I have been told before that, whereas Bear wears his heart (and mood) on his sleeve, I am far harder to read. I cannot deny it; I used to be repeatedly frustrated that so many of those people around me, people who knew me pretty well, very well even, wouldn’t have a clue when I felt overwhelmed, unable to cope, or at times even suicidal. They would miss my silence, withdrawal, or statements about stress or at times simply think they needed to give me space, leave me to it, not distract me from the obviously busy times I was going through.
I can’t blame them fully for this because I am horrendously bad at being completely vulnerable with people. The only times I ever really let go and allow people to see the complete mess that might be occurring in my head tends to be when I am utterly overwhelmed and know that my family and I might really be at risk of something horrible happening if I don’t confess to someone.
I use the word confess because that’s often how it feels. It feels as if I have failed to control my life, surrounding, and myself and have to ask for help. I’m not good at asking for help. I never have been because it takes quite a lot for me to trust people, and even more to forget if they don’t meet my expectations.
The problem I also face is that medically speaking my body has always coped remarkably well with pretty much everything. Other than the odd bug, or monsterific illness, my body rarely shows that I’m stressed out. Even when pregnant, eating badly, feeling horribly low and anxious, my blood pressure was perfect, my glucose tolerance was amazing for a non-pregnant person, and actually despite the craziness of childbirth I recovered really well.
My mind is something altogether different and this means that I quite literally feel like two parts of a person. There’s my body which can technically deal with quite a lot. Whereas my mind is a mess, especially when I’m pregnant: I barely sleep, when I do I have continual nightmares, I have panic attacks and get increasingly anxious, depression spirals downwards until I think of walking into the north sea or simply stepping in front of a car, my temper and moods are random and increase, I feel both unproductive and unable to function, I do not cope when plans are changed, and I withdraw significantly from people even when I know it’s not in my best interest.
What I have noticed though is that although my body in general is relatively easy (see above), my mind does decide to mess with it in odd ways: I might get a sudden flare up of dry skin on my hands, not enough to be painful but just annoying. I will feel itchy, particular on my head without reason. Most prominently I will find myself biting my nails far more than I ever did and when I thought I had broken the habit. These little things are signs to me that although everything may look relatively fine, my mind is still getting little digs at me.
Oddly I’ve noticed that this happens more since taking anti-depressants. It is like my mind can’t quite mess up thought patterns as much as it was now that chemical balance is being worked on, so instead it will ebb out in little ways, little habits that I find harder to control because I don’t even notice the trigger.
Bit by bit I know that this will get better as I move forward, but it’s odd to be noticing these little things. I learnt a while ago that in certain cultures that are more shaming of mental illness, depression can often appear in unusual ways like severe pain in limbs. It is not unusual for our mental anxieties to manifest in strange ways, and apparently this is another way my mind is telling me I need to work on the roots of my problems.
This year seems like a recovery year, one of growth, building on foundations, and digging deep to work through a lot of pain. This is just one little thing, but if anyone has recommendations for itchiness I’d not complain if they appear in the comments.
In the meantime, I need to keep strong on the medications prescribed, keep active mentally and physically, and learn to understand my stress signals. I also need to be far more honest with those around me. Even if my body is giving off every sign to the outside world that life is fine and dandy, I need to open up if and when I need help.
Simple right? I’ll let you know.