Yes I’m writing to you, That You who can’t see the Sun because your scared it will Blind you. I want to give you a little message of hope and inspiration. Now, we all know how annoying it is when we do our laundry and time after time we find that One sock without its other half, it doesn’t only happen to the White sock,Black Sock,Striped Sock,Or the favourite cartoon character sock. No matter how many times we pair you up you end up on your own, looking sad and lonely in the bottom of the wash basket or on the bedroom floor!
Mental Health illness is the proverbial “Lost Sock”. I know how it feels to be scared, lonely and full of self loathing. I’ve lived it and immersed myself into self pity and self destruction, The kind of destruction that we have all indulged in, Drinking until we feel Numb and Nauseous, Eating until we Feel Sick, Taking any type of Pill to block out the emotions; Yup been there done that , worn the T-shirt (A Strangers T-Shirt) after a night of reckless abandonment and Sex devoid of any feelings.
Most days I struggle to have a Shower, Brush My Teeth and Hair (Although allow me a slight confession, I never Brush My Hair!) I stumble downstairs in my Flip Flops and immediately feel like heading back up to bed, I witness the Mess around my living Room and the dishes in the kitchen sink and an overwhelming sense of panic and hatred comes over me, I feel like Crying, I feel useless ,Lazy, Scruffy and Fat.
The Mirror is my ultimate nemesis, I look in the mirror and struggle to like the reflection staring back at me, constantly picking up on the flaws; the Spots, The Random Hairs on My Chin that make me look like a potato that has been forgotten at the back of the pantry.
I shuffle around the house for a good few hours, talking to my Cats (I Have Four) in a different voice for each Cat ; Hey Don’t Judge me, all have different needs. So I Sit Smoking and Drinking several Coffees until I look up and notice that Loose Women has started and then I start to panic thinking I’m going to be late for work. Yes that’s right I said WORK You see despite my Self Loathing, Loose inhibitions and Dark Moods I have held down and succeeded at several Jobs for the past 11 years.
My current occupation is that of a Senior Mental Health Support worker for Adults with Severe and Enduring Mental Health needs. My Role consists of Working in a person focused way ,treating each Client as an individual , Showing leadership qualities,whilst co-ordinating the day to day running of the service, I supervise the staff team and provide direct support to enable individuals with Mental Health Illness to live a full and valued life with the long term goal of rehabilitation into the community. I’m expected to be flexible, well organised and must be able to deliver a person centred service whilst offering positive feedback and offering emotional /Financial support.
Despite suffering with depression since I was 16, I've attempted suicide, indulged in self injurious behaviour, battled with Eating disorders whilst also being on Anti depressants for the best part of 11 years. Despite being diagnosed with treatment resistant depression, I have succeeded in both my professional life and personal life. I have a diploma in Mental Health, I live in a modest but lovely house and recently married the Love of my Life. Now my job as I’ve described above is by no means easy,especially not when I have allowed myself to be a prisoner in my own depression. But I am living prove that Mental Health illness can be managed and conquered. I promise you it is never as bad as it feels, life is a blessing and we truly are loved by many people around us. Each person is worthy of love and friendship . The thing is this, you MUST talk about how your feeling, to suffer in silence is your greatest flaw, you need to seek support ,allow the weight to be lifted from your shoulders, if the barking becomes to much Send the “Black Dog” for a walk, you never know it may find another place to stay!
One day you will wake up, you will go downstairs and whilst making yourself a cup of coffee in your favourite Mug, (I have far too many Favourite Mugs) it will hit you, you will suddenly feel “Happy” and “Alive” and it will be worth all the heartache and days you have spent under the duvet. To survive and Thrive when you experience Mental Illness is one of life’s greatest triumphs , To be able to look in the mirror and like what you see will be the making of you!
What you must realise is Your life isn’t defined by your diagnosis, just like your Life isn’t defined by your Name or Your Bank Balance. Life is about Talking, Sharing and Being yourself around others. I understand that most days you just want to be “Left Alone” but I don’t believe for a second you enjoy being alone in your mind. Our Mind and its negative persona is a Prison that we keep ourself incarcerated in despite having the key to open the gate. Depression and Anxiety is merely a Fight between your Mind and Your Soul, they goad each other , calling each other Names and bringing up difficult memories to test our resolve . Remember it isn’t against the Law to have a “Bad Day” we’re only Human.
We are bound to get tired and fed up. It’s just how it is, if you feel like staying in Bed for the day, Do It but Do it without feeling Guilty , remember what It felt like when you was a child and the worst thing in the world was having to go to bed early and find humour in the fact your now an Adult who can’t wait to get into bed!
Depression occurs anytime it conditions us Human Beings too expect failure. Once the Fear of Failure has a foot in the door it causes your facade to crumble and the moment that happens, we will then be bombarded with thoughts that “I am unlovable/inadequate/insufficient.” this way of thinking is extremely painful and Tiring. But there is a way to manage and dispel these feelings whilst feeling positive about who you are and what the future may bring;
Take time to enjoy your own company
Read your Favourite Book or Magazine Go for a walk with a friend or neighbour , take in the history and heritage of your locality Think about what your eating and don’t be so hard on yourself for indulging in sweet treats Listen to your favourite Music allow it to soothe you Challenge your negative expectations Depression makes you second guess another persons mood and thoughts usually in the worst possible light Be gentle with yourself , understand that there is no ‘magic cure’ for depression, but many people both famous and non famous do recover and enjoy life again Start by accepting that you are depressed and it’s not your fault Speak to your GP and ask questions Being angry or critical with yourself will only make things worse. Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘Snap out of it’ won’t help The key to overcoming depression is to break the ‘negative cycle’ of thinking where you become depressed or anxious about being depressed. If you find this happening, try to stop the negative thoughts Try to give yourself more positive messages: ‘It’s not my fault I feel like this. I will get better – it takes time.’ Set yourself small and realistic challenges. Deciding you are going to clean the whole of your house an in a day isn’t realistic if you haven’t been able to clean one room for weeks. Aim to work for a small amount of time (say, half an hour) Reward yourself for your effort. If you don’t feel you’ve achieved much, remember that you are one stage further on than when you started. When you feel ready, tackle another room for a little longer each day Try to establish a routine for meals,and stick to it, even if you don’t feel hungry . It’s important to eat healthily so that your body can give you the strength and fuel it needs to get through the day Just going for a walk , can help to lift your mood. Again, set realistic goals: walking to the local shop is more manageable than going to the gym Download relaxation techniques via Podcasts which can help reduce your anxiety and tension Talk to people. Some of your friends may be worried about you and want to help. If going out feels too daunting , try to arrange to meet for a coffee or talk to someone on the phone If you feel like you can’t express how you feel verbally , keep a notebook and write down your thoughts, no matter how trivial you think they may sound. Remember it will only make you increasingly unhappy and isolated if you keep your feelings bottled up inside Try to get some rest and a good nights sleep, as humans we are unable to function fully if we are tired and emotional.
Remember, just as I alluded to in the beginning of this letter, The frustration of that “Lost Sock” needn’t become a definition of your life. Pick it up and throw it away, there are plenty of pairs of socks in the world, you just need to go out and Find another Pair.
I wish you luck, health and happiness
Louise Woodward-Styles X
Here is a link to Louise's blog