them the same experiences I had and hope that books bring them the same support they’ve brought me.

Self Harm Isn’t a Joke

Self Harm Isn’t a Joke

I first self harmed at 15, I tried it because at the time there was a trend of cutting words into your arms.  It was seen as rebellious and cool, I did it once and forgot about it.  That is, until I was 16 and being bullied, I turned to it again, but this time I did it because I felt so unbearably miserable inside and I wanted to make it seen, I wanted someone to see my pain and help me.  It was just a couple of times and then I gave up because I didn’t have the courage to carry on, I was squeamish and hated pain.

I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t had those experiences, what if I had never tried it? But I did and for some reason it stuck with me and at 18 I began self harming again, but this time it wasn’t an experiment, it was serious.  I had a trusty knife, always the same one, sharpest I could find and I started off cutting once a month, then once a week and eventually it became a night time ritual.  It was my way of purging the hatred and depression inside of me, the pain no longer got to me and seeing myself bleed brought me relief.  My favourite place to cut was my arms, it was easy and accessible, I wore long sleeved tops and jumpers for months before anyone found out what I was doing.

I eventually learned that my arms were too visible, I didn’t want people to see what I was doing, I didn’t want people seeing the ugliness.  So I began cutting my thighs, and it’s still my go to spot.  The thing with self harm is, it’s never enough.  I started out cutting little scratches, not enough to bleed, and then it wasn’t enough so I cut deeper and deeper, I demanded more blood and more pain.  I’d let my scars scab over and then cut them open again and again.

For me, self harm is a way to relieve myself of the feelings that threaten to kill me inside.  I’ve gone weeks and eventually months without self harming but when my depression gets bad and I don’t know how to keep going, it’s the only way to purge myself.  It’s the only way to let out my anger and hatred.

What upsets me and makes me really angry is people who trivialise self harm.  This week I saw someone I know, who has never self harmed post on the internet, claiming that they self harm.  It made me really angry because so many people today see self harm as a way to get attention, to gain sympathy and cause a stir.  People who pretend to self harm for attention, make it harder for people who actually self harm to get help.  I’ve seen pictures posted online, people who have self harmed and uploaded it to the internet for everyone to see.  I’ve never openly displayed my self harm, even when it was cool to do, even when I wanted for someone to see it and help me, I still hid it.  It probably seems hypocritical now, because I’m writing about it online but I’m doing it because I really believe that self harm gets pushed aside and ignored too much.  I self harm because I feel such a dark feeling inside, a soul crushing heaviness that kills any happiness I feel.  I don’t do it because it’s rebellious or cool, I don’t show everyone I meet my scars to get validation or attention.  Self harm is serious, it’s a sign that someone is struggling so much, they choose to go against everything in their nature and hurt themselves.  Human nature is to protect ourselves and ensure out species survives, when someone self harms, they go against all of this because they see no other way to rid themselves of the feelings inside.

People will walk past me in the street and they would never guess at the scars that hide beneath my clothes, scars that I have to look at for the rest of my life, scars I’ve tried to hide with tattoos.  I’ll never forget the first time I showed my Fiancé.  The first time I agreed to leave the lights on as I undressed, the feeling that he would look at my scarred skin and think I was ugly.  Self harm isn’t something you do to gain popularity, it isn’t something to make a joke of and flaunt about.  Self harm is serious and deserves to be seen as such.

Criticise

Criticise

I noticed that today’s word prompt is Criticise which is a term I know well.  To criticise someone is to indicate fault or express judgement.  Mental illness unfortunately invites criticism more than most.  Nobody likes to be criticised but when it happens in relation to something you can’t change then it’s even harder to deal with.

“Why can’t you just be happy?”, “Can’t you just snap out of it?”, “You should try thinking of good things instead of bad things”, “Just don’t let it beat you”, “Can’t you see what a good life you have?”, “Take up a new hobby, you’re just bored”, “You’re not ill, you’re just tired”, “Don’t be anxious, there is nothing to worry about”, “You can’t let your problems stop you doing things”.

It’s all words I’ve heard since being diagnosed with depression.  As if it isn’t hard enough fighting your brain constantly to carry on, people think that making criticism or judgement will help.  There is offering advice and support and there is criticising someone for the way the live with illness.  I hate being told to just smile and get through it, to snap out of depression and stop letting it effect me so much.  I don’t have a say in how my depression affects me, I can’t just wake up one day and say “Today I’m going to be happy and depression is in the past” and that’s what makes an invisible illness harder, having people criticise and judge you because physically you appear healthy.

Even worse is the people that criticise when they have no experience in the matter, people who have never been affected by depression will criticise the way I handle it, they will tell me I’m dealing with it in the wrong way, that I’m not trying to recover properly.  It’s one of the main reasons I don’t think CBT worked for me, I went through three separate courses of the therapy and it was degrading being told I wasn’t putting enough effort into getting better, that I wasn’t trying to change my life when every day it was a struggle to get up and carry on living.

I spend most of my time at home, my anxiety limits my activities a lot.  It makes me feel isolated and weird because I don’t react the same way as others to situations.  I can’t just get up and go out shopping, I can’t go to concerts or to a place with groups of people.  Then people come along and say “But what are you worried about? nothing bad is going to happen” and expect it to fix everything, they expect that if they tell me not to worry then all of a sudden my anxiety is going to just turn itself off.  When it continues they get angry and frustrated at me because what they’ve said has had no effect and they criticise me for not trying.

CFS means my body is aching and sore all of the time, I am in a constant state of exhaustion and need roughly 14 hours of sleep to function for just three hours, then I need to sleep again.  Yet sleep doesn’t refresh me, it doesn’t make me feel better, it just charges my body enough to do the bare minimum and some days I can’t even do that.  “You’re just lazy” ,”You just need to sleep better”, “Go to bed earlier”, “Do more work and then you’ll wake up eventually”, “You’re only tired because you’re not doing anything or going out”.  It’s amazing that, for a condition with very little research or treatment, that some people think themselves experts and think they are in a position to criticise.

Criticism can be a good thing if it’s constructive, if it’s advice or a suggestion to help.  Criticism that just aims to judge and point out failure is not helpful, it’s harmful.  I have to listen to it everyday in some form, sometimes from people who love me and don’t realise what they are saying is hurtful.  People with a chronic illness have to deal with enough, without people adding judgement and criticism to make them feel even worse.  Everyone you meet may be struggling with something and unless you know their situation and how they feel inside then you have no right to judge.  It’s hard enough fighting something that I can’t see, I don’t need to be criticised and judged for the way I fight it.