Forgive me if this post is a little disjointed; I feel disjointed.
Regular readers will know that I try to blog on a daily basis and may have noticed that I haven’t posted for a week. Sadly, the reasons for this are not particularly upbeat; I haven’t been spending time on my Caribbean superyacht or anything like that.
This time last Tuesday I was surprised to see a helicopter at close proximity to my house and suspended motionless above the river that runs at the end of my garden.
Wifey and I went out to find the helicopter was directly above a slow-moving package, bobbing gently towards us on the receding tide. (Yes it’s a tidal river).
It took me some time to determine the package was in fact a body, and on its gentle saunter came within metres of us on our decking overhanging the river.
The helicopter tracked the body further down stream where on each side of the bank were scores of uniformed folk and dozens of blue flashing lights.
This is where it got weird for me.
I felt utterly unmoved at the sight of this. Although, I was thoroughly disturbed at my lack of disturbedness.
Something must have been going on in my mind however, as at 3am I was online looking for the potential identity of the body and it didn’t take me long to find out.
Putting a name, photo, age, and so forth, to the body suddenly humanised and personalised it for me. This was a young chap and upon my investigating he appears to have lost his job the day he went missing; nearly a week earlier.
I moved from unfeeling and uncaring to absolutely gutted for him and his family. I suppose all we can do is pray for the family and please do spare them a thought in your prayers.
On reflection, there’s no doubt that this incident played some part in ‘triggering’ me mentally. I think I was already a little vulnerable and since that time have experienced the full gamut of mental sickness: Paranoia, hallucinations (both auditory and visual), gut wrenching depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, the full works.
And this all brings me to the reason for not blogging.
Aside from that fact that when in the grip of this mental whirlwind, nothing I read online seems interesting or blogworthy – do I just perceive everything as boring, or is it objectively boring? – do I really want to blog from inside my sickness and bring everyone down with my woes and madness?
The answer is no.
And it’s on this note that the excellent Time for Change website has a piece which superbly gets to the heart of using social media when mentally ill and articulates why I would rather stop blogging when in the midst of a severe episode, than depress the life out of everyone..
…..But I decided that I could not censor myself when it came to my health. I needed to be as honest in the online world as I am in person. And also, that I wanted to post about my mental health just as I do about most things; with humour, irreverence and a hint of provocation.
Unfortunately, it would seem that this method does not meet muster with all who have come across my posts on social media. I have been advised to, ‘be careful’, about online activity to stop wagging tongues.
I have a naturally sunny disposition and I’ve found that this is the case for many with mental health problems – warped and black humour does prevail. I don’t wear my misery like a badge of honour for all to see: I smile, I laugh and I joke.
This isn’t because I’m not ill, it’s because I am trying to get better. Depression is a self-perpetuating cycle so the more miserable you are the more miserable you will become. I aspire to be more Tigger than Eyeore. I try not to burden the wider world with my worst moments of abject illness and seek the positive spin where I can. The usual response to self-declaration of my health problems is, “I had no idea… you always seem so happy!”
So when I tweet, “well done me, today I did the washing up *pats self on back*”, what might be more accurate, would be “well done me, today I did not kill myself”. When I post a Facebook update saying, “had a lovely day with my gorgeous son”, I’m may be saying, “I just about got through the day like a normal person. Don’t think my son spotted that I’m angry and anxious and fearful of the day he realises his Mum is a mess”.
So yes, this ‘honesty’ is still a mask but it’s as much a mask of protection for me as it is a buffer for the world. I don’t want to drag people down or make them worry about what on earth they can say to me because I seem so distant and desperately ill. I want them to be able to tell me the picture of my iced birthday cake sunny-side down made them spit tea, that my anecdotes always make them smile, or that they too cry when they watch, ‘Parenthood’, because the dysfunctional family is just so familiar.
I can’t make you feel what I feel when I’m ill and I wouldn’t want to. So when I have moments of fun and clarity I like to celebrate them and share them. I’m sad that this makes some people question my honesty and my sincerity but my ‘friends’ who feel like that can’t know or respect me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop me caring what they think…
So the simple (ha!) solution is that I should be more maudlin and intersperse my brief forays with normality with more periods of introspective analysis and overt depression. Let art imitate life. But where is the fun in that? And wasn’t social media invented for socialising? Let me have my small moments of joy, please. Just because I’m smiling on the outside, doesn’t mean I’m not crying inside.