A Wee Life Update
I’ve been ‘uhmm-ing and ahh-ing’ over writing this post for a long time now – whether or not to write it, to share it, or even just when would be right. But this week, I’ve been reminded of one of the big reasons I started a blog in the first place – which was to encourage honest conversations. If I ever thought I could help someone by writing and sharing my own story and journey, then I would do it – regardless of how hard it may be, or how much I may not want to. Over the last two years, I’ve definitely done that at various different points, when the time has felt right.
Not only has that reminder been timely, but also an encouragement. It can be so easy to hide in the background, and to shy away from the things that push us outside of our comfort zone. It’s easier to avoid, to deny, or to run away from the problems we’re facing … easier, until, that is, they catch up with us.
There are only so many times we can say a “I’m fine”, through somewhat gritted teeth, trying to plaster a smile on your face to make it seem genuine before someone will (or, I hope, should) call you out on it. There will come a point where it’s possible to hit rock bottom, or to feel like we’re helpless. And it’s at this point, that it’s more and more important to recognise that it’s okay, and you’re allowed to say, “no, I’m not okay.”
Open, Honest and Vulnerable
There have definitely been times over the last few years where I’ve been better at sharing, better at keeping my blog up to date, and just more on top of things. However, the last few months, (or a bit longer), have been a bit harder – and I guess that’s where this update really needs to begin. I had all sorts of intentions for my blog over the summer; to really utilise my three months off (I’ll call myself a part-timer before someone else does it for me…thanks Dad) – but none of those came to fruition.
Every time I sat down with my laptop (and a cup of tea), to try and write, my mind went blank. I had multiple half-written blog posts circulating round my head each night as I tried to get to sleep, but actually trying to get them onto the page? Practically impossible. I felt as if I’d lost my voice – lost my ability to express myself, my thoughts, and didn’t know how to get that back. Perhaps some of that was because it had been so long, and so much had happened, that I didn’t know where to begin. But I think a lot of it also had to do with me, and where I was at.
University summers are a strange time. They’re so long, for one, but it also so strange to be back home, apart from the “other half” of your life. University feels so separate, almost like we travel to a different universe for 8 months of the year, and then descend back to earth for the holiday months… maybe it’s the other way round? Either way – it’s strange. I feel like I live a double-life; I have the life that everyone from home knows about, and then the one that everyone at uni knows. There’s very little cross-over, and I almost feel stuck in the middle. Anyway – that kind of leads me to my first point…
Going home, and seeing people for the first time in months, is weird. The questions come flooding in, especially when you return to Church for the first time. Things like “How was first year?”, “Are you glad to be home?” – you get the gist. Or, we can go as simple as just “How are you?” – and even that feels difficult to answer. But, I think the hardest one for me this year, was “How is uni, you look like you’re having a wonderful time.”
There are times when I kick myself for using social media in the way that I do. I can be somewhat of a prolific poster, because there are people I care about, and who care about me, wanting to know what I’m up to. As we all are, I’m guilty of putting the things I enjoyed up – and so that means that the library sessions, essay meltdowns, or late-night panics don’t really feature in my Instagram feed. Yet at the same time – I’m SO aware of how crucial it is to be transparent online, yet doing that in practice is so much harder that we may think.
But, in this case, how do I answer that question? Do I go with the simple, “yes, it’s been really good, but I’m glad to be home for a bit”? Does that satisfy? Because I find it hard to believe that someone would be prepared for the response I might have given. Because in all honesty, second semester was hard. It challenged me in ways that I haven’t been challenged before, and also brought me lower than I’ve been before.
You can probably tell just by how many times I’ve been round in circles so far with this post, that it’s not been the easiest of questions to answer. And yes – the overthinking and rambling that’s gone on in this post is somewhat reflective of the cycles in my head before I managed to get the courage to find an answer. Because – even though I’ve had time to get used to it, to practice my answers – there is still an innate fear about speaking out.
If I think back to last September, I’m sure there were many a thing I might have expected to be the outcome of my first year of uni. However, one of the things I’m not sure I was ever going to anticipate, or be ready for, was a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Deep down – I think I knew these had been underlying for a few years now, and I’ve spoken about anxiety on here before. But last semester proved to me that as much as some of us love to try and have everything under control, and to keep our lives together – there are going to be times that make it harder to do just that.
Even though I’ve had this conversation a number of times now, I’m not sure it gets any easier. There’s a stigma that surrounds all mental health, which comes partially from a place of confusion and lack of understanding. But despite all the attempts to voices louder, there’s still a fine line. For some, they see a need for a cry for help, almost attention seeking. For others, it’s easier to stay silent – to struggle alone because the fear of speaking out paralyses them.
I think this was partly what stopped me up till now; whether that’s in conversations in person, or online. But although I’ve had a change of heart – I want to make it clear that it’s not a cry for help, nor am I doing this because I want more attention. If anything, I’d quite like to hide in the shadows, and would be content to stay there. No – I’m doing this because I have a platform, and a voice, and a God-given courage to speak up. Because there are others just like me, who feel entirely alone and lost within their own minds – and who have how much they appreciate knowing they’re not going through this alone.
See, the funny thing is – when you find the courage to talk about it, no matter what reaction you may be expecting, you very often find the opposite. Now, I know that’s not always the case – but on the whole, the more you speak, the more you find other people who are going through similar situations – or know of others who are. One of mental illnesses’ biggest lies is that nobody else wants to listen, or understands what’s going on.
I don’t have too much else to say on this topic for now, but before I round off, I want to share one piece of wisdom that I was given just after my trip to the Doctors last semester. There are some people who just exude wisdom and encouragement with every sentence, and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting one of these people for coffee. (St Andrews has no shortage of coffee shops, the only dilemma comes when you spend too much time in them and not enough time reading…) Because of the lack of understanding when it comes to mental health, there can be a tendency to see a diagnosis as a “death sentence” of sorts. Or, in the very least, it can feel really quite permanent. There can be issues with it becoming incorporated into your identity – which doesn’t help healing or recovery in any manner of means. But I know for me – both the words being spoken from the Doctor’s mouth, and the issuing of a prescription for anti-depressants made everything feel very, very real.
It was no more, or no less real than it had been minutes before going into the appointment – but the seeming finality of the words was hard to shift. Anyway – this advice went something along the lines of this:
“Hannah, I don’t see myself as somebody with depression. I see myself as someone with a tendency towards depression.”
For me – this is a truth I try to remind myself of on the days when I get stuck in a downward mental spiral. It’s a statement that acknowledges the uncertainty of living with a mental illness like depression, but without getting stuck in any finality. It doesn’t deceive me into thinking there’s an immediate cure – or that there’s a day in which things will suddenly be better. While I believe that God has the power to heal today, here and now, this is also me putting things in place to help on a day to day.
To that end, I try and round up today’s rather lengthy and rambly post – by saying that I’m thankful for anyone who I was able to have that conversation with over the summer – and to apologise if you weren’t one of them. Believe me, there were times when I wished I was able to, had just a little bit more courage – but, those moments left me. The fact that I’ve come terms with last semester doesn’t mean that everything is automatically fine – but it does mean that I’m in a place where I’m more willing to talk about it. I can see the benefit of being willing to share; to be able to walk alongside others in a way of compassion and empathy. Since coming back to uni, there’s been a weird adjustment period. Trying to get back into the rhythms of lectures, readings, friends, just general independent living. With that, I’ve restarted some counselling. It’s hard, emotionally draining and just sheer exhausting. But – I know to make long term progress, it’ll be worth it.
I finally feel I’ve made a dent in the distance I’d kept over the summer by keeping things to myself. It’s a step in the right direction for honest, vulnerable conversation – and for that I’m thankful. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeves that pop into my head at random points about where I could take my blog over the next few months – but one thing I know for sure; is that I want to get back to writing.
This is me determined to rediscover my voice, my passion, and the joy for sharing.
If you’ve made it this far; thank you. Thank you for your support, love, and continued encouragement. It doesn’t go amiss.
Love Han x