It’s a wonderful life, my Grandma says.
She lives on the other side of the world to me and I read her letters sometimes when I miss her. Her optimism and love shines through the pages, telling me how lucky we are to have each other and how there is beauty in everything around us.
There is truth in what she says, but in a cold, lonely mind, hearing these things makes me feel even more insane.
In a world where mental illness has become an epidemic, and I a victim, I am no longer naive and as accepting of these words.
Life is hard. So hard. And I think if we actually asked people, 99.9% would agree.
A couple of years ago, I fell into the trap of ignoring and neglecting my internal dialogue because I thought I should be grateful of everything I had, happy with all the incredible opportunities I have and will have, and repeatedly told my self that this was it; the wonderful life that we are so determined to believe in.
My mindset has been toxic for so long, almost too long. Feeling lost, lonely or hopeless does not make me any less of a person, any less grateful or blind to all the good things I have.
We need to realise that if anything, these thoughts make us more human.
Myself, and so many others deprive ourselves of help for reasons like these. And even though you’ve heard it a million times, I’ll make it a million and one – it’s ok not to be ok. And in the world as we know it, we are definitely not alone in our thoughts.
What strikes me though, is how well I hid it all away. How well we can all hide the pain. Crying into my pillow at night when everyone was already asleep, keeping up my routine that was driving me into the ground, and never, ever confessing to anyone that I was struggling. Drowning.
I don’t have words for how I feel when someone tells me that “I should’ve called”, “told them how I felt” or “reached out”. I am so incredibly grateful to have people who care about me, but I can’t express that when you live inside a cold, dark mind, you forget how to turn the light on, how good it feels to have sun streaming in again. That when you have hit rock bottom, sometimes you’re too deep to swim back up to the surface. I so badly wanted help, needed help – but I was scared, uncertain, and on the brink of being already gone.
It is only when I tell those that I find life incredibly tough, almost impossible sometimes, that they reach out, and make me feel loved, wanted, needed. As though all my support is there, but I need to be brave enough to unlock it first.
To an extent, this worked for me for a while. I was brave enough, strong enough to reach out occasionally, often enough to let in a little flicker of sunlight that my decaying mind relied on.
But when my depression progressed, I lost myself, and my bravery with it. Withdrawing was all I knew, and the little energy I had left was spent maintaining my facade of a busy, hard-working girl. Any cracks that appeared I smoothed them out by saying I was stressed or overworked. Any voice inside my head that suggested I reach out, I silenced, saying that I’d get better with time, or I was just over thinking things.
This was meant to be my year, I told myself. This was the year I’d be happy and confident and finally love my life again after all these years. But all those thoughts and motivations acted simply as a fresh layer of paint on an already rotten, decaying core.
I knew if someone had just asked me if I was ok, I would’ve choked up but found the words to tell them I really wasn’t.
It’s that first step to getting help that is the hardest.
In some ways, this is my open letter to you, fellow humans. An invitation to have the most important conversation with your friends, family, or even strangers.
No one is to blame – we live in a world were vulnerability is frowned upon, considered weak, so instead of being open about our struggles we hide it away. And then on the other hand, today’s people live life for themselves, we are conditioned to care less about each other and focus on our goals, our career and our own motivations. Asking someone how they are coping can be seen as too nosy, whilst others are worried they’ll be rejected.
But from a girl who just wanted someone to ask, because for years she was too afraid, please, just start the conversation.
Ask your loved ones, colleagues or neighbours how they are really feeling. Those suffering will not judge you. I think anyone would agree it’s better to push a friend to have a conversation than let life push them over the edge.
To argue that life isn’t wonderful is wrong. But to deny that it isn’t tough or testing is wrong too. My lows make my highs so much more precious and appreciated. All my struggles, tears and desperation make good days so valuable. Feeling alone makes my love for my family and good friends grow stronger.
Human interactions make life wonderful. But in our constantly connected world that ironically disconnects us to anything below the surface, we are deprived of love, conversation and support.
So, check on your strong friend.
Have the most important conversation,
show them where that sunlight is hiding.