‘You’re on your own. You are not enough. You look different. You will never forget the mistakes you made. They were right about you. You’ve missed your chance. You’re life will never be significant. He is better than you.’
Over and over again, these phrases played (and play) in my mind. They are the tracks on my least favourite record and yet they are the tracks I play the most; an album of self-loathing written to keep me depressed.
For as long as I can remember I have been sorry. I apologise with the same regularity as other people take a breath. I hear myself doing it all the time. I say something, my eyes dart around the faces of those present, trying to read disapproval or approval in a split second glance, then the words spill out, ‘Sorry.’
The low thudding beat of anxiety with which I live tells me to be wary of trusting people, to hide my pain and to keep quiet about my hopes. It brings my body to panic without warning and keeps me from asking for help.
Every compliment I receive is either dismissed as a lie or empty flattery; I cannot seem to believe a good word said about me. I will quickly forget the good comments and replay the bad comments late into the night.
I am ill. I am mentally ill. I have anxiety and depression. The above is how my life is when I don’t speak about my illness. The cycle of self destruction is what happens when I don’t take my little white pill every day. If I choose silence, and I don’t take that pill life is painful and exhausting. When I talk about my anxiety and medicate, I recognise the damage those thoughts are causing and the lies that lurk behind them. It is like the difference between breathing fresh air and smog.
I didn’t talk about my pain for years. I didn’t seek help for years. I hid it. I bottled it up. I just kept on going. Then I couldn’t keep on anymore. My health failed and I was forced to get help. The thing that sustained me once I was getting help were the messages from those who had been in similar situations. I was held up by podcast interviews in which people discussed their struggles. It was other people’s stories of surviving and even thriving with mental illness that kept me going forward. Solidarity is a powerful thing.
I wrote The Voices That Haunt Us because I know that hearing the story of someone else’s battle is an encouragement to keep on fighting. I wrote it for the people who are lonely like I have been, who are feeling insignificant like I often do and who are frozen by shame. I wrote it for people like me, in the hope that if they read it they will feel less alone.
I wrote it so that people who need help can read a story of what getting help is like and have some guidance on how to get it. I wrote it for people who are scared of anti-depressants and counsellors. I wrote it to kill a stigma.
I hope it helps people. If one person feels seen or less alone or gets help because of reading it then it is a success. That’s all that matters. We can get through the hardest of times. We are stronger than we think we are.