Coping with depression, coming out and a traumatic experience
Back in January, Alicia blogged about a challenging year where she struggled with depression, came-out - and was held up at gun point while travelling Brazil. In a follow up blog, Alicia shares how's she's been coping.
After my last blog I felt so incredibly empowered after sifting through all the emotional events from last year. The responses I had were so touching and helped me realise how much I’d overcome in such a short period of time.
I wish I could say to you how much I’ve progressed since then, and how positive I’ve managed to stay, but that just wouldn’t be true.
And if I’ve learnt anything about talking about mental health, it’s about telling the truth - no matter how shameful it may feel - so that people can see the full ugly extent of it instead of the false act many of us put on to mask the real pain of it all.
Looking back on it now I can see how naïve I was to think sharing my story would suddenly solve all my problems, but that doesn’t go to say that I’m not on the road to recovery.
"I guess I also thought people would be disappointed in me for not being able to handle everything."
It’s just a very bumpy road, as I’m sure many people with mental health problems will understand.
For the first month or so after that first blog everything was great. I was sure I wanted to get straight back into the working world and having interviews each week as well as training for the Brighton marathon in April.
I had no idea whatsoever that my depression was slowly creeping up on me; maybe I was unconsciously ignoring it in fear of letting everyone down. It wasn’t until about a month ago that I realised something was wrong. I couldn’t quite believe it but I was having horrific nightmares about Brazil along with vivid flashbacks. I’d dream about strangers coming into my room in the middle of the night and aiming a gun at me. I would never actually be hurt but I felt like I was waiting an eternity for it to happen, for someone to finally shoot me.
My anxiety rocketed and I started to find it impossible to concentrate on almost anything. I had this sudden worry that I wasn’t living life to the full and needed to just throw myself into it, ‘live for each day’ etc, but I now realise this was due to my irrational fear of dying. It was as if I expected it. Around the same time my physio also told me that running the marathon would be detrimental to my injuries and that I shouldn’t be running for the next 3 months or so.
"Last weekend I ended up in a very familiar place: crisis."
It was no surprise that I soon ended up face-to-face with my psychiatrist, but for me it was a massive shock when I heard him casually say
‘well it’s just classic PTSD isn’t it?’.
For some reason I could not and would not believe it. I didn’t feel as if my situation was worthy of such a diagnosis, I didn’t feel like it was ‘bad enough’. I guess I also thought people would be disappointed in me for not being able to handle everything in the positive manner I promised from the first blog. I felt like a failure, again.
So after committing to a new round of therapy and once again increasing my ever-changing medication I started to feel like I could blame this little downward spiral into darkness on Brazil, and once I was out of that I would be well on my way to happiness and bliss.
This time it was my ignorance that got the better of me. Last weekend I ended up in a very familiar place; crisis. I have a whole collection of skills to use when in this situation, and I must shamefully confess that I ignored each and every one of them. I turned each emotion of anger, hatred, guilt and worthlessness onto myself.
"I’m starting to learn: life doesn’t always go to plan."
It only took a few seconds of complete irrationality to do something I will now be regretting for a few weeks.
I look in the mirror every day and I’m confronted with my disgraceful actions. As guilty as I feel, it is done, and I must now move forward and understand why it happened. Part of this is accepting that Brazil isn’t my only enemy; it just served as the perfect villain.
Only when discussing this with my therapist the other day was I able to accept that a huge part of my problem now has also been finding my identity since coming out. I skimmed over it in my last blog because I still didn’t want to accept it. Sometimes you have to face your demons no matter how much pain it causes you.
I think a lot of people think coming out is a near enough instant process, and that once you’ve declared your sexuality your life changes for the better and all that self-loathing you’ve carried around for years suddenly dissolves into nothing. I would be very interested to find if that’s actually true for anyone.
In my case I feel like although I have discovered this whole new side to me, I feel as if I’ve completely lost who I am. Being gay doesn’t change the fact that I still feel unlovable and unworthy of true affection. I willingly throw my self-worth into the hands of others and then end up inevitably getting hurt and feeling terrible about myself. I have hated being gay from the moment I’ve come out because it has been so incredibly painful. But this is no one’s fault, and I guess not even mine.
"I just want to remind people that although sometimes life feels like too much, tomorrow will always be there and you’ve survived enough already to keep fighting."
Although the world is forever changing and becoming more accepting, society still doesn’t teach us that it’s ok to be this way. I can only thank all the amazing people who’ve supported me through it, I now realise the only person who ever really had a problem with me being gay was me. I’m in the very early stages of it all and I believe I will find who I really am. I genuinely want to embrace whoever that may be, and dare I say it, to learn to love myself first.
So that’s my painfully honest account of how my last few months have been. I can only apologise if I’ve let anyone down, I hope you know that my fighting spirit is still very much intact, but as I’m starting to learn: life doesn’t always go to plan.
I just want to remind people that although sometimes life feels like too much, tomorrow will always be there and you’ve survived enough already to keep fighting. I regret my actions of the weekend so much, and I can only urge others to not let their emotions envelope them; you are so strong and you can endure it even though it feels like you can’t. If no one else, I believe in you.
I will keep going on this bumpy road to recovery because I want to use these experiences to help people one day, and I want to live in a world where we’re not ashamed by our mental health and each and every person receives the care they deserve.
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