Sunday- the day of rest for many.
Just another day really.. You get up, you get ready for the day, you do your hair and makeup, you do your chores, you take the dog out, you go to the supermarket, you bump into people you know, a stranger compliments your hair, you return home, family come by unannounced to visit, you make your dinner, you have a bath then you go to bed.
Sound like a normal day? Nothing unusual about it? Perhaps, yes, but not when you live with crippling anxiety and depression.
Here’s how it really went…
I spent most of the night watching the clock.. listening to every “tick ” as the seconds, minutes and hours went by. My mind on overdrive. I’ve always struggled with nighttime, the darkness that just creeps over you, the silence, the time that allows you to revisit every bad thing that’s ever happened in your life.
But finally, morning comes. I’m exhausted.. so, so exhausted. I struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed, wondering how I’ll get through another day. I spend the next 25 minutes lying in bed debating the many “what if” scenarios that could occur throughout my day.
What if I were to drop dead today? What if I run into my ex? What if I go out and everybody is judging me? What if I have a panic attack?
I’m brought out of my trance by my Labrador licking my face, trying to give me the hint that she wants her breakfast! So out of bed I go, black bags under my eyes, stumbling to the kitchen to give the dog her breakfast.
I spend another hour showering and getting ready. I dry my hair and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror before doing my makeup. “Your a worthless piece of shit, don’t forget that” .. “look at the state of you” .. “no wonder he left you” .. “everybody thinks you’re ugly” .. “why bother?” .. so many thoughts whizz through my head.
I do the chores then take the dog for a walk. Being a typical Labrador, she just bounds down the stairs and stands at the door with her tail wagging and pacing excitedly. I’d love to be a Labrador, they never seem to be sad. I put the lead on the dog and give myself a pep talk before stepping out the door. I already have my route planned so that I shouldn’t meet anybody when I’m out. I prefer to be alone and rely on these peaceful walks to clear my head.
The dog walk goes well.. I feel completely relieved that I was able to walk down to the beach without having to interact or even see another person. The dog has done her business and enjoyed a game of fetch. Most importantly, my head is now clearer.
With my confidence soaring from my walk, I decide to be brave and go to the supermarket for some essentials. I have been putting it off for too long. I drive there, assuring myself that I will be in and out in a matter of minutes and memorise the list of things that I need.. milk, bread, eggs, mayonnaise, cereal, chicken, rice.
I arrive at the supermarket but cannot bring myself to get out of the car. What if it’s busy? What if I bump into people? What if I can’t find the things I need? What if I have a panic attack? What if I drop my basket?
After 15 minutes of sitting in my car, I finally brave it and get out. I start to sweat as I enter the shop, my heart pounds in my ears, I begin to shake. I stop and try to pull myself together, pretending to look at a sign on the door, hoping nobody will notice. I remind myself that I will be out in just a few minutes.
I manage to calm myself down and hurriedly get the items I need. My heart still pounding and my hands shaking.. all I need to do now is pay for my shopping and leave.
I opt for the self-service checkouts, so that I don’t have to communicate with another human. I start to scan my shopping until I hear a familiar voice. “Hello!”
Instantly I panic, it’s a friend of someone I know. They begin to chatter away but I cannot hear a word they are saying.. instead I am panicking again. I need out of here. I can’t speak to people today. I bet they are sitting thinking I’m such a mess. Why are they talking to me? After what seems like an eternity they leave and I try to finish my shopping. I pack my bags and head towards the door. Nearly there, but what if the buzzers go off and they think I’m shoplifting.?
I get out of the store and head for my car. I need out of here. I need to get home. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. My hands are still shaking. I wish I had never left the house. What was I thinking?
A lady stops me to compliment my hair, I thank her quickly but rush away wondering why she did that… does it look horrible and she just wants me to feel better? Was she secretly laughing at me?
I finally get to the safety of my house. But hear a car pulling up as I unpack my shopping. My family appear. I love my family but why are they here? Do they have bad news? Have I done something Wrong? Has someone died? Why didn’t they call to say they were coming? I feel overwhelmed again and begin to panic.. why are they here? I just want to lock my door and relax.
They come in and I make them a cup of tea. They just wanted to see how I was. “Fine” I told them, forcing a smile. They wouldn’t understand the truth. They’d think I’m mad. I’m already a letdown to them.
Eventually they leave. I make my dinner and try to relax. I recap on my day. I feel like such a fool for worrying all day.. I must have looked so stupid.
I go to bed and begin the whole cycle again.
I worry about the past, the present and the future.. I worry about everything.
My anxiety begins to get out of control as the darkness comes again.
It’s a harsh reality, one I face every day. Depression and anxiety ruin my life. I may look fine to others, or perhaps even manage to smile. I may look as if I’m functioning, But there’s a whole other side to me that you cannot see: The mental illness that I’m battling every minute of every day. The thoughts that I’m not good enough. The thoughts of harm. The constant panic attacks.
I am lucky enough to now have the input of a psychiatrist, mental health nurses, councillors and my GP, but it took a lot for me to find the courage to ask for help.
I was always ashamed and embarrassed, thinking that I was crazy, too scared to ask for help. Struggling through my life. I still do, but I don’t feel that shame anymore and I’m getting help and support that I need.
Just remember though, just because I look “fine” or say that I am doesn’t mean it’s actually true. Every day is a battle, and even the smallest of things can be the biggest challenges.
That’s the reality of mental health issues.