I wrote this a few weeks ago on a Saturday morning.
It is pretty raw and I wasn’t sure if I would share it.
But I have decided to because honesty is more important that appearance.
“Last night was bad and for the first time in a long time I remembered, no – I experienced – what it was like to not be able to rely on my brain to act as it should. Again.
I had gone to bed calm and well, but woke two hours later sweating, my stomach tied in a painful knot. I lay awake in agony, my hand on my stomach, trying to figure out why I was in pain, why I had woken up. I could find answer to neither. Panic was rising in my throat and so (to try and calm myself) I lay there repeating things I knew, even if I could not feel, to be true:
I am not ill, and even if I was it would be okay.
I am safe.
No one can make me do anything I don’t want to do.
If I need to I can cancel all tomorrow’s plans.
This will pass.
Eventually my restlessness woke my husband and he repeated to me all the things I had been telling myself.
I went back to sleep but woke again later, disoriented and confused. Then I slept again but had a series of dreams I knew were dreams but could not shake myself awake from. The kind of dreams that trap you and make you feel pinned to the bed.
This morning I feel anxious and fearful. Why a night like this after so many months of calm? I have been through all the possible reasons, but none feel big enough to prompt this night of terror. It has come out of the blue and that is scary. I want a reason, a logical explanation.
Maybe it just happened because I am human and fallible and sometimes, despite my best efforts and routines and management and medication, my brain, like any part of my body, might fail me?
And this is what I find most terrifying: that my brain might be unreliable.
It hits at the core of who I am; what I am capable of, how I behave or respond to a conversation, or in a relationship. Somehow it feels the essence of me is in danger. I might no longer be myself.
It terrifies me that the me I have rediscovered this past year might become elusive and hard to find again.
But this morning I have decided not to over-analyse it. I am reminding myself that a bad night can be just that – a bad night. The morning has come and I am calming myself by writing about it, I am already mentally making plans, reorganising my coming week, to allow for a little more rest and downtime.”
I nearly did not share this.
I had gotten used to being the person who can write positive and upbeat essays about my mental health. I liked both being well and encouraging others with what I have learnt. It is far easier and less exposing to be teacher than student.
I changed my mind because it is important to remember having one terror-filled night does not mean I am plunging into despair again. It might, I can’t bullshit you.
But it probably doesn’t.
It is probably just one bad night.
I feel angry about it. I would prefer an unbroken record, for anxiety and panic attacks to disappear into the distance. Who wouldn’t?
It is difficult to acknowledge my frailty and inconsistency when it comes to my mental health.
I can start to think, Why would anyone want to read or take any comfort or help from my writing if I am not fully well all the time?
But this expectation of 100% success in mental wellbeing makes it hard to ever truly be honest. This lie that says we are always completely one thing or another, totally well or utterly ill, can silence us when we are in the in between.
And the reality is, this is where we spend most of our lives: in between.
In the now and not yet.
Somewhere between disaster and perfection. Sorrow and joy.
Otherwise known as: being human.
Recognising and remembering this is good, it reminds us of our shared fallibility, our fragility. It reminds us to treat ourselves and each other with kindness and compassion.
I am sharing this because honesty is the first step towards health.
By being honest with myself (and with my husband) I made sure I didn’t ignore this one bad night, but took it a little easier for a few days. I remembered to let myself off the hook yet again, and slowed my pace.
It took a couple of days to regain my confidence and feel completely calm again, but I soon did.
If you are on the road to recovery and you have a bad day, or couple of days, or weeks, don’t despair. Recognise your humanity, allow your inconsistency.
Don’t deride yourself, treat yourself tenderly.
Big love x