The following blog is published anonymously. It contains discussion of hopelessness, intrusive thoughts and suicide.
I have asked for this blog to be published anonymously. It is not particularly because I want to remain hidden, but I don’t feel it is fair to my friends and family to tell a story that involves and identifies them without their consent.
It is trite to say we are in unprecedented times. The lockdown and complete change in circumstances have given me lots of time to reflect. I have been noticing my own stress responses and those of others. It has taken me back to things from my childhood.
As I have grown up, I have come to understand my parents have a dysfunctional relationship. My mother has anxiety and depression – both to my knowledge undiagnosed and untreated. My dad exhibits what I can now name as coercive behaviours.
We grew up in a home that was comfortable materially and met our needs, food, shelter etc. What we also had was a house with many, many things unsaid and all sorts of undercurrents and coded behaviours.
For me, it means I have a tendency to takeaway a lot more from what someone says than their words. I automatically intuit a set of unspoken thoughts – and, in general, they are negative and assume the worst intent and motives.
Over the years, in response to my environment, I developed all sort of protection mechanisms. I am so determined to not be like my mother. If someone compares me to her I feel insulted. I have had countless therapy and read innumerable self-help books.
Lockdown has made me really dig deep into this.
When someone says something straight forward – do you want x ? Why do I consider are they really offering x? Is there a right or a wrong answer? What’s the catch? And what about how I approach others.
I have, in less stressed times, managed to train myself to directly say what I mean, to take responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings and reactions. I am someone who most describe as strong, outgoing, together, assertive! The isolation of lockdown, the removal of my usual supports and vents has seen me descend fairly quickly into someone who sees loaded statements all around and acts in a passive aggressive way. I want to be noticed, want appreciation, but find myself unable to say so. All the time getting really resentful of everyone around me.
The person I am these days finds their moods yo-yoing around and regularly tears up. I have thoughts like “what’s the point?” and “maybe it would be better if I just wasn’t here.”
I have had suicidal thoughts in the past. I have learned to notice my thoughts and recognise the signs that I am having an irrational reaction to a set of circumstances.
But in the current circumstances what is rational and what isn’t?
Each year that passes I develop more empathy for my mum, and feel increasingly ashamed at how unsupportive I have been. Without a doubt, she is a domestic abuse survivor – though we don’t talk about it. She is someone who has lived with mental illness and health issues without support or medication, but we don’t talk about it. This is the part of my childhood I do not want to repeat. The creation of atmospheres where everyone feels like they are walking on eggshells or waiting for a landmine to go off.
There is a lot of talk about wellbeing and the current pandemic’s impact on mental health. I have realised is that I am not so different to my mum and that is nothing to be disgusted by or ashamed of. I am in a different and better position than her. Society’s understanding and my education, contacts and socialisation mean I can recognise all these things and, whilst this doesn’t stop the moods or thoughts coming, life has given me tools and sources of support.
One of my behaviours is to close down when my head is more and more full of sad thoughts. In the moments of rationality where I do reach out, without fail there is someone willing to listen or help.
Please anyone reading this who has felt low or alone, reach out. If you work at Kings you have the Employee Assistance Programme and Big White Wall. And there are all the wider ranging sources of support or in fact just talk to someone you know.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. It has helped me enormously to write it.