The waves that keep knocking me down
My psychologist once told me my mental illness had made me more resilient. She said my mental illness was like a consistent wave and the harder it hit me, the more determined I seemed to keep walking into the water.
When she said it, a visibly scoffed and said, “I don’t like the beach very much and I’m terrified of waves.”
She laughed and changed the topic, but my head stayed in that moment.
I didn’t feel resilient. I felt like an absolute failure. When I eventually decided to get help for the first time, I was in my first year of university and I should have been having the time of my life. Instead, I was hiding behind a smile and good grades. I kept up appearances, but the cracks started to show. I was drinking too much. I was making terrible choices and pushing people away.
When I was at my worst, I felt anxious every single day. I struggled to get through the day without feeling an overwhelming and intense fear. I had at least two panic attacks a week that were so bad I couldn’t leave my tiny shoebox bedroom. I was suicidal. I was so depressed I would self-harm almost every night, ensuring I kept it hidden so no one would know what was going on.
Eventually, and with a lot of help, I got better. And eventually I realised she was right.
It took me a long time, but now I understand what she meant. I am resilient.
I won’t be naïve. I know that I didn’t struggle as much as some people did. I know I had a good support system and someone who pushed me to get help. I know that compared to some people, I got back to a ‘good’ headspace pretty quickly (good is questionable).
But that happened because I am resilient.
I learnt how to pick myself up even when I didn’t want to. Every single knock back, every single panic attack, every single time I sat in the shower and cried; I still picked myself up and got on with life. I worked hard to ‘get better’. I started to understand that every situation I perceived as a failure was really an opportunity to learn, and to grow.
I’ve developed coping strategies which help me overcome any feelings of anxiety or depression. I write. I walk. I lift weight and punch stuff. I remember that I am strong, and I can bounce back.
Day to day, I manage stress and challenge far better than I ever would have in the past. Like what my psychologist said, I am confident, a large part of that is because of my struggles with mental health. I feel like if I can get through that dark place in my life, I can get through pretty much anything.
I’ll be honest. I still get overwhelmed and anxious. My chest still feels tight sometimes and I can’t stop my hands from shaking, or the sweat from dripping down my back. I still have days where I don’t want to get out of bed, and I forget to look after myself but I know that these moments that are not forever.
I’ve learnt that I will always get back up, even when the waves knock me down.
And do you know what? I’m not so scared of waves anymore.