I’ve been struggling to write, with any real meaning, this year. Sometimes I write, but when read back it feels forced. Sometimes I write, but it goes round in circles until I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Sometimes the words flow easily, like this post about grief. For the most part, I’ve spent my time staring at a blank screen. My mind is full of ideas, but I can’t make sense of them on paper.
Enter Laura Jane Williams and her #AskTheQuestion series. These weekly emails, where Laura is honest about the things in life that are hard to do (emotionally and physically) and poses the same question of her readers that contributed to the story she shared, sounded exactly what I needed to reignite my writing spark. Laura is one of my favourite writers. Her writing is raw, honest and often times heartbreaking. It always makes me think and sometimes makes me cry when I didn’t realise I needed to, but it’s cathartic. Her ebook, The Book of Brave, helped me let go of the guilt I felt about some of the mistakes I’ve made.
The questions from weeks one and two definitely got me thinking. They got me talking, during therapy, but the writing still didn’t come. This week’s question is different. This week’s question hit me hard. The answer came immediately. The answer is part of the reason why writing has been so hard.
The question – What truth must you reveal to yourself, so that you might let somebody else in?
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, earlier this year, and it terrifies me. It was the least unexpected diagnosis I’ve ever received, but that doesn’t make it easy.
The thing that scares me the most, the thing that has me holding my breath, the thing that is stopping me really moving forward is stigma, both internal and external. I have been open about having depression and anxiety. I have been vocal in discussing how we, as a society, need to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues. No one should fear how other people view them, simply because they are ill.
Yet here I am.
I am doing all the right things; medication, therapy and self-care. My mood is stabilising, the fog is lifting and my concentration is returning. It’s draining, but I am doing everything I can to give myself the best chance.
Yet there is this voice telling me not to talk about. Telling family is one thing, but don’t talk about it the way you did when it was just depression and anxiety. Just. As if depression and anxiety aren’t serious illnesses. As if depression and anxiety are easy. As if depression and anxiety are separate from other mental illnesses.
I know better than this. I’ve spoken better than this. Ending the stigma surrounding mental health has always been important to me. I thought I got it, I really did.
Yet here I am.
Here I am, scared people will judge me. Here I am, judging myself. Here I am, drawing distinctions that I would question anyone else for drawing.
I’m still processing, I know that. It’ll take time and hard work. Stigma will not win, I won’t let it. I am disappointed it has affected me this way. I thought I’d left all that behind. I thought I had done the work. I thought, I thought, I thought. Stigma is insidious and clearly has other ideas for me.
Acknowledging it is the first step to letting it go. I can start to breath properly. I can fully let other people help.
I know I’m not alone.
I will let people in, but I’m not quite there yet.