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.

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Privacy

Privacy

I noticed today’s word prompt is privacy and it got me thinking.  This blog is a way for me to vent how I am feeling and be honest about my depression and anxiety without feeling scared of what people think.  I don’t know why it’s easier to talk about how I feel here rather than in person but it is.  In my normal life, I’m a very private person and I don’t like anyone knowing things about me.

With my depression and anxiety, I’ve been referred to talking therapy a few times where I could go through CBT and talk about my feelings in order to change my mind set and hopefully get better.  Talking therapy for me is a nightmare and subsequently has never worked for me.  I used to dread going and when I was in a session, I would say whatever I needed to get out of there fast, even if it wasn’t the truth.

I don’t like to be the centre of attention and I find it hard to talk about my feelings, I don’t even tell my family or Fiancé what I’m feeling most of the time because I just feel like, why burden someone else.  To me, my issues are my issues and I don’t want to tell other people how I am feeling in case they turn around and say “That’s it?”.  I never had a big tragic event to trigger my depression, it just became something that affected me and people find that hard to deal with sometimes.  I know there are a lot of people in the world that have bigger issues like poverty, starvation, abuse, death etc. and I don’t want to seem selfish.  My life is a good one and I don’t have a reason other than dodgy brain chemicals to be depressed, and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t complain, I should just keep it to myself and suffer alone.

So when I’m sent to someone to talk about my depression and the things that affect in, I find it extremely daunting and I find it impossible to convey just how much I’m suffering.  I will simplify it and make it seem like I’m coping when I’m not because I don’t want to bother other people.  In therapy I used to do whatever I could to get discharged, I learned the mood questionnaires and I caught on to what the therapist wanted to hear and said it, I made them think I was recovering and that therapy was working for me, because I wanted to be discharged and not cause a fuss or be the centre of attention.

I’ve recently been referred to a psychiatrist because my depression hasn’t improved in five years and I have a history of suicide attempts.  Medication helps but when my mood gets too low, it’s ineffective and therapy has done nothing so now I have to go and see someone who is going to want me to talk about myself and my feelings.  I want to get better and I want someone to help me but I’m stuck in that place where I want help but my anxiety about being a burden stops me from expressing myself.

Privacy to me is important because I like to keep things to myself and be self reliant but it also makes me very hard to get to know.  Privacy makes me a very closed off person with a fear of being too much trouble and being judged for how I really feel.  Privacy is a good thing but it’s also a problem that affects me every day.

 

One best friend is better than a bunch of alright friends.

One best friend is better than a bunch of alright friends.

One thing depression and anxiety are good at is pushing people away and isolating you so it has its chance to make you feel worthless and alone.  Before depression, I had a group of about six close friends that I spent time with.  We were a close group of friends and enjoyed going on days out, camping trips and just having fun together.  It seems like a really long time ago now and I miss the days of being able to enjoy days out and socialising with people.  Socialising now brings feelings of fear, panic and general anxiety, and it’s just easier to avoid it, so that I avoid panicking and making myself worse.

After being diagnosed with depression, I hid it from my friends.  It was easy to hide because I became a very good actress and almost became two people, the one I was with friends was happy and confident but once I was home I’d shrink into myself and become quiet and withdrawn.  I began to avoid socialising, cancelling on my friends and making excuse after excuse to get out of plans.  This was about the time I began to self harm because I hated myself, I hated that I was avoiding my friends and isolating myself but I couldn’t stop doing it, depression was in control and I was just left trailing behind doing whatever I could to bring some sense of peace.  Self harm was my way of getting rid of the frustration I felt at losing control and it was away to take out my hatred of myself.  I hated the way I looked, I thought I was fat and ugly so I wanted to rip apart my skin and cause pain and make my outside look as ugly and distressed as my inside felt.

As the months passed by, my friends stopped inviting me to go out and I’d see pictures on the internet of them enjoying themselves and going to events and out for meals, and it made me feel worse.  Even though I was the one who pushed them away, it still felt horrible and I was angry at them for letting me push them away, why didn’t they try harder? why couldn’t they see I was struggling?

In my close group of friends, there was always one who I was closer to and I’d say we were more like sisters, we spent everyday together and she practically lived at my house.  She came on my family holidays and was the one I always went to first for advice.  During the time my depression got worse, she kept asking me about things, she was the one who carried on trying to get me to socialise and get out.  Unfortunately I was too far gone and I refused again and again.  Then I attempted suicide, a stupid and horrible decision I made which I regretted straight after, by that time though the pills and alcohol had started to kick in and I felt myself falling unconscious, this is when I called my friend for the first time in a while, luckily she came straight away, found me and called an ambulance which probably saved my life.  I don’t remember a lot about the hospital, my heart had issues and I was out of it but I do remember she stayed with me all night, she slept in a chair and refused to leave my bedside.  I think it was a shock for her to see me like that, with sliced up arms and practically unconscious, I regret that she had to go through that because of me.

After I got out of hospital I went through therapy and I got in touch with my old group of friends and told them what had happened to me, they were surprised and promised to be there if I needed anything and offered to talk anytime I needed it.  It’s about four years on now and that group of friends became more and more distant as my depression flummoxed between manageable and not manageable.  That one friend who stayed by my hospital bed though, she stuck by me through everything.  I didn’t deserve it, depression made me an awful friend because that’s what it does, it makes you selfish and care less about the people around you.  I pushed and pushed her away, I was distant and horrible but she kept coming through for me, she kept arranging to come and visit me.

In fact, I saw her today, while I’m going through a really awful time with my depression and CFS, and she really made me realise how lucky I am to have her in my life.  She is the only one who stuck by me and pushed back and even though I don’t see her as much as I’d like, she is there when I need her.  I did have a group of good friends and it was great but having that one best friend now surpasses that by far.  I think it’s way more important to have one best friend than a group of friends who when it gets tough, fade into the distance.  I owe a lot to my best friend, she probably saved my life the day I attempted suicide and she has continued to be there for me and make me feel loved when I haven’t deserved it.  It takes a special kind of person to stand by someone with depression and she is my guardian angel.  Depression is a horrible condition, it destroys who you are and makes life so hard, but the people that support you and love you make it a little bit easier to fight.

So thank you best friend, for never abandoning me and for always being there when I’ve needed you.  I haven’t been a good friend in return and for that I am sorry but I will continue to fight and be there for you, the same way you have always been for me.

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.

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

I remember learning about the fight or flight response in A Level Psychology, and I just understood it immediately.  I wish I could say I’m a fighter but I’ve always leaned more towards flight.  It’s something that I’ve really struggled with.  As a teenager I lived just across from my high school and I remember having a particularly bad day and just running home.  I did this at least four times in high school and got in so much trouble for it, My Mum used to always send me straight back to school but it wasn’t something I could control.  I would be confronted with something that scared me and just run home without thinking, I couldn’t stop it and I didn’t understand it.  I felt weird and weak because no one else ran home to their mum when they were having a bad day.

Whenever I was due to give a presentation in school, it made me freak out so much.  I know most people don’t enjoy giving presentations in school but for me it was terrifying to the point that I would stick my fingers down my throat to make myself sick, just so I could get sent home.  There were times I would have a group presentation and it would be with my friends and they depended on me to do my part, they didn’t particularly like doing presentations either.  Instead of sticking with them and being strong, fighting my fear, I would have the day off school pretending to be ill.

If I go into a shop and it gets particularly busy, I can’t handle it and I literally do a runner out of the shop.  I often just leave my fiancé standing there wondering what happened.  When I go out somewhere and a stranger speaks to me I pretend not to hear them and keep walking or I freeze up and my fiancé has to answer for me.

At University I was in a lecture one day when the lecturer said the second part of the lesson would be in random groups, I was so scared I snuck out of the hall and went home.  I did this in a lot of lectures and eventually stopped going to any at all because my anxiety was making me so scared and weak, it was horrible and I hated myself because I am a smart person and if I had got through University, I could have a good career and be doing something that matters.

It’s all examples where my body and mind have chosen to just run instead of face the issue and its so frustrating because I want to be the type of person that just faces my fears and goes in head first determined to get it done.  But it’s something I can’t control, no matter what I do, if I get confronted by something which scares me, I flea without thinking, I do anything to get out of that situation.  It’s why I don’t go out much, here in my flat, nothing can confront me and nothing can make me feel like I need to run away.  No matter how many times I say to myself “You can do this, you’re strong” I can’t.  It’s like an invisible barrier that stops me, it won’t let me carry on, it wont let me confront my fear and fight.

 

Time to put the war paint on.

Time to put the war paint on.

Going out for a social event is something that most people look forward to and it’s something that I used to love to do.  Now it’s something that I have to spend a long while building up to, getting myself prepared for and building up my inner strength for.  It’s my sisters birthday in a week and she’s a very bubbly person who loves going out and having a good time.  As the older sister it’s hard to see, my little sister can go out and be completely free when I can’t.  My sister has always followed my footsteps, when she was little she would copy everything I did and she looked up to me.  I can’t help but think I’ve let her down, I should set an example and encourage confidence and independence.

So every birthday she chooses to go out for a meal with the family.  And this is where the war paint comes in. I spend most of my time too tired to do anything or too depressed to bother, so I never get dressed up or where make up.  So on the rare occasion I do go out, I like to think of my make up as war paint because I use it to try and hide how I really feel, I try to become a different person for one night.  When people look at me they will think I’m just a normal 23 year old who enjoys life, they won’t see the self hatred and darkness that’s inside me.  I use the make up as a shield, I dress up and pretend to be someone I’m not.  For one night I try to forget about my worries and fatigue, I put everything into acting the part and allowing my family to enjoy their time out and not worry about me.  It used to be that my family were so worried how I would react to certain places, they avoided going and I don’t want to deprive them of anything.

Depression has changed who I am and it’s also made me an extremely good actress.  Depression makes it easy for me to lie and I use it to put up a front, I use it to smile and laugh along with people, to blend in.  I feel disgusting inside but it allows me to act the part on the outside which is why it’s called an invisible illness.  On the outside I look like a typical person enjoying myself and getting on in life, no one looks deep enough to see the pain and anxiety that lurks beneath the surface.

So in a week, it will be time to wear the war paint and act happy and carefree for one night, because it’s my sisters birthday and I’ll do anything to make her happy and see her live the life I can’t.