I honestly don’t know how to start this blog post, or even if I should be writing it. But I guess that’s where the problem sits, not enough of us talk about the real stuff anymore, so fixated on everything bar the reality of life. Not everything is as blue skies and blossom trees as we, or I would like it to be.
There’s an elephant in the room. An elephant that people don’t really want to talk about, for me, I struggle to admit it and almost feel ashamed of myself but I’m slowly realising that I’m not alone, I can talk about it and admit I don’t always have my shit together, I can admit that my life isn’t totally perfect and I can admit that I’m not always the happy, stupid knobhead that people see me as.
I suffer from Anxiety and Depression.
As soon as I wrote that last sentence, I had to put my phone down for a bit, grab a cup of tea and take a time out. I don’t know why it was so hard to read that sentence back to myself, I guess it means I’m putting myself out there and leaving myself open to judgement. It really is that cliche but, you don’t know what someone is going through until you’ve gone through it yourself. Unless you are someone who experiences these feelings, you will never understand it. It’s a dark, lonely world and one that scares me.
I can’t pinpoint an age when it all first started, I was always a little different. I was the kid that got picked last on the teams even in Primary School, the kid who would always be ‘forgetting’ her lunchbox because Mum had neglected to send me in with one yet again, the kid who used a carrier bag for a school bag because I wasn’t allowed a new bag when mine broke, I was the teenager in hand me downs that you wouldn’t even donate to a charity shop, the ones who’s Mum cut her hair with kitchen scissors and made her look like a boy, the one who wore cheap school shoes that made an awful clopping noise as I walked because the cheap heels had fallen off. I was the buck toothed kid that nobody wanted to hang around with. I wasn’t cool. I didn’t have a steady group of friends and if I did, I lost them as quick as I made them because I wasn’t allowed to do all the things they did. I’d never experienced sleepovers with friends or having friends for tea, I was 16 and still couldn’t ride a bike. I wasn’t even cool enough to be a geek.
It made me sad all the time, trying so hard to fit in, trying to be like everyone else. I wasn’t pretty, I didn’t have anything about me that made me stand out (except my teeth, they entered the room before I did.) I soon learnt that if I did well in class, my teachers would praise me and I might stand a chance of being noticed, I’d write long essays in English and get numerous house points, I’d try hard in Music and always put myself forward to sing in the choir because singing was something I was good at. My music teacher put me forward in High School to audition for the school musical, so I did, I was the only Year 9 to land a part in “Little Shop Of Horrors” and I didn’t give a shit that I had to play a prostitute and wear hot pants and knee high boots on stage. I was being noticed. Music soon made me realise that I was also good at acting so I became noticed by my Drama teacher and he pushed me to achieve as much as possible. People started to notice who I was and I suddenly stopped trying to do well, I was too busy working out ways to be cool so I stopped doing homework, I stopped doing long essays and getting good grades. I stopped being myself yet again, still trying to mouldy myself into someone people might actually like. Truth is, it didn’t really work, I was way past being able to fit in. I was a sheep, hanging onto the geek crowd and even they didn’t really want to be my friend. I was a loner.
Don’t feel sorry for me. That’s not the idea of this post. Life was the way it was. I was always going to be spending my days trying to fit in. Writing this now, I suppose I could say it must have started back then.
When I had Beth, I had PND. People didn’t always believe me because I was good at putting on a show, I’d get up, put my make up on and pretend everything was ok. I’d spend as much time going out as I possibly could and I’d run away from my problems. I tried anti depressants but they made me feel sick all the time, the taste of metal lurked in my mouth and it felt like I was gurning when I talked. Not being one to like that feeling, I stopped taking them and found other ways to cope. Spending money, nights out, obsesssing over being loved and seeking Mr Right as soon as Beth’s Dad and I split. I should have sought help, I just didn’t know where to start.
Don’t get me wrong, things improved a year or so later. But I flirted with depression as and when it appeared. As soon as it would flare up, I’d go shopping for a new boyfriend, I’d make myself feel better then I’d end it. Depression never leaves you. People say it does but that’s bollucks, it’s there in the background waiting. Depression is like the unwanted guest at a wedding. It just turns up announced ready to shit on your day.
When I met Paul, the depression lifted. I still occasionally get days when I feel sad but can’t explain why, I feel like I want to sit and cry by myself, I don’t want to see people, I just want to wallow in self pity. But the depression has turned more to anxiety now.
It usually happens if we are going out, I have panick attacks that people won’t like me, they’ll think I don’t fit in and they’ll think I’m that kid at school again. I worry that they’ll be looking at me and talk about me when I leave the room. I worry that they’ll think I’m too loud or talk too much, that I’m too open and my lack of filter makes me a terrible person. Before I go out, I always have a cry, I tell myself to expect them not to like me and then if they do, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. I think negatively most of the time which must be draining on Paul because he’s always so positive, but he does nothing but encourage me, he stays by myself until I feel safe enough to be left in a crowd of people, he rubs my back to let me know he’s there and whispers in my ear to check that I’m ok. I’ve never asked him to do any of that, it’s just second nature to him now because he knows how I feel.
Nights out are very rare now unless I’m with Paul, my best friends or someone I know enough to say “I’m petrified about coming out tonight please stay with me.” I’m learning to accept that people do actually like me for the person I am, not everyone, after all, we can’t be to everyone’s tastes. I’m getting better at going out without having sleepless nights for a week before. One day, I hope that it’ll all just fall back into place and I’ll be the social butterfly I used to be, the Emma who was never asked twice for a night out, the first on the dance floor and last off it, the Emma who would go to a nightclub on her own if need be..ok, maybe not to that extreme anymore. It’s ok when you’re 18 but at 33, not so much.
Today is a bad day for my anxiety. I need to go to Sainsbury’s but for some reason, it broke me out into a panic and I’ve taken to the sofa with a blanket instead. That’s a first for me. It’s never happened before. As I said, it’s usually nights out. I texted one of my good friends as I know she suffers the same and just needed to hear her say “I know how you feel” and she did. It made me realise it’s normal, it happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Anxiety is what it is. It’s a bastard.
I am Emma. I’m loud, bubbly, off the wall rude, crude and minus any filter. But I’m also Emma, the girl who struggles to be accepted, the girl who still can’t believe that I have friends, proper friends that care about me, an amazing family and a life I’ve always wanted with a man who expects nothing of me other than to just be me and a daughter who loves me because she chooses too.
I’m Emma. The one who has an elephant in the room.
(Just to lighten the mood, I wrote this last bit whilst I did an anxiety poo)