I always knew I was different.
Of course, everybody is wonderfully unique – if we were all the same then what a boring place the world would be! The thing is, I wasn’t wonderfully unique… I certainly didn’t feel wonderful… I felt like my differences disadvantaged me.
From a very young age, it became apparent to me that my mind didn’t work in the way that other peoples’ did. I’d be in the playground at school and my friends would be describing the exact outfit that they would wear to the school disco that year… they turn to me and ask what outfit I could come up with but I drew a blank: unable to envisage anything in my mind. It’s weird because I’m a very creative person but my imagination is flawed in the sense that I can’t picture things vividly in my head. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I heard the word ‘Aphantasia’. That’s just one thing on my list of things that make me different.
My mum tells me that I was a loud and energetic child with an eccentric personality. My parents got divorced when I was 7 years old and this energy fuelled my anxiety from this stage onwards. My dad moved to Canada when I was 8 and I’ve been dealing with anxiety for the last 13 years with depression making multiple unwanted visits along the way.
I have tried EVERYTHING from counsellors (public and private), CBT, medication, art therapy and meditation… believe me, I’ve tried it all. When I was 7, my mum arranged for me to have art therapy with a children’s counsellor and all I remember is being encouraged to scribble my heart out with a pack of blunt Crayola crayons across a white canvas. After a couple of years and a couple dozen messy canvases, I stopped seeing the counsellor. That was the first of about 8 different counsellors that have crossed my path and I still haven’t found anyone that helps me.
The counsellors that I have seen came across as insensitive in the sense that they appear to be following a script (not to mention the extortionate costs that private counsellors are charging right now) and I couldn’t see a benefit to constantly repeating myself and reliving dark times in my life to complete strangers. Perhaps the right counsellor is yet to come into my life… I haven’t given up.
CBT wasn’t quite for me though the concept is promising. Retraining a 20 year old mind which is very set in its ways isn’t easy. It’s exhausting and physically and mentally draining. Again, haven’t given up but I’m not in the right place to go back to CBT just now.
What I find difficult is that in order to combat depression and anxiety, you have to go through a bunch of anxiety-inducing things such as meeting new people, sharing private stories and a squillion other things that feed the darkness within my brain.
Side Note: Darkness is how I have been referring to my mental illness… Although I accept that it is a part of me, I don’t want it to be permanent and I like to think that there is an opposing force (in this case, light) that I can use to defend myself.
I was super sceptical of medication and avoided it for a long time. When I hit rock bottom and dark thoughts were filling my mind, I didn’t see any other option and soon went on Sertraline. I have been on sertraline since the summer of 2014 and genuinely feel that it has helped dull the mental pain.
My mind is muddled and murky and messy but it is my mind and recently I’ve been picking it apart (figuratively) and trying to understand my mental illness. I hope that sharing a piece of my mind will enable some of you to understand your own mind a little better and hopefully bring you some peace of mind, knowing that you aren’t alone, no matter what you’re going through.
Image: That’s me smiling in the sunshine on the South Downs a few months ago!