Have you ever felt completely alone in a room filled with all your family and friends? I have.
Do you ever feel like you’ve nothing useful to add in a conversation, so make excuses to head to the bathroom or stand somewhere that won’t attract attention, perhaps busy yourself with the family pet? I do.
Do you ever avoid social situations and notice that you see more of the staff serving you in Sainsbury’s than your own friends? I do.
Do you ever find that the build up to a social event (even just a friend’s BBQ) is so draining from feeling so crappy about yourself that it prevents you from attending? I do.
Have you ever opted to spend an entire weekend with the blinds shut so people can’t see you without any make-up on (yes, I am completely aware that sounds ludicrous and people would need binoculars to see me properly, but nothing will make you open them), and you’ve no concept of what the weather is like or what time it is? I have.
Do you ever consider having a shower a huge accomplishment (not because you’re hung over) and see that as the most productive thing you’ve done during an entire weekend, and even worse you are genuinely impressed that you managed to do it? I have.
Have you ever spent hours in silence not even realising how much time has gone by or what it was you’ve been thinking about but just literally can’t function, so going downstairs in in your PJs and watching TV is the most activity you can fathom (again, not due to being hungover)? I have.
If you can’t associate with any of those scenarios then I envy you, so much. Sadly, those are all situations that I have found myself experiencing more than I’d like to admit. I think some people assume this is a recent thought process that I'm going through, but sadly I have become the ultimate actress and have forced myself through situations for as long as I can remember, and I can't do it anymore. I can recall faking an illness to avoid a family friend's birthday when I was about 13 because of how bad I felt about myself. Now that's nearly 20 years ago. I can't keep lying for another 20 years!
I know that it’s difficult to understand depression and low self-esteem, I too find it complex and hard to explain. So god knows how confusing it must be for the lucky people who’ve never been in that dark headspace.
Since opening up and speaking out loud about my depression and low self-esteem, over the last few years I have tried to explain to my loved ones that depression isn’t just about “feeling blue” or just sitting there crying, because it’s not, there’s a lot more to it than that (crying is actually one of the last things I do and seems to mostly happen when I’m talking to someone about how I feel; perhaps it's a release from a build up of thoughts).
When I am going through a difficult patch I often get angry and I feel like a gigantic bitch for being short with people who are simply trying to help or understand why I might be feeling low. It’s not anything that they’re doing that annoys me, it’s the fact that I can’t explain my emotions in a single sentence, or even in a short paragraph! And the most frustrating thing is that there is no reason for why I’m having a bad day/week. So I feel as though I’m trying to justify something that doesn’t exist and then I feel stupid and embarrassed for it all. Annnnd then these feelings just go round and round and round like that for a while. It’s dull, annoying and the worst merry-go-round I’ve ever been on.
Living with depression and all those negative thoughts can be so painfully lonely, even when you’re surrounded by all your favourite people. Personally, I blame my low self-esteem and how I’m constantly assuming people are looking at me and judging for why I feel that way. It makes me want to hide away and I believe people would have a better time if I wasn’t there (and it's easier to avoid things than have to have conversations you don't want to endure!). All the self-doubt preoccupies my thought process to the point that I can’t think about anything else, so before I even get myself in to a state worrying about things I decline an invitation or sometimes hope I already have other plans that I can cope with.
I’d be scared to count how many social situations I have avoided throughout my life because of what’s going on in my head. I genuinely don’t know if I am able to count that high! Group situations are the ones I struggle with the most. I feel much more "comfortable" with just a couple of other people than a group of six. I automatically assume I'm there to make up the numbers and don't fit in.
It's been really tough to speak truthfully but over the last year or so I’ve started to be honest with my friends and family about why I am declining their invitations or why I’m not going to attend certain events. I know they might feel hurt, and that truly is the last thing I want someone to feel. It also isn’t something I intend to continue doing forever, I'm desperate to the point of feeling comfortable in group situations.
It is a horrible feeling to know you are letting people down and they just want you to be part of something. But it’s something I am doing to try and face my demons. By admitting the problem exists (rather than lying about why I’m not going somewhere) I am hopeful that I will get to that more self-confident place. By spending time coming to terms with why I feel like I do in those situations, admitting that it's ok not to be ok, is one step closer to getting to that happier/healthier place.
Constantly being told “you should do this or that” because “it’s just one of those things you have to go to” in my opinion isn’t true. I have a choice and my choice is to put myself first and try and remove as much of this emotional negativity as possible. I'd like to think that my friends and family agree that putting myself first for a while isn't just me being selfish and are proud of me taking these steps.
I appreciate that some might feel that I am increasing distance from my friends and family by doing this, but it’s not. I’ve found it’s actually brought me closer to them because I’m being honest and true to myself. I'm finding I'm speaking out loud rather than mulling things over in my head.
When I’ve been in a low place for a while, you won’t believe how proud I can be of myself when I do go through with certain activities; genuinely, getting dressed and putting my make-up on just to go to collect a parcel from a neighbour can be a huge achievement at times. So imagine how chuffed I feel with myself (but completely mentally exhausted) when I do go away for a night or something with a friend!
If I wasn't opening up to people and just battling with my low self-esteem and depression it can leave me feeling numb. Seeing everyone laughing, smiling, chatting away can feel so alien and unrelatable at times. However, since speaking up and telling the truth about some of the very dark places I've been to I know I am feeling better. I know it’s possible I will end up there again one day, but it's such a relief to know that it can get better and it will get better again. It isn't something that happens overnight and a lightbulb doesn't just suddenly switch on. But something does lift, and bit by bit it gets a bit easier.
As hard as it is to imagine when I’m in that negative zone I’ve learnt that I am not alone in these thoughts. These sorts of feelings and thought processes are quite “the norm” when it comes to depression and low self-esteem. Sad really, but nice to know you’re not actually alone.
If you can relate then that’s surely a good thing because you’re not an oddity and just making these thoughts up because I’ve felt those things too. I hope that we don't always have to feel like the grumpy cat.