Buckle up Dorothy, ‘cos Kansas is going bye bye!
Okay, perhaps that’s a tad indulgent and underwhelmingly I’m not about to head a resistance against the suffocating amount of artificial intelligence infiltrating the mainstream (yes I’m talking about you Sira and your Alexa mini-botlings *shakes fist and charges EMP*) nor dodge bullets, rather I wanted to address the elephant in the room, the thing I ramble least about, my issues with self-harm.
There I said it, well if we’re being pedantic I typed it, which I suppose reeks a little of ‘cop out’ but it’s still daunting nonetheless. I mean how do you say it aloud? How do you casually drop into a conversation about Prison Break that you’ve been fighting an urge to inflict pain upon yourself? In truth, there’s only been three people I’ve ever discussed it with. The first was my husband, after a botched job and trip to A&E; I’m still amazed he didn’t run (there’s a reason one of my Dances With Wolves names is #MakerOfChains). The second person I unburdened myself to was my counsellor, as the confession to my other half led to the decision to seek medical help, which thankfully helped point me toward the right path, and the third was a random person at college who I could instinctively tell was harming.
Tis the long and short of it, disappointingly my crush list is bigger.
That’s why, despite people getting annoyed at the amount of media coverage mental illness seems to be getting at the moment, stealthy courting more attention on the periphery of the headlines, it’s exposure justly needs to remain omnipresent because when you are suffering, when you’re juggling medications and in between counselling sessions, or when, especially when, you have no treatment plan and no one to turn to, you need an outlet, you need somewhere safe to access resources that will help you restore your health without fear of reproach.
When I have a cold I don’t get ridiculed, I get tea and sympathy and happily devour Halls Soothers as though they were mere tic tacs. Yet when Mr Grey makes an appearance and my depression flares up, there is no one to check that I have everything I need, to ask if I want a hot water bottle or my cushions ‘plumping’. For a while, it used to dishearten me, but since the counselling, I’m starting to understand why. You see there are recognised signs with a cold, there is an accepted well-worn practice to adopt until it has passed, but there are no obvious hazard lights to warn people to what I have.
Our best hope is to educate others and trust in them to listen, rather than judge or worse; lance your already wounded psyche with ill-thought and overused terms such as ‘snowflake’ or ignorantly insist that you ‘man up’.
If depression was a noxious substance it would be carbon monoxide; tasteless, odourless and fatal if left untreated. That’s the brutal truth of it, it is a silent killer. It hides behind smiles just as easily as tears.
I was 12 the first time I self-harmed. I never developed a particular method, it was never pre-planned. There was no favoured instrument as such, it was more the release, the temporary respite from what plagued me. My counsellor helped me to understand it was a bi-product of my depression. So, I deduced, if I control my depression, to that end, I am warden of my self-harm impulses. That doesn’t make it any less easy, those urges haven’t gone away, but thankfully they are less frequent.
As my kids will attest, I don’t have all the answers. I wish I could give you a formula, a magical prescription filled with an arsenal of black magic which would spirit away your demons upon request, but I couldn’t land an apprenticeship at college let alone with a Sorcerer!
Besides, mental illness is an elusive beast, as unique as each sufferer forced to bear it. I will tell you something I really do believe in, though you might not feel it; you have the strength to endure it, but you needn’t do so alone.
I can always sense when my depression is flaring, it feels as though a fine film is clinging to my skin, permeating my thoughts. It can be a dry mild day and yet it feels as though I’m drowning with each heavy footstep, part submerged.
Now when that dark body of water rises, when the wave yawns its familiar greeting, I hunker down. I nestle to the ocean floor, I endure.
While the symptoms from what afflicts you may not glare in neon, so to prompt concern in others, that does not make it any less valid. Whatever the boxes the clipboard brigade tick, whatever diagnosis assigned to you, remember it was born from the greatest organic weapon there is, your mind! It might be a prison right now but what’s to stop it from becoming a fortress; as ‘The One’ himself learned; realise the truth..there is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is yourself.
I won’t bore you with the different self-care tactics I employ, as some might work for you, others might not. Your recovery is just that; yours, but just like the Matrix, your recovery is out there, and it will find you, if you want it to.