It’s Not You, It’s Me

It Really Is

This is one of these cliche phrases, usually trotted out during a break up. It’s a phrase meant to be a balm when you’re hurting someone. “It’s not you, it’s me”, usually means it is you but the person saying it is too chicken to say so. The phrase has become so over-used it’s become ironic. But where our friends and family and our mental health are concerned, its true. It’s really not you, it’s me.  Not sure what I’m getting at? Let me explain.

I Don’t Mean to Hurt You

So often when depression and anxiety and other mental health issues impact a person, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to get out and about. Sometimes leaving your home becomes impossible. Social events? Forget it. The sheer enormity of dealing with people is just too much. Alex suffers like this. I do too sometimes. We shut ourselves away, we cancel on friends and family. We just can’t do it. The tendency will be to beat ourselves up about it, we will be plagued with guilt. But there are times that no matter how much we care for the people we were meant to see, we just can’t do it.

And it hurts them.

I’ve had it happen to me more than once. I’ve arranged with Alex to do something, try and get us out and about. But the time comes and he just can’t. Either depression or anxiety have consumed him and he cannot get himself out of his home. Oh boy, can that hurt!

It’s Not Personal

No matter how many times that Alex has assured me with the old cliche,’it’s not you, it’s me’ the treacherous voice in my head will come back with me being the cause.  The logical part of my brain knows that the issues Alex experiences due to his mental health can prevent him from going out. I know it isn’t personal. Yet for friends and family it will often feel like it is. I know that because I’ve felt it too. For me, it can kick off the dark voice in my head that tells me how worthless and useless I am. I’m obviously just not worth spending the time with.

But I’m learning to fight back against that instinct. It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong. I need to be reassured because I’ve spent so long being convinced of my own worthlessness. But I am learning that when it comes to mental health the cliche ‘ it’s not you it’s me ‘ is not a cliche at all. It’s the sad reality.

When I Say It’s Not You, It’s Me, I Mean It

That’s the point of this post. If you are supporting a loved one you can end up being hurt because of how their mental health can make them act. Depression and anxiety can make you snappish, irritable, unsociable, reclusive and so much more. We don’t mean or want to be this way. It’s part and parcel of living with these issues, and we are trying every day to overcome them.

There are days when we’re better at it than others. But for friends and family it’s something worth remembering; we don’t mean to hurt you. It’s not you, it’s me.  I and all the sufferers I know want to go to your party, come out for dinner and all the things you want us to be part of. If I’ve cancelled on you or hurt you I am not saying that it’s okay. But I’d hope you’d understand and maybe when the time is right we can talk about it. I don’t want to be ruled by my depression or my anxiety, nor is it an excuse if I’ve hurt you. I’d give anything not to be like this, as would many of the sufferers I know.  We’re sorry. Just don’t let that hurt turn you away, because every sufferer of depression, anxiety and all the other mental illnesses, needs the people who care about them. Your support is invaluable, so don’t let the illness push you away from the person.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 18 – If Not Us, Then Who?

In today’s society, we’re so good at talking about wanting changes. Regardless of what they’re for, we will talk about them a lot and get offended if it doesn’t happen.  But when it comes down to standing up for what we believe in and making that change?  We’re not so good at that, are we?  We put the needs of “me” before the needs of “us” and don’t want to do anything.  Join me as I talk about this further.

Useful Links:

Waiting on a Miracle
The Onus – We’re Here For You

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a Patron - If Not Us Then Who?Disclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

A New Day

Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas Everyone!I’d like to start this post by wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas! From everyone at Pushing Back the Shadows, we hope you have a very good day and, if you’re away for the holidays, a wonderful time!

A New Day

These words have been on my mind a lot for the past few months.  “A New Day.”  It brings a sense of warmth to me.  It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s something that’s unspoilt, unbroken.  It’s another chance, almost like that second chance but with unlimited possibilities.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings.  As the sunlight creeps through the blinds or the curtains, all you want to do is pull the duvet up over your head, curl up and hide away from the world.  Put the world off for a few more minutes.  Snooze the alarm and have your “just five more minutes” in bed.  Sound familiar?

I’m the epitome of that feeling!

Every morning is a chance to start over.

Even though it’s a morning, I’m a creative person and mornings are meant to be the best time for creativity, I just don’t like facing them.  For me, it’s another day, another struggle.  Another day that I have to put the mask on, face the morning and get through the day without having any incidents.

It’s daunting.

A New Chance

Despite my initial morning thoughts, though, I have been having a think about this whole “new day” concept.  While I might not appreciate them, is there not good in every day?  It’s a new day for attempting whatever I want to attempt.  A chance to start over.  A fresh chance to get it right. Isn’t that a much better way to look at the day?

See, some days are great, where my productivity is on fire, my inspiration is through the roof and my enthusiasm is wonderful.  Other days my motivation and inspiration just suck, majorly.  It’s hard for me to focus on what I’m writing, difficult to work myself up to write anything and sometimes even impossible to get myself to do anything productive.  In short, everything is an uphill climb.

Even on those days where things are difficult and I’m struggling, isn’t there something good in those days?  Is there not something good in every day that we come across?  Whether the day has been good or bad, there’s always something small, something good buried in there somewhere, like a diamond in the rough.  We just have to find it.

2017

Whatever you’re doing today, whether you’re in the middle of opening presents or just finishing washing up after your Christmas dinner or taking a quiet five minutes to let that dinner go down, I’d like you to take a moment.  Pause.  Reflect.  Look back at 2017.  Would you say your year has been good?  Would you say it’s been disastrous?  Take a deeper look.

I’m sure 2017 will have been filled with good moments and bad moments. Some might stand out more than others but there will be a smattering of both in there somewhere.  In terms of Pushing Back the Shadows, we’ve had a wonderful rollercoaster year since we started in May.  Both Cheryl and I have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had on here, on Twitter, on Facebook and more.  Bringing a light to you all brings a light to ourselves as well.  The community we’ve created…it’s amazing!

So this is our last post for 2017.  Wrapping up the year, so to speak.  Now we can turn our eyes to the next few weeks before the New Year, taking each new day as a chance to start over, a chance to get it right.  Every new day is a gift, it’s up to us what we do with it.

Let’s make the most of it!

Happy Christmas, guys!

Alex

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 17 – The Power of Perspective

When we’re in the middle of our situation, going through the darkness and we’re struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes a shift in perspective or even a completely different perspective can be useful. We might not see the progress we’re making but other people around us might. Join Alex as he looks at the power that perspective can have on our walk with mental health.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a Patron - the Power of PerspectiveDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely

I’m lonely.

How often do you hear those words?  Whether spoken out loud or written on a social media update, I find those words frequently.  People have asked me how I cope living on my own as surely I get lonely.  Back when I worked at my previous job, I’d leave work, get on the bus or, later, in the car and go back to my flat, all alone, no one there to greet me.  Some believe that was the cause of my depression.  I’m not so convinced but that’s another story.

But sometimes that’s how I like it.

People often say, when I talk about being on my own, that I have to get out more if I don’t want to be lonely.  However, I’d like to challenge that today, as I think there is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely.  Let’s see if you agree with me.

I’m Alone but Not Lonely

Sometimes a little bit of personal space is nice. Whenever I’ve been out and the depression or anxiety kicks in, there is nothing better than getting into the confines of my flat or my car, switching on my music or a video game and just blasting the thoughts and feelings away.  Listening to music, playing that video game, both can work but it seems they only work if I can actually be on my own.

I’m alone.

But I’m not lonely.

I’m making the most of my own personal space, with no one around.  I can drop my mask and leave it behind, allowing myself to be exactly as I am, without the front.  I don’t need it.  Even when I’m around friends and family, there is that guard up because I don’t want to drag them down as well.  Sometimes being alone can be the best thing ever.  It allows me to just be me.

The inspiration for this post actually came from a P!nk song that someone’s Twitter tweet made me think of.  Called Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely, it speaks of how sometimes that personal space is good, because it allows us to have that break.  Too much of a good thing – or sometimes anything at all – can be too much, so it’s good to have a break.  Take a listen if you haven’t already heard it.

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

I’m Not Alone, but I’m Lonely

Sightly harder to grasp, but it’s possible to feel lonely when you’re not alone.  When people have absolutely no idea what you’re going through, it can be quite isolating.  I distinctly remember walking into work on a really bad day, putting that front on and finding that only one person noticed.  I was surrounded by people and yet so alone that it was unbelievable. Granted, it wasn’t entirely their fault because I’d put that front up, but it was a contributing factor that no one looked.

Similarly, it is a growing problem that those of us who struggle with mental health issues find that we are put into a box in society, simply because people don’t understand mental health.  We might have plenty of friends – in person, on social media or on our phone – but we can be so alone.  As I write this, the thought of “I’m in a room full of people yet I’m so alone” is going through my head.

Even when there are all these people around, it’s easy for me to feel like a bother and not want to open up to people for fear of disturbing them or burdening them.  A difficult mindset to get out of, it isolates me.  Thus, I am with people and not alone, but I’m lonely, because I feel like I have no one to talk to.  Unfortunately, this is the category that a lot of people I talk to fall into.  They want to talk to someone yet they feel they can’t.

Learn About Lonely

My challenge for you is to learn the signs for when someone wants to be lonely.  It’s not that they don’t want your help – they probably value you a lot more than they feel able to let on – but they need a little bit of time away from everything else.  It isn’t against you, far from it, but it’s something they need at the time.  As P!nk says, “tonight, leave me alone, I’m lonely.  I’m tired, leave me alone I’m lonely”.  We will want you to come back, we just need a bit of space.  It isn’t personal.

It never is.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Twitter is not a Dating Website

I Repeat, Twitter is not a Dating Website

I apologise in advance to all our genuine readers and followers on here, but I am going to be on a bit of a rant here. For those of you who genuinely get in touch for mental health support for yourself or a loved one, this does not apply to you. Though I would love to hear from you on this particular topic too! It’s regarding a trend that seems common across Twitter, that some individuals seem confused what Twitter is for. That, despite what hashtag you may have found someone under, that it’s perfectly okay to hit on them, even if you’ve never interacted with them, when you’ve no idea who they are or why they are on Twitter in the first place.  I want to make one thing very clear to these people: Twitter is not a dating website.

I get it, You’re lonely.

Loneliness can be a terrible thing. Depression can compound it. I know that.  You can be surrounded by people, but still be incredibly lonely.  But that does not excuse such behavior.  Like many people on Twitter I am there for a specific reason, it’s why I post under specific hashtags like #depression and #anxiety.  My bio is very clear that I’m a mental health advocate and that I’m the editor for PBTS. It does not state what my marital status is or that I’m looking for a relationship. Yet this does not stop the consistent stream of Direct Messages from men (and the occasional woman) who think that Twitter is a way to get a date. Or just casual sex.

I am NOT there for that! I’m in a relationship. I’m not looking for someone. My purpose for being on Twitter is to be someone who supports sufferers of mental health issues, and as a sufferer myself. Twitter is not a dating website, I’m not having those sort of conversations on there. Yet it doesn’t matter how politely I say that I’m not interested or that I’m seriously involved with someone, these people still continue trying. They try and continue their wooing until it gets to a point that you have no option but to block them. For me, I’m now at a point where I’m considering a total block on Direct Messaging altogether.

I’m Not Alone

I am not alone in this. I’ve received tweets from numerous followers saying that they get at least 2-3 of these types of propositions a day and that despite being very clear that they do not want this type of interaction, they continue to get pestered. Alex has experienced it too, and like me finds it incredibly uncomfortable.  As my boss at PBTS he has had to step in with some of them and take over the conversation to try and get them to back off because it has tripped my anxiety to a level that I don’t know what to do. I don’t like blocking people, no one wants to dismiss someone else’s loneliness or hurt their feelings. It can be devastating to be brushed off again and again when you’re trying to find someone. But sometimes I’m left with no choice.

You Don’t Even Know Me

Part of my job at PBTS is talking to people, getting conversations going to help people open up about their struggles or to support them. Sometimes these conversations have to take place on Direct Message because of the sensitive nature of them. Many of our interviews are as a result of us building such connections.  But currently I’m at a point where I’m afraid to open my DM folder because I know there will be more of the unwanted type.

The issue is they come out of nowhere. You’ve never interacted with this person, but they’ve decided to follow you without even looking at who you are or what you do. It’s indiscriminate in it’s nature, which is almost offensive in itself when these messages arrive. They’ve seen your profile picture and that’s all. Talk about judging a book by it’s cover alone!

Toxic

What these people don’t see is how toxic this behavior is.  I have serious self-esteem issues. I’m scarred from previous relationships, where who I was inside was nothing to them, all that mattered was what I looked like or what I could do for them. It’s an issue within society that people take more stock in the packaging than the content. These blind approaches are harmful. You have no idea who this person is. Twitter is not a dating website where everyone is actively looking to meet someone. If I’m posting under hashtags like #depression, #anxiety and #mentalhealth, why would that lead you to believe I’m looking for sex or romance?

I’m not.

I am talking and interacting with people who are vulnerable, sometimes I am vulnerable myself. By propositioning such people you are trying to prey on people who do not need this.  Depression so often comes with complete lack of self-esteem that these approaches can worsen what’s already there. You are likely to inflict damage on someone else in your search for gratification. But you won’t even know it and you may not even care. But I do. That’s why I’m writing this post instead of my usual pick of the week.

It’s Not Appropriate

To anyone who thinks that it’s okay to continue with these types of blind advances I have one thing to say. Twitter is not a dating website! If you are looking for romantic or sexual hook-ups there are specific sites designed for this. E-harmony, Match, Grinder or Tinder were set up for a reason. Yes you may have to pay for them, but the people on them are looking for the same thing you are.

So go on those sites, or I don’t know… just go out and meet people who have common interests with you.  If I’m on Twitter it doesn’t give you the right to assume I’m looking for the same thing you are.  You don’t know me. I’m there to talk to people about the subjects that matter to me, be that mental health, music or writing. Don’t assume everyone on Twitter is fair game for your advances, because they’re not. If someone is writing about mental health and it’s impact on themselves or someone they care about, they are not going to appreciate some random stranger hitting on them out of the blue.

So please, PLEASE, if you are someone who does this or are considering it, don’t. Just don’t. You don’t know who you are talking to, it could be a mental health sufferer, it could be a child (Twitter’s minimum age is only 13).  You won’t get what you want out of it and it’s really not welcome. Do your online dating where it’s meant to be done, on online dating websites.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

 

Alex and The Joker

*This post comes with a potential trigger warning as there are some elements that readers might find triggering.*

This post is the one mentioned in Episode 16 of the PBTS Podcast, taken from my old blog when I originally started writing.  To listen to the podcast, find it here.

The Joker

I tell awful jokes. Really awful ones. I’ve mentioned my humour before because it’s a coping mechanism, a way of getting through the day. It was one of two things that got me through work yesterday and quite often it’s a big part of my mask. I hide behind the jokes, the puns, the humour. That way they can’t see me breaking inside. If you look happy enough and smile enough, people just assume everything is ok, even when it isn’t. They won’t push too hard to find out what’s wrong because, to look at you, they’d say nothing is wrong. So it works well. In fact…sometimes it works too well.
Often I find that the jokes are just getting me through by putting a smile (or a grimace) on other people’s faces…it doesn’t really help me because I don’t find them funny. If anything, I’d say I’m not a funny guy because I don’t feel the funny side of things much anymore. Another thing to add to the list of how broken I am. On the surface I seem to be a joker, playing for the laughs and trying to get people to smile but deep down I’m anything but. Deep down I’m chaos.

Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a little bit about the Joker from the Batman films over the past couple of days. I watched a clip on YouTube of some of the iconic film moments that are actually accidental, where something didn’t go according to plan and the reaction was so good and so genuine that the filmmaker kept it in the final cut. I find that the Joker has some of the best lines, lines that I can relate to…which is both good and scary at the same time. One such example would be when he asks “Wanna know how I got these scars”…although I think you all know the answer to that.

“Wanna Know How I Got These Scars…?”

I’ll be honest with you: I feel absolutely awful today. Mind is playing up in overdrive, head is almost hurting and my chest is tight and nothing seems to be going right. Not to mention the pain that I’m in both physically and mentally, which is slowly doing my head in. I’m in such a way today that I’ve locked myself in the flat, I haven’t got the motivation or desire to go anywhere. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to do anything.
Well, earlier I was chatting with my friend PJ and I got quite irritated. Not with her but with other people. While we were messaging, I suddenly said a couple of people had made me think of the Joker. In the scene in the hospital when Harvey Dent (Two-Face) is recovering from the explosion that turned him into the villain, the Joker says this:

“You know…you know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’. Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics because it’s all ‘part of the plan’. But when I say that one little old mayor will die…well then everyone loses their minds!”

I can relate. Supposedly I was meant to somewhere and I really didn’t feel up to it. Effectively, yet again, I’ve let people down because I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. What irritated me, though, is that none of those people noticed that I was struggling, they didn’t message me asking where I was until today. Last week I was at my parents’ and wasn’t meant to be there so when they didn’t see me it was “all part of the plan”. Suddenly, when I’m not there because I feel awful, they all want to know how I am and where I am. Seriously? It’s like a bad joke. In the majority of times, the minute people want something from you, that’s when they start acting all concerned and messaging and finding out how you are. Otherwise they forget about you and don’t bother unless you message them and even then sometimes they don’t bother. I’ve been told that someone is too busy to reply to a message once before, where that person told me their life was too busy to be messaging me. Considering at that point I had no one else to turn to, that cut.

The Joker and I

So…wanna know how I got these scars? Want to know why I’m drawing further and further in on myself? Want to know why this blog is full of depressing stories of how crushed, broken and alone I feel? Look no further. For every word you’ve read, every conversation you’ve skipped over with me because you’ve been “too busy” is stored up ready to explode and maybe one day it’ll be too late, maybe one day I won’t be around. Perhaps I turned to you because I had no one else…did that get considered? Or perhaps I didn’t message because I couldn’t bring myself to message. But I don’t think that would have even crossed your minds…

Already today my phone has been shoved to one side because I’m getting messages from people who would otherwise be ignoring me, too wrapped up in their busy lives to bother finding out who I am and it’s pushing me further and further down. It takes five minutes at most to send a message to find out how someone is, why is it only when they’re not there that you notice?

Yes, this is a bit of a rant but I feel that bad today that I’m past caring. Why should I feel bad for feeling this way when no one else takes any regard of me? Granted, there are some exceptions (you know who you are) but in the majority of people, why is it so hard? I sit here with around 300 scars that I’ve collected over the past few weeks but I’m fairly certain that not many of you would notice or ask how it’s going, even if you’ve read it on here. Why is it so hard to talk to me? I’m broken, I’m bloody, I’m a mess and I’ve almost given up trying…what does it say about you if you’re too busy to be the helping hand that I’m desperately reaching out for?
Or are you just too busy?

“When I’m not supposed to be there, no one thinks of me when I don’t turn up because it’s all ‘part of the plan’. But when I’m supposed to be there and I’m not? Then everyone suddenly loses their minds.”

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 16 – The Joker and My Killing Joke

“It’s Like a Bad Joke…”

It’s a bad joke.  Isn’t it?  Time for a little bit of my journey in here! Fans of Batman will invariably know the Joker, whether it’s Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson or Mark Hamill or anyone else, they will know him.  Others will undoubtedly know the aforementioned character but how does this fit in with me?  Well, I’m a bit of a Joker and there are a lot of things about him that I’ve found I identify with over the years.  Why not take a listen and find out?

Useful Links:

The Joker Post: http://pushingbacktheshadows.com/2017/12/07/alex-and-the-joker/

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a Patron - The Joker and My Killing JokeDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Why I’m a Christian but Have a Problem With Religion

Being a Depressed Christian

As someone who has been a Christian for more or less my whole life, has pastors for parents and a brother who holds a degree in theology (though this post is not about them), this post is incredibly hard for me to write.  For some, it might be equally hard to read but it’s one of those things that I feel needs to be said.  Let’s walk.

Those of you who follow this blog regularly may have seen my series about Inside My Head, where I delve deep into my journey, into my mind, and look at some of the things that constitute me.  If you followed that series, you would have come across part 5 where I talk about how my faith affects my mental health.  In a nutshell, how being a Christian doesn’t make everything hunky dory, how I will still struggle and how that’s OK.  My life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect and I don’t have to be.

But that doesn’t mean life as a depressed Christian is easy.

Mental Health and the Church

Throughout history, the church has done a lot of good work through it’s charitable actions.  That said, it’s also done a lot of negative things.  You might immediately think of it’s stance on homosexuality which, up until fairly recently, has been very against it.  Female bishops has been another one it is reasonably unpopular for.  As with any organisation or religious body, there will be things it does brilliantly and things it does poorly.  Well, I want to highlight one of those things.

Mental health has always been stigmatised in churches.  It’s one thing that the Christian community, particularly, isn’t so good at talking about.  Take depression, for example: for a long time, the attitude towards depression in church has been “if you’re depressed, you don’t believe enough”.  In other words, your faith is lacking if you suffer from depression because how can you believe in the Almighty God who created the Heavens and the Earth if you are depressed?  From their approach: you can’t.  Pure and simple.

Take these for example:

What do you think?  Do you read them the same way I do?

Mental Health and My Church

Now, this is a subject that I’ve steered pretty clear of since starting Pushing Back the Shadows, because I’m the type of person who doesn’t want to offend others.  I think, however, the time has come to bring it into the light.  Yes, it will offend some people but I’m sorry, I have to make others aware.

You already know that churches can sometimes be the worst offenders for mental health stigmatisation, as I’ve already mentioned.  When we say this, however, we think of the church as a whole.  Christians in their collective.  What about the individual churches?  Mine is going to remain unnamed and I won’t mention any names of any people but I just want to tell you a little bit about that.

As you know, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety back in August 2016, but I was struggling before then.  Part of juggling my full-time job in the bank and managing everything else meant I was exhausted and I reached a stage where I felt as though I had no energy.  Consequently, I started missing services because, when it came to the weekends, I was that tired that I couldn’t get myself out of bed.  I was absent from a lot of things and it shocked me how long people took to care.

At this stage, I should also point out that at least seven people I can think of in my church have depression.  You would think they would understand.  Apparently not.  It seems that as soon as it became apparent it was a long-term problem, a deep-rooted one that was going to take a lot of fixing, people didn’t want to know.  It makes it hard.

Putting the Onus On

When I disappeared, I was shocked by the response I had.  Originally I had almost no messages.  Then, as the weeks dragged by, I started to get a few messages from people who had noticed my absence.  “Hope you’re OK.”  “Hope to see you soon.”  Those sorts of niceties.  As the problem became more long-term, however, those messages dwindled until I only had two people consistently messaging me.  Now, as I write this, I only have one person who messages me on a regular basis to check if I’m alright.

When I mention this, the first thing they say is that they don’t hear from me.  Those of you struggling with depression and anxiety know how hard it is, sometimes, to reach out and send a message to someone else.  You feel like a burden, you feel unwanted, so why would you?  But it’s my fault for not messaging, evidently.  It links directly into what I said about putting the onus on the person who is struggling.  They always say that I know they’re there for me, that they are doing all they can…but are they?

I do get messages occasionally from other people in the church.  Most of the time, though, it’s because they want something.  Sometimes it comes with the preamble of a “how are you” or something along those lines but, more often than not, it’s straight to brass tacks.  Quite frankly, it hurts.

Mental Health and Being Christian

At the end of the day, the church does have a fair amount to improve upon regarding mental health.  Whether you have faith as small as that mustard seed or whether you believe wholeheartedly, God will not solve your depression in a heartbeat.  It might not be a part of His plan.  He may have a different purpose for it.  That may sound cruel but think of it in the same way you would an operation.  Some live-saving operations will come with pain and perhaps months of rehabilitation, yet they are done for that important reason that, in itself, is positive.  Think of it like that.

American Christian Christy Wimber had one of the most refreshing approaches to this that I’ve come across.  She said that, in today’s modern age, mental illness was a tool used by the Devil and that this whole notion of “if you are not healed, your faith is not strong enough” was a load of rubbish.  I find myself agreeing with that, as depression and anxiety and all the other mental illnesses have absolutely nothing – that’s right ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – to do with your faith.

My Message

If you’re a Christian or a member of any other religion struggling with mental illness, let me remind you that it’s OK to struggle.  I do everyday and that doesn’t make me any less of a Christian.  But my challenge is for any members of churches reading this: step up to the mark.  Be the support that the church is meant to be.  Designate people to maintain contact with others, instead of leaving it all to the pastor or all to the person struggling.  We, as Christians, are called to serve others, to help them and to show the love of Jesus to other people.  Personally, I believe this is sorely lacking.

We need to be better.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Words Hurt

Sticks and Stones

I remember as a child so often being told the old adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. It’s something that’s trotted out so often to victims of bullying when they’re young. The idea that name calling isn’t somehow as damaging as physical violence gets ingrained from the playground upwards, and realistically it’s an attitude that needs to change. Whether you think it’s trivial or not; words hurt.

So many of the people I encounter on Twitter with mental health issues, either have been bullied, or worse are being bullied due to their condition. And this isn’t just children, and it’s not just in schools. It’s adults, in the workplace, on-line and in their own homes. People who are already vulnerable are being scarred even further by psychological damage inflicted by others. I should know. I’m one of them.

We Need To See That Words Hurt

I know as part of my own journey that I need to learn how to forgive those who hurt me, to move on and grow from it. I’m not talking about those people who inadvertently make a mistake and hurt my feelings. If Alex is snappish because of his mental health, I know that it is not meant. He’s not deliberately tried to hurt me or upset me. Usually by talking things through we can work things out again. We look at what happened and see what we can do about it for the future.

No, I’m talking about the times when someone uses names or insults to deliberately hurt you. To undermine you. Especially when they do this to make themselves feel better or more in control. These people are toxic. I have experience of people like this. I am the product of years of certain individuals who thought it was okay to abuse others like that. It eroded me, it broke me. Yet it was invisible to everyone around me.

The scars I’ve inflicted upon myself have been driven by my own self-loathing.  It’s a strong self-hatred that has been reinforced by these individuals confirming that everything bad about myself that my dark passenger whispers to me is true.  It’s a hard habit to break. But I’m trying.

Your Words Can End A Life

I’m serious. They really can. How many young lives have ended in suicide because of bullying? Far too many. It’s a tragedy we see over and over again. And it needs to stop. Zero tolerance of bullying in schools, the workplace, or online should mean exactly that. Zero tolerance. We need to be educating even earlier about the power of words, building it into our daily lives. Just being more mindful and if we see bullying going on, take a stand against it.  Not just sit by and let it happen. Bullying crosses so easily into abuse and it’s effects are devastating.  We have to scrap the old ‘sticks and stones’ and move forwards by recognising that words hurt. The wrong ones can kill.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.