Today I Realised Something I Thought Was Impossible
I thought this might come, if it was ever going to, at some clichéd moment full of purpose.
You know, during a night of Instagram-worthy camping under the stars. At the end of a particularly fantastic book, or staring out of a train window while meaningful music plays in the background. Perhaps under the influence of yet another type of antidepressant, or discussing something in therapy.
But it’s actually not a particularly remarkable day.
I’m curled up on the sofa, laptop perched on my knees. I have a microbiology exam in a few days so I’m revising the acyl homoserine lactone system of quorum sensing in the Gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is about as riveting as it sounds. There’s a dog snoring a few feet away and the sound of kids released for lunchtime at the school next door. My housemate is sautéing tomatoes for her lunch. It’s all rather… ordinary. No background music.
But I look up from my screen and suddenly realise: I’m okay.
The past 4 months have been challenging.
After a long period of dementia, my Grandma passed away. The business I freelanced for went into liquidation. I went back to university after 8 months working in the real world and decided I hate paying thousands of pounds to memorise a bunch of facts. The health of the gorgeous dog I grew up with declined and eventually disappeared. My friend, struggling with his own mental demons, died in a distressing accident. I made the decision to end my 3-year relationship.
But I have survived all of those things.
And not only have I survived (verb: continued to exist), but I now know:
I am okay. I will be okay.
That probably seems an overly obvious statement. Apologies if you were expecting a truly groundbreaking discovery.
But it’s a complete perspective shift. Like when you realise your parents are just the same as you: fallible adults trying to make their best of the world. Or when you find a shortcut you never knew existed and two places are suddenly linked in a way you didn’t know, before. Or when you first have Nutella and banana on toast and realise you have reached the pinnacle of breakfast brilliance.
After nearly 22 years of a life often crushed by depression and anxiety and panic, that knowledge — that I can survive some pretty crap stuff and come out alright on the other side — is, for me, bloody momentous.
So I wanted to share that. Partly because I am proud of all the work I have put in to get to this point, and partly to tell you it’s possible if you believe the opposite.
“I hope to one day see a sea of people all wearing silver ribbons… as a celebration of the victories made each day as we individually pull ourselves up out of our foxholes to see our scars heal, and to remember what the sun looks like.”
— Jenny Lawson
Recovery is tangible.
I fully recognise the huge privileges afforded to me by being able to have medication, rely on the support of my family, study and work part-time, attend therapy for years, and live in a country where stigma around mental health is comparatively low (though still too high).
If you’d like to make a difference, perhaps consider donating to a charity such as USP Kenya, dropping in some unwanted clothes or volunteering at a local Mind shop, or just checking in with a friend who’s had a tough week. If you’re struggling — like 1 in 4 of us will this year — please hear me when I say that things can be manageable.
Thanks to my sister, Charlotte, for proofreading this. Did you know she helped stop someone jumping off a bridge the other day? She’s awesome.
If you liked this post, check out How to Enjoy Nature When All You Want To Do Is Stay in Bed, or 3 Tips for Black Dog Owners.