After spending the weekend in Taipei, Taiwan, I’ve realised how fortunate I’ve been to live in smaller towns like Ringwood (Hampshire), Llanrwst (North Wales) and occasionally Bournemouth (Dorset) over the last few years. Even Sheffield (South Yorkshire) doesn’t really feel like a busy place aside from the odd week for freshers, etc.
When I went to China in March I deliberately chose a small city for noise reasons, too bad it didn’t make a difference, and this time I chose Hsinchu over Taipei and Taichung because I wanted to live in a smaller, less frantic city. And because although Taipei changes every month, spending ten years in one city really lessens the excitement.
I’ve just arrived back in Hsinchu, I’m sitting on the train waiting for it to depart. The aircon is blasting out, there’s hardly any of us on the train and it’s absolutely silent. All of a sudden I feel so much more relaxed. You wouldn’t get this in Taipei, London, Tokyo, Shanghai. Nor any major city in the world. And that’s why I’m so glad I chose Hsinchu (I must admit I had my doubts, I thought it would be another strange ghost city!)
So, now the backstory is over, the point of this blog post is to highlight how anxiety can really get in the way of life, but also how you can learn to manage it and continue living a fairly ‘normal‘ life (well, on the outside at least).
14 months ago – as I mentioned in a previous post, the last time I was in Taipei I spent numerous hours and days in bed – crying, panicking, being sick for no real reason. This weekend was definitely not as drastic, but my god did I feel awful.
There were too many people, too much noise, too many lights, too many options.
I wanted a calm weekend and I got the complete opposite. On Saturday afternoon I had planned to meet a friend, and all I wanted to do was hide. I felt sick, nauseous, anxious. Old Claire would have cancelled. Not-old Claire didn’t. I told myself that this was a school friend, someone I would enjoy seeing and catching up with over dinner (1. I love catching up with friends. 2. I bloody love food.) I am so glad I went. I had such a wonderful time!
Today, however, I could have spent an extra 24 hours in Taipei but all I wanted to do was escape. My heart was beating far too quickly. I wanted to throw up from the minute I opened my eyes. I just wanted to go home.
Home is only 30 minutes on the train, I really could have stayed and explored Taipei but I felt as if I couldn’t stay another moment longer.
If I had stayed I could have tried 4 or 5 coffee shops, found new clothes, bought more books, found a kitchen shop for coffee machines and the food blender I really need. But no, I escaped.
So just because someone can, somehow, travel across the world and start a new life in a new city, it doesn’t mean they don’t have anxiety, or depression, or something else. It doesn’t mean they’re ‘faking’ or ‘attention seeking’. Just because someone can get on a train or go to a football match or party with their friends, it does not mean they’re ‘cured’ or ‘lying’.
It can be so difficult to maintain friendships when you have a mental ‘illness’. It can be difficult to go out with friends, or even go out to do the weekly shopping. Life can be really, really difficult. The one time you see someone out and about, it might have taken them 4 hours to ‘psych themselves up’ or 3 phone calls to a friend who’s convinced them they’ll be okay once they’re out.
You may never understand what’s going on in someone’s head, or heart, when it comes to anything, let alone a mental health issue, so try your best to be kind. Or at least don’t be a total douchebag.
As you’re probably aware now, I’m in awe of how Matt Haig handles his life. He continuously posts excerpts from his books, he posts advice and supportive comments to anyone listening. Now many of his comments are those of support, gratitude for his writing, or those sharing their experiences. However, some of the comments are from nasty, bitter, spiteful, sad, heartless ———-. Quite often, Matt shares these comments with his followers, so we know what he’s dealing with. I don’t know how he manages it because comments like he receives would probably destroy me.
People accusing him of faking anxiety just because he gave a talk at a community event, people saying he’s lying because he travels around the world. What is wrong with these people?
Those of us who have suffered from something like anxiety, depression, bi-polar, PTSD, can spend weeks, months, years fighting for a normal life. We can spend days in bed, only moving to use the bathroom and maybe eat a bar of chocolate, we may spend 5 hours crying uncontrollably until we throw up – for absolutely no reason other than our mind is telling us we have something to panic over, or be upset about.
Learning to control our thoughts, or at least to process them, is extremely difficult. For some people, therapy is the answer. For others, therapy only makes it worse. Sometimes a partner or a family member might help you through it, but other people might be clompletely alone. So please, again, try to be kind. Even if there’s no way you can understand how someone feels, or you have no idea what they’re going through, just don’t be a bastard. Don’t say nasty things. Don’t be a spiteful internet troll.
Things not to say to someone with a mental health issue
- Maybe you should try and be happy
- Maybe if you stopped worrying, it will get better
- What do you have to worry about?
- You have nothing to be depressed about
- People have much worse lives than you, you should be grateful
- (The list is endless…)
- Over the last two weeks I have seen many people speak up about their anxiety or depression and although it saddens me to see more people struggling, I’m so proud of them for speaking up. For letting the world know that we all have things to deal with, even if we don’t show it.
- I don’t often feel like a strong person, and I know and follow a lot of strong people online. People working out every day, people raising children, people who are artists, authors, teachers, mums, dads, footballers, and I wish I was as tough as them. But then I stop and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, they’re fighting something too. I have to remind myself that Instagram is not real life. And that many people hide behind their photographs.
- I have to take a step back and remind myself that no matter how many steps back, I have taken hundreds of steps forwards from the girl who lay in bed and cried for 18 months. Tormenting my poor mum, pushing all of my friends and family away, not working, not going out, just eating, crying and watching Netflix 24/7 and I remind myself that I have changed my life around. And although I owe most of those changes to my amazing mum, I did it. I became a functioning adult.
- That is why I keep talking about mental health. This is why I will never stop talking about mental health. I’ve been at the lowest of low points. The very end of rock bottom. But I somehow made it back, and I want to help, support and encourage people, if I can, to do the same. I want to show people that it’s possible to live with anxiety, depression, bi-polar, and any other ‘illness’ that can destroy us. We can learn to live with it, we can be kinder to ourselves and find a way to cope.
- I will always be here for anyone that needs to talk. I promise.