I live in a shadow. I call her mental illness. She’s been living inside me for most of my life. At eleven she finally gained the courage to try interact with me. She reminded me every night that I was hated. She came out in the dark and she lay on top of me smothering me with validation of my classmates. I was hated. I wasn’t wanted in this world. Pushing down my chest as I struggled to breathe in panic. Suffocating me with my pillow while watching my bedroom door to make sure nobody could her me cry myself to sleep. The words like knives stabbing me over and over again.
I would wake in the morning to the day light. Open my eyes to see her again. I would see her for the first few seconds of my day. Diving into my soul I knew today I would have the heavy burden again. The sun was shining, the day bright yet it did not matter. I would get out of bed and get dressed having to put in double the effort as mental illness had made her home inside my chest for the day. I never saw my mental illness beside my friends or family, and they did not see her. She only showed herself when I was alone. When in public she found refuge inside my body, inside my mind.
At times I could manage myself, at other times she became the dominant force, compelling and cruel. Rattling me to my core. My hands shaking out of control as I tried to put the sentences in order on the page. Squeezing my insides together every time the bullies looked in my direction. Just as a reminder that I was hated, I was undeserving. I was better off dead.
She sat down beside me at the dinner table when I got home for school. She would comment on my food. “Are you really going to eat that, do you want to be fat?”. I would try run from her. Up to my room closing the door hoping that just once she would leave me alone. I could never get away. Hiding under the duvet with my hands over my ears and tears rolling down my face.
She offered her help. Promising to take my pain away. Telling me it wouldn’t hurt. I wouldn’t hurt. She promised me I would never fall victim to bullies again. She wiped my tears and she told me not to worry. It was all going to be okay.
That night was different, she didn’t disrupt my sleep. She just lay beside me reassuring me that it would all be okay. For the first time in a long time I slept the night through. I didn’t know how mental illness was going to help me, but I took the chance. 2 weeks later she led me down a pier in France. My aunt intervened and I was saved crying and sobbing that I did not want to live. Mental illness got angry. She told me I had failed suicide. I couldn’t even manage to that right. I begged her to leave me alone so she left but she warned me she would be back again.
2 years later mental illness came back. She told me I needed her. She told me the world was cruel and there was no one I could trust. I looked at my family, the lies that had been told and I found haven in her arms. She was right. I could not trust anyone in this world. Again, she promised she would help me, she had a way out she said.
Mental illness and I had a love hate relationship for many years. We fought between right and wrong. We argued over decisions, intentions, actions. Mental illness got me into a lot of trouble, but she also brought me safety and security. When she took over the decisions of my life, I found myself in hospital. It wasn’t what I wanted but she told me I was safe. At times mental illness kept me safe from the dangers in my life. By taking over the control she was able to distance me from predators and trauma. She wasn’t as controlling when I was in hospital for, she too was safe. I had a duty to her, something I had promised. A pact that nobody would ever hurt us again. I kept that promise for the most part, but I could not keep us safe forever.
Mental illness told me that in order to keep us safe I had to die. I tried over and over again and every time I failed mental illness became more cruel. Name calling, blame, guilt. She was a marvellous manipulator and an even better liar. Seducing me with the thoughts of everlasting peace.
After my suicide attempt where I shattered my spine, I asked mental illness why she wanted to cause me such pain. She replied that she didn’t want to cause me pain she just couldn’t see a way out. We started working together. I knew I had to take my medication and she too knew I needed them. We sat in therapy and we talked things through. Since there was nothing to lose anymore, I gave her the freedom to speak the truth. For so long I had tried to silence her. I refused to believe the things she kept buried deep down inside. I was in denial for many things and mental illness was overwhelmed by my fight to shut her up. Since we had agreed to work together, I finally let her speak. The words hurt and the tears streamed down my face. It has been a journey of lows, depression, and sorrow. I had to grieve for all the things that I never had, all the things I never experienced. The weight of sadness was killing me, but mental illness reminded me of my strength. My resilience to survive.
Since giving her the freedom to speak her truth we’ve come to a compromise. As bad as it gets, as hard as it is, I will and can survive. Mental illness will always be there. She’s been there long before I even noticed but we no longer rage a war. The compromise of finally letting someone in, speaking the truths I tried to bury along with myself. It will always be difficult, but I found acceptance in living with mental illness. Living with mental illness has brought me to the darkest of places but she also showed me the essence of vulnerability. To start from within and work your way out. I had to heal from within and to do that I had to speak from within but were getting there. Day by day.
Mental illness is not a choice, It is not something one can break away from easily. I could not convince her to leave so instead I had to learn to live while she stayed. She doesn’t hold the control anymore; Instead I make the decisions. Reminding me every few weeks of the heartbreak and pain, but also reminding me that I am a survivor. I was meant to live. Healing is something that does not exist on a timescale. Mostly I feel as if suicide is forever gone from my life but some days I feel it creeping back in. My mental illness has given me the strength to know that no matter what tomorrow brings I will get through it as I always have.
Mental illness is something I had to learn to accept in my life. I could not erase the trauma and I could not erase the past, but the future is in front of me and that’s my main focus.
Lots of love Katie xx
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