Speaking Out.

725,000 people are thought to be currently suffering with an eating disorder in the UK (b-eat.co.uk), that’s just eating disorders – imagine the numbers for how many people are suffering with any mental illnesses. Sadly, we’ll never know the numbers. People are too afraid to come forward and speak openly, and who’s to blame?

Us. You and me. Society.

Somehow we’ve created a world in which suffering with a mental illness is often thought of as weak and pathetic, something that would only happen to someone feeble, someone fragile, someone unlike the person any of us strive to be.

It is this lie, this all too common misconception, that is creating a world in which so many of us who experience periods in which our mental health causes us so much pain and angst, sit quiet, living with a tortuous mind without telling anyone. We sit there with constant critical commentary running through our minds. We tell ourselves we’re unworthy. Who would want to know someone unsteady? Who would want to hire someone undependable? Who would want to be with someone unstable?

If you’re suffering with a mental illness you are not weak, you are not fragile, you are not broken. You are strong, able and brave. You wake up each morning and face the demons. You carry on living, despite the hateful narration running through your mind. You face the self-criticism and the self-destructive thoughts and you battle through. And one day this will become easier, and you’ll start to notice that the bad days are becoming scarcer and the tiny ray of hope starts to grow until life is suddenly easier again, not perfect, not always happy, not unceasing sunshine and rainbows but it’s just not an endless dark and heavy abyss. Life will be ok again.

If we continue to defy the social norms, stand up and tell our stories, be open and honest about our struggle we can create a world in which this is ok. Let’s create a world in which physical illness and mental illness are treated equally, and we’re not congratulated for our bravery when we speak out.

 

 

 

Your past is not your future.

Just as everyone you meet will have experienced happiness, hunger, thirst, love, loss…everyone you meet  will have experienced pain and sadness.

The emotional scars left after traumatic experiences, just like physical scars, can stay with you forever. Sometimes, the emotions left behind, the flashbacks,  the pain, the memories can be so all consuming that everyday life is unimaginable.

I struggle to talk about the moments in my past that caused me the most pain and anguish because, for me, talking about them makes it real. My lowest points are memories, which I am so thankful for, but when I bring attention and thought to these memories – this is where fear takes over.

When I feel a moment, however brief, of sadness I am reminded of that all consuming nightmare I was once in. I’m reminded of using all my energy just to attempt to keep my head above the water, reminded of being stuck in a downward spiral in which every time you reach the bottom, the floor opens up and somehow you fall further. I’m reminded of the days, months, years spent fighting and the days, months, years where fighting seemed unattainable. I’m reminded of endless sleepless nights, and endless days in bed. And worst of all, I’m reminded of the all consuming fear of life and belief that my life had no worth.

I’ve spent many years thinking that the events of my past have been trivial, that I’m so incredibly lucky to have had the upbringing and opportunities that have been presented to me. I’ve felt that how I was feeling, and how I’d let the “small” setbacks in my life affect me was selfish. So many people had it worse, i’ve not been abused or tortured. What gives me the right to feel like this?

However, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m learning to accept that not everyone will understand how I’ve felt and how things have affected me. No, I may never be able to talk completely openly about my life without a huge amount of discomfort, and maybe I will always have that lingering fear of falling in the back of my mind. But there is no reason why I should let that stop me from feeling enjoyment, happiness, and life. There is no quick fix to stopping your past defining you but every year I’m further away from hell than I once was.

What you’ve been through will never be your fault. It will get easier, even on the days where it feels like it will never leave.

 

Shame. Anger. Guilt.

“We need never to be ashamed of our tears” – Charles Dickens (Yes I did just quote great expectations).

Shame. Anger. Guilt. Three emotions that can kill. If you broke your leg, would you feel them? No. Then why do so many people living with mental health problems feel them on such an intense level all the time?

I genuinely believe it’s the “quantification” of mental illnesses that can really contribute to these emotions. When someone says the words incredibly, very, severely when talking about mental illness my inner nutcase comes out kicking and screaming. No mental illness is not severe. Anyone struggling with depression is living with a torturous mind whether they’re unable to move through fear or continuing a “normal” (worst word in the world) life. Eating disorders will render you to shreds whether you’re a BMI of 25 or 11. Addiction will control every waking moment whether you’re “functioning” or “non-functioning”.

I’ve spoken to too many people who have told me they’re fine (second worst word in the world) when they’re not. The sentence “it could be worse” plagues my conversations. Yes, it could be worse. Yes, there will always be someone out there who is worse off. This does not mean that you should ever feel shame, anger or guilt about struggling. You should never let these emotions stop you asking for help.

Someone I love told me they look back on a period haunted by addiction with shame and regret. SHAME. No one would ever look back at physical illness with shame. Never. I look back at the time when this person was at their lowest and never once did I feel like they should feel ashamed or embarrassed. It’s only the sufferer that feels it and when you’re living with the harassing, excruciating, agonizing demon that is your own mind emotions such a shame, guilt and anger are simply not needed.

C.S Lewis once said “don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?” No one deserves to suffer.

Over and out.

 

Defining Yourself.

“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”― Toni Morrison, Beloved.

When asked “Who are you?” what would your reply be?

The academic? The athlete? The musician? The boyfriend? The wife? The parent? The comedian? The pretty one? The rebel? Or even more distressing, the mentally ill?

Having something that you excel at, that sets you apart from everyone else, if healthy, can be such a beautiful expression of uniqueness; something to embrace, something to be passionate about, something to be proud of.

However, to define yourself as one thing, to live in fear that without this label you’d be nothing, can’t be healthy. There is no one in this world that can be defined as one thing. Everyone I’ve ever met has so many different qualities that come together to form a unique, captivating, fascinating individual. Dropping one quality, one label, will never mean your identity is lost. I truly believe obsession can never be healthy.

When living with a mental illness, the thoughts that consume your mind can be so powerful and overwhelming there is no space for you to think about anything else, and therefore, it is so easy to think there is nothing else to you. You are never defined by your mental illness. You may have depression, but you are not the depressive. You may have anorexia, but you are not the anorexic.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that I do not have to define myself as one thing, without labels, I am still Maddy. For now, the Maddy without labels is fine for me.

“People are too complicated to have simple labels.”― Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass.

“I know, but I think”

Inspiration, a word to which the dictionary doesn’t do justice, is a powerful and life changing word. Lara Partridge wholly inspired this blog.

There are so many negatives in life, for example; mental illnesses, hate, substance abuse, grief, and lies – the list can go on forever. If you take many of them, the sentence “I know it’s irrational, but my thoughts can’t accept that” apply to almost all of them.

Take lying, you know that lies are wrong due to the guilt or shame in telling them, but there is something telling you that the truth will harm you or someone else – so lying is the best option.

Take depression, you know deep down that the lows will end, that life can’t always be this way, because life hasn’t always been this way. You know that the thoughts are unreasonable, you know the pain you go through every second is disconnected from reality. But there’s always something niggling away that thinks otherwise. You’re thoughts can be so powerful that they can overtake this basic knowledge. You know, but you think.

Please take what I’m saying with a pinch of salt – I’m very often wrong, I sure as hell don’t know everything, in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t know anything and in reality, the shit in life which each person goes through are all so different.

This didn’t actually come from me at all – It was someone 5 years my junior that told me this. And this shows that “wisdom comes with age” is bollocks. This girl has inspired me, in one afternoon, more than anyone ever has.

Lara, you deal with more than I can ever imagine on a daily basis, but you wake up each morning and you battle. You fight inner demons every day, you fight external battles every day, but you’re spirit is so beautiful, so truthful and so knowledgeable. It takes one meaningful conversation with you to tell that you understand me and everyone else on a deeper level than most people do.

I may have left the Partridge household having lost my hair and eyebrows, but I gained so much more, including a will to write …and “I love to Boogie” going round and round my head.

I was not born for this.

I was not born for this.

I was not born to live a life fearing how others view me. I was born to stand proud of who I am and what I do. I was born to be thoroughly who I am, stand up for what I believe in. Listen to those who fascinate me, form my own opinions, fight for what I think deserves my attention and not lie awake at night worrying over if I have done wrong in the eyes of others.

I was not born to look down when walking past people in the street. I was born to have the confidence to look people in the eye, to raise my head, be present in every moment of my life. I am not here to be ashamed of who I am and what I look like. I was not born to look perfect. To have the ideal figure, to have the best make up, to dress nicely, to brush my hair. I was born to wear running leggings and put my hair up, and to then still recognize the beauty in that.

I was not born to watch every morsel of food that enters my mouth. I was not born to sacrifice the 5/10/20kg I was meant to have on me just so I could seem powerful, respectable and capable. I was born to enjoy good food with good people and eat bad food with bad people, I was born to enjoy each moment, be spontaneous, be free from inner torment.

I was not born to believe relationships end in pain. To avoid forming any bond worth forming in fear of someone being hurt. I was born to experience heartache. I was not born to be reliant on others for my own sanity. I was born to be equally in love with my own company and those I care for. Because I truly believe, without being content with myself, life cannot be fulfilling.

I was born to see the world, run the outdoors, meet new people and make mistakes. I was born to love, hate, smile, laugh, cry. I was born to have days where I feel untouchable and days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I was born to be truly, 100% me.

Hero to Zero

Surrounded by ambitious, enthusiastic, determined people. Everyone is working hard, getting degrees, getting phd’s, getting married, eating goji berries, looking like Megan Fox, playing the oboe, representing their country and then there’s those who do all the above. Which is great, I salute you all.

 

Me, I’m the opposite. I went from the straight A*, international athlete who had more than 10 real friends to the slightly chubbs, goes home every weekend, hates you all, don’t know when I last spent money on makeup, oldest fresher ever.

 

And here’s my tips for those who have done life the wrong way round:

 

  • Don’t throw things at those who are good at life. It’s not their fault you’re a jealous ex-high achiever.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, it’s a waste of time and energy and only ends in feeling inferior.
  • Lower your standards.
  • Expect nothing.
  • Celebrate the small things – I flicked my shoe over my bed and into the bin earlier – so rewarded myself with a cider.
  • Get at least 3 really regrettable tattoos – just so someone gets a laugh out of your downfall.
  • Don’t mourn the old you, your parents are probably doing enough pining over that young prodigy child for the both of you.