So, there’s something I’ve been meaning to say…
There seem to be two competing schools of thought when it comes to how people present themselves for others to see: either to try and eradicate any trace of weakness or failure from their perfect facade, or to become so consumed by that same weakness and/or failure that a casual observer would imagine there was nothing good to be found anywhere at all.
Many a time I've found myself guilty of both of these.
Gradually, though, it looks like that’s starting to change. At least partly, if not largely, due to the rise of the internet, and giving ordinary folks like me a platform to share their stories. The way in which it’s happening seems to be changing, too. And that's great. I’ve decided that it’s high time I plonk myself onto this particular bandwagon, and talk about my experience of dealing with anxiety and depression.
For me, no two days are the same. Sometimes one will leave me be, while the other makes itself comfortable. Sometimes they launch a joint attack. Some days the techniques and therapies I'm trying help, some days they don't do anything, other days they even make it worse. And it’s not every day. Sometimes I can escape for weeks, even months at a time. There are days where something happens that sends me into a spiralling whirlwind of one, or both.
And then there are the days that hit hardest of all.
I call them the odd-coloured days. When everything isn't quite right, but you can't put your finger on exactly why. As if you're looking at life through a filter that throws everything ever-so-slightly off its normal, natural shade. The kind of day that’s like waking up from the kind of nightmare that leaves you feeling out of sorts for hours. And, just like a bad dream, these days usually sneak up behind me when I least expect it.
They're hardest because I can't explain why they're so hard. Those are the days that send this through-and-through extrovert running for solitude, because being alone is easier for me than trying to justify why being alone is the very last thing I want.
The days when I just don’t have the energy to fight; when the only thing I know how to do is curl up in my bunker and wait for it to blow over, however long it takes. The days that make me angry with myself because there’s no reason for me to feel like I’m feeling, so why can’t I just pull myself together and cheer up?
If I’m honest, today has been one of those days. I’ve spent most of it so busy that I’ve barely had time to think, let alone check in with how I’m feeling. It's not like I've been short on spending time with good people whose company I enjoy. It's not like anything bad has happened. But I get home and things just don't feel right.
My first instinct is to pick up my phone and get in touch with a friend, let them know I'm not doing so well, ask for prayer, see if they're free for a chat.
But what would I say? How do I explain it? I can't just do that out of the blue...
My phone flashes up a message from a friend, about nothing in particular. Still I can't bring myself to say anything.
I know how absurd it seems, because I know I’d want my friends to reach out to me if they felt that way. If they were struggling. When they do, I’m glad they have, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to pray for them, stand with them.
And these are the same friends and colleagues who, when I've shared what I've been going through, have been universal in their support and love. They've all shown it in different ways, at different times: from the I'm-glad-you-told-me-that smiles and hugs; the listening, questioning, asking how I'm doing; to the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense advice from someone who's been there, who is there right now, too. None of the responses were anything out of the ordinary, but each kept in step with the unique dynamic of our respective relationships, and made me glad I'd said something.
Even as I'm writing this I realise how little sense it makes - but it's still hard to take that step and ask for help. It's partly the stigma, partly my frustration at not being able to articulate what's wrong, partly something else that I can't quite place. This evening, I've picked up my phone too many times to count, and just couldn't quite manage it. That's why I decided to write this instead: the hope that if I couldn't do that, somehow putting something out there might be a small step on the way to being able to do it soon.
So, to those of you who I've shared something of my experiences with in person: thank you for being so understanding. Thank you for being there, and thank you for being you, and thank you for being normal. I'm sorry I haven't felt able to get in touch - I've tried, and maybe one day soon I'll succeed. But thank you for being patient in the meantime. Thank you for being in my life even though I know it's not always easy.
Let's keep having these conversations. Nothing but good can come of it, I'm sure.