In my every day effort to keep up ‘normal appearances’, I sometimes find myself in the midst of a social gathering. These can be with friends, acquaintances, strangers or family – all cause the same awkward conundrum, what do I talk about?
Those who don’t know me so well want to know what I do, if I am working – you’re not? So how do you fill your days?
How do I fill my days? Well, you know, life is just so busy, I always have things to do, the days just fly by. Move the conversation on I think, but on to what? I can’t think straight. I have many interests but nothing my depressed brain can hold on to enough information about to relay to anyone else. My days are depression – the experience of it, the learning about it, the trying to get myself out of it.
What am I doing that I can talk about, I wrack my brains. Talk about the book I am reading? The book that fascinates me, has become my go to for facts, consolation and comfort. The book that has revealed so much to me about why I am living how I am. The book that is a massive part of my life right now, my Bible. No, I think, how do I explain away that the book is 687 pages worth of pure depression? Do I use it as a way to turn the rampaging Mental Illness Elephant to dust? Do I say it loud and proud? Or do I pretend I am interested in a career in psychology and it makes for a fascinating read? No, I just won’t talk about the book.
Hobbies? Yes, well, let me think. Yes – I have a bike I never ride because it makes me too anxious to navigate the opening of the bike shed to get it out and anyway, most of the time I feel too ill to manage the physical exertion. Cooking, I adore cooking, I just can’t eat any of it because of the scars anorexia has left imprinted on my mind. I love going to the cinema, but never make it as I need to be in bed to shut out the day or rest my ravaged body. Dates with my husband? No, we don’t have a ‘ normal ‘, ‘ adult ‘ relationship right now – he’s been made to feel so scared of saying the wrong thing to me and I’m so vile to him because of my chaotic and troubling thoughts, which make me feel as if my head is liable to burst open with extreme force at any moment, so it renders conversation between us virtually impossible. Vintage clothing is a passion of mine, I really embrace using clothes as a form of expression, well ,I used to, but now I dress myself in the same outfit day in day out, until I can’t justify the smell of body odour any longer, and wear shoes with holes in them and a coat that has been missing buttons for the past 2 years, because thinking about clothing a body you have no respect or love for, clothing a body when you have no thoughts spare to donate towards the care of it, clothing a body when you can’t bear to catch sight of its reflection, is a horrific task. Running? No, I don’t run, my body is too fatigued, sapped by my dark mind, and recovering from malnutrition from my starvation. Am I looking forward to Christmas? I know I love Christmas, I know it used to mean everything to me – to have the family all together, to deck the tree with colours of warmth, but no, I’m can’t say I’m looking forward to it. I don’t look forward to anything. Everything is tinged with fear and anxiety and the numbness that comes with being rendered an observer.
So I shan’t rise to conversation winging its way to me. I shall ask of their lives, I will listen and suffer the sharp onset of a painful nausea, as I am reminded of their functioning beyond functioning and of my dysfunctional state.
And it is not just in the presence of acquaintances that I find this scenario played out – family members and friends don’t always want to hear the truth. There is not always room for someone’s dysfunction in someone else’s functioning life. The discomfort of mental illness to the Sufferer breeds discomfort in conversation of the Onlooker. But the trouble is, the more it goes unspoken , the more it fails to be acknowledged, the more the already devastating isolation engulfs me.
I write this feeling somewhat fraudulent . In writing this blog I promised myself honesty. But as is so often the case with the typed word delivered by screen, it is all too easy to find honesty through the comfort of a keyboard, not so easy in the flesh. I feel ashamed by my cover up act – what I really want is to be breaking down barriers, exposing mental illness for all it is. Mental illness is my life story, it is my seconds, my minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades.
Perhaps next time I have an encounter with someone not akin to my world, when they ask me what do you do ?, perhaps after writing this, I will feel more certain of the Being that I am and, without having to divulge my darkest thoughts, I will calmly and rationally say I suffer from mental illness and I spend my days doing everything I can to stay on top of it, finding a way to increase my chances of one day being on top of it. For now, that is the best that I can do.