It’s OK Not To Be OK – by Heather Ness
Originally Posted Jan 19th, at The Imperfectly Perfect Parent
Not too long ago, I hugged a stranger. This lady probably even younger than myself, was quite clearly distressed. I tapped her car door to which she opened and burst into more tears. She was sitting with a letter on her legs, which I could only see was NHS results of some description. I tried to console her and ask her what was wrong. From the floods of tears emerged a slight description to her pain – she had gotten terrible, terrible news. In that moment I didn’t have a word to say and for me, that does not happen often if ever. I had no answers to give this girl, no way of helping her other than reaching out and holding her. Something in that hug told me not to ask anymore questions, it told me not to say anything, it was enough to know she wasn’t in control of this news. I cannot get her out my head. I offered to give her my number, to take her somewhere or to stay with her but she just continued to say ‘Thank you, it’s OK, I’ll be OK.’
Emotional scars are one of the hardest to heel. I have by no means been dealt the worst of hands. I have however, felt the depth of loneliness that can send you over the edge, the feeling that makes you sit and wonder what your purpose is, pushing you to question if you have the strength to walk the path that is currently in front of you in order to get to where your meant to be. I was born with a mind that believed I could do anything I wanted, a free spirit and a mind that told me I had no boundaries, no rules and no limits to where I could go. I didn’t want to just painfully walk my path to get to the ‘finish line,’ I wanted to enjoy every single minute of the walk too. In the beginning, in my teenage and hardest years – I was so incredibly lost because my path to this current life, felt so damn painful.
I fought a lot of battles. To this day I replay holding my dads hand for the last time and wish on my younger self to have had it longer. I look back at certain periods of my life and I just see black. There are choices I made, horrible experiences I allowed to happen and actions I took that I no longer can fully remember but I no are still there. They are there because I relive them when I watch my girls grow and fear that they even feel an ounce of the hurt I did to get where I am. I have come to accept and believe it was all worth it and all meant to happen but I am yet to accept that my beautiful little girls may have some struggles to face in their lives one day too.
A few months ago I shook the hand of a new friend and to my horror, scars I thought had long since disappeared in my late teens were prominent on my wrists. I had not seen these scars in years and for some reason, they were there and continued to appear for weeks after. At first I was embarrassed but then I remembered where all those mistakes had led me.
Seeing those scars when I did, at a time where I was struggling with my anxiety in every day family life, was a miracle. I honestly believe it was a reminder to stay strong. To look at where life had brought me after being in my darkest of places, having lost my belief that the life I had imagined was not real – here I was, standing right in it. I had made it and I was a pillar of hope to those who hadn’t quite got there.
When depression hits, it hits hard. You can be surrounded by friends and family and in the pit of your stomach there’s a rock that won’t budge. Holding back a bubble in your throat that consistently gives you the urge to hurl. Trying to peer through the haze in front of your eyes just to attempt, for at least a second feel what it’s like to not to be overcome with the heaviest and ugliest of feelings. Depression comes in many forms and can hit even at the happiest points of your life – I learnt this during my second pregnancy when I thought I’d finally rid myself of it. I wanted to be excited about another new arrival to our family but instead, I became scared and lonely. I believed I was selfish for thinking I could have two children and still give my first daughter the love and attention she deserved with no friends and family near by to soften the blow. I was struggling with our home life, the loneliness and the physical impact my pregnancy had already had on me, which also led to me being unable to play with my first born the way I always did. My physical health in my second pregnancy led me down a slippery slope and my mental health got missed somewhere down the line, very few people noticed the signs. All of a sudden I had convinced myself I couldn’t do it – I didn’t believe I was strong enough. The hardest part about that time in my life was the guilt. The guilt consistently made me break down, completely out the blue. It wasn’t like before when I was younger – nobody had died, nobody had hurt me. I was married, living in a beautiful home with a beautiful, happy, healthy baby girl and was carrying yet another inside me – how dare I feel this way. I didn’t want my husband to witness me being so selfish, so I pushed him away – I had no notion to cuddle or seek love in any way. I spent many a day unable to speak without wanting to break down. For a long while, every day felt like I was going to stop breathing – I just couldn’t control the panic. I would fulfil my role as mum and smile for my baby every day, then I would go to bed and cry. Fortunately for me, I got through that without professional guidance but it was not an easy ride and oh how I wish there was someone I knew I could have spoken to that had genuinely felt exactly what I was feeling and would have told me it would be OK – because if it was someone who had felt that pain, I’d have believed them.
There is a gift that comes from experiencing life blows. You become more compassionate and can sympathise on a level of understanding that can inevitably change and better a person. Through life there is lessons, with lessons there is knowledge and with knowledge there is the power to heal another.
Recently I have had these waves of feeling like I needed to speak to someone, I was getting angry for things I knew I shouldn’t and so deeply upset over matters that didn’t matter. Happy and enjoyable moments from now, were digging up ugly events from my past. I know this wasn’t depression this time but Ialso knew the anxiety I had been feeling was at it’s highest and it was ruining my time with my children. Moments where I should have been feeling joy, I was feeling fear of loss and sadness. I was replaying conversations with family and friends over and over in my head because I had convinced myself I would loose their love. Apologising daily for nothing other than to cover up my concerns of people disliking me. At nights I regularly lay in bed holding my chest feeling as if my heart was about to jump out, picturing my children without me, preparing myself for the day I got cancer or my husband dyeing. Those thoughts of losing everything I have now are a daily torment for me.
You’ll know a person with anxiety because for the most part, they care far more than any human should. It’s a care that out stretches any humans capabilities of fixing situations but they continue to try. It’s a care for strangers, for every horrible comment and unfortunate situation there is and then trying aimlessly to find explanations for everything. They over think a situation or a planned day to the point they don’t go or live in fear of things going wrong. After a meeting, a night out or a day doing something other than their norm, they will go to bed and analyse every conversation they’ve had in fear they’ve said something wrong or upset someone. Don’t misinterpret their avoidance with not loving you or wanting to be with you – its usually quite the opposite. Their overwhelming fear of failure and judgement can stop them in their tracks to enjoyment on a daily basis.
Common phrases I used to hear from people who were trying to help but didn’t understand usually consisted of joining classes, finding work, going out and making friends and keeping myself busy. Sometimes I’d even hear one of the most worst phrases you can be told when your in that bubble – “There’s people far worse off than you.” What they didn’t quite get was the part where I could painfully do all of those things and carry that rock everywhere I went. In fact, the more new faces I met, the lonelier I became because I didn’t want to burden them with issues of my past that had spiralled because I didn’t speak to someone. Instead I was reminded my solitude wouldn’t be fixed by adding numbers to my friends list. The only three healers I know to date is time, talking (to the right people) and when you don’t have the courage to do that – write.
The day I met that girl in the surgery car park, was the day I’d told myself it was time to get help but instead, I told the doctors both kids had the cold and I walked back to our car feeling defeated. My bad experiences with doctors in the past flinging anti-depressants at me and sending me home had left me feeling scared of seeking help ever again. More so my irrational thinking made me feel embarrassed about going to the doctors with my two beautiful girls to tell them I wasn’t coping in my own thoughts again.
Then I seen that girl. She gave me the sign. She was that piece of the puzzle I needed to move forward. Since that day everything has gotten easier again. She had no control over the news she’d been given but I, in some way did. I had to trust that if I made the move, if I chose to talk – in time my life would get better again. I walked toward our beautiful family car, I looked at the love of my life and turned round to see what our love had created. I was overwhelmed with the idea that I was in control and from that moment, I extended an arm and I began to talk to my husband and before I knew it, things were getting easier. I am by no means 100% rid of my demons but I am out that bubble, I am here enjoying my life and everyone who is in it. I am spending my days growing a community of like minded people and I cannot wait to share the next part of my venture with you all.
If your sh*t days become sh*t weeks and before you know it, your emotions have taken over your happiness – your physically and emotionally struggling, take that leap and know there is the right help. Don’t sit and compare your situation to others and try determine if your problems are ‘worthy’ of help before you try – just ask yourself if you are happy and if you aren’t – make the call, send the email and find help.
PANDAS Foundation had asked I write a blog to raise awareness to their mission – since then it had me feeling relief that there was help out there and an excitement to share my story. People who have felt that pain are out there, ready to speak to those who are struggling – they are bridging gaps that others miss. Sometimes one conversation or one situation can be the turning point to happier times, other times however it needs you to make the leap. Fortunately for me, it came that day in a way I hadn’t expected and my life yet again has dramatically shifted.
Depression and anxiety is not an illness to be ashamed of. Even though at times it feels uncontrollable, it’s also not an illness that’s incurable. Remember that.
To the girl no older than myself who made that shift for me. I left your arms and was greeted by my happy, healthy and beautiful family. I was quickly reminded I was in control, I had a choice to start shifting my health to a better place and I owed that you, to my family and to myself. I will forever be grateful for meeting you and I can only hope whatever happens, you’ll find peace again.
You can read more from Heather at her online blog, The Perfectly Imperfect Parent.
You can call PANDAS Helpline 9am-8pm for Peer Support and advice. In an emergency, or if you feel unsafe, go to your nearest emergency department or call 999.