There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?
Actually, maybe I’ll be Jennifer Lawrence when I grow up. I’m aware that I already have a good eight years on the young actress, but I anticipate that the changes I will need to make are few: I already have a certain gaucheness and a tendency to fall over when wearing high heels or fancy dresses; I tend to speak my mind regardless of the situation or company and would obviously leap to take my little sister’s place in a televised fight to the death with 23 other children.
I just, man, I gotta learn to like myself a bit better, you know? I want to be proud and bright and beautiful and unashamed, particularly when it comes to the parts of myself I cannot help and cannot change. On my better days I am, but I’ve been struggling to hold it together recently and my self-confidence is usually the first thing to go.
The worst thing about coming back to work was knowing that everybody knew. It’s ridiculous, really, because it’s not as if the fact that I suffer from mental health problems is some sort of closely-guarded secret. Some of the people who care about me the most tell me that I need to keep this stuff private, and I follow that advice as far as the specifics are concerned unless asked. As a writer and blogger though, I feel as if – rightly or wrongly – I have a responsibility to the one in four people that the Scottish Association for Mental Health says will suffer from some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime to be open about the fact that they are not alone and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. So I’ll joke about my pills and readily admit to my treatments and psychotherapy, because this is my personal normality and it’s a way of life for many other people too.
I realised that something wasn’t right about a month or so back. I’d had a bit of a difficult time of it for various tangible reasons, but even after things had gotten back to normal I was having real trouble getting up in the mornings. My sleep was fine, but my alarm would go off and I’d experience a real bone weariness that was nothing to do with physical activity or lack of rest. I didn’t really tell anybody because I’d recently been discharged from psychotherapy, and I was getting offered lots of really great opportunities that I didn’t want to turn down. Besides, things were pretty busy at work and the last thing that I wanted to do was take time away from the office to go to the doctor and face a later start to my day. When I eventually went, it was the day after the Budget and I took one look at my doctor and burst into tears.
Here’s the thing: it’s always been a point of pride to me that even when everything else is going to shit I’ve usually been able to show up for work with a smile on my face. There was a point a number of years ago when I began to realise that was not going to be the case, and so I quit my part-time job and took out a student loan so that I could prioritise my studies. I told my doctor this, but apparently concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of the things that make you happy isn’t a healthy way to behave. I had to take some time out and rest, she said, until gigs and emails and store openings and seeing friends became fun again.
I don’t know if it has worked. A couple of days before the day I was due at work I started to panic, because I hadn’t done ANYTHING with my time off! Like, I’d said I was going to organise my shoes and get some exercise, and I had one hundred unread emails and I’d barely written anything here. I’d pretty much done nothing but sleep, with a short break to visit my sister. I was documented as sick, under the auspices of a doctor’s line, and beating myself up about having not done anything! What was WRONG with me?!
Right now my palms and the soles of my feet are sweating, and I’m struggling to finish my sentences. This is a particular problem in my line of work, given that my sentences are my trade. These attacks are not as debilitating as those that others have, but they are real and I am beginning to accept that things aren’t necessarily the same for me as they are for those who never seem to struggle with stuff that’s far more important than the trivia I lose sleep and sanity over.
I’ll continue to beat myself up over it, but I’m learning not to be ashamed. And that’s as much a start as any.
Silver Linings Playbook was great, by the way.