**Trigger Warning: themes of depression & anxiety some readers may find triggering.**
There are a lot of things that I don't have the courage to say out loud. I might never have it. That's why writing is great. You can write whatever you want, and you can go back and edit it and re-read it and make sure you're saying exactly what you want to be saying, in the coolest manner you can think to phrase it, and you don't even have to watch people react to it.
You don't have to witness their reaction all over their face in real-time as it happens, and you don't even have to hear about it afterwards, if you don't want. You can avoid it forever. This blog had 34 comments waiting for moderation from a year ago and I just looked at them for the first time five minutes ago. Two were unpleasant. I deleted them without reading them completely. I wish real life could be handled the same way.
By and large, my audience is very understanding. You make excuses and allowances for me when I don't deserve them, which is really nice of you. You say: sure, life is hard, real life is difficult and complicated and I'm sure you have stuff going on and that comes first, family comes first, jobs and real life and actual legitimate life stuff comes first. You're busy, you don't owe us anything, there's only so much you can do, you just take your time.
Here's the truth: I wasn't busy. I'm very seldom busy. I don't have a hectic career or family life, I'm not on any committees. I don't have social clubs or sports or events and I'm not training for a marathon. I don't even have a socially-acceptable hobby, like playing an instrument or gardening.
It's been over a year, and what have I been doing? What terrible, horrific things have I been dealing with, what hectic work schedule that would leave me no energy, no time, no motivation to post or respond to e-mails or talk to anyone for a year? None whatsoever.
I'd prefer to lie. I'd prefer to tell you someone in my family was ill or something was going on at work or some vague "family problems" line that would make everyone back off because you're decent, understanding, allowance-making people. Sometimes I'd prefer to get aggressive and lash out. Who are you to make demands of my time? You don't own me. I don't work for you. I don't owe you anything.
Except I do, to some of you, and in fairness, no one is making demands of me, or my time, but me. No one has unreasonable expectations of me but me. I'm the one setting myself up to fall, and kicking myself when I do. I'm the one imagining that you're all sitting there shaking your heads, judging me, being disappointed in me, when in reality you probably have better things to do. You, probably, actually have some of that legitimate life stuff I mentioned going on.
Now it's the dramatic revelation time. The part in this rant where I admit some deep, vulnerable secret about myself, that makes you feel sorry for me, wins you back to my side, and makes you feel guilty for ever being annoyed with my failure to live up to my commitments. This is the part where I wonder if the confession is just scapegoating out of it under the guise of being vulnerable and admitting a deep, shameful truth, and if I should just apologise and crawl back to my empty life, ashamed.
I think I can do something in-between. The deep, vulnerable truth is this:
I'm mentally ill.
It's not as much of a big deal as it used to be. It's not surrounded by as much stigma as it used to be. It's not really dramatic at all. I don't hear voices, I don't want to hurt people, I don't think satellites are following me. Neither does it excuse my behaviour. I'm still responsible for what I do, or what I don't do.
It probably isn't even much of a revelation; a lot of you already know, and for those who don't, well, so what? 1 in 4 people in the UK have some diagnosed mental illness, according to one of my assessing psychiatrists. Everyone has their "things" and if the statistics are right, maybe as many as one quarter of you are as fucked in the head as I am.
I think we often want to believe that our own hangups are totally unique. No one can understand my thought patterns, or how I feel about this. Even if they think they do, they still won't get it. Not really. It is deeply personal, it is tied intrinsically to my being, it is at the core of who I am and how I live my life. You haven't been through what I've been through, you couldn't possibly understand.
This usually isn't true. A lot of people understand, a lot of people even feel extremely similarly to the way I do about things. I've met some of them. There's a kind of moment you have when you've got a diagnosis that fits, and you're reading the information you've been given about it, and you see some of your most private, most belittling, most tormenting thoughts, things you don't even want to admit to yourself, written out on a page that has been photocopied out of a textbook.
That's when I realised that maybe the things I think aren't universal truths, and maybe other people would understand - maybe some of them feel the same way, I mean, they've written a book on it.
I'm diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder (you know, 'clinical' depression, as opposed to regular feeling sad), Social Anxiety Disorder and agoraphobia. It fits. They're three separate things here, although they aren't always.
AnxietyUK describes agoraphobia as:
Agoraphobia is a very complex phobia usually manifesting itself as a collection of inter-linked conditions.For example many agoraphobics also fear being left alone (monophobia), dislike being in any situation where they feel trapped (exhibiting claustrophobia type tendencies) and fear travelling away from their ‘safe’ place, usually the home. Some agoraphobics find they can travel more easily if they have a trusted friend or family member accompanying them, however this can quickly lead to dependency on their carer.The severity of agoraphobia varies enormously between sufferers from those who are housebound, even room-bound, to those who can travel specific distances within a defined boundary. It is not a fear of open spaces as many people think.
If you want to find out more about agoraphobia, you can find out here. For more information on Social Anxiety Disorder, try here and here. For more information on depression, look here.
There are plenty of other resources online, of course, if you google.
Having a diagnosis helps. Seeing the worst thoughts you have about yourself written by someone else in a textbook helps. Knowing that mental illness lies helps. Knowing that other people feel similarly, or have felt similarly, or have been through similar, or are going through similar, helps. Especially if they're out the other side and managing - through the long process of hard work and a lot of help - to be crafting a life worth living, and to be enjoying it.
It helps me to think that, maybe I am not just this person. Maybe I'm not just this unhappy, pathetic, worthless person who finds the simple every day tasks others take in stride so monumentally difficult. Maybe the things I think about myself, the things that I think strangers outside are thinking about me, aren't true. Maybe I'm worthy of love. Maybe I'm not defective. Maybe I can be happy, be with friends, have a life. If it is possible, then I know that I'll have to work for it, I know it's a long process, I know that it's difficult, and I know that it's terrifying. Even the thought of getting, or being better, is terrifying. This might not make much sense to some of you, so I will try to explain.
We all have our things. We are the way we are for a reason. The feelings and the fears and the behaviours I have, developed to protect me. I came from a very difficult upbringing and I learned to hide from people and to protect myself because it was necessary. Now, as an adult, and away from those people, I know that it isn't necessary any more. The behaviours I learned to keep myself safe, now just keep me unhappy, and keep me from having a fulfilling life. They are detrimental, but it took years to learn them and it takes a long time to unlearn them, and it's frightening, to try and let go of something that you have kept for years and needed to be safe. It's all you know, it's all you've relied upon, and it's terrifying, to imagine myself in a life without them, doing the things that scare me so much now, and to actually work towards that goal.
I've had therapy and medication and it's an ongoing process. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful psychologist who helped me to fully understand what was going on in my head, and who supported me as I made some progress. That relationship ended recently, as Cognitive Analytical Therapy is not meant to be ongoing and has a set limit on the number of sessions you can have (at least, on the NHS) which we reached, and unfortunately she doesn't work privately. I am struggling to keep the ground that I made in the wake of that loss, and am still looking for ongoing therapeutic support.
I pointed out that my mental illness doesn't mean that I'm not responsible for my actions, which is true. I explain all of this because, this is what I have instead of being busy. This is why I find some simple tasks to be so incredibly difficult. This is why I get overwhelmed, and why I withdraw, and this is why I'm giving up.
I start to make progress, I post a few times a week, I keep to a schedule, I respond to comments. I begin to feel that, because I've demonstrated I'm capable of doing this, I have to keep doing it. Innocuous comments making requests or even just saying that they like my writing become, in my mind, obligations that I must meet. I slip, I'm late on a post. I don't feel funny that day. I don't like makeup, or anything else that day. I'm depressed, and I can't think of anything to write that isn't self-piteous whining. So I don't write, and it's late. I feel ashamed, I feel like I'm failing. I put it off even more, because if I write it and post it, then it will just remind everyone who's forgotten about it that it was late, remind them I'm here, remind them to be disappointed in me. It passes the point of acceptable lateness and crosses into "something must be wrong" lateness. I can't explain what is wrong. I'm not busy with work, there's nothing wrong with me that anyone can see, that I have obvious evidence of. I don't have an excuse for my massive incompetence and failure to meet even the most basic level of human responsibility. So I stay away. I'm too ashamed of myself and too afraid to own up to it, and I think if I do anything, if I post anything at all, try to gloss over it, or respond to e-mails, I'll be inundated with perfectly innocent questions - how have you been? What have you been up to? - questions I hate. Perfectly innocuous, with no ill intent behind them whatsoever, but what can I say? I haven't been anywhere. I've been doing nothing. I've just felt like shit, that's all. I've been failing at basic tasks that everyone else on the fucking planet just gets on with and does without all the mental melodrama.
I can't say that, so I don't say anything, and I stay away.
This last time is worse, because I know I fucked up. I actually do owe, some of you, something. Some of you donated to charity on the basis of a promise I made and then didn't deliver. I'm sorry. It isn't okay. Don't let me off the hook. I should have done it, or I should have done something about it sooner. I should have been a grown-up about it, and I haven't been, and I am sorry. I will refund anyone's donations who donated to buy a rant, please e-mail me so I can make it right. The address is the same - anastasia [at] lipsticksandlightsabers [dot ] com
Please don't feel awkward, or like you should feel sorry for me, because I fucked up and I owe you and you are in the right to ask for it.
I know my critics will think that this whole thing is, in fact, just self-piteous whining, that I want your attention and am scapegoating my past poor behaviour and manipulating you into forgiving me. I'm being as sincere as I can and I can't do anything about what people think about that. I've always tried to be honest here, but I've never been this honest. I'm afraid of giving this information away to the enemies I've made. I've crafted a confident online persona for myself, kept it separate from myself so I could maintain the illusion of not giving a shit when someone leaves me a shitty comment. If they didn't know me, or my weaknesses, they couldn't hurt me.
And some of them I deserve, or at the very least, invite. I've felt superior to the 'bitchy mean girls' and the make-up drama, certain that I was above it all, imperious, or failing that, that I was certainly on the obviously Right Side. One of the white hats. One of the good guys. I've been brutally honest at times, grandstanding, a hypocrite at others, and sometimes, a bitchy mean girl.
Every angry, passionate person thinks that they're on the right side. We can't all be, all the time.
I can think of some posts that I'm ashamed of. I won't list them, there aren't many, but they're there. I've bitched, and flung mud, and felt superior, and been morally outraged at others who did the same thing on the other side. I thought it was okay because they were The Enemy, but really they're just other women, aren't they?
I've never knowingly lied, but I certainly could have been more mature, or behaved with more decorum, civility, decency, and humanity than I at times have. I think it's important, for myself, that I face up to that and acknowledge that I don't want to do that any more. Maybe I'm growing up.
I'm not back. I have no plans to resume blogging in the foreseeable future. I'm sorry to anyone who is saddened by that news, but blogging has become something that makes me unhappy, and I don't owe it to anyone to make myself miserable for entertainment.
Part of me would like to delete the whole thing, but another part of me thought that would be childish, and that the adult thing to do would be to take responsibility for myself, for my poor decisions and the promises I didn't live up to, to give an explanation to those of you to whom one is owed, and move on.
I'm not ashamed of everything I've done here. I'm proud of most of it. I feel that the bad parts are definitely in a minority, and I think that we have helped to share a lot of joy, a lot of love for products made by hard-working and talented people, and we've laughed a lot. I've learned a lot. I've accomplished some things and failed at others, but I've tried. I've met remarkable people and made friends. I've lost some of them, driven some away, and kept others who have inexplicably stood by me throughout and help me to see the worthy parts of myself every day.
I want to thank everyone who's ever read my posts, and everyone who got to the end of this one, whether you are a reader, lurker, friend, former-friend, or anything else.
Thank you for your time, your input, your support, and I wish you all a wonderful 2013.