Walking the black dog

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Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

I have started walking. Almost every day. I pull on my boots and head out the door. Almost in any weather.

It takes much more determination than a simple walk really ought to. As much as every sinew in my body pulls me to stay where I am, as much as my mind says ‘what is the point in doing anything’, some part of me digs deep and gets putting one foot in front of the other.

Why give so much effort?

Why do I walk?

I do it because I need to. Because otherwise I would sit here day after day never leaving these walls around me. Because I have more walls around me than the stone ones of my house. Because I need to escape.

Read about dealing with depression or anxiety and you will see exercise mentioned as a-good-thing-to-do. And it does work. It connects me to the world outside. Reminds me that there is more than the narrowed existence in my head. The world breathes with me and I with it. I live. I move. Ideas pop and songs repeat in my head.

And it does work.

Until it doesn’t

I seek escape yet my feet tread the same path over and over again. Taking me back to where I started. Nothing has changed. I walk and I want to keep walking almost as if I feel that I can out walk myself. But I can’t. What troubles me is not within the walls of my house, it is within my own walls.

I walk and the black dog walks with me.

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Getting the words out

I need a blog post.

I need to write.

I have ideas in my head, scribbled down on what is to hand when the thoughts occur. Yet I am stuck. Again. The words are there, I can feel them. Thrumming away under my skin in a need-to-get-out-but-I-don’t-know-how kinda way.

Where does this come from? This need to write. I suppose words on paper, on screen, have always been my way of communicating.

Ask me to speak to someone and words flee from me like I have asked them to face their worst fears. I stutter, stumble over my words. Spending my time in my head overthinking every word I say. Wondering why I cannot be more interesting, more funny, more full of words.

Written down though it feels like my words come alive. Like I can actually get out the me that lives inside. The one that needs to speak. The one that usually hides because it is too shy, too scared, too doubtful.

It is the one thing that I have always felt I can do. That deep down I know I am good at even if the doubter in me sometimes disagrees.

I am always telling people with mental health issues to talk to someone, to share what they are going through. Yet I know how difficult this feels to do. I know that feeling far too well. The fear of what the reaction might be, the worry that you will lay yourself bare only to be let down or rejected, the knowledge that no one can fix you. The impossibility of putting it into words.

This is only part of what stops me talking to others. I find when I try to speak about how I feel that the words simply don’t come out right. That what I say fails time and time. That I can’t get out of me what it really feels like to be me. That I end either saying nothing or only scratch the surface. Passing off how I am really feeling as something much more superficial.

I can’t do that with writing.

I have to be honest. I type without pause, without censor. I am honest even if sometimes it feels brutal. I can ‘speak’ this way because no one is watching, I am not watching them. People can read or not read. They can respond if they want or they can ignore it and carry on as they were. I don’t feel the rejection and the words in the end always come out.  

Appearances can be deceptive

 

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Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

 

I catch that look in their eyes. The disbelief as they register what I have said to them. I know to look for it.

I have seen it many times before.

You see I hide it well. The face I present to the world is not always how I feel. It rarely is. The bone aching tiredness, bleakness and emotions that live within me are not easy to share. It is easier to hide them away. To pretend that everything is okay. That my world is not falling apart around me. That I can’t breathe sometimes because of what the anxiety is doing to me.

That sometimes the depression overwhelms and sometimes it empties me of everything.

This is not something I do because I want it to appear like I have an awesome life. I fill up my Instagram and Facebook feed with happy things because it is easier. Because I don’t want to make people worry, feel awkward, walk away from me. Because I find it difficult to talk, to share.

And because sometimes I need reminding that I do have good things in my life.

From the outside I can see how it must look like I am okay, that I am happy with life. After all I get up every day. I shower, I brush my teeth. I talk to people and I go out. I laugh, I smile.

You don’t see me when I’m alone.

You don’t see is the effort it costs me. How I have to build myself up to do it all. How I have a social ‘hangover’ from spending time with people. How it drains me. The pretence of enjoyment when all I want is a quiet corner to myself. How I hide away in toilets sometimes steeling myself to rejoin the people outside. The physical need to be alone.

I still function.

Some days though that is all I can do. And it takes everything I have. Sometimes simply functioning exhausts me. Sometimes I can only do it because I feel I have to. Because not doing it is sometimes so inviting it scares me. Because I don’t want people to worry.

So yes I understand why I see that look in people’s eyes when I tell them I have anxiety and depression. I understand why people find it strange when I tell them I am struggling. I understand how I act around others makes it difficult to see. I can’t blame people for not seeing it when I do such a good job at acting like everything is okay.

High functioning anxiety and depression is cruel. No one can see what is going on. Unless you tell them. So if someone does tell you that they are struggling, try to control that reaction. You have no idea how much it has cost them to say that to you.

And don’t then slip back to believing them when they take up the role again that everything is okay.