“I did quite well at school. I never really had a problem with any of my subjects …except for French. I’d try and try but no matter how many hours I slaved over of my French textbook I just couldn’t get my head around it. It’s no surprise then that French orals were torturous for me. The thing was, I understood the questions perfectly fine but I just couldn’t translate the answer that was inside my head into French. Whenever someone asks me how I am the same nightmare repeats itself. I do my best to avoid social contact because that question inevitably comes up. It’s not that I don’t want to talk or that I don’t trust the people around me, I just can’t put it into the right words. I’m like a computer with a broken translator and my tongue has become a scrapyard for the half formed sentences that have never been said. It’s hard living in a world where you can’t speak the language. That’s what mental illness does to you; it robs you of your voice. It robs you of your ability to answer a simple question… How are you?”
“Overwhelmed, lonely, a burden. I want life to stand still for a moment and give me time to catch up. I’m seeing everyone around me living whilst I only exist. I’m at an age where friends are moving forward in life; marriage, babies, employment. Yet here I am, solidly stuck in a mentality no better than when my eating disorder began. I’m being left behind. Yes I have completed school, obtained good A-levels and am even due to complete a nursing degree. But for me these are simply motions of life – things I have scraped through with the bare minimum. People around me see these ‘accomplishments’ and unknowingly believe that I’m okay, as though mental illness is merely a fleeting phase. Truthfully these past few years have been exhausting, as if I’ve been waiting patiently for life to take a direction, things to fall into place, for my existence to become meaningful. When people ask “How are you?” I respond with a habitual “I’m fine”. I can be very convincing with this statement – there are times where I even believe it myself. But left alone with my thoughts, I realise I’ve shut everyone out, I’m alone and I’m not “fine” “
“I have never been better thank you. I have learnt to live much more in the present moment. I have learnt to trust that whatever happens it will all be alright. When I feel anger, or fear or disappointment, I allow myself to feel those emotions and then let go. I know now that I no longer have to carry feelings close to me for long periods of time. In this space of trust and allowing I can honestly say I have never felt happier. I feel joy, excitement, contentment, bliss, occasionally, momentarily I feel things that make me sad or unhappy, but now I know how to let those things go. I no longer resist and it is all alright. So thank you for asking, I am very happy. For you my wish is that you can experience your emotions and let go of the ones you don’t want to keep. Sending you love and light through whatever you are feeling.”
“Okay okay okay. I AM NOT OKAY. I am terrified. I am so angry. I am right up against the wall of anxiety. I want to kick and punch and knock the living daylights out of it but it is so powerful. And it causes me to crouch down and obey. Yes, you are right! I am! I should! I will! I am lonely. I look at the love and care around me but I just think about the vast space between me and them and how can I tell them what I really think? I think about the love and care that I have always wanted and it makes me choke with private grief or blank out for days on end. Today I will try and do what my therapist says. I will try and look directly at the critical voice, do nothing but observe it. Loosen the grip it has one me. I am trying to see it as a separate force. It is not me. But I don’t really know what me is without it. Today I am fighting.”
“To be honest, it’s been a really rough few weeks. My anxiety has emotionally and physically drained me and it’s going to take a while to get back to where I was, but I’m getting there, and that’s what counts.”
“To most people the answer is simple: “I’m good” or “not great”.
I normally keep with the I’m ok or I’m fine response. Why? Because it’s easier.
It’s easier than saying actually I’m not doing so good. You would think that it’s not hard to say that but you’d be mistaken. “Why, what’s wrong?” Is the next question and it snowballs from there. I tell you why I’m not feeling so good, you then say “but you’ve got so much to be happy about” or “don’t worry you’ll sort it out” or “don’t worry just try be happy” or sooooooo many more answers. See this conversation isn’t technically real but I’ve already gone through all the permutations, all the answers you could say, my responses and everything in between. Nothing good comes out of me saying “I’m not doing so good” so I just say I’m fine. Its just easier that way.”
“I am scared, no petrified, that I am not feeling the benefits of my ‘last chance’ medication – lithium. Everyone in my life expects it to be a wonder drug for me. I am dreading letting everyone down if I tell them about the disgusting images of self harm still plaguing my mind. The visions of my family on fire as I go to sleep. I am so concerned with everyone else’s perception of me, that I have no time to even let it work. I feel suicidal.”
“I’m going to say I’m fine but really I’m not. I feel like I’m going to explode from the inside out. Thoughts in my head are bouncing everywhere and I’m not sure which ones are mine anymore. Some are mine but most are my eating disorder and I don’t know how to tell them apart. I wish I could ask you to help, but I won’t, I’ll just stand here and reply with what you expect me to say “I’m fine” “
“I think the only quick answer to this question is ‘I just don’t know!’
I’m everywhere, up, down, happy, sad, lonely, fulfilled, who knows?
Everyday is different… Every hour is different….full of regret for admitting I have ED as I now have to face it, guilt for what I put my family though. Wanting help but wanting everyone to just leave me alone. Ashamed of who I am.
I feel ugly and fat and I hate myself more than anyone else ever could, confused as to where that hatred comes from.
I want to get better for my son but when I think about it I just can’t see how it’s possible. This has been a part of my life always, how do I let it go! Guilt for being like this when I have a perfect son overwhelms me.
I have scars that no one knows about, they eased the pain and gave a release but I now have to live with them forever and I can’t explain how that feels.
On the outside, I’m happy. No one would ever know. People tell me I’m beautiful, have an amazing body, that I’m an amazing person but anyone I get close to leaves. So what’s wrong with me?
What’s wrong with me? The one question I ask so often but no one can answer.
Writing this has been hard, crying as I’m doing it but maybe it’s a start…..”
“I’m drowning. I keep desperately searching for the floor to put my feet down, or the surface to take a breath, but I’ve lost track of which way is up or down. I’m screaming for help but every time, I end up choking on the water I’m breathing in. The sad thing is, sometimes the water settling in my lungs is the only thing reminding me that I’m still alive. Everyone is just watching, throwing letters at me, trying to work out what suits me best – OCD, BPD, MDD? – or what think might keep me afloat – SSRI, SNRI, CMHT, CBT, DBT? But all the while “treatment resistant” feels like an anchor on my feet, a weight on my chest. Do I no longer get to be a teenager now that my life is summed up by metaphors and acronyms? These were supposed to be the best years of my life, but too often it feels like they might be the last.”
“I agree completely. My stock answer is I’m fine. Even when I want to burst in to tears.
But honestly… Today I’m not ok! Today I feel worn down and tore up thinking that I’m only 23 and if this is how difficult life is… I’m not sure I can do it for another 40+ years! I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep. I’m hungry but I can’t eat and I’m confused about everything. Every little thing is a battle and I look around at my peers and wonder how the hell they find things so easy!?! Even with all the new skills I’m learning, others still cope better than I do.
I think people underestimate the amount of self hatred it takes to hurt yourself or make yourself throw up or starve yourself because the voices of your head tell you you’re greedy and don’t deserve to eat. Why do I hate myself so much? When did this happen? And how do I make it stop???
I’m not sure … But to everyone who asks …. Of course, I’m fine.”
“How am I? I get up in the morning and go to work. I smile, I laugh, I socialize and get my job done. Sometimes I go out with friends afterwards. I go shopping, I go to the library, I feed myself and clothe myself in clean laundry – for the part. I’m trying to get by with the tools I have. Honestly? My house is a mess. The refrigerator is almost empty. The sink is overflowing with dishes. There is literally no clean silverware for me to eat with. The living room floor and kitchen table are littered with books, papers, dishes, and half-finished projects. My bedroom is also home to a few dirty dishes, but mostly my dirty laundry resides there. Perhaps it sounds like I’ve only described my living situation to you, but the state of my house is a pretty clear reflection of my mental state. On the inside, I am breaking. My world is crumbling around me and I am grasping at straws. I don’t know if I am saying the right things to my therapist or to the friends and family who try to support me. I take part in risky behaviors, and disordered behaviors that are symptoms of my illnesses. I am so depressed and so alone. I’m just trying to make it through this year without having to go to treatment for self harm, suicidality, or my eating disorder. I have done hard things and tried to grow and get better. I have made some progress. But I feel like I am stuck, and I don’t know if I can ever get out.”
“How Are You? Three simple words that absolutely terrify me. Today my consultant asked me how I was feeling and I struggled to give an honest answer. I tried to imply that I am perfectly fine whilst describing the horrible symptoms that I’ve experienced since my last appointment. I’m a busy twenty something year old girl attempting to balance work, assignments, family, friends, uni and chronic PTSD. I lie to myself and tell myself that I am fine when I’m clearly not. I’m living a double life; attending DBT groups and mindfulness workshops, oblivious to those around me, working my best to avoid hospitalisation. Every moment of every day is not filled with hopelessness. I love, laugh and live just like those around me. I may laugh and smile constantly but I cry constantly too. I live in fear that I will never be rid of this illness. I try to balance my group homework with my Uni Work, the effects of my medication with my social life and relationships. What happened to me may have turned me into a person capable of intense anger and hatred, but I’m also capable of forgiveness and compassion. I may have laughed and smiled today but I am not okay, I am not fine. I am trying my best though.”
“Whenever asked “How Are You?” my carbon copy response is “I’m great”. Great? Hmmm well, great at lying sure. Having Bipolar Disorder my moods can change like the wind, but my default is depression. Over the years I’ve learned a safe façade so that I don’t have to give away how I am really feeling.
How do you answer this question, without a wave of questions leading to you having to explain you spent the weekend in hospital after a failed suicide attempt, that you are hearing voices, are taking so many medications you can barely remember your name, you have fallen out with your family, and are becoming best friends with the nurses on the crisis line?!
So, in order of honesty here is my honest answer for today. “I don’t feel so great, but the sun is shining which gives me hope.”
Of course, being Bipolar means sometimes, things really are just great!”
“How are you? How am I?
I’m okay…no really…okay no I’m not, I don’t feel anything, I’m empty, my stomach is a bottomless pit, I can’t hear past my own spiralling thoughts, my brain running overtime, I feel that empty I feel physically sick. I’m not ok..I might say I am, I might try to believe that I am, I might look like I am, but I’m not.”
“ How are you?” A question that I always find difficult to answer. Sometimes I say I’m okay just to fool you and you believe me. That’s the thing you see I hate that question because sometimes there just isn’t an answer. Depression makes me feel so alone that I feel I don’t deserve anyone’s support. It makes me feel like a burden and I just feel like I’m annoying people. At times when I feel so low I try to be honest with people about how I’m doing but letting people in is hard. I hate for them to see me at my weakest and my vulnerability showing. To be able to say I’m fine and mean it but I can’t some day I’ll be able to say it once I’ve overcome depression. I want to be free from depression and I’ll fight until I am free. This war will be won not lost.”
“Honestly, not okay. Some days are good, some days are bad, and some days I find myself unable to get out of bed or eat. Things that are meant to be enjoyable, aren’t so enjoyable and things I once found exciting aren’t that exciting anymore. I may look fine on the outside, but on the inside I hurt. You may not see what’s wrong because it isn’t a physical thing, it’s mental, and sometimes all I want is for somebody to approach me and just ask how I am honestly so that I can tell them I’m not doing so well. There are days when I find myself unable to cope with even the simplest of tasks such as getting dressed, and there are other days where I just sit and cry. It’s like there’s this black cloud looming over my head and it follows me everywhere I go; it causes me to do silly things. All I have to bare in mind is that this does not define me, and it won’t win.”
“I feel like I’m missing out on my Family. I am so happy with my life, I work an amazing job that let’s me travel and work with an extremely high calibre of very social people.I love every part of my life, apart from the fact that I’m only with my family a few months a year. Generally I’m fantastic though, thanks so much for asking. I appreciate the chance to answer this honestly.”
“How am I? I’ll tell you how I am…….I am finally coping thanks to the help I’ve had from Gofal. I am now dealing with everything that is thrown my way thanks to the coping strategies that I’ve learned by going to courses like E.P.P and LIVING LIFE TO FULL, and of course I’ve had a wonderful support worker who have stepped in and taken the pressure of me by helping sort out my finances and dealing with the Job Centre etc. I can now breathe. My confidence and self esteem has come back and I now look at the woman in the mirror and smile at the strong person I’ve become. Again thanks to my support worker for taking me out for coffees and getting me back out there. I’m now doing volunteering work that I thoroughly enjoy. I run the Food Co-op and its brill. I’m meeting and helping so many wonderful people now who has DEPRESSION by passing on the coping strategies that I’ve learned. I am now thinking of me and my health and I feel wonderful. Can’t thank Gofal enough. GO GOFAL.”
“Life is difficult right now, the last few weeks I have found it very painful to deal with the illness and consequential loss of a family member. I know that they would not want me to feel this way but I cannot shake the immense feelings of guilt that I should have been there for them, ashamed of myself for avoiding them for years because I was afraid of their mental illness. I feel like the worst person in the world for not showing them that I love them and that it took the later stages of a terminal illness for me to finally go and see them. How I wish I could say how sorry I am, that I was just a stupid kid. But I can’t, they’re gone and there’s nothing I can do, I don’t know how to deal with these feelings.”
“How Am I Really? Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked that. Even in therapy it feels like the answer isn’t real, isn’t honest- because you want to say and do the right things to keep you from being hospitalized again. You play your part in society, you answer with ‘I’m okay’, ‘I’m fine,’ ‘I’m good’- you avoid burdening friends or relatives with your darkness ; you struggle against the truth to keep yourself afloat. But really- really I am drowning. I am sinking. Eating is a chore I battle six times a day; self harm is a war I cannot win; depression is a blackness I cannot lift. It takes a handful of medication to get up in the mornings and another handful to get to sleep at night. I am broken, I am torn, I am bruised. I want out.”
“Honestly, I’m scared. Everything is falling apart and I’m desperately trying to grab on to the little fragments that are left of me and hold them together but they keep slipping through the cracks in my fingers like sand or water. I’m not doing well but I keep pretending that I am because I can’t bring myself to let it all out, I don’t want to admit that everything has gone wrong again. I don’t want to admit that this is beginning to beat me but it is. I’m anxious, all of the time. I’ve got no energy to do anything, I can barely bring myself to get out of bed and shower and function and sometimes, I just don’t. It feels like everything is crushing me, like this is all a big, thick blanket smothering me and choking me and I can’t escape. I’m lost. And I’m scared. But I refuse to give up just yet.”
“How are you? I hear it, I smile, I nod, I say fine. Really, am I fine? What is fine and do they really care? Most of the time no one wants to actually know how we really are doing and I can also say that sometimes I don’t want to tell them. The struggle I feel is so personal that you don’t want to burden them or explain. When I am not fine my chest is tight and the shakes are involuntary. I have no control over the physical manifestations of my mental illness. This is when I am bad. I think that the worst thing is that you cant stop the thought and you even know that it is ridiculous. I can sit there and KNOW that this is stupid. Why is this thought taking over? Why am I shaking? Why do I feel so breathless? My mind is going nuts and my inside feels hollow. People say how are you? However, if you tell them you get the age old statements, what do you have to be depressed about? You don’t look depressed? Pull yourself together and so many more. This is stigma and the outcome of stigma is making that place that I am in, that place that I have just let you into and finally answered your question of; “how are you” honestly (probably for the first time in a long time) is made even darker. So you know what, I will just keep saying fine!”
“How am I? I get asked that a lot. I guess I feel let down. I feel let down at the lack of support, calling the crisis team in tears saying I was about to do something to harm myself and for them to not call me back, even hours later. By my partner saying he can’t cope with me, yet he says I have to keep fighting, I know Pot, Kettle, Black! By my Psychiatrist giving me a letter saying that neither medication nor treatment has or would work for my condition. By all the friends that walked away years ago and being left to celebrate my birthday by myself. By the professionals trying to blame all my conditions under the blanket diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, last time I checked Agoraphobia and PTSD were not symptoms of BPD which even my GP agrees is ridiculous. It’s been a decade of all this, and yes I’m feeling like I’m about to hit rock bottom but the best thing about rock bottom? Is that it can only go up.”
“I’m really not okay, I feel like I’m starting to slip back to where I was four years ago, and that’s not somewhere I ever want to be again. I’m scared, scared of what might happen if I don’t get in control of these thoughts.
I went to see my doctor last week, told him exactly how I felt, and I’ve got an assessment coming up in a few weeks. I really don’t want to do it, but I’m not okay, and it’s about time I realised it.
Mostly the thoughts just irritate me, because I’m an art student, and I love printmaking, which involves some fairly evil looking tools. I want to be able to use them confidently again, because my thoughts are stopping me doing what I love, stopping me doing the only thing that keeps me stable anymore.
But yes, for the purposes of this conversation, I’m ‘not too bad’, thank you.”
“Today, like most days I’m tired, exhausted actually. Mentally and Physically. It hasn’t got anything to do with lack of sleep, though that isn’t all that great most of the time. Today, like most days I’m hiding how I feel; from you, from them, from myself.
Lost, how I feel most of the time, with no inkling of what direction I need to go. On the surface you may see me, little ripples here and there, inside is a maelstrom of turmoil and cyclic emotions and thoughts being bombarded with all the different weather life throws at it. But I can’t let it show. A tiny crack will appear, a small fissure then another and another until I just crumble. I’ve had to put myself back together too many times already.
It’s just easier to pretend. Try and make out to the world that everything is “fine” or “good”. If I answered you honestly when you asked how I am, you’d wish you’d never asked in the first place. There is so much going on, so much confusion, that I don’t know how I am. It’s not “fine” or “good” but to answer that question is difficult and painful and confusing. I want to live a life so I pretend it’s not.”
“I have always had depression. Eating away slowly at me since I was a teenager. In the last few years I had got myself into a place I was almost happy with. Sure, I had bad days. But the good days started to outnumber them. I was fragile, teetering on the edge of falling right back down into that neverending abyss of emptiness, but I was ok. Then one of my friends, a flatmate, started saying some stuff about the way I looked, the way I dressed. They weren’t snide comments, they were outright insults. She thought it was ok to say that to people when she’d had a drink. I could feel myself falling back down. I spent every night crying. Finally I plucked up the courage to say I was going to move out next year without her. That was four months ago, and she hasn’t spoken to me since. She very openly hates me. She tells my friends what an awful person I am. Its horrible, and every day is an effort to drag myself through. I don’t want to go home. I’m not ok. When is this going to end.”
“I’m fine. Honestly! I’m a happy and confident person. There’s one thing that’s been on my mind recently, though: I’m bisexual. I’m proud of the fact that I’m bisexual. What concerns me is the disheartening taboo that still surrounds it! If I lived in an ideal world, I would’ve come out at about the age of 15. I could’ve even come out as early as 11 years old, when I knew I wasn’t exactly straight! Four trustworthy people know that I’m bisexual so far and I’ve had positive, supportive reactions from them! I’m tired of being closeted, but I’m scared of what close relatives would think and what my more (let’s say) ‘traditional’ friends would think. I’m worried that my male friends would feel uncomfortable around me. I hope these fears of callous people are fictitious. At least I’m hiding half of myself; my heart goes out to gay and lesbian people who’ve yet to come out. It hurts to hide my identity. I hope to reveal it soon! One day you’ll ask “How are you? Honestly!” And I’ll reply: “I’m very happy, very proud, and astonishingly bisexual! How are you?”
“How am I? I’m fine. But then my benchmark for fine is not being suicidal and to be fair, I’m never far from tipping point in that respect. Truthfully… I’m tired and poorly and I am dragging myself to a commitment I don’t have the energy for because I can’t say no and let people down without the self critic in my head yelling abuse at me. I’m dull. My beloved Granny died last month and every day since I’ve felt my insides shatter and disintegrate, leaving me empty with nothing to say. I’m self loathing because all I can see is my failures and shortcomings. I’m crushed and demotivated by the feedback on my work and I’m overwhelmed by my workload. I’m Eve (I wish I wasn’t) and I am tired of pretending.”
“I am overwhelmed with emotions and moods and the difference between the two. I am afraid of going back to hospital and it feels like it’s being used as a threat right now. I am ashamed to be preoccupied with self harm and all the things I could do to myself. I am disappointed that I’m still not being honest with my husband. And most of all I am tired. Bone-achingly, mind-disastrously tired. Of life and all its ills. I can’t see the good anymore.”
“How am I? There’s a question I’m asked a lot. It’s also one I have a lot of answers for. ‘I’m good thanks’, ‘I’m fine’, ‘ok ta’ and ‘I’m not so bad’ are just some of them. It’s just a shame that they are all lies. It’s a bigger shame that I’m now so good at saying these lies convincingly. So, how am I? I’m tired is the honest answer. I’m tired and hurting and I really just want to fall to my knees and cry. I’ve had depression a long time and so I know when the bad days hit and when they’re the really bad days. Today is a really bad day. Do you know what’s the most painful thing about depression? It’s the weight. All my pain over 30 years never leaves and so I’m carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders, which makes it difficult to do, well, anything. I wish I could share this weight, especially with my wife. However, I can’t lumber this weight on those I love, as it’s more pain than anyone else can handle. Therefore, I will continue answering with my lies and hope that tomorrow they’ll actually be true.”
“How are you? Good question, do you really want to know or are you just being polite? For me the answer depends on the time of day. First thing in the morning you are likely to get a terse ‘fine’ as I am not a morning person. Lunchtime my response will be quick and cheerful after all I know you dont actually care you are just throwing out a random polite question. Last thing at night you wouldn’t have to ask as the answer would be obvious. This is when I suffer from my anxiety the most and you are most likely to find me crying my feelings into my pillow. This is so my mother doesn’t hear me. I can’t explain to her that she is the cause of my fears and worries. I try not to ask this question unless I can actually stop to listen to the answer. Fake interest, for me, is worse than no interest.”
“Over the past few days I’ve been waiting for someone to say “how are you”. Not because I’m vain or arrogant or attention-seeking. Not because there’s anything seriously wrong with me – which if there was I certainly wouldn’t wait for a “how are you” to offload. But because hey, at the moment I’m not exactly hunky-dory. For the past few months I’ve been having anxiety attacks – at least, I think they’re anxiety attacks. I get nauseous and even physically sick in social situations, and start to shiver and freak out like llama on steroids. This is particularly weird for me because I’m one of those annoying shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, grin-ear-to-ear, beatbox-the-opening-to-Game-of-Thrones sort of people. You know, the ones you feel like shooting with a crossbow every time they open their goddamn mouths. I’ve checked with the doctor, and after five blood tests I can proudly say that I’m healthy. Physically. But with exams looming, so is stress, and the anxiety of being anxious (no matter how oxymoronic that sounds) strikes. Overall I’m happy and in control of myself, but I fear about those who might not be. So please, genuinely check if your friends are alright. Because they might just need you.”
“How am I? This is a question I’ve always struggled to answer honestly. My response will always be, as if on auto-pilot, ‘fine thanks, how are you?’. I immediately pass it on. I’m getting better now at being honest about how I feel. Because sometimes, when someone asks How Are You (those three innocent but terrifying words), they actually want to know. And sometimes, I actually want to tell them. I’m ok…. I am. And I’m happy much of the time. Sometimes I get crippling social anxiety and have to cancel all the plans I was so looking forward to making a few weeks previously. And sometimes, I won’t get out of bed or out of the house unless I’m almost physically forced, emotionally coerced. It’s been my increased awareness of the importance of asking myself this question that has enabled me to be more myself. I can be honest with myself now and I know that on those rare occasions (and now, they are rare) being not okay is, well, okay! And I can tell other people. I can fess up and admit ‘I’m not doing too well today’. And maybe, hopefully quite soon, I will be fine thanks. How are you?”
“Honestly, I feel like I am being absolutely crippled and losing my battle against mental illness. Every moment seems to be taken over by dark intrusive thoughts which make me feel so unsafe and unstable. I’ve lost my hope for the future, I don’t want to die but I don’t want to be alive ever. I just feel like I want some undisturbed sleep for at least a month. I’m tired – my deteriorating mental health is taking my mental health with it. I spend my life in mental health and medical appointments. As soon as I finish one lot of medication I’m on to the next for something new. Despite all this I never feel ill enough or thin enough to deserve the help I’m getting, so I can’t allow myself to fully accept it. I’m completely ambivelant between recovery and remaining ill, life and death. I am torn in two directions and it feels as though I’m possessed by something that is determined to kill me. I wish other people could see the pain I feel. I wish someone else could help me. But I’m a fully aware this is a one person battle where I have to do all the hard work – and honestly I don’t feel strong. I feel weak and I wish life didn’t have to be like this – for me but mainly for anyone else that suffers like this.”
“How am I? Honestly? How long have you got…I’m not doing so great right now. I haven’t had any breakfast and I’m not sure whether to have lunch. My head is beating me up from the inside out and I’m struggling to fight back. I’m dizzy. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept waking up. I’m not really sure why… I’ve been sleeping for hours on end lately. I’m not as low as I have been, that’s a positive! I still feel like crying, but I’m not quite so suicidal, so that’s a relief. It’s tiring fighting thoughts of suicide 24/7. No wonder I have no energy left to fight the thoughts telling me not to eat. No wonder it takes hours to get out of bed and get dressed. I’m lonely. It’s hard to admit. Nobody wants to think of themselves as ‘friendless’. I do have friends, but with feeling like crap, not wanting to burden them, and being too scared of social engagements in case my anxiety overflows/they involve food… it’s hard to stay in touch. I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. Tell me how you are. Honestly.”
“Honestly, I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. On edge with uncertainty.”
“How are you?’ ‘I’m fine thanks, you?’
But the truth is, I’m not fine. Mental illnesses have ruined so so much for me, people are aware of my illnesses, but it’s as if no one wants to accept them as an illness, just something I can ‘get over’. Just another girl who took dieting too far, a problem that can go away. But it’s so much more. There’s constant torment in my mind, a constant battle, food, calories, weight, fat, pain, order, constantly repeating. I’m scared of living a life where anorexia, depression and OCD dominate my every thought. People see me as being ‘over the top’ when I frantically order my pens, wash my hands compulsively, cry if something is changed. People think I’m seeking attention when I see myself as fat. Or when I sit silently staring out the window. But I’m not. I’m just ill. But only few accept mental illnesses as an ILLNESS. So I continue to sit in silence in the corner of the room, the same words come out of my mouth when I’m asked how I am, I continue to feel more and more trapped by my mind. And maybe one day, I’ll have the strength in me to start the path of recovery and open up to those around me, but for now, others who suffer from mental illness need to talk. Open up. Voice their thoughts because we aren’t ‘fine’, we need to be heard without the fear of being judged.”
“I continually lie in response to this question, but here I’ll be honest.
I’m not ok. I’m not coping. I don’t ever see things being better.
I’m feeling frustrated at having to take medication to try and control my head, but that it changes me in other ways. I’m feeling frustrated that I’m not the person I used to be.
I’m feeling embarrassed that I am currently signed off work, and guilty for that being a strain on my collegues.
I’m feeling hopeless, as mental health services are continuing to be cut, and with this new government brings further cuts.
I’m feeling disgusted by my own body, covered in scars, that I have to hide from friends and family. Ashamed that I have done this to myself, at the same time as being bewildered by how I got to this point.
I’m feeling scared to go to sleep, awaiting the nightmares that will inevitably come, leaving me in a crying mess, alone in the night. I feel anxious that tonight may be worse, one of the nights where I end up bruised and sprained from thrashing out in the terrors.
But most of all, right now, I’m feeling alone. That’s what poor mental health does.”
“At the moment I feel like I’m sleepwalking through my life. Hours, days, weeks are now piling up into months of feeling empty. I’m watching myself slip away and want so much to shake myself into getting on top of things. I remember when I was at the top of my game but am starting to doubt that I came become that person again. I’m in serious need of a CTRL, ALT, DEL. Nobody can help me though. But I’m fighting for every day to be better…”
“Even with grief at arms’ length
I am a fragile, human being
Eight years on, I still have a limp
Bowed, but not broken, by these experiences
Where I can, I step gently through life
Shrunken and yet strengthened
By seven times facing
The fire of loss
Fragile seems to be a difficult concept
The world would rather the usual answer
But I stick to my beliefs, holding firm
Feelings trump expectations
On brighter, easier days
I reach for something more
Something which affirms and defines
Music, words, literature…
There were warning signs
Before I slipped into this space
Where even music doesn’t make sense
And people adjust to fit their needs
Gratitude is elusive
But for the fact
That I am still breathing
Still here, still…
No thought, no feeling, no nothing.
On days like these
I admit that the mist has descended
A companion, for now at least
Nothing to be done, but feel.”
“I always say I’m fine. It’s easier that way. Truthfully, I’m falling apart. My depression, anxiety, eating disorder and self harm are spiralling out of control. With exams coming around soon, I’m breaking down and crying every night and I’m overwhelmed and things are getting worse. There’s too much pressure and I’m terrified of failure. I keep trying to seek help but it’s so difficult when no one seems to respond to me. Suicidal thoughts have been there a lot and they scare me. Sometimes I want to just give up but I can’t because the fear of failing my exams is stronger than everything. I am there for everyone but I’m scared that I’m a burden on them. I don’t feel like my feelings are valid so maybe that’s why no one wants to help me. But yeah it’s easier to say I’m fine or else there’s the chance that someone might think I’m attention seeking or there’ll be awkward conversations where no one knows what to say and can’t help me. I’m scared for when exams finish because there’ll be no more reasons to eat and nothing left to keep me going so I’ll probably sink even deeper.”
Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts,
constantly, never ending, churning,
ever present, ever critical, ever wondering,
what am I doing? where am I headed?
what am I not seeing and more so
why do I feel this way?
This constant unsettling sensation,
I should be doing something else,
somewhere else, living a life
I do not yet have.
Oh how the mind wanders,
if you let it,
so many quiet whispers can be heard
leaving you questioning,
critical, frustrated, feeling unsure –
what is right for me? do people think what I think they think?
where do I go from here?
My stomach flutters,
all I know is I don’t know the answers,
this unsure line of questioning is baffling indeed.
Perhaps its best, to not question
not feel sad for the disappointment you feel somehow obliged to carry,
instead accept, hope your wrong and console yourself,
one day those criticisms you think may be proven utterly wrong.”
“When someone asks me if I’m okay or alright, it’s usually in passing and I always assume it’s nothing more than another way of saying hello. I think most of the people who ask aren’t really bothered and are just being polite.
Sometimes, depending how well I know the person, I do answer truthfully but feel I need to put a comical spin on it as not to bring the asker down.
On the few occasions when I have answered honestly, the asker’s face drops as if to say: I didn’t really want to know.
On the other side, there have been quite a few times when I have asked people if they are okay and without getting the question back, I get a long list of things that are going on in their life. This makes me want to clam up and walk away as I have my own problems and feel as though they’re the only ones that matter in that conversation. Although, I know sometimes when someone is really struggling they may rant on without consideration, as they are so overwhelmed by what they are experiencing.”
“Honestly, I am struggling, permanently. I am without support, and at this point, I don’t know how much longer I can carry on. I’m entirely sick of breathing. I feel like an oxygen thief and a waste of organs. I am stuck in a loop of self destruction and self harm. I currently have in excess of 30 stitches in my arm due to severe self inflicted wounds. Desperation is so very exhausting. Borderline Personality Disorder is tearing me apart on a daily basis. I’m scared, and I’m tired of battling this disorder and tired of battling with myself. It’s a constant internal war, and there’s no victor, because there is no end in sight. It’s just roaring inside me and consumes me all day, every day. I feel I am stuck with the emotional maturity of a small child. It’s like I stopped developing at some point. I don’t know where to go from here. I have asked for help and been denied it many times due to lack of funding. I feel like I’m dying and no one cares, or can see it. Trapped. Sad. Hurting. Lost. Lonely. Isolated. Impulsive. Terrified. Invisible.”
“I’m cautiously optimistic, for the first time in a long time. The last year has been a turbulent period in my life. Stress and exhaustion from 60-hour weeks at work led me to stop taking my Bipolar medication in December last year, and things unravelled from there. In February a suicide attempt led to a spell in the Mental Health Unit of my local hospital. On discharge I walked away from my job, and moved sixty miles, to stay with my oldest friend and his wife. They are amazing people, and have given me a great opportunity to get on top of my illness. I’m determined to equip myself with the tools to do just that. Exercise is vital for good mental wellbeing, so I’m riding my bike and going to the gym. I’m eating well, reading lots and getting plenty of sleep. Also I’ve started a course of mindfulness, which is really helping with living in the present- not worrying about the past or the future. The best thing is being able to breathe, and just be. No pressure. I feel very fortunate to be given this chance, and am determined to make the most of it.”
“I’m struggling. One of the hardest things I have had to learn in my recovery from bulimia, anxiety, depression and self harm is to allow feelings to be felt without acting on them. Whereas before I would engage in binging and purging if I felt worried or anxious, and would self harm if I felt hopeless and sad, now I have to just sit and let the feelings come and go as they will. Sometimes they feel as though they won’t ever leave, but they do go eventually. Nothing is permenant. “This too shall pass!” I listen to music, take a bath, go for a walk…and they all help in some way, but I’m not used to not having an instant relief from uncomfortable and unbearable feelings. And that’s hard. And that’s why I’m struggling.
BUT I’m still having a good day today. So I can be struggling and still see the positive things. The sun is shining and the park is full of pretty pink blossom and I am warm and smiling and grateful I am still alive :)”
“I’m tired. I don’t have any sparkle. I struggle to get up in the morning. I’m better than I was a few months ago, but living still feels like hard work on some days. I worry that if I tell you how I really am, you’ll just think I should be back at work. I’m managing to cook, to wash up and do laundry, but not every day. On good days I can do several activities in a day, on other days, I crawl back into bed and watch hours of IPlayer. I’m worried every time I think about the future; my statutory sick pay will be over soon. Then will I be forced back to work, or forced to resign. Will I be able to get an alternative less stressful job, or will I be on Employment Support Allowance, and will the current government allow me on ESA long enough to fully recover, or will they kick me off it like 80% of people with mental health issues? My future is full of anxieties.”
“How am I? I’m better than I’ve been in a long time.
I’m not scared of anxiety anymore. I know it too well to be afraid of it. I know what to expect. And I know how to deal with it.
But still… even today, I spent hours fighting the nagging sense in the back of my mind that I’m dying, that something is wrong, that it’s time to PANIC.
Today, this didn’t knock me out. Today, I’m still okay.
Yes, I’m better than I’ve been in a long time… but the work still continues. I expect it always will. And that’s alright.”
“Not too well, actually. It’s really exhausting and embarrassing having to hide my mental illness.”
Actually I’m not. My mum has got MS and I am worried she is going to die soon and I won’t be able to cope or support my little sister. I’m worried that even though I am definitely not ‘anorexic’ anymore I am underweight yet again . Sometimes I feel faint or lightheaded but I haven’t stopped eating so it would feel stupid to ask for help even though I feel terrified about gaining weight. I thought I was completely over this. I wish my friend wouldn’t drink when she was on anti – depressants because it makes her suicidal and I really worry about her. I’m really worried that my contract won’t be renewed and I will have to look for a new job; I was made redundant last year after being bullied at work and it was horrible. I wish there was somebody I could talk about all this. Instead I keep telling people I’m fine.”
“I am anxious. There are a lot of changes happening at work that are not being talked about with me, directly affecting me. I am being asked to move desks and have a new line manager. I am very lonely. My office buddy is off and I go for the entire day without speaking to anyone, and in the evenings I have noone. Everyone seems to be too busy to talk to me. I am worried that I am not good enough, that people don’t see me, that people don’t hear me, that people laugh at me. I feel that my best isn’t good enough and that people take pity on me. I am happy because I know I have people who care for me and care how I feel, but the voice inside my head won’t stop telling me what a disappointment I am and how there will be noone who has enough paitence to break down my walls. I feel that the drugs don’t work and I am a laughing stock at work and at home.”
““How are you?”
What I want to say.
“I slept for maybe 2 hours last night and even that was fitful and full of dreams about flying clowns chasing me, but then that’s what I get for eating cheese last thing.”
“I woke this morning and didn’t recognise the person in the mirror so I wept for him, this soulless entity that I can’t acknowledge is my self.”
“I couldn’t be bothered to shower, shave or brush my teeth but you can probably smell that.”
“My back aches more than it did yesterday but I’ll grin and bear it.”
“Wolfing down a jumbo size Mars bar for breakfast probably wasn’t the best idea but feeling nauseous is better than feeling empty.”
“I cried on my way in to work, the same as I cried on the way home last night. I don’t know why I was crying, and that made me cry even more.”
“I don’t know who I am. I have no one and no one wants to have me. All I see is a pile of wasted years and a stagnant life showing no signs of picking up.”
What I actually say.
“I’m doing OK. Thanks for asking.”
“You would probably look at me and think I have everything.
If you ask me “How are you”? I always say I’m fine thank you “how are you?” and people nearly always say “well you look well/amazing/lovely” and on the conversation moves. They don’t know the reason I look so well/amazing/lovely is the worse I feel on the outside the more effort I put into covering it up by making myself look good on the outside. Perfectly manicured nails, freshly curled hair, a face full of make up. Bright, outlandish, quirky clothes. It’s my defence mechanism. Appearances can be deceiving. My Mother was an alcoholic and my childhood was an emotional disaster. Her needs. emotions and alcohol always more important than me. She was angry and jealous and took it all out on me. I never had my basic emotional needs met as a child and each day now as an adult I struggle. I have crippling low self esteem. My heart feels broken and yearns for a Mother’s love it can never have. That first break has just been added to with every one of life’s disappointments. Every lover that left me, every job I lost, every friend that upset me, everything that didn’t work out as planned. I take that and feed on the negative. Feeling unworthy ,unlovable , undeserving of anything good, I take everything good and turn it against myself. My heart started with one dark crack but now feels completely heavy and black. I have a dark cloud that hangs over me, a black dog keeping me company. I get through a day but cry myself to sleep every night. I fantasise about dying. I feel I would be free and everyone would be better off without me. I have been diagnosed with depression. I am getting help and I am getting better. I am learning appropriate and helpful coping mechanisms to replace the negative and old. I hope and believe that one day I will not feel like this. But at the moment if you ask me How are you? This is how I am honestly.”
“So “How am I honestly?”
I thought that I’d write about how I feel right in this moment, mindfully trying to label my emotions, and describe how they are making me feel. I feel guilt and shame for the food I have eaten today. I feel disgust when I look at how my figure has changed since I’ve started eating again. I feel sad to be saying goodbye to anorexia – my only ‘friend’ for so long. I feel afraid about the unknown territory of recovery. I feel interested in what my life might hold ahead of me. I feel joy at the hope that life provides even when I cannot grasp it.
Honestly, all these emotions make me feel confused. Confused because I feel them all at the same time. Confused because I want to be better but cannot imagine what that would look like. Confused that I can simultaneously want life but wish my own death. Confused because I’ve let myself ‘feel’. But not angry. Not angry like my family that they have lost there daughter. No I simply feel what it’s like to be me, that’s how I honestly am.”
“I’m tired, exhausted by how busy my life has been lately and by the exhausting mental illness that tries to take over my life but right now my head is above the water and I am able to see the exciting things on the horizon. Someone told me that 2015 was my year and they were right. I began the year sectioned under the Mental Health Act with no hope for my future, I span that around pretty quickly. I am finally living, I am finally alive and it feels so amazing. I am determined to make a difference to this world. My heart, voice box, legs and mind were given to me for a reason. I will use them to do good in this world. Today, I am okay thank you.