Who Will You Choose To Be Today?

Sometimes I just get in that way where I need to write. I’m in the middle of an archaeology assignment and I’ve not been able to focus. Hopefully once I’ve got this out of my system I’ll be able to focus again.

Last night I had a dream. Whether you believe that dreams can be signs or if they’re just a weird phenomenon that occurs doesn’t really matter. My most lucid dreams where I remember them for a very long time are ones that usually, when I dissect them, are my brain trying to tell me something. I think that’s what’s going on here.

In February of 2012 a news story broke about a family friend. I am not going to link it because I can’t quite frankly bring myself to and that’s not what this post is about. The basics were that he was found with a significant number of pornographic images and goodness knows what else of children on his computer. The trust that I’d spend so long building after my own sexual abuse was ruined in one sentence and I became bitter. This man went to jail for 10 months and we’ve not heard from him. Nor did he or his family let us know what was going on in the first place.

That’s all I’m going to say on that subject because it’s something I’m still wrestling with. But lately I’ve been having dreams about him turning up or seeing him and dealing with all these feelings of bitterness and betrayal and everything negative that comes up when I think about this topic. Last night was a bit of a turning point for me on this topic though. Throughout this dream where I felt myself becoming bitter and twisted and in some cases cruel and uncaring to human suffering – all things I hope I’m not actually like in real life – I was suddenly transported to a room where there was music playing. I wish the song in my dream was a real song but as far as I know it’s not. But it was the idea that I am in control of how I live my life and I can choose to let things go and in the letting go, the healing can start.

Now why am I posting this? I honestly don’t know but I can’t tell you the pressure that has been lifted from my shoulders. It seems like a very basic thing, you choosing to be the person you want to be. That’s not to say that every day I’m going to wake up and go “I choose to not have depression today” or “I choose to not let my past affect me today” because that’s not how life works. But it does mean that I can start every day and say “I choose to work towards who I want to be today and if I have a set back, that’s okay too.” Today, and from each and every day forward I choose to let myself acknowledge that it’s okay to just let things go. I choose to be okay with not focussing on every minute detail of my past and I choose to work on removing the guilt I carry that wasn’t mine to have in the first place.

The Pressure To Make A Difference

Every time I open a new blog post recently, one thought goes through my head and that’s “God, let this be something that means something to someone.”

I didn’t start this blog with the intention of doing that. I started it because I wanted to rant and feel some validation for how I was feeling. It was a way to seek out like minded individuals so I felt less alone in how I felt. Since then I’ve discussed things from gay marriage, to politics and most recently mental health and the importance of talking about it. And then I realised I’m a fraud. Because I talk on this blog about what we need to do, what needs to be done, and I don’t ever really take my own advice. I will spout out mental health awareness at the drop of a hat but I’ll rarely give my own experiences bar a couple of sentences and those will be euphemistically phrased to avoid shocking people.

But since June of last year I really started to pay attention to my demographic. I’m reaching people who are actively searching for what I was looking for when I started this blog. People are finding me by searching “how to cover self harm scars” or “i think i’m depressed what do i do” and most commonly “how to forgive your rapist.” If you’ve come across this post because you’ve searched that last one in particularly, I’d like to direct you to the post I wrote entitled “You Matter” because I wrote that for you.

That pressure to make a difference is something I’m struggling with right now. I feel like I no longer have the words that are required because somewhere along the line I stopped being honest about who I am and began to hide behind this loud-mouth exterior, pointing out mental health injustice and not really dealing with the fact that I, myself, have issues that need worked on and will most likely need worked on for the rest of my life.

So, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to be honest with you for the first time in a long time. My name is Rebecca Plenderleith. Next week I will be 22. I’m a first year archaeology student and I’m struggling with education as I’ve been out of it for a very long time. When I was a young child I was sexually abused and that has left me with trust issues. Two years ago someone close to me was jailed for pornographic images of children which caused a resurface in my issues surrounding my abuse. At the age of 10 or 11 I was taught to spot the symptoms of alcohol poisoning because someone I considered family – who has since passed away – was an alcoholic. I am a recovering self harm addict who has not cut in 2 and a half years but still feels the urge whenever stress hits, the difference now is I know I’m strong enough to not do it. I have depression and I have anxiety.

BUT

I’m also funny and I like to make people laugh. I’m creative. I’m intensely passionate about the topics that mean something to me. I will debate you on anything we have a different opinion on. I’m ridiculously stubborn. I often find myself wishing I could be a country singer because can those girls sing or what?! I once heard my dad quote someone (I’m terrible at remembering who actually said certain quotes) who said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” and for some reason that’s been the main thing that’s stuck with me out of anything he’s ever said. Although he probably wishes “Tidy your room!” is what I’d remember.

All those things plus a thousand more are what makes me who I am. Lately I feel like I’ve become an empty shell who couldn’t have a conversation that didn’t involve “Mental Health” and, as is only the way, that did nothing to benefit my own mental health.

I turned myself into a label and I hate that. I hope now to be able to get myself to a place where I can start helping to make a difference again.

This is my toffee hammer.

votesforwomen

Suffragettes threw themselves in front of horses, threw toffee hammers through windows and starved themselves. Do we need to do the same for mental health awareness? Or, would that add to the stigma that we’re “insane”.

I’m disgusted quite frankly. I’m disgusted that in two leaders debates, we’ve had a solitary mention of mental health in a single sentence that was quickly covered up. As strongly as the suffragettes and the less intense – for want of a better term – suffragists campaigned for the vote, that’s how strongly I feel on the state of mental health in this country.

Nicola Sturgeon seems to think the only people who cannot work in this country are the disabled. That statement has angered me more than I care to understand why. Whilst I understand it was an offhand statement, that’s the point. The mentally ill don’t seem to even be a blip on her radar. But it’s not just her and this is not an anti-SNP rant.

I’ve spoken a lot on this blog about my struggles with mental health. But I can never let you see into the mind of a mentally ill person. I can never make you understand the addiction to self harm. I can’t make you understand that I still can’t look at a pencil sharpener without wondering how quickly I could take the blade out of it and I’ve not cut myself in over 2 and a half years. Less than 5 seconds if you’re wondering.

When I say that depression has robbed me years of my life, I’m not over exaggerating. A side effect of depression that they don’t readily tell you about is the memory loss and the confusion that can come with it. There are significant chunks of my life I don’t remember.

My mum has to tell me about things of my life that happened that I don’t remember. Do you know how wrong it feels to be in your early twenties and to need to rely on your mother to tell you things you’ve forgotten? There have been conversations I’ve had with her that she remembers clear as day that I have no recollection of. It makes you question your sanity. I have to say that memory problems aren’t so much things I deal with now although I do struggle with memory recall when it comes to sitting exams.

I want to ask you a question. Imagine you’re an employer for a second. Would you hire someone who turned up to work with fresh, self-inflicted wounds, who forgot tasks they were meant to carry out, who sometimes didn’t turn up to work because they’d slept for nearly 24 hours straight, couldn’t do new things because they caused panic attacks, had random crying outbursts, who got angry for the most bizarre reasons (like toilet paper, don’t ask.) and who you could speak slowly and clearly to them and have them look at you like you’ve just spoken jibberish because nothing you’ve just said has entered their brain in the correct order?

No? Quite right. That was me. I was unfit for work. I was on ESA which replaced Disability Living Allowance. I had to go to an “assessment” where someone who was not a medical professional took my doctor’s line and then quizzed me endlessly on my depression and then enrolled me on a work placement programme. I turned up to that programme and spoke with the guy who listened to me for all of 5 minutes before going “You’ve been put on a work placement programme? Are you kidding? You’re not fit for work.” I’m still on that programme. It lasts 5 years. However it goes on hold whilst I’m in uni but they still phone me every 3 months to check up on me. I’ll be on that programme that did nothing for me because I shouldn’t have been placed on it for 5 years after my graduation from uni. I will be 30 before I’m taken out of that programme. That means for 5 years after I graduate from uni I have to tell them everything about any job I take. Thanks government!

To get back to my original point, however, when are we going to get the recognition we need? I can only speak for myself with my experiences with depression but I’m at the end of my tether. Suicidal tendencies aren’t a medical emergency, people with severe mental health services aren’t disabled so they can still work no bother. Not to mention how offensive it is to those disabled people who CAN work, as not all disabled people are unable to work.

Nobody is talking about this. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. Because we’d need to educate our children on subecjts like self harm and suicide. Because politicians might have to listen to a loudmouthed girl in her early 20s talk with experience on subjects in which they have none. Because we’d need to acknowledge the brain gets sick just like any other major organ. Because we’d need to change our entire mental health care system to ensure we end up with one that works.

People with mental health issues are ridiculed and labelled “insane”. It’s said that Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” By that definition, it’s our government and our NHS that are dealing with insanity. We’re simply unwell and not receiving the care we need.