Saturday, February 7, 2015

And the battle, although just as painful, becomes easier to cope with...

And as she climbed up on that chair and placed the noose around her neck, she realised she would finally get that escape that she so desperately longed for. She would finally be free of the constant battle against herself. She would finally have an end to the chaos that all too often erupted inside her mind. She would finally find peace. But, before she had a chance to take that huge leap of courage, with only a small step, and seek the freedom that she so desired, a lifetime of memories flashed before her eyes..........................

She saw her mother standing in the corner of the Intensive Care Unit. She saw the pain in her mother's eyes. She could tell that her mother hadn't slept a wink all night. And whilst she'd seen that look of pain in her mother's eyes many times before from not being able to pull her out of this depression, and not being able to show her the beauty the world has to offer, she realised that nothing had ever compared to the fear and pain she saw in her mother's eyes right then and there.

She remembered the words that still resonate with her today. The words that send a sharp pain right through her heart, and never fail to bring a tear to her eye. That one statement, a single sentence from her little sister, which easily broke her heart, and changed her world. "It was hard growing up, going to bed each night, and not knowing whether I'd still have my sister when I woke up." Her sister was an adult when she'd shared this raw, emotional statement, but despite them both being adults, all she'd seen was her little baby sister, a young teenager, standing in front of her, in a world of her own pain, and all at the thought of losing someone she'd cared so deeply about. All at the thought of losing her big sister, who had long lost herself and constantly questioned her existence through the pain. The big sister who honestly, and whole-heartedly believed that life would be easier for her family if she ceased to exist.

She remembered the exact thoughts she had at that time. She remembered feeling like things would never get any better. She remembered feeling so guilty for the pain she was consistently putting her family through. She remembered the tip-toeing that the family was forced into, for fear of pushing her over the edge during one of her intensely emotional mood swings. And hearing her baby sister express in this single sentence that despite the emotional pain and outbursts that were tip-toed around, despite the pain of seeing her sister fade away into a shell that she feared she'd never come out from, the most painful thought was that she would lose her completely, and that somehow, life would have to go on without her.

The last 12 months have been an intensely emotional rollercoaster for me. There have been some great ups, really there have, but each time the downhill has closely followed and I've delved faster down that track swaying from side to side, hoping like crazy that the safety harness would hold me in, the entire time feeling like my life was turning completely upside down.

I've been trying to write this post for months. I've been struggling to find the right words. And I've been afraid of what people would think of me if they'd learnt that even today, I'm not always that bright and bubbly person that they all see. Would they judge me, treat me differently, whisper nasty things behind my back? Surely it would be easier to fake it than to show them the real way I feel at times? Right?

Despite questioning whether I'd get through the pain, and whether I was strong enough to come out the other side for quite some time during the past 12 months, this week things became a whole lot more intense and I seriously considered options I'd not seriously considered in years. I had two good friends, both unknown to each other, that questioned our friendship, and the reason, because I didn't share myself with them wholly (negative and all) and because of that, I avoided any conversations that may lead them to believe otherwise. I had friends questioning our friendship because I failed to communicate with them at all, failed to share my true emotions, because I put up that mask, and because I hid behind that wall that protected me from them finding out and consequently realising I was way more work than any friendship was worth, and that quite simply put, I was toxic and a burden on their lives.

I know I've shut my family out for years, because of similar reasons, and I know how irrational it is to not share your emotions with the family that have continued to love you through the worst and most difficult years, and that have never left your side when things get tough. I realise how completely ridiculous it is to hide your feelings from those who love you unconditionally, and feel completely crushed that when things do hit rock bottom, because you'd not shared your pain with them and let them be the support you so desperately needed.

And gradually but then all at once, I realised that life isn't the same as it was a decade ago. I'm not a 19 year old girl consistently struggling to make sense of my own head. I'm not wearing long sleeves to cover the fresh cuts on my arm, or on the very odd occasion in which someone found out, sitting at Emergency waiting for a nurse and doctor to give me a look of disgust and reluctantly stitch up the damage I'd bestowed upon myself, the self that I seemed so determined to destroy. I'm not constantly in and out of psych wards several times a year (and when I say several, I mean SEVERAL), merely to protect me from myself and the costly, permanent decisions I was likely to make in the acute heat of the moment. I'm not in a hospital bed, covered in wires plugged into monitors that will reveal if this time, I've managed to cause some irreversible damage to my body.

I'm now a 29 year old woman, who whilst still affected by Bipolar Disorder, whilst still battling the same mental illness I was a decade ago, whilst feeling that forceful pain I have in the past, has learned healthy coping mechanisms, and isn't that tiny, scared little girl she was back then. I'm now a 29 year old woman who, at 19, never imagined a year without a hospital admission, let alone the fast approaching three years since such an admission has taken place. I'm now a 29 year old woman who has no desire to place any more scars on my body that has already been punished so badly. A woman who whilst uncomfortable with meeting strangers for the first time and receiving judgement for something they simply don't understand and for their inability to see past these and get to know who I am, feels proud to see those scars on her arms. They are a constant reminder of how much pain I was in, and how I'm still here, and I'm still fighting. They are my battle wounds. They are my evidence that the pain I've been through is a lot deeper than many others could handle. They are a testament to my courage, my strength and my determination to go on, despite at times feeling as though all hope was lost.

I am now a 29 year old woman who has been given a lot of support over the past 15 years, even from those who don't realise it. I am now a 29 year old woman who can honestly say she has the most amazing family and friends in the world. I'm now a 29 year old woman, who despite still suffering at times, even with getting out of bed proving a struggle some days, believes that life has so much more to offer. A woman who has been questioning her existence and feeling like a failure for not accomplishing most of the things on her "before 30" bucket list.

I now know that I have the power to create my own reality. All I need to do is try and believe it's worth it, believe that I'm worth it. Be determined... Love completely... Trust fully... Believe it's possible... Try... Hope... Create... These things have the potential to change my life. These things have the potential to assist me along my journey, with all it's twists and turns, and at 39, write another post about how much further I've come in the last decade, and how glad I am that I made the decision at the time of writing this very post that I have the power to manifest my dreams into reality, and that I deserve to be happy and fulfilled with my life.

I started writing an application to become a member of the BeyondBlue speakers program, and that's really the driving force that provided me with the inspiration to share this raw, deep and mostly hidden side of me and the battles I still fight each day. I'm willing to share my story with complete strangers and allow them to somehow see they're not alone, and that things can get better, and even if they don't recover completely, they can have good moments as well as bad moments, and those good, positive, loving moments can be enough to pull them through the darkest of their days. Showing them that even if their illness is likely to stay with them, it gets easier to manage, and they'll learn how to cope. Show them that there is nothing like the hug of a niece or nephew (or their own children / partners) to make them smile, inspiring them to be all that they can be, and provide them with the determination they have been lacking to make this possible. If I'm willing to share my story with complete strangers, surely I should be willing to share this story with friends and family. Surely I should be willing to let them know what depression and mental illness feels like, to give them some sort of insight. Surely I should be willing to share my story with the friends that are suffering so that they, like the complete strangers I'm willing to share with, will know they're not alone, and that things can get better.

.........................And in that moment, with those very thoughts and images running through her mind, she slipped the noose from her neck, cut the rope from where it was hanging, lit it on fire and watched it burn, envisioning the fire taking away all negativity and things that were holding her back, the smoke floating away as she let her fears leave with it, allowing her to free her mind and believe that life could be wonderful, and that if you look hard enough, you will always find beauty in this sometimes messed up crazy world. To believe that life was worth it... To believe that she was worth it.

**Please note - the writing about suicide by hanging at the top of this email was only meant as an indication of the pain and anguish within the story. I have not stood on a chair with a noose around my neck, and I am in no danger of self-harm or suicide. It was used as an analogy, and should not be interpreted as a serious threat to my safety.**

This post was originally posted on my Facebook page on 8 February 2015