Content warning: suicidal thoughts, self-harm, self-destructive behaviour.
It’s mid-Jan. I’ve broken dry January. Spectacularly. ‘Partying’ until this morning. And I feel awful. I’m not talking about a hangover, I’m talking about suicidal thoughts. Let’s talk about the problems with this type of mental illness symptom, in terms of my – and your perception of it.
This isn’t the ‘oh no, poor you, you feel shit because you feel depressed and it’s out of your control’ type of thing you can all relate to. This is the, ‘You knew going out and getting wrecked and staying up all night would make you feel like shit mentally, but you did it anyway’ type of destructive behaviour that is it MUCH harder for people to empathise with. Yeah – that’s right – I did it to myself.
Basically self-destruction of this sort looks like ‘you’re feeling better, you must be – you went out – you were ‘having fun’. As well as ‘you’ve made yourself more ill by going out and having ‘fun’ – so surely that’s your own fault you feel crapper’. Instead of the irrational stress reaction this is.
And doesn’t your sympathy just evaporate? Don’t you feel like I did this to myself? It’s my fault? ‘If you didn’t want to feel shitter, you shouldn’t have gone out.’ I know I feel that way about myself. This isn’t the right kind of feeling depressed and anxious. This isn’t the, ‘you’ve tried everything to help yourself, but you’re still ill, we get it’ nice type of acceptable mental health problems. This is one with a stigma all of its own.
It’s the ugly truth of a long term mental health condition. Not for everyone, I understand. But I used to physically self-harm by cutting, I stopped that years back. I’ve never had an eating disorder. Try, if you can, to equate my behaviour to that. Outlets like that are more ‘typical’ of mental health problems, and probably because of more awareness around them – and because of their clearly self-destructive nature, they are more what people expect and can feel empathy for.
No one feels empathy or sympathy for someone who feels shit because they were ‘out partying’, ‘out enjoying themselves’. Can you imagine if, as a result, I have to call in sick during the week because of my depression and anxiety being so bad in the aftermath – the difference in attitude if I’d stayed in all weekend, and knowing I’d gone out? How differently would work see it? How would it shift their opinion, even knowing I have serious mental health issues?
Trouble is, was I enjoying myself? If I was, why do I wake up regretting the money I’ve spent, the things I did, knowing it was awful for my health and feeling like I’m going back to square one in terms of self care? If I loved it, then why do I feel so bad, that all I can think of is that I can’t possibly tell anyone I feel that way, because it’s completely irrational to go out if that’s your reason, if you feel that way. If you were the life and soul of the party, how could you possibly be depressed or anxious? We saw you, dancing, drinking, ‘having fun’.
And that I’m a burden. I’ve told my partner before ‘I need to stop doing this’. Then he helplessly watches me leave, convincing himself, like I’m convincing myself, that it’s because I’m going to have fun with my friends, to go out and enjoy myself.
And because I’ve bought it up before with him and said I need to stop, I can’t say it again, because I’m still doing it. And he’ll worry. Because I’m still doing it. And it could drive us apart. Next time I want to do it – he may try and question me, and it’ll make me question it, and my outlet may be exposed. Then how will I self-destruct?
I convince myself in my head I’m feeling better and just having harmless fun. But I awake the next day hating myself, and often having pretty graphic suicidal thoughts. If I was really ‘going out and having fun’ – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be waking up feeling like wanting to kill myself.
That’s the true, ugly side to this unacceptable way I self-destruct. Ugly, because you saw me having fun. Ugly, because you partially blame me for my actions in the first place, and ugly because it’s not quite as other ways I could self-destruct, in a way you could have more sympathy with. And ugly because, for many of you, my friends, I’ve lied to you by doing this on nights out with you. So many times. I’ve lied to you. And myself. And I feel so fucking guilty for misleading you, and hiding that I feel this way afterwards.
So then I feel like never going out again, and will lock myself away, until the next stress trigger that sends me off the rails.
This has probably been my hardest post to write because it actually exposes a lot of the behaviour you’ve all seen in me before. And because I’m actively making my mental health worse by doing it. And because it would openly change my friends – and my employers’ feelings about me. And it’s such a dark self-destruct secret, that I’ve not even ever bought it up with doctors or councillors. This is first time I’m admitting it. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction, because maybe admitting this will help me deal with it somehow, instead of carrying it on.
I don’t know how though. But I’m sorry.
~ MCL x