It’s 10:31pm and I am sitting in bed writing a draft for a new post in my pristine new notebook (neatest handwriting, of course to last only 3 days) whilst simultaneously flicking through the latest Kerrang! magazine. Pretty normal for a 17 year old on summer holidays, right? Well, yes, except I’m doing so in a inpatient unit for adolescent mental health. Now now, don’t get your panties in a twist, this isn’t an “attention seeking sob story,” as many have told me my story is when reciting it. Instead, this is my truth. Real, cut-the-bullshit-honesty from someone who is going through a rough patch. Not for pity, but for understanding – and hopefully, for some of you, reassurance.
I won’t go in to the hows and whys of why I am where I am, but let’s just say I didn’t see any other way out. I am one of many who suffer from obsessive intrusive thoughts (otherwise known as “pure O, OCD”) and like everyone else in the entire world, have suffered losses in one form or another in my life. It got too much. That emptiness inside of me had turned into a happiness-eating black hole and perspective had gone on vacation; so I was left with self-pity and depression. Not the most welcoming of companions.
But let us not get in to the spiral of self-hate that got me where I am. The point is, I’m here. And it kind of sucks… A lot. For those of you who read the title and thought “what the hell?!” I’m not some insensitive weirdo so please, hear me out. Being an impatient – or even not, just suffering with a mental illness of any kind – sucks. It isolates you, it makes you think of nothing else but it. Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life. Now imagine dissecting and analysing that thing every single day, reliving it over and over and over. That’s kind of what it’s like. For me, anyway. But the thing is – the thing I’m learning – is that we push away any kind of negative emotion with such force because we’re scared of the ‘spiral of doom‘ (as I like to call it), that we completely forget to FEEL sad. Which just makes us more sad, which we push down, and then we’re left with this overflowing pit of un-dealt with sadness that, at some point, will explode.
But how do we stop this? Isn’t it inevitable? Sadness sucks; why would we want to feel it? Sadness does suck. But if pushing down sadness only makes us more sad in the long run, then surely feeling sad will make us happy?
“But how can you feel sad and be happy?”, I hear you say! You can’t. But once we’ve felt the sad, once we’ve taken the time to sit in the sad and use all the sad energy up, then maybe it goes away? Because really, all the energy is gone. SO then, you’re left with a happiness of some kind.
This is what I’m trying to exercise during my stay in the unit: to feel my sadness. But it’s really hard, I shan’t lie to you. Being an inpatient alone is hard enough; it’s like you’ve been completely plucked from reality and put into some bizarro prison camp where they have to unlock the toilet for you (yes, really). When I first came to the unit I was on what they call ‘one-to-one’. This is where someone follows you around all the time (and when I say all the time, I mean they’re in there when you shit and shower). It was the weirdest experience of my life. I wasn’t trusted, I wasn’t a human… I didn’t feel like it was happening to me at all. You kind of just go through the motions because what else is there to do? You can’t escape – literally or metaphorically – because you are constantly watched. It was undignified and isolating, but it was also completely necessary. I want you to know this because I never thought I’d get to this stage, I never thought I was this controlled by my mental illnesses. You sort of just wallow in them and let them take over but at the same time, you feel pathetic – so I never thought it’d be taken so seriously. There was always this voice in the back of my head telling me that I was ok, that I could control what I was doing. That I was in control of the knife on my skin and the pills in my hand. But I wasn’t, and this is what I want you to realise.
When you’re in the midst of deep depression, you are not you. All personal traits are completely stolen from you and you are purely left with emptiness. So when you’re there, opening your flesh to finally feel something, or to release the demons that hide away inside of you, you do not have control. Any form of rationality is completely gone, and trust me when I say you never know what could tip you over the edge and make you go too far.
I never want anyone to get to the point that I did that day. To feel like the only thing worth doing was to take the breath from your own lungs and let it slip away into the unknown. I want you to wake up and realise that things CAN change, but that it starts with you. No one should have to go through the pain, and no one should have to experience the isolating truths, of an inpatient ward.
Someone once told me, “you are not special, you will get better,” and at first I was like “wow thanks very much!” But then I sat and thought about it, and I realised that millions of people suffer with the same things I do, and whilst that does not make my suffering any less significant, it does make me part of millions of people who have every chance of recovering and leading a happy life. Because millions of people suffering with the same things have recovered… so why am I any different? The answer is this: I am not. I’m not any different from those people who have recovered, and so I have every chance to do so myself – I just have to get the ball rolling.
And so this takes me back to feeling your emotions. It sounds like such a stupid and obvious thing to do, but so many of us don’t do it. I mean, who wants to feel sad and angry and jealous? They’re horrible things to feel, and not particularly desirable traits! But they’re also human emotions, and something that every single one of us will feel. So there is literally no explanation as to why we should push them away completely because they’re actually really normal things to deal with. I’m not saying that feeling them is going to be a joy ride because, come on, be realistic here, it’s going to suck balls. BUT, as I explained before, if we allow ourselves to feel them and just watch them do their thing at a distance (and not get too caught up in “oh my god why do I feel this way,”) then that’s it. Their energy has run out and they have nowhere to go. They don’t get stored in a pit in your stomach and so they can’t resurface whenever they feel like it to ruin your day. And after they’re gone, it’s easier to feel happiness, because you’re not feeling these other things.
I know it is easier said than done, because you’re so conditioned to feeling sadness rise and pushing it as far away from you as possible; so I’m not asking you to feel every single one of your emotions straight away, because that is really scary. I’m simply asking you to start being more aware. If you feel yourself slipping into anger, sadness or any other negative emotion, take a moment to step away from it and just have a look at what you’re dealing with. Before pushing it away (or completely exploding with it) just take a look and think, ok I’ve got this feeling and that’s ok but why am I feeling this way? Dissect a little into what made you feel this way and then you’ll be able to either accept the emotion and feel it (without reacting in a way that will make things worse) or realise that actually, it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Being more aware of what you are really feeling will allow you to have more control over your emotions. No, you’re not then going to be magically cured of sadness – there is no life without it – but you will be able to deal with it in a more healthy way. You will eventually be able to find joy after the sadness, and you will thank yourself for feeling it, because it will then bring happiness.
I’ve just felt really really sad about missing my granddad, and that’s ok because it’s ok to miss people. So I felt sad, and then I felt happier. I enjoyed being sad.
Online suicide hotline
Suicide hotline UK: 0845 790 9090
Suicide hotline US: 1-800-273-8255