I asked one of my very best friends yesterday if she or anyone else thought that I 'fake' my illness. That I do it for attention. It's just one of the many paranoid thoughts that sit in the driving seat of my brain. Over the past few weeks she's been consistently worried about me, bringing food to my house, phoning Healthline for advice, texting me everyday and listening to me as I cry and tell her that I'm nothing but a failure. I'm pretty sure there's not one Oscar winning actress that could fake what I was feeling. But I still worry.
When my illness takes over - I worry about everything, all the time. And this causes me so much pain. So much emotional pain that I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't think, I can't speak properly and I can't enjoy the company of my friends and partner and I even back off from my beloved gym classes and yoga.
It kicked in again about two weeks ago. I'd felt it building, I knew it was on the horizon but I kept telling myself it would pass. That I had everything under control. I didn't.
One of my main problems is my high level of empathy. I feel my pain and I feel everyone else's pain too. So when one person tells me that as a result of my actions (note: I was just doing my job), they're going to lose everything - I don't see the irrationality of it. I don't see that they are trying to project their pain on to me. I just take it. And then I collapse. I question my ability to do what I'm doing, I tell myself I'm a failure, I tell myself that if I carry on doing my job, I'll be fired eventually because I'm ruining all of my client's lives. I look at everyone around me and I realise that they are all smarter than me. So very much smarter than me because actually, I'm thick, I'm the least intelligent person in every room I'm in. I tell myself that really, I'm only capable of working somewhere simple, like a shop where people come in and a very simple transaction takes place. Something where I can't go very wrong and that my utter uselessness won't do any damage.
Imagine obsessing like this - constantly. Imagine the sheer self-hatred. Imagine the hopelessness of it all, the absolute loathing of who you are. That's when my body can't take it anymore either. It stops being hungry, it stops letting me sleep, it shortens my breathing, heightens my sweating, pulses my heartbeat so fast I could be constantly running a marathon and it ultimately tells my brain 'You're in serious danger, go now or you won't survive.'
But, what am I running away from I ask my brain? Life. Everything. Everything you do, everyone who can see you're not capable, you must get away from them, you're ruining their lives and they're starting to see it. You'll get fired, you'll end up with nothing and you'll be living on the street if you do not RUN! So I go to bed. I feel safe for the first few hours. Then I sleep for 17 hours solidly, thinking oh I was just so tired! When I wake I'll feel much better.
But I don't, I suddenly had a very clear and terrifying thought - I want to sleep forever, and never wake up.
Please don't worry. I have enough experience in this arena and enough self awareness that I knew what to do. I got up. I moved, I went to yoga and even although it was an average class, I saw other human beings, I got some fresh air and I moved my body. While it wasn't a miraculous cure, it gave me some reality and rationality to my situation. Feeling like that because of the pressure I put on myself at work, cannot continue. I phone the health centre and organise to see my very lovely, but very busy doctor. I enroll in a mood management course and I go back to work - even although the very thought of it makes me want to curl in a ball and hide.
I've got a lot of work to do, I have regular appointments with my Doctor over the next few weeks, regular appointments with the local psychologist and then an appointment with a specialist in workplace pressure and anxiety. I have little things planned with friends and I'm swimming every night, I even managed a yoga class last night which was lovely.
Why anyone would fake that kind of life I don't know (I'm not even sure it's possible), but I still look back on my tearful outbursts, my ashen face, dark circles under my eyes and weak body and think 'do they think I'm just a drama queen?'
I'm not. I'm someone who has a brain that works very differently to someone who can see the difference between their life and someone else's. And, I've got to stop causing myself so much pain. My psychologist got me to imagine my 14 year old self sitting next to me in her office. She got me to describe what I wearing, what my hair was like at the time, who my friends were - a really detailed picture of that girl began to emerge. She then got me to tell her she's not good enough. I couldn't. It was so cruel, and so painful that I couldn't do it. She had a point though, I do it to myself every day, all day long, and it has to stop.
It has to stop.
I find it really difficult to write here when things are good and I always worry that maybe when my life is going good and that I have nothing interesting or useful to say on Sergeant Calm. But, I'm going to be working on this for a long time so I still need it. I still need this outlet. I still need to tell you my story because who knows who it's going to help. Even if I do think I'm hopeless and stupid - I still have the strength to think about someone who might be going through this alone.
One thing I know for sure is, I'm not alone. I have the most amazing people around me right now, and that I'm going to be ok. Eventually.
Remember that even although I'm mental, I still run events to help with all of our Mental Health. My next event is on the 25th March more details and tickets available below. Much love, and see you there.