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In the early hours of this morning, I was having a conversation with a friend regarding my thoughts about alcohol and the issues I feel I’ve been having with it lately. I always end up feeling sorry for myself as the night wanes on and the drink flows ever more quickly, going from a few beers with friends and enjoying myself to lying in bed wanting to be far away from the reality I call home. I declared I was going to give Stoptober a try (you basically stop drinking alcohol for the month of October) and in that moment, I was genuinely determined to stick with it.
Flash forwards 12 hours and I’m sat at a table in TGI Fridays ordering a beer with my meal. My pledge to Stoptober didn’t even cross my mind and I can’t really work out why I ordered a beer. I went out for a curry and beers last night and after the mutiny that took place in my body during the course of my intermittent sleep, beer was the farthest thing from my mind and normally I tend not to drink alcohol with food. Yet there I was, instinctively ordering a beer. It feels like lately when I’m out and about and not driving, if given the choice, I’ll choose something alcoholic to drink and usually order a few more on top of the first.
I sometimes try and convince myself that I do this because I missed out on my ‘prime drinking years’ post sixth form and at university due to my battles with mental illness that nearly killed me. But this reason only extends so far. How many nights of drinking to oblivion, fervently hoping to be taken away from my life and the cage of my mind, how many benders that end up in tears and episodes of depression that linger for days, how many phone calls to friends and loved ones that constitute me telling them I don’t want to be here anymore; how many more of those nights will it take for me to realise that maybe I’m not trying to make up for lost time, but instead trying to lose time altogether, to escape, to get out, to be and feel anything other than myself.
I lean on people for guidance, stability and hope when I’m in a position that finding those things myself seems impossible. I rely on other people being in my life, being present in my day to day conversations and happenings. I crave their warmth and the comfort they provide. Maybe I do this too much, but if I tried to go cold turkey and not pay attention to wanting those things, I’d slip into an even more vacuous black hole. And it’s so, so lonely. Being mentally ill is isolating beyond compare, even though you know you’re ‘not alone’. And I’m not just talking about feeling friendless or distant from family members. I miss kissing someone I care deeply about. I miss feeling their touch electrify my skin and set my nerves on fire. I miss my hand in theirs. I miss the butterflies. Whatever scientific reason behind that feeling is, I don’t care. To me, that’s what it feels like to feel alive. It’s unlike anything on this earth when they’re coursing through your veins and you’re lost in the moment with that person. Little Nicky had it right with the butterflies all along.
I didn’t intend to divulge all of that, but as you well know, when you open that box of feelings, they all come flooding out like PSLs in Autumn. The aim of mentioning the whole Stoptober thing was to link into what I actually wanted this blog post to say, which is that I’m gonna give Blogtober a go. I’m not gonna say it’ll all be light and airy because that wouldn’t be a true representation of my life. I’m in recovery and granted, most days are better ones with laughter and happiness. But the bad days are always there in the shadows, waiting for the light to change and catch me off guard. Because that’s what being in recovery from mental illness feels like. You’re always watching your back, anticipating when the next wave is coming, ready to fight it off. I know you shouldn’t be that way, you should let whatever feelings are there be present and in the moment and observe them without judgement. But I can’t live my life that way, I just can’t. Not yet anyway.
Having a mental illness makes you live life scared of the monster under the bed. I’m a child fearing something that my mind has absolutely convinced me to be totally real. All I want to do is trundle downstairs and give my dad a hug. Hugs always make things better, even if it’s just ever so slightly. But I can’t do that either. Because my OCD will tell me I have to then shower again before being able to get back into bed and I really don’t think I have the energy to shower for a second time today, not on top of how I’m feeling. So I’ll tell him this, and he’ll be upset but understanding. I’ll raise my finger to my eye and he’ll do the same, our little code to say ‘I love you’.
Having a mental illness sucks.
I miss touching the floor without crippling anxiety. I miss riding my bike. I miss not worrying about flies and bugs. I miss being able to eat in restaurants where my only worry was what to pick to eat. I miss the summers with friends where I felt carefree. I miss being a family.
I miss the old me.