I think many of us can relate to this journey of being rescued from the dark and finding our way home to the light, whether it be from grief, pain, abuse, mental illness, failure, loneliness or other darkness in our lives. Darkness is a part of the human condition, but so is hope and light and love. Thankful to all the people who help us find our way home ❤️
Over the last few years, I’ve gone into social hibernation. I’ve shied away from meeting new people, I’ve let relationships lapse. I felt hopelessly lost, and if you don’t know yourself, it’s hard to figure out how to relate to other people. I thought it’d be difficult for people to accept my ‘weirdness’, but it turns out that the one who couldn’t accept me was…myself. I felt constantly judged…because I was judging myself.
I felt like it would be too difficult to explain why I spent so long in the washroom (repeated handwashing), or why I was always late (repeated checking of windows, doors, locks and electric sockets before leaving the house + starting to get ready late because leaving the house felt like too big a task), or why I repeatedly checked the seat I’d just vacated for anything I might’ve left behind, or why I kept checking the zips on my bag, or that I didn’t like to walk close to bins. (But look, I just explained it in less than 100 words!)
I felt like I was an inconvenience and I couldn’t expect people to understand, because I myself didn’t understand. But I’ve come to realise that no matter what we are facing, social isolation makes it worse. People need people. I certainly do. Now that I’ve started to open up, people are being more supportive than I could have ever imagined. I find myself wondering why I thought I had to keep all my struggles a secret. Feeling alone only amplified my despair. Admitting my ‘weakness’ to my friends and family helped me see that it isn’t weakness at all, just the way I’ve been wonderfully made.
I wasn’t getting the help and support I needed, not because people didn’t want to give it, but because they didn’t know what I needed. Because I didn’t know. Once I became better at articulating what I needed, love was there to give it.
In order to feel accepted, I had to first accept myself. In order to feel loved, I had to first love myself. And now that I do, I’ve been reconnecting with old friends. It’s been joyful. And when I experience intense emotion, I write. This poem celebrates love rediscovered; love that was always there.
I wrote this poem a few months ago, during a very challenging time for me. I’ve hesitated to share it, because I’m not used to being open and vulnerable, and laying bare my insecurities for all the world to see.
But when I was struggling, it helped to read about other people’s similar struggles, in particular Matt Haig‘s “Reasons To Stay Alive” and “Notes On A Nervous Planet”. It helped to know that someone halfway across the world had experienced the intensity of despair and paralysis that I was feeling. It helped to know I wasn’t alone.
Knowing that other people found a way to live with mental health issues, and in fact to thrive, made me believe that the same was possible for me. So I decided to take a leap of faith and share this. I’m hoping it might help someone the way other people writing honestly about their struggles has helped me.
If you are struggling with your mental health, here are some resources that might help:
Don’t believe everything you think or feel.
Sometimes we feel helpless when we see our loved ones feeling down. So we go into proactive mode – we try to cheer them up, suggest solutions to their problems, hurry them to feel happier, because we care and don’t like seeing them upset. Unfortunately this can have the opposite effect and make them feel worse, because it feels like you are glossing over their feelings, or implying that their feelings are not valid. If you are not sure what to say or do, maybe try asking “What can I do to help?”. The answer might be a simple “Just sit and listen”.
We don’t have to feel happy all the time. ‘Negative’ emotions are not the problem, the problem is running from them because we feel like we’re not supposed to have them. But it’s hard to sit with ‘negative’ emotions – it’s much easier when we know we can lean on a friend. If you know someone who is struggling, send them this card and let them know you’re there for them.
People need people. Around the world, lockdowns have resulted in isolation and distress at being separated from our loved ones, our support system. Even if you can’t meet them yet, let them know you are thinking of them with this card!
Read Part I: Hidden In Plain Sight here.