Hi team, how is your Mental Health Awareness Week going? Hope you’re all having lots of chats! I am delighted to introduce today’s powerful guest post by Elle. You can check out more of her writing on her own blog, The Science of Voices. Remember to show her some love on twitter @ScienceOfVoices!
I am my brain. My conscious resides within my brain; we are one, aren’t we? We are our brains. But to me, I have always thought of my brain and myself as two different things, and I have spent a lot of time angry at my brain. My stupid brain. I have watched powerless as it sabotaged friendships, qualifications, relationships, it has made me sleep all day, not sleep for nearly a week and right now it is doing a bang up job of ensuring I flunk this masters degree. My brain.
The same brain that makes me funny, or so I am told, compassionate, loving. The same brain that takes such loving care of my pets, that writes things people enjoy, loves science and especially neuroscience, and is a bit of a dreamer. People who know me would say I am bright, funny and a little mental. I am all these things. I am my brain. But if we are one, if we are one of the same, how come it doesn’t feel like it sometimes? Mental illness to me feels like this, it feels like one half of me is misbehaving whilst the other half looks on helpless; why aren’t you eating? Get up, leave the house! God, when was the last time you took a shower? Come on now! Get a grip.
I had had two relatively ok years before this current episode, which started to peep it’s ugly head in January, and has left me anxious, confused and agoraphobic. Why am I telling you this? Because it is mental health awareness week, and I feel like I want to say something very loud; I am not ashamed of who I am. I have a mental illness, but I am not a mental illness, I am still me. This is my brain.
If I had another illness, would you judge me? Would I be frightened to talk and tell you about it? Would I panic about telling people, my work, my department, my friends that my illness is back? Why is that word in front of illness such a game changer? Mental. Mental illness. Not physical it is in your head. Mental.
Anxiety is the worst part of my illness, to me, it paralyses my very being. It makes everything hard, makes eating hard, makes working hard, makes the most simple tasks like getting ready for the day, getting washed, getting up exhausting. I want to go to sleep already and it is 10am. Ringing school, cleaning my room, I try, so hard. I wake up and tell myself what I have to do today; very often it will be the same list for days. Sometimes it is as simple as you need to get up. Sometimes I fail at that. Anxiety is the daemon that keeps you down, the gremlin which at gnawing your soul. I wake already filled with it; I don’t fall asleep because of it.
What is the moral of this story? For me, I just want to say that no matter how hard it is, no matter how long the climb looks, the first step is always to tell someone how you are feeling, because you have a right to be ill, and a right to get well, and no one can take that away from you. My university contacted me within an hour of me telling them, they were kind, considerate and talked me through the steps of how I could get back on my academic feet. I told my doctors, and they have been kind, taking me about different medications and what I had previously, where I could go.
Waking up with anxiety is so hard, it becomes a part of your everyday, and sometimes it is frustrating that something that can feel so abstract can ruin your life. Listen to yourself, get help, and talk to people. The first time you say the words “I am anxious” it will hurt, but the power is understand that you are your brain, but sometimes, your brain needs help to behave. Just like I am my lungs, but without asthma medication my lungs do not do as they told. Just like I am my digestive system, but I love bread, my digestive system does not. I am my brain, but me and my brain, we need help sometimes. And that’s ok.
If you’re feeling inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week and you would like to write a guest post, give me a shout on firstname.lastname@example.org!