Mental Illness Is A Sneaky Beast

Mental Illness Is A Sneaky Beast

Sometimes I think I’m managing okay despite my anxiety and depression getting in the way of life. Okay, so I’m not at university, but Cambridge is a stressful place and I’m managing fine apart from that, right?

Wrong.

Every time I think I’ve got things under control I realise yet another thing has slipped under the radar, so I decided to compile a list of all the ways my mental illness has sneaked up on me recently, making me think I’m less functional than I initially thought.

Content warning: discussion of anxiety and depression below. (Obviously?) Brief reference to suicidal thoughts.

Emails

Oh man, emails. See, I knew I had a lot of unread emails. I subscribe to a fair few blogs, and I don’t always have time to read a 1000-word post, especially as I mostly read emails on my phone. I knew it was more than my desktop Mail app told me, because that only shows emails from the last few months. Even there, it was edging up towards a hundred. But that was fine! Because they were recent and I could catch up on them when I had a chance!

I’ve been home from university with fairly unlimited time for two months now, and I opened Gmail in a new tab the other day and realised I had 178 unread emails on one email account. And those are not email notifications or spam posts or marketing emails, because I delete those straight away. Those are all blog posts that I do actually want to read.

Okay, I thought. People have been blogging a lot lately. But no. No, they haven’t. There were (are) emails in there from 2014. I have official reached inbox black hole-dom. It’s done. It’s over. I can never get back to the days of having a clear inbox.

Writing

Me most days: wow, this writing thing is hard. At least I’ve been working on it for a few years now, so I should be getting a lot better. I’ll try and query again this summer. Hey, maybe I could submit more poems to magazines, because I got that one in The Dawntreader! I can do this whole writing thing!

Me when depression kicks in: I haven’t improved at all in the last few years. Every edit I do just makes my stories different, not better. I keep writing and I’m not getting anywhere. I’m never going to make it as a writer. My work’s too weird, it doesn’t fit into genre boundaries easily enough, it’s too depressing…

Me when anxiety kicks in: people are so mean on the internet! Do I want to have a career where I’m in the public eye? People will always write bad reviews. Can I deal with that? Won’t that just make me more anxious? Anyway, I’m not getting better, so I’m working really hard for something that I’m not sure I can achieve or even if I WANT to achieve it. Oh man. This is what I’ve been working towards for so long. What if I don’t want it? Who would I even be? How can I have a sense of identity if it’s intrinsically linked to changeable goals? Who am I?

life

I’m twenty, so it’s perfectly reasonable that I should be getting a little bit concerned about the future. You know, all the things like finding a career that actually pays enough to allow me to move out, preferably somewhere other than London or Cambridge because they have the highest property prices in the country. Finding something fulfilling that actually pays. Not wanting to live alone forever just because I’m asexual. Finding a flat where I can house most if not all of my books.

The trouble is that when anxiety kicks in, this becomes this huge insurmountable TERROR, and because of the other health factors (I can’t get a full time job because of fatigue! I hate confrontation and dealing with students at work makes me panic, so how can I ever have a real job? Working four hours a day makes me miserable and exhausted and stressed! I still can’t use my hands properly and it’s been three years!), I have no idea how to overcome it.

Oh, and throw in the part where I’m not at uni and don’t entirely want to go back and so I’ve got no idea whether a degree is on the cards or whether I’m going to have to abandon that path…

Well, it becomes ginormous. And depression likes these ginormous terrors. It likes to creep up on me, catch sight of that huge mountain of fear and say, “Wow, sure doesn’t look like it’s worth it to keep trying, does it? What’s waiting for you? Life is exhausting, and stressful, and scary. You’d probably be much better off just giving up. You don’t have to carry on. You could just … stop.”

Which obviously is not ideal. My depression doesn’t tend to take a suicidal slant, but occasionally it comes close. Realising I’m sinking into those thought patterns then makes me anxious, and then I don’t sleep, and then I can’t go to work the next day — prompting another spiral of how am I ever going to have a job when my health is this poor which then makes my health worse. It’s a vicious cycle, guys, a vicious cycle.

And I dun like it.

books

When I’m depressed, I don’t tend to read. When I’m miserable, I read continually. So I didn’t read anything at all between Tuesday evening last week and Monday afternoon this week, but then I came home from work and read two books, one after the other. I cried at both of them, which … probably wasn’t a good sign re: my emotional state at the time. Then I read another at work this morning.

I had planned to spend this evening reading The Raven King, but, well, I got stood up by a book. WE HAD A DATE. But apparently Seven Stories can’t send preorders out in time to actually arrive by the release date (thanks, guys, that’s exactly why I paid twice the Amazon price including four quid postage, definitely), so I don’t have it yet. And I’m mad! And I came home from work having been looking forward to that all day and it wasn’t there and I literally started sobbing!

So yeah, I’m coping great with life. I cry over books and spend the rest of my time screaming in existentialist terror while ignoring my inbox. IT’S GOING WELL.

How are the rest of you doing?

7 thoughts on “Mental Illness Is A Sneaky Beast

  1. Not much time for a comment, but I just wanted to let you know, Miriam, I think you’re amazing.

    I don’t know about your fiction writing, since I haven’t read any of it, but your blog is the ONLY one that I’ve read on a consistent basis for YEARS, because you write well, and about topics I care about. You definitely have something to offer, and success is made up of a whole lot of what looks like failure worked through with persistence. That perserverance may be of the fumbling, stumbling, ‘who am I? what is this? what? I have to start again???? variety, and it can still be valid. Oh, also, success is not a fully figured out life. You can’t accomplish that. No one ever has, no one ever will .The greatest people did not know who they were or where they would end up. They may have had ideas and goals, they may have even had prophecies, but the way those things were actualized could never be fully predicted.

    It’s okay to change. It’s okay to feel like you’re drowning. It’s okay to start again and again and again, for as long as you have to live.

  2. Ah yes, the great Ignored Inbox, Existential Quarter Life Dread, and I Hate Everything Even The Thing I Love.

    I feel you, man – and I don’t even have depression and anxiety trying to eat me on top of that. Well, not the medically diagnosed kind anyway. But, if I may, I think you’re doing tremendously. You got yourself a job, and put up with it despite the raging insanity and awfulness of school children, you care about your craft and want to improve, and you’re aware of the risks in your dream job. Despite the bad thoughts they produce, these things are good fundamentally – it’s knowledge, it’s intelligence, it’s planning. It’s … dare I say it … adulting!

    And, as ever, I will never not be impressed by how much you have managed to do in the face of your adversities. You’re awesome. And I said so. So the nasty little voices in your head can suck on a salty sausage because I am clearly infallible in this department ;)

    Also, what Memory Toast said. Because they said it better than me. Listen to the Toast.

    1. Thank you, Charley. I think you said it pretty well yourself – especially your especially masterful use a double negative!

  3. From what other people have said, depression isn’t failing to be happy about good things or not applying yourself, it’s that things don’t make you happy.

    So, instead of suggesting things to be positive about, I made you an undetectable cake. It took several attempts, but I finally made one that cannot be sensed in any way. It’s also gluten-free.

    If you want more traditional advice on, for example, triaging inboxes, let me know and I try to remember what it was like to be an adult.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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