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.

But you look fine.

But you look fine.

One of the most frustrating things about having an invisible illness is people telling you that you look fine.  I understand that it’s hard to relate to someone with an invisible illness but what isn’t acceptable is when people doubt you, when they judge you and make comments about how you should be doing more and it’s laziness not illness.

I have more than one invisible illness, I’ve suffered with depression and Anxiety for 5 years and I’ve had CFS for two years. Every day I struggle with these conditions and if that struggle isn’t enough, I have to put up with people making comments and judgements because on the outside I look like a normal person.  What’s worse is the feeling that I have to prove my illness to people, that I have to give them evidence in order to get them to believe me.  One of the most upsetting things for me is not being able to work and earn my own money and it’s really hurtful when people say I’m just lazy and want to live off my Fiancé for the rest of my life.  I’ve worked before and before I became ill, I was an independent person who wanted to rely on only myself but illness changed me and I’m forced to live off someone else and rely on someone else to support me.  I love my fiancé and I hate that he has to work and all his wages go on our bills and food before he has any for himself.  I hate putting pressure on him and I hate sitting at home while he’s out working full time to provide for me.

Some people think I’m taking advantage, they think I’m lazy and using my illness as an excuse not to work and it’s really upsetting.  I wish I could give people a glimpse into my day and show them what I have to go through.  I wake up at 11am most mornings and all I feel is exhaustion and aches all over my body.  It takes me an hour to get out of bed because a nights sleep doesn’t refresh my body and I’m still so exhausted that I’m falling back asleep, trying to move all my limbs is painful and requires all my energy, energy that I don’t have.  My depression sucks my motivation and tells me to stay in bed and just die there because I’m useless.  Some days the pain and fatigue is so bad that I do have to remain in bed all day and this often means no food or drink because I’m too exhausted to do anything but go to the toilet which is ensuite and near enough to get to. Most days I have to stay in pyjamas because sorting out clothes and getting changed takes too much of my energy.

If I somehow push through the pain and fatigue, I get up and I make breakfast which is usually cereal because I don’t have the energy to do much more, some days I’m too tired to even do that and I go without.  I take my antidepressants, painkillers and vitamins which my Fiancé leaves out for me, the rest of my medication is locked away to stop me attempting to overdose and kill myself.  By now its 1pm and all I’ve managed to do is get up and have breakfast.  If it’s a good day, I’ll wipe the kitchen down, wash up and tidy the living room up, after each of these chores I have to sit down and rest for 15 minutes to get my breath back and muster the energy to carry on.  Some days, all I can do is wash up and it takes all the energy I have so then I’m stuck sitting on the sofa watching awful daytime television and wishing I could be out and doing things.

At 3pm I see all the children walking home from my window and feel awful because they’ve been up since 8 and learning.  By this time of day, I’m falling asleep again and need to go back to bed, this means I skip lunch.  I will sleep for three hours and then my Fiancé will have to wake me up because it’s dinner time and I won’t have eaten since noon.  My fiancé will have to cook because I don’t have the energy and my head feels so foggy that I will forget to take things out of the oven, or even forget to turn the oven on.  My fiancé by this time has done a full days work and he’ll thank me for whatever little chore I’ve done round the house, even though it’s nothing compared to what he’s done all day.

I’ll eat dinner and spend a couple of hours watching my Fiancé playing video games, games which I used to enjoy playing but now can’t because of the pain in my wrists and hands.  I’ll try to read a book which I love but a lot of the time I’m too tired and don’t have the mental energy to even do this which means I’ll end up falling asleep on the sofa.  Eventually my Fiancé will wake me up and we’ll go to bed, after another dose of painkillers to knock me out.  I’ll sleep for 12 hours and wake up feeling exactly the same because rest doesn’t help me.

So I don’t want to deal with people judging me because I barely have the energy to look after myself let alone stand up for myself.  Their comments hurt and make my depression thrive but there is nothing I can do to alter their opinion because my illness is invisible.  Even people that support and love me sometimes forget how ill I am, because they can’t see it, they think it’s easy to get over, easy to forget I am suffering.  I appreciate everything my Fiancé and family do for me, I hate having to rely on them and I hate being a burden.  I wish that my illness would manifest itself visually on my body so people could see and I wouldn’t have to live with the doubt and hurtful comments but it doesn’t

My illnesses are invisible but they are real and to be told I’m just lazy and don’t want to work is insulting and deeply hurtful.  I shouldn’t have to prove myself, I don’t have the energy to do so.  I don’t want to live like this and people insisting that I do because I’m lazy is depressing.

New Year…Same Me.

New Year…Same Me.

Over the past week, I’ve seen so many posts online about people making new goals and resolutions and I find it really frustrating.  I find the whole New Year period depressing.  Since I was a child I would stay up until midnight and make a wish as the clock struck, to make more friends, to fit in more, to be more confident, to do better at school etc.  As I got older the wishes stopped and the resolutions started, be more confident with people, start working out, find happiness, get a job.  But the past five years, New Years has become more and more depressing for me.  I wish I could wait for the clock to strike midnight and say “This year, I won’t be depressed”, “This year I will leave my anxiety behind”, “This year, my chronic fatigue won’t stop me”.

The truth of the matter though is I can’t make these things go away.  Chronic Illness doesn’t just go away when a new year begins, it follows you.  Sure I could make smaller resolutions like “take up a new hobby”, “eat healthier”, “start planning for the wedding” but it just all seems so useless to me and I know that eventually I will be disappointed because I didn’t accomplish these things and compared to the bigger issues I have in my life, it just seems meaningless.  I see all these people on social media making their wishes and dreams for the new year and now that for most people, it will end up failing, being forgotten in a few months or disappointing and I don’t have room for any more failed wishes and disappointment in my life so I don’t do anything for New Years.

I also happen to have my birthday on the 10th of January and that’s another year older, another year that I failed to accomplish anything and another year of failed attempts and self hatred.  So January for me is a depressing month, it’s a month that if I wasn’t ill or hadn’t seen the lowest points in life, I would maybe look forward too and enjoy.

I envy people that can just make a resolution and do it, without anything holding them back, they’re lucky.  Unfortunately, depression doesn’t take a day off and it sticks to you like glue, pretty the same way anxiety does.  Maybe my Chronic Fatigue will improve, maybe the medical society will finally discover something that can help but I’ll still have lost two years of my life to it, it’s still held me back and in turn, made my depression double.

For me 2017 is another year of all kinds of medication, low periods of depression, frustration at being judged by others because my illnesses are invisible.  Another year of hoping to be able to get a job but being halted by my anxiety and fatigue, another year with pain that has no source and painkillers that don’t work.  It’s depressing but I have to learn to look forward to small things, seeing my family, having a really supportive fiancé who looks after me, having a GP that does everything she can to give me hope and teaching my niece that the world can be a magical place, even if I haven’t experienced it.

So to everyone with a Chronic Illness this year, stay strong and keep fighting.

Suicide: It’s complicated

Suicide: It’s complicated

Suicide isn’t an easy thing to talk about and I find it really hard to explain my motives behind attempting suicide in the past. A lot of people view suicide as the cowards way out, because you’re choosing to give up instead of keep fighting through whatever it is you’re going through. Suicide isn’t an easy decision to make, it’s the hardest thing I ever did.  The first time, I sat for hours staring at the bottle of alcohol and pills, trying to get the courage up to just do it.  It wasn’t the right decision, I’m not advertising suicide as the way to go because it’s a horrible way to go and it will effect so many people around you, there is always another way.

Suicide is selfish.  All I remember my Mum saying was “Why would you do this?” “Why would you be so stupid?” “How do you think this affects me, how do you think I would have felt if you’d died?” and my Mum is now left with this lifelong worry and doubt, because I made a decision based only on my own feelings.  When those suicidal thoughts hit, no one else mattered to me, I just wanted it to end, I wanted to stop feeling so down and hopeless, I felt useless and like people would be better off without me anyway.  I didn’t think about how my family would feel if it worked, I definitely didn’t think about how it would affect them if I lived through it.  But that is what happened and now my family always have that worry in the back of their minds.

Despite this, I went on to attempt suicide twice more and even now, when I see a box of tablets, the thought enters my mind to take them.  I wish I knew why this was, why does suicide take over my life, why do I keep coming back to it as an option.  It took nearly dying to make me realise I wanted to live but when my depression takes over, I don’t remember that.  I don’t remember that my family love me, or that I have things to look forward too.  All I can think of is the peace death would bring, no more medication or feeling so ill and hopeless everyday, no more doctors trying to work out why my brain is making me feel this way, no more pain, no more struggling.  But what about the people who love me? My suicide would break their hearts, am I not then subjecting them to the depression and feeling of hopelessness that I feel everyday?  Why can’t I see that when I’m feeling at my lowest, why can’t I see that suicide isn’t the way.

It’s because suicide isn’t rational or logical, it isn’t a decision made based on knowledge or rational thinking.  It’s a decision based on emotion and emotions are extremely hard to ignore.  The reason I attempted suicide is because at the time and in that moment, it seemed like the better option, it seemed like the only way to end the pain because living with depression is so hard, it’s tiring and it wears you down.  On a better day like today, I can think properly, my mind isn’t filled with that little voice that is depression, telling me to give up.  On a day like today, I see that suicide is not a decision I should make, it’s selfish and I have a lot to live for.  I have a loving and supportive family, I have a fiancé who loves me and tries his hardest to make me happy.  I am a young woman who has depression but it doesn’t define me, I can fight and I will fight through it.  I have to hope that one day it won’t affect me so badly, one day I will be better and it will be worth the struggle.

Suicide is an issue that is ignored because it’s easier to do so.  Suicide is an issue which needs to be addressed because no one should ever have to feel like they would rather be dead.  No one should have to feel that feeling just before they attempt to kill themselves.  For anyone reading this who thinks suicide is the only way to find peace, it isn’t.  I don’t know you or your situation but life is precious, it can be so short and taken so easily.  Life is a chance to do something and be someone, it’s a chance to find happiness and even though it seems like you never be happy, you will.  It may take a while and at times feel pointless but you have to fight and you can’t let depression win because I really believe we’re all put on this earth for a reason.  Think of he people who love you, think of what you’d be giving up, think of how it would affect people around you and fight.  It will get better one day, hope is a powerful thing.

 

Guilt and Shame

Guilt and Shame

Having an invisible illness brings a lot of judgement and opinions from others and a lot of time it’s negative and hurtful.  Living with Depression and Chronic Fatigue is hard enough as it is without other people making me feel worse about something I cannot change.

Before my Fiancé met me, he had never met someone affected by depression and anxiety and I think it shocked him to see how much it affected me.  He didn’t understand Depression and it took a while for him to get used to the condition but he made the effort to learn about it and support me as much as possible.  The anxiety was hard for him to deal with because he is such an outgoing person who loves to socialise and it caused a lot of stress in the relationship but we both eventually learned how to compromise and he learned my boundaries and respected them. The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome took a long time to diagnose and frustrated him to no end because he could see how my life was so negatively being impacted and it seemed like doctors just fobbed me off,  but he supported me through all of it, and he’s still supporting me even though he doesn’t understand how something you cant see can be so life changing.

Some people though aren’t as supportive and understanding, they have the impression that Depression is something I choose to live with and the Chronic Fatigue is just tiredness which I should get over.  I don’t currently work, I have done in the past and I would love to again, there is nothing more fulfilling than earning money for your future.  To others though, I choose not to work and am lazy, they see me sitting at home all day earning no money for my household and putting all the pressure on my Fiancé.  It makes me feel ashamed and I start to doubt even myself, am I weak? am I lazy? Could I do more?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is hard to explain and when people just accuse me of being tired and lazy it hurts me so much because I’m 23 and if I could I would be out there in the world preparing for my future and socialising, doing all the things a young person would do.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn’t just feeling tired, its feeling mentally and physically exhausted.  People take for granted waking up in the morning and feeling refreshed and ready for the day.  When I wake up in the morning, I feel nothing but exhaustion, I’ve slept all night but it’s not helped me, it’s not refreshed me, I feel just as tired as I did when I went to bed.  Then there is the constant aches in my muscles, it feels like I’ve run a marathon when all I’ve done is had a shower.  My joints are stiff and my temperature all over the place, I’m sweating one minute and the next I’m freezing cold.  I can’t concentrate for long, my mind feels foggy and I forget things so easily. When I sleep I have such vivid disturbing dreams that it’s surprising I sleep so much. I get up at 11am and by 3pm I need to sleep again, but I fight it because I feel so ashamed, I shouldn’t be tired because I haven’t done anything productive.

So it hurts when people think I am exaggerating or making my condition up, it hurts when people say I should be out working like everybody else because its just laziness.  It hurts when I have to fight for my benefits because Chronic Fatigue and Depression are not classed as long term illnesses.  I shouldn’t have to prove myself.  I have two illnesses that can’t be spotted physically but it doesn’t mean I’m not really ill, it just means I have to try harder to fight.