** This is the first letter of an ongoing series for my blog. I have decided to publish all the letters I have written and plan to write, with the consent of the addressee, right here. Call it cathartic or a grand gesture of letting shit go get lost on the web. Call it a moral journey in which I’m trying to help people going through similar experiences and recount my hiccups and mistakes. Call it what you want, but this is one of the most profound and indulgent things I have done in my adult life. I really do want to let go of bad memories attached to each letter and handle it like a rebirth. It is actually only for my own gain. Take what you want from the series.
Most people who read my blog are aware of my mental illnesses. I have decided that I am going to write letters to everyone who has impacted my life, especially myself. I wrote this to my partner when I was struggling to speak about my mental health on bad days in the hope that they would begin to understand. They did. **
When a person loves and cares for another, they deserve love and care in return. I’m writing out my thoughts in an attempt to articulate what my “lows” and “bad days” look like to me. I know that those days just look like vacant eyes and a desperate grapple for an explanation. I realise that I keep a lot of my thoughts to myself, and that in turn makes me feel desperately lonely. When I look straight past you it’s not because I don’t see you, but because if I look at you I’d have to confront some ugly creatures in my head that have been lurking in the shadows when you’re around.
Because there are days where I don’t want to live anymore. And no one but myself can change that. It’s not your responsibility to “save” me, because there’s no such thing as a hero in this story. This story is just one of an uphill struggle where I pray for a moment of peace to sit and rest. But believe me, when I’m silent I’m not expecting you to pluck the right words out of thin air. In fact, I carry the same fantasies from my childhood when problems would just magically fix themselves because there was always something or someone there to make it right. I don’t have that anymore and I guess I look for that in the people I love. But it’s just a childish fantasy, nothing more.
I’ve always been determined to get my thoughts onto paper and actually communicate something valuable so someone can understand my lived experience. I want you to know that when I lash out in the form of silence or frustrated tears I’m expressing frustration at myself for not being able to handle the situation better. I’m fed up of having these expectations that I didn’t ask for, rather these expectations that were built due to unfortunate circumstances that have shaped who I’ve become. I’m tired of never feeling good enough, like I need validation all the time just to know that I’m doing okay, that I can’t validate myself in the same way as a stranger can. I’m tired of feeling scared that something I love will be gone without any notice or care for my soul.
All of these are things I can explain to you. I can tell you why I think like this, how I can get better, what I’m trying to do to get better. Yet, I always fall short when the pressure rises and seem to fail myself. This sadness that I’ve kept inside me for so long is making its presence known, like a very toxic friend. It feels like a dead weight. It used to chain me to my bed and lock me in my room so I couldn’t escape, now I don’t have any chains on my wrists. I just stay in with the fear keeping me trapped. It’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome, where you fall in love with your kidnapper. I know I need to shout it away, but something is keeping me tied to it. I’m not sure if I like the ride or if I’m too scared to see the world with clear vision.
This depression makes me paranoid. It gives me all kinds of dysphoria. I don’t recognise who I see in the mirror half the time, I can barely look at my own body without feeling sick or guilty. I know it’s my relationship with my family and everything we’ve been through that has given me a warped view of myself. It affects how I have sex, how I interact with people, and how I predict lovers to treat me.
I have never been in a long term, stable, loving relationship. I’ve have pleasant flings, but the long relationships have always turned out to be toxic and abusive. In those relationships I’ve seen sides to my mind that I’m still too apprehensive to explore. I have a history of things abruptly ending with a violent bang. And I’m being honest when I tell you that I’m scared the same will happen again. I run thoughts thru my head all the time, thinking about how two people could potentially end up hurt. I always question if it’s worth it. And if it seems like I have little faith in you, and in me, then I want you to understand that it’s because the past has been so disappointing and painful that it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But I want everything. I always want love and affection even though I have no faith in it. I’m so conflicted with craving love and then feeling sick at the thought of it being taken away. I understand this puts you in a difficult position. I have tried to be honest about my illness from the very beginning. In all honesty you gave me a bit of a drive to get better and get back out in the world because all you wanted was for me to be happy.
I can’t explain what it’s truly like to wake up and think you’re dead, and spend the next few days in a stupor where you’re debating internally if you’re dead or alive. I can’t explain what it’s like to go through that when you’re in the room. When you touch me, I feel it, but when you touch me and I’m not there, i’m almost on autopilot. And I hate you seeing me like this because I want to protect you from all the negative energy. Even when i’m frustrated with you, I know through all of the pettiness how wonderful you are. My depression means that you can make me feel like the most loved person in the world, to someone who isn’t given a second thought. I violently swing between the two because I’m so used to being shown affection and having someone be present for me, and then randomly not be there anymore. I can’t seem to have faith in anything because of it. It’s hard to love a faithless person.
But, I don’t want to patronise you by assuming you can’t “handle” all of these things. I don’t want to offend you by assuming you don’t even want to. I do, however, want you to understand that this might not bear a reflection as to who you are, but minor things you do can trigger this. Like when I need to be loved in a certain way (i.e – being told comforting things or being held) it’s hard for me to state my needs because I fear rejection. As you might know, people with mental health issues can tend to put their partners on a pedestal. I’m aware of this and while I feel that this relationship is special, i try to remember you’ll fuck up just as much as i will, and we’re just two ordinary people trying to figure each other out because there’s something in the other which lights a fire within us.
When I was a little girl, I had no expectations of the world. My dad gave me everything I needed before I realised i had even needed it. I had hay fever pretty bad when I was in primary school, and he’d wrap a wet wipe really neatly in some foil in my lunch box. My mum would be stunned that a little girl could turn a hardened man like my father into the gentle giant i knew him to be. When he died and my brothers left, my mum found a new community, and i was alone in a big house in south London. All my friends were in my old town. I had nothing. I think that programmed how I navigate relationships. I get into them, make an explosive ending, leave, and start again. New. Nothing ever lasts with me. Or rather, nothing has ever lasted with me. A few things have, which I’m trying to hold onto dearly, but there’s always that voice in my head warning me that this too will fail.
I won’t lie, I day dream about beautiful partnerships. Obviously with you. Lounging by the lake, smoking on a balcony, lying in bed with the sun shining on our bellies. I do hold onto those moments, where i can feel your eyes looking into me. when i know i’m on your mind, and when i see you becoming happy when i get excited about another boring academic thing or tasty cake. When you’re just as content as I am in silence, being alone, having our own understandings in public. Being considered in your life. they come crashing down by a kick to my throat and i’m back on the floor wondering what I’ve done to deserve this literal illness that is rotting my mind. I think about my desires to be seen and held – and to have someone present for me. Like, what does that even mean? Does it mean phone calls in the form of, “hey, how are you doing?” or a message “thinking about you. if you need anything just say,” “i can see you’re in pain. you’re more than your pain but your pain is beautiful.” That’s how I show love and care, but it’s probably not how a lot of other people do. I have felt your care. You lifted me to the shower and washed me when I couldn’t look after myself. You’re a physical person, you show love in practical things. Practicality is probably what I need right now. I show love with poems and letters and grand spontaneous gestures.
What a beautiful thing those two things merged together could be.