This time 10 years ago, I felt like my world was falling down around me. I felt like I was crumbling and that I wouldn’t be on this earth for much longer. Every minute of every day felt harrowing, gruelling and frightening. I was drifting from everything and everyone around me; I felt so alone, lost and confused.
It seemed to happen overnight, and even looking back it still can seem that way. But it was happening far sooner than I first realised. I guess I’d spent a while struggling to keep up with everything. I was adjusting to a lot; moving away from home, being at uni & managing to live on a student budget were just a few things I was getting my head around. The ‘normal’ things that many students have to experience in their first year. What actually seemed to change overnight, was my ability to express how I felt emotionally. I’d generally been quite good at knowing and being able to verbalise how I felt. Even if that was just by writing things down for me only; I seemed to go from having that ability yo suddenly not being able to put into words what was going on inside me.
What changed? What happened that meant I struggled to understand my own feelings? I guess a bit of everything; as mentioned above, along with the traumatic experiences I’d faced in the weeks leading to this point. I was 19 at the time, looking back I was still so young and had so much to learn. Of course, I expected to come across death, studying nursing, and I did wonder how I would cope. I just never imagined it would have such an impact on me.
On 16th April 2006, a teenager I had been looking after for a few weeks, sadly passed away. This was the day that everything changed. Not only was I trying to come to terms with the fact that this poor girl had lost her life, I was replaying in my mind her final few days. I was so overwhelmed by it all, the things I’d seen, heard and learned. The story behind it all and the opportunity this poor girl had unfortunately passed by was astonishing. How I wished I could turn back time for her & her devastated family. Her teenage brother, who I saw collapse to the floor with grief. Her parents, the nursing staff, her friends. And wow, I could not explain how it felt, no matter how much I tried.
From there, my confidence disappeared. I became frightened of my own death and that of those I loved. I became obsessed with trying to verbalise how I felt and the more I tried, the worse I felt. It felt like nobody could help, because I didn’t know what to say in a way that justified my feelings. I became so fearful of losing my loved ones that I wanted to die before them. And I became so frightened of my own death, that I wanted to die then, so I wasn’t living in fear any more. My mood was rock bottom, I started isolating myself from people and would hardly ever answer the phone to family because I didn’t want them to waste their time worrying about me. And secretly, I started to self-harm.
10 years on, my world is (thankfully) so different. I wake up and smile. I feel excited about each day, I look forward to what’s ahead and I no longer fear the inevitable. I have found myself after being lost for so long. I appreciate everything and everyone around me more than ever, and try to enjoy the time I spend with them. I feel content with life. And it’s not my life that has changed so much, but it is more about my outlook. I am still facing every day battles, that may be different to what they were 10 years ago, but that still affect me. We all have our battles to face, and life can feel impossible at times, but it really is a lot about your perspective.
This is a small example, but there are days where I wake up and find I’m in a flare of chronic fatigue; some days I cannot even speak properly because I don’t have the energy to move my mouth. I can’t open my eyes, and if I try they roll to the back of my head because I’m so tired. At first, adjusting to this was tough. It means my plans are never really set in stone. It means I have to respect what my body tells me, and I have to put myself first. Another thing that’s taken years to do; because I’ve spent so much time trying to put others first. I used to hate myself so much for this, I’d tell myself I was a failure, I was letting everyone down, I was being selfish. Now I’m learning to accept it, be honest with myself and others and rest when I need to. Not always easy but something I have to do. I’m feeling proud of myself, because today I couldn’t wake up until 2pm. I missed circuit training and a 5k park run, that I’d been looking forward to. But instead of being annoyed with myself, I was able to reassure myself. I can do circuits and park run next Sat if I’m up to it, it’s not the end of the world and I know my body must have needed that time to recover.
So as Jess Glynne would say; “Don’t be do hard on yourself”.
I’m excited about the future, and it’ll be interesting to see what I’d write in another 10 years time 👍🏼