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Inside My Head – Part 1 – Worry and Doubt

Welcome to the first instalment of my Inside My Head series!  In this series, I will take you into my mind so you can see how depression, anxiety and insomnia affect me on a daily basis.  

Worry

Worry and I are old friends.  He would tell you that he is my favourite visitor, as he frequently pops in to see how I’m doing.  It doesn’t matter what kind of situation I’m thinking of or what kind of day I’m on, worry can turn it from a molehill into a mountain.  He also likes to drag people he knows are important to me and start spouting worst-case scenarios concerning them.  It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do or anything, I can find worries.

How many different things can you think of that you might worry about?  Money?  Family?  Your job?  All quite big things, right?  Now try and think of some of the little things.  Do you find you worry about them much?  Unfortunately it’s a strong trait of my anxiety that I can worry about the little things just as much as I worry about the big things.  I reckon it’s part of who I am.

Everyone worries.  Everyone.  Worry is a normal part of life.  When that worry starts to control you, though, that’s when it becomes a problem.  Over the past ten months, I’ve lost count of how many situations I’ve deliberately avoided out of worry.  It eats away at you, picking away at the bedrock until you start to doubt.

And that brings me nicely to the flipside of this couple.

Doubt

No matter what Worry might tell you, Doubt is actually my favourite of the duo.  She’s always there, hiding in the shadows, whispering in my ear, telling me that she is the only voice that speaks any truth.  Whatever good thoughts or positivity goes through my mind, she can take it and turn it into something nasty and venomous.  It’s almost as if she goes through my mind with a fine-toothed comb looking for things she can torment me with.

Out of all the things that tumble through my head, doubt is also the hardest for me to shut out.  For every word that someone says, she will be trying to convince me that they don’t mean it, that they’re not really interested or whatever else she can use.  Occasionally I do have moments of clarity surrounding her – more so nowadays than before – and I realise that what she’s saying isn’t true.  Most days, however, I find it hard to resist her subtle whispering.

In truth, I think doubt is one of the reasons I put so much time and stock into my mask.  Thanks to doubt clawing at me, I have a tendency to shut people out, keeping them at arm’s length so I can make sure they don’t prove to be false.  It doesn’t always work, believe me, and untangling it all can almost prove to be too much work.

Thanks to Doubt, though, I always find actions speak louder than words.  As clichéd as the comment might be, you can’t really go wrong with actions.  Words can get picked apart in the corner of my mind until there is nothing left of them.  Actions, however, stick.  I remember them.  I’m more inclined to remember what you’ve done to/for me than what you have said to me.

As an example, I was having a really dark dip and one of my friends decided she was going to drive from the other side of the city near the middle of the night to come and bring me a McDonalds because she knew I hadn’t eaten that day.  Things like that tend to stick in my mind.  Instead of simply telling me she was there for me, she took time out to come and do something nice for me to help me.

Hopefully doubt will become more manageable over time.  Even now, I still struggle with it.  Perhaps it’s always there.  Who knows?

Stay Tuned

In the next instalment of this series, I take you further into my head with a look at how I can feel trapped inside my own head.  It’s not pleasant, but sometimes it’s what’s got to be said.  So why not check it out?  Alternatively, check out some of our other series to see what else we get up to!  You never know, there may be something you like, so give it a go!

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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.

Masks and Masquerades

Masks

Everyone wears a mask.  Did you know that?  Think of ten people you know and I guarantee you will have seen every one of them wear a mask at some stage.

I’m not talking about masks that you use for dressing up.  No, these masks look like their real faces but with a twist: they hide what’s inside.  You know the kind I’m talking about.  It’s the “I’m fine” in response to the “how are you?” and the general appearance of wellness given off.  Everyone does it.  It’s a trap that we all fall into.

Think back for a moment at some of the encounters you’ve had today.  How many times have you put a front on, no matter how small?  Perhaps you brushed off the “how are you” with the “I’m fine” or maybe you forced a smile when all you wanted to do was cry.  There are hundreds and thousands of other possibilities for other types of masks that you might have put on but I can guarantee you’ll have put at least one on today.  Possibly more.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a mask.  As I’ve said, we all do it.  Some do it better than others.  Many of us are experts.  A select few of us are even masters at it.

I like to think I’m in the last category.

My Mask

Those who know me would describe me as cheerful, bubbly, always ready to tell a joke.  Admittedly the jokes are awful – think dad jokes but worse – but I can be funny sometimes.  I’m frequently described as a positive person and I’ve been told I’m always smiling.

What if I told you it was a mask?

Inside, I rarely feel any of those things.  I don’t often find things funny, I’m almost always thinking negatively and I often find I’m nowhere near bubbly.  It’s all part of the front that I put on for other people to see.  What they associate with me is what they see when they see me or talk to me.

Over the years I have perfected my mask.  Caring for it, crafting it slowly, I’ve done my best to ensure it is flawless.  The persona that people know as me, the front they are greeted with, is put up so people don’t know how I’m truly feeling.  I have to be honest: it works really really well.  In the past I have walked into places with my full mask on, a really black day going through my head, and not a single person has noticed that anything is amiss.  One person has told me I am an incredible actor because I can give that appearance of complete wellness and cheerfulness while completely breaking inside.  Oddly, I pride myself on it.

Masks and Depression

If you know someone with depression, you may have noticed they put a mask on.  They don’t talk about what’s inside, shutting people out with that all-too-simple “I’m fine”.  It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re their spouse, their family or their friends, they might still give you the mask.  But why?  Surely it just leads to upset?  I’ve heard a few stories that suggest masks do cause upset but let me explain them to you.  Hopefully you will understand why we put them on.  I shall start with a question…

How do you explain to someone what is going on when you don’t even understand it yourself?

Explaining depression, especially to someone who does not have it, is difficult.  If you’re in a particularly dark period of depression it becomes even harder.  Putting on that mask, quite simply, makes it easier.  You can hide behind the mask and people won’t ask you if you’re ok.  You don’t have to worry about not being able to find the words to explain it or the fear that they just won’t get it.  Behind your mask, you can seem alright.  Your mask is a shield.

Another reason people often use masks is as a coping strategy.  At least, that’s how I use it.  In my eyes, if I can convince you that I’m ok, that I’m not secretly breaking inside then perhaps I can convince myself.  Really it’s all smoke and mirrors, a little trick of the mind but it’s effective.  In situations where I think I have no choice but to be ok, I am more often than not ok.  Not great, admittedly, but ok.  Often it works.  Not always.

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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.

The Beginning

Black Hole

Officially it started in August.  Before that…I don’t know.  I’ve felt parts of it for years and secretly I’ve struggled.  I guess you try and trick yourself into believing everything is ok so you can cope, right?  I think I did.

So, back in August I knew something was wrong.  Those subtle parts I’d been feeling for years had all suddenly come together and were starting to overwhelm me.  I knew something was wrong but I could not have explained it properly to anyone.  How do you explain the feeling of having a black hole inside of you, sucking all the emotion and energy and enthusiasm out of you?  Words only go so far.  Either way, I knew something was wrong.  Very wrong.  Knowing, however, and doing something about it are two very different things…

I vividly remember pacing up and down the hallway, trying to put my feelings into words.  My stomach was churning, my chest was tight and I was very breathless.  At first I thought I was having a panic attack but I’d never had one before, as far as I knew.  I paced and paced, mobile in my hand, and eventually called the one person I knew could help me.

My Dad.

My Dad is brilliant.  One of my strongest supports.  I know that I can turn to him when I’m stuck and he will patiently sit there and help me work it out.  Whether it’s IT support, a soundboard or someone who will help me put puzzle pieces together, he does what he can to help me.  One of his biggest plus points is his ability to make it look like he’s not worried.  I can tell him anything and meet that calmness that says he’ll try and fix it no matter what.  I don’t know whether he realises this.  That said, I phoned him.

The explanation was hard.  As I said: how do you explain a black hole inside of you.  I start by saying I feel down.  Not the sort of down where you’re having a bad day but one that’s deeper.  Thoughts tumble through my head like an avalanche and I’m not sleeping well.  I’m finding I hate myself.  Other feelings, hard to describe, clouding my mind and adding to the cacophony.  Too many.

Dad’s advice was simple: visit the doctor.  Stupidly, I didn’t.

A few days later, someone else noticed something was wrong.  I don’t know how but she did.  My mask had slipped and someone had seen the darkness behind it.  Unflinching, she looked for a moment and asked if I was ok.  Admittedly, the answer I gave wasn’t completely honest.  Still, it prompted me to book in with the doctor and I got the confirmation of my suspicions.

I have depression, anxiety and insomnia.

At that point I didn’t know much about it.  I’d heard the words and I have a few friends who have those labels with them but I didn’t know much.  As the doctor gave me that diagnosis, pieces started to click into place and with those pieces came understanding.  Unfortunately that understanding also brought a plethora of questions to mind that, some of which I still don’t have answers to.  I remember feeling scared, realising what my mind was and still is capable of.  Sometimes I remember that feeling and still go cold all over.

It’s been a long journey.  Read along, feel free to contact me on Twitter, Facebook or email me.  See where it takes 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 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.