Don’t Stop Smiling!!

Most days I can almost pass as a ‘normal’ human being. I can carry out all my roles and responsibilities as a parent, partner, adult etc without having a meltdown or needing a glass bottle of wine. I get up, get the kids up, make breakfast, put the dishwasher on and get some washing sorted out. I may even find the energy to straighten my hair or put on some make up (Haha who am I kidding?!). To almost everyone I see that day I will just appear as another person going about their business, with the same worries and hopes as everyone else. Except I’m not the same. Even on my best days, my head is buzzing, from the moment that I am awake I am inundated with anxious thoughts and feelings. The depression I experience is always there waiting to strike but it is dormant. My anxiety is not. Every look, every word anyone says is scrutinised in my mind, the tone of voice, the body language used and turn of phrase is all analysed within an inch of its life.

Are they saying what they really mean? Do they even like me? They keep looking at my chin, do I have a spot? Or have i got food or toothpaste on my face? Should I try and wipe it away or will they notice and then feel guilty for staring? I don’t want them to feel guilty, even if they don’t like me. I’ll wrap the conversation up and leave, keep smiling, whatever you do don’t. stop. smiling!!

It doesn’t end when the conversation ends either, that will stay with me for the rest of the day at least, I will continuously be checking the mirror for any abnormalities on my face, I will avoid talking to others and I will look at the floor when I’m walking around a busy place. Occassionally this may even stop me from leaving the house/car (my safe places) for a day or two, I will let my phone die and then not bother charging it so i don’t have to talk to people, my partner will do the shopping and school runs. The slightest interaction can zap my energy for hours. After a day at university surrounded by 300+ people I am mentally exhausted. I can barely hold a conversation together some evenings. After 17 years of this, it now impacts on me physically as well in the form of fibromyalgia. The pain is constant and has several dimensions.

The point I’m trying to make is that clinically diagnosed anxiety isn’t just severe panic attacks. It is a constant. Happy or sad. It’s a pattern of thinking that is exhausting and at times, destructive. It is not like depression that comes and goes in differing severities dependant on circumstances, it is as much a part of me as my morals and values. Over time I have stopped it from controlling me and my actions, but it is still influencing my feelings every day and will do I expect for the rest of my life.

But I won’t stop smiling.




One More Light

I have had this blog now for around 8 weeks, searching for something to write about as my first post. Should it be a story of my life so far? A general insight on how depression and anxiety affects me? Advice and guidance on coping strategies? I had no idea. But last night I learned that another great and talented musician took his own life and I just had to write something.

Chester Bennington was the front man of Linkin Park, a nu-metal/alternative band that appeared on the scene in 2000 with their debut album Hybrid Theory. At this point I was 13 and at the start of my journey with depression, which was severe at the beginning. Linkin Park, along with other bands such as Papa Roach, Korn, Lostprophets and Limp Bizkit provided the soundtrack to my life. The anger, the pain and the shear honesty of their anguish aided me through some of the darkest times in my life. Linkin Park, in particular, touched my soul, they had awesome riffs, some really uplifting lyrics and an awe-inspiring singer whose voice was like liquid gold. As time wore on and my music tastes evolved so did their music. Chester’s lyrics were perfectly balanced between light and dark, he spoke to you in the depths of despair and then lifted you up to be a stronger person.

I am devastated that Chester has passed, I am upset at how he left us, I am crying with everyone who has ever felt that low to consider suicide. I have been in that empty blank space when you have no feelings left to feel, no energy to tell yourself things will be ok anymore and you just want to sleep and never wake up. I don’t want a single person to feel that way again, I wish there was a miracle cure. For now, with every story of suicide, with every story of any mental illness I hope that it at least brings awareness, support and help to those that are silently screaming. That way, we can make light out of this darkness, we can bring strength in the deepest pits of despair and we can make sure that tragedy’s like Chester’s happen less and less.Pay attention to those around you, it doesn’t matter how many friends they have, what their income is, where they live… depression does not discriminate. People may try to reach out to you in tentative ways, they may push you away, they may turn their back completely, but if you care about them just make sure they know that you are listening. Listen to their unspoken words, the sentences that they don’t quite finish, notice their anxious body language, the nails that are so badly bitten they bleed, pay attention when they are constantly ‘joking’ about how much they hate themselves… support, love unconditionally and never judge.

Chester Bennington inspired a generation and that is something we will never forget. His name is written in all our hearts and souls. Forever.