the silver linings pixlet;

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.



  1. Jon
    April 11, 2013 / 7:42 pm

    Hey Lis, there isn’t really much that I can say that will help you right now, but there’s one thing that I think is worth bearing in mind.

    The whole one-in-four thing isn’t necessarily a burden on you to be open about your problems – it doesn’t have to be about being open with what is a pretty common illness. Instead, it can be about reminding yourself that you’re not alone. You’re not the only person going through this. Take comfort in that. Remember that every time you’re in an elevator with a bunch of folks, chances are at least one other person is dealing with the same problems you have to every day.

    When I started having therapy and really discussing the problems that I was having (nearly a year ago, I think), it made a tremendous difference to me just to know that other people had the same problems. Just to be able to read a book that described my symptoms EXACTLY, or have my therapist talk about other patients she’s dealt with that had the same fears and difficulties as me made it so much easier to deal with on a day to day basis.

    In my experience, part of the difficulty with mental illness is the feeling of isolation that comes with it. It feels like it’s something you have to go through yourself, and it feels like they are problems that are unique to you. You think no-one will understand, and everyone will treat you differently – that’s why you don’t tell anyone.

    The benefit of telling people, however, is that you soon realise that you’re not alone. Other people are fighting the good fight, too. Best of all, you find out that other people have already fought the good fight, and won. And they can show you how you can win, too.

    Keep your head up, and things will get better. I promise.

    Also, the National have released another track from their new album, and it’s great.

    • April 12, 2013 / 10:56 am

      Thanks, you. This is a very good way of looking at it.

      And I think I like the new National track better than the last one, but I’ve only listened to it once so far. This will undoubtedly change over the weekend 🙂 x

  2. April 12, 2013 / 11:14 am

    I don’t normally talk about my mental health because I just don’t. The same way I don’t always talk about a cold or whatever while I’m having it. I just don’t talk about my health. And to be honest it feels kind of private and personal and mine. But like above the main thing I’ve found on the odd occassion I do talk about it is that it is NORMAL. Or at least common enough that loads of people feel the same way. And that is a comfort. A real comfort.

    Like you I tend to make sure showing up to work never stops, but sometimes it has to. Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves but part of the illness is not doing that. Its the stupid paradox at the heart of it all. But it sounds like you might be getting there? And if so that is just ace.

  3. Elaine
    April 12, 2013 / 11:26 am

    I’d just like to repeat your own point; you are not alone in this. I have had burnouts a couple of times that went exactly the same way as you are feeling. I still get episodes, although they’ve got a lot less in recent times, and all I can do is stop, know I’m not going to get any work done today and curl up on the couch. There isn’t a lot I can do or say to help you apart from that, to say what you know intellectually: that it’s all right to have a crash and reboot, and to wish you well.

  4. April 12, 2013 / 11:46 am

    Sorry to hear you’ve been going through a tough time. I think writing about it is a good (and brave) thing. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to beat yourself up about – neither help, at all.

    Here’s a great line: “I will love myself despite the ease with which I lean towards the opposite”

    It’s from this:

  5. josh gaffin
    April 12, 2013 / 4:20 pm

    just wanted to say love you, lis <3

  6. Greg
    April 12, 2013 / 9:31 pm

    Not that you need another big chunk of advice to fill your pockets, but…

    Please remember that the things that make you sad and worried are exactly the things that make you great. It’s a lot easier to shuffle through life, just doing as you’re told, with no opinions and no expectations… but you’re better than that, even if you don’t feel it at any particular moment.

    There is no particular fraud to be found in being ‘OK’, or being ‘not quite’. CF Liz Gilbert’s TED talk for this:

    • April 13, 2013 / 10:46 pm

      So many marvellous-sounding TED talks to bookmark. I love you guys – thanks for your comments, here and elsewhere.