Ben Power: I'm still here

It’s ok not to be ok. This is a message that is starting to show up more and more frequently in social media circles as people start to talk more openly about their mental health issues. But what does it mean to not be ok? And what do we do when we find ourselves in that position? As I write this, it is 6:30am. I have been awake since 2:30 after having 3 and a half hours of sleep for the night; something which has become the norm for me over the last two years or so. During that time, the vast majority of my energy has been spent trying to actively ignore the little voice in my head that constantly tells me that I’m a failure, that I’m not and will never be good enough and that I should really just give up now and put myself out of my misery.

I have yet to find a reliable long-term method of banishing that voice completely so for now I make do with drowning it out. I guess it’s the mental health equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “Lalalalala I’m not listening to you!” For now, I take each day as it comes. I count the little victories like managing to do laundry or finishing a job application that’s taken me several weeks to write or even that I managed to get up and interact with the world for an hour before I had to retire to my bedroom again. When the voice gets particularly loud I distract myself by losing myself in a computer game or colouring book or a tv series binge on Netflix – whatever works best at the time.

I’m also learning how to ask for help. As someone who has found themselves in the role of supporter for most of their life, it has been extremely difficult for me to be able to reach out and ask when I’ve needed help. Something within me wouldn’t allow me to see myself as worthy of other people’s time and attention and too often I have chosen to stay silent and not ‘bother’ my friends with my own troubles. I still have a lot of work to do in that respect but I hope that I am getting better at it.

Finally, on the days when the voice is quieter, I take the opportunity to make plans. I arrange to do something with a friend in a few weeks’ time or make a commitment to do something for someone. This means that when things are darkest, I can tell myself “I can’t give up yet, I have to do this thing next week so I’ll hang on till after that”. I’m thankful for the people in my life who help me to do that and who have stayed by my side when I’ve needed them most.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how to fix myself, let alone others but that’s ok. Right now I’m getting from one end of the day to the other and I’m still here and still fighting so I guess that must mean I’m doing something right!