In January 2018 I chose ‘freedom’ for my one word for the year. It was, like all my one words, both a declaration of intent, and a statement about who I was becoming. And as ever, it took on new meaning over the year.
It began as an attempt to be free from the trauma of my past. For it to no longer control me. To be free to tell a new story, not held back from the past. I remember thinking this as I pondered this word for the year.
In my favourite TV show Doctor Who, the Doctor and his wife River Song, spend a night by the Towers Of Derilium, a place far across the galaxy. And one night in that place lasts 24 years. And 2018 may only have been 365 days, but those days felt longer than 24 hours.
So much progress has been made in raising awareness and ending stigma around mental illness in recent years. In a changing society, more people are asking how they can do better. Although we still have a long way to go, mental illness is generally more accepted than it used to be, and as a person who suffers with mental illness I like to educate others about it when asked.
So how can we overcome mental health stigma? Here are three simple steps to begin.
“I did not ask for success, I asked for wonder.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
I’ve noticed over the years that one of the topics which seems to come up a lot in conversations at bars, dinners, or hang outs, consistently seems to be success. When people you’ve not spoken to for a while ask how you are, and ask about work, there’s this hidden, unspoken question hanging in the air.
“How successful are you?”
One of the unspoken, but most inferred goals we’re meant to have in the Western world is to have a successful career. Even a successful life.
“The unknown is the only place where we find out what we’re truly made of.”
– Josh Radnor
Today I received some perilous financial news. Not for the first time recently. And yet today, in the midst of uncertainty and difficulty, I feel free. I feel all shall be well.
It’s a strange feeling.
For a long time I’ve talked about sharing my story. Of writing a memoir about my childhood trauma, it’s impact on me, and my recovery and healing.
People who love me have told me, with the best of intentions, that I need to stop living in the past. That telling this story is a sign I still live in the past, the past still controls me, and I’m not being present in my reality now and not creating anything new. For a while, I believed this.
I can say this now. I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to let the past control me. I don’t wish my future to be dictated to by my past. I have chosen to be free and to create a new reality for myself. I choose that today again.
I can say categorically, that my past no longer has power over me. I no longer live there. I am free.
This is why my story needs to be told.
I’m sitting in a coffee house during my week off work, on my own, online. A few login issues on my laptop have done their work with my head for today. When your brain is like mine, it only takes little things to wind you up and frustrate you to extreme proportions.
I used to think it was immaturity. Now I know it’s just how my brain works.
And now I’m writing, sitting here, alone. I’m lonely. But I’m still here.
I was sitting at my desk recently at work, busying myself with whatever was important that day. I always listen to music at my desk. Music takes me into my own world, it isolates me from all around me, which helps me focus a lot better.
But it also takes me into my dreams. The best music stirs our imagination, it moves our soul, it connects with our story – and our true self, buried in layers below the conscious self.
I don’t recall what music I was listening to at this moment, in truth. But it doesn’t matter
My mind went on a journey. Suddenly, I wasn’t sitting at my desk at work anymore. I was on an adventure. I was travelling. I was going to the places I’ve always dreamed of travelling to. I was having adventures. I was taking risks. And I felt fully alive and fully myself.
Today I received a letter from a medical professional. It read that they believed I was on the autistic spectrum, and recommend I take formal tests to confirm this. It wasn’t a full diagnosis. But it was as close as it gets without one
When I read this letter, despite my better judgement, despite all my knowledge to the contrary, something inside felt….deficient.
In my last post I wrote about mundane I deemed my own life to be. That wasn’t an emotional, depressed assessment. In a way it disturbed me more because it wasn’t. I’d gone beyond emotion, pity, despair, to just acceptance of how my life was, is, and would always be.
But I know I have this habit of airbrushing the good in my life. The good I do, the good I experience, the joy of life.I airbrush it out. I make it look invisible. I ignore it. I act like it’s not real. I’m an Enneagram 4, and it’s part of my make up to do this. I fail to see the good in my own life, whilst over-emphasising the good in others lives.
But in truth, my life is so much better than I made out in my previous blog.
When I returned to blogging, the whole thing was write a bit about our lives. And if I’m honest, that’s always freaked me out.
I’m terrified to write about my actual life. I don’t have kids. I’m not married nor do I have a partner. I haven’t got the life I desired, I’m not settled into a life. My story isn’t the story of most of my peers. And if I am honest with myself, I still feel deficient because of it. I still feel less normal. Like I belong less. That I have less value.
And if that sounds like a self-pitying, depressed statement, I can assure you it’s not.
This is what something in my soul has told me I am. Deficient, less than, not as valuable, not wise, mature or normal enough to find the life I still desire, unable to commit, unable to be a grown up. It’s story I’ve told myself. A prison story.