Ever since I can remember, I knew that there was something different about me. As a child, when it rained, my Mum would find me in the back garden sat under an umbrella with a blanket. She would ask me what I was doing and I’d always reply “I’m thinking.”
Whilst normal kids would be running around and splashing puddles I would immerse myself in the sounds of the precipitation and of my thoughts.
Many children grow out of the “why” phases in life but mine grew deeper. I wanted to know why everything was the way it was. I longed for answers.
There was a kid in my junior school who was clearly different and stood out for the wrong reasons. She was really scruffy looking and often smelled of urine. Her hair was always greasy and you could tell it was cut by someone who didn’t know what they were doing. Her Dad always walked her to school he was extremely scruffy too and the playground dubbed him “a tramp.” Kids could be cruel. I always watched him wait until his daughter disappeared into the school building and with a final wave and blown kiss he would walk away from the school gates. My heart would sink. I always made an effort to be nice to the girl. I’d talk to her when everyone avoided her. At home I would think of her and again my heart would sink. The feeling you get just seconds before you cry…I felt so sad for her and yet it was as if I was feeling her isolation and her pain.
One of my all-time favourite films is The Color Purple. It was the first film to ever make me cry. I was quite young when I first saw it. “Nothing but death can keep me from it” When Celie and Nettie get separated is imprinted in my heart. I cried as a child and I cry as an adult. As a child, at night, I would think about the film and I felt sad for the characters then I felt sad for anyone in the world who had been separated. Anyone who has been abused. Anyone who was afraid to smile. Anyone who stood up for themselves. I think that film connected my heart with my brain but my thoughts projected a worry for everyone in the world. As a child this was overwhelming.
One night there was a massive storm. I was awoken by a flash in my room. There was a silence in the darkness before a crash of thunder. My stomach flipped. I didn’t like it. I could hear the wind outside pick up and moments later the smashing of glass. My nerves immediately throbbed and my heart was pumping so hard it was like a drum in the room. To me, the smash was my parent’s window. I was convinced they were dead. The storm had killed them. I lay there frozen with fear. A cold sweat. More flashes of light in the room encouraging that beating drum to play louder. Harder.
My consistent wonder and worry since being a child has enabled a highly sensitive life and I have been susceptible to both anxiety and depression. I’ve accepted being attuned to other people and their feelings but been unable to draw the line at taking these feelings on as if they are my own.
Anxiety has taken me to the highest emotional building where depression has called me to jump to ground zero from the ledge. Boy do I jump. I’ve jumped so many times, crash landed and still end up back at the unnerving top. It’s something I’ll never get used to but things I accept as a way of life. Only these days I try to pack a parachute or ladder and hope the bit in between the two lasts longer each time.
I'm 33 years old and living with mental illness. I originally trained in performing arts and in recent years worked in health and social care. I read books, listen to music and watch films to feel and connect and emotionally grow. I encourage uncontrollable pee-your-pants laughter and avoid the habit of a lifetime - to look at myself through other peoples eyes.
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