What My Mental Health Has Stolen From Me
I am cynical. I like to make crude and rude jokes. I like to rip the shit out of my friends. Yet I still love to look on the bright side of life, and so often I try to find the best in a situation or make the most of anything that’s gone wrong. That’s how I - usually - treat my mental health and the consequences of having pretty terrible mental health. I like to focus on what it’s given me, the lessons it’s taught me, and the strength that I’ve gotten from coping that I don’t know if I’d have gained in any other situation.
I am proud of what I’ve achieved. Taking stock: I have a full time job, I have an interview for a new job, I have a good group of friends, I go to almost every drag show that I want to, I have a good life. I really do. I live just outside London, I own more books than I ever thought I would, I have more makeup than I could ever use in a lifetime, and the vast majority of the time these days I am happy. And for a long ol’ time I never thought I’d be able to say that again.
But sometimes - oh, just sometimes - I like to have a good old moan about the things that my poor mental health has stolen from me. Because deep down inside, I am grumpy.
I don’t know if stolen is the right word. I’m a firm believer in your path being your path, and that things do happen for a reason and it’s ridiculous to compare your life to anyone else’s. I’ve even written an entire post on living life to your own timeline. I doubt at the same time that there’s a single person on the planet who wouldn’t like to go back in time and change at least one thing about their life, or do something differently. God, if I let myself I would go back and alter the course of my teenage life completely. I guess that’s what all those ‘letter to my younger self’ posts let us do. Reminisce on what we’d change, whilst also being proud of what we’ve achieved.
Anyway. This is not a post about what I have done. This is very much a self pitying post about all the things I wish I’d done, and all the things in my life that happened differently to how I thought they would as a consequence of my poor mental health. If you can even call it a consequence. I never like to use my mental illness - borderline personality disorder with a side of depression and anxiety for those interested - as an excuse. I take full responsibility for all of my actions. But at the same time - I really doubt many of the things I would like to have changed would have worked out the way they did if I was stable.
The biggest one is dance. Growing up, I was an avid dancer and by the time I’d hit my teens I was dancing 10+ classes every single week. Ballet, tap, modern, street jazz, musical theatre, contemporary - you name it, I was probably doing it. And not to blow water up my own trumpet, but I was good. I was part of the ‘elite four’ in my dance school - the four of us who attended the most classes, went to all the festivals, and basically partook in everything. The other three went on to pursue a career in dance and performance. I went on to try and take my own life.
No. That’s an exaggeration. I did end up in a psych unit when I was 17, but managed to go back to dance for a short while after but eventually had to give it up. My mental health was suffering too much, and I had begun to work and couldn’t hack doing everything. Giving up dance was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make, but being in that environment only served to exacerbate my disordered eating. But god I miss it. I felt at home on the stage in a way I’ve never felt at home before. Teachers used to say I was a natural performer, and I felt it. The whole experience of learning the dance, being backstage, and then running on to perform was just the best feeling in the world.
And it hurts my heart to even think that that isn’t my world anymore. That I slammed the door on what could have been and the chances are it never will be again. The stage was my home. The stage was my downfall. I find it hard these days to even watch dance performances because it reminds me of what I don’t have. And while yes, I could get back into dancing - I’m terrified of failure.
The other things that have been taken from me are a lot smaller. I dropped out of uni after six months because my mental health took a nosedive, and I both regret it and don’t regret it at the same time. I loved uni, and I loved where I was and the community I had and the independence, but I know it wasn’t the right time or the right place. And dropping out of uni led me to live in London and find drag and the fantastic group of friends I have today, so that’s not such a big deal.
I’ve ended up doing everything ‘behind’ my peers. I did three years of college instead of two, I went to uni a year late, I’ll graduate when I’m 25 when so many of my friends will already have Masters degrees and PhDs. Again, you have to live life on your own timescale and there are plenty of mature students who graduate later, but sometimes I remember the ‘potential’ I had as a teen when I was told I could potentially end up at Oxbridge, and I feel like a giant failure for doing none of those things. My smarts was something I lost in the fog of depression and I’ve had to work harder than ever to gain back, when before it was as natural as breathing.
More than anything, a lot of the time my mental health just zaps my will to live life from me. I love my life as it is at the moment, but sometimes feeling like I’m constantly on the edge of a knife and I don’t know which way it’ll tip is just exhausting. Sometimes, not knowing if I’m going to wake up feeling good or bad, but having to get through the day regardless is such a tiring thought I’m not sure if I want to wake up at all. Living with constant, low level suicidal ideation on the daily is sometimes so hard to shake off that I just want to give in. Mental illness has robbed my ability to live a normal life, and sometimes I just want my brain to behave without the need for medication or talking therapy or struggling through the day. Although really, what is normal for anyone? I sure as heck do not know.
Alright. Giant moan over or I’ll be here all day. There is so much battling with poor mental health has taught me, and so much I’ve been given, but there’s also a lot I’ve lost. And sometimes I just want to talk about it, because I don’t often acknowledge what could have been, and arguably should have been once upon a time.
Do you feel your mental health has taken anything from you?