A Perfect Illusion

Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost everyone seems to suffer from some form of anxiety or stress these days. In fact there seems to be an epidemic of mental illness and suffering.

Why is this? Yes there’s the usual stresses; economic stress, overworking, unemployment, personal or family tragedies. These are not new issues. But theres something different now. There have been a few extra things added to the mix. Social anxiety isn’t just affected by your personal interactions. It can also be dictated by your online interactions. The strive for perfection has been upgraded. The standards have become higher and more unrealistic.  It is a thousand times harder to disconnect and live in the moment. Everything you need is on your phone. Stop using your phone for a few days, and somebody will probably file a missing persons report. Deactivating your social media will be seen as a serious sign of distress, and often is. The masters is the new bachelors degree. Want to work a menial job? Hope you have three years experience and a completely irrelevant PHD.

Everyone looks so polished and perfect. Social status is a legitimate character reference. Want to work for us? You must have x amount of followers on Facebook. MADNESS. Your ability to influence people or carry out work effectively is judged by how active and popular you are on social media. Surely everyone knows that ones image on social media is entirely controlled and carefully constructed in an unrealistic way, simply to garner positive attention? Have you ever sat beside someone as they compose a Facebook status, wracked with anxiety and desperation?  Have you ever been on a night out in your local, and everywhere you look there are people taking millions of selfies in a desperate bid to look like they are having fun, instead of actually having fun?

Is anything sacred anymore? Wouldn’t it be nice to run into someone you hadn’t seen in a while and actually be surprised by their new haircut or job or pregnancy? Because the “obligatory” pictures or status hadn’t been posted to inform everyone of this news?

I may sound old and bitter, but I am in fact 24, which puts me bang in the middle of the current young adult generation, who are mainly responsible for all of this. And I was a part of it for a good while. Until I became more and more disheartened with what the world was turning into.

Is there such thing as empathy anymore? People don’t seem to reach out as much. You can have 700 friends on social media and yet feel incredibly alone. Most of what you will see is other people showing off their own lives. Where is the connectivity that we claim is such a vital part of social media? Mark Zuckerberg claims that every country has the right to connectivity, and he is right, but I sincerely doubt that his intentions were entirely humanitarian.

Snapchat started off as a fun way of communicating, but I’m sure we all have had those people in our feeds who like to document their entire day, mundanities and all, for the world to see, in the style of a pseudo celebrity. I’m not trying to offend individuals. I’m simply trying to open peoples eyes to the fact that technology and social media have completely taken over our lives.

How many times have you been at a concert only to look around and see everyones phones in the air, filming? They are not in the moment, watching the concert with their eyes. They are watching it through the lenses of their phones, making sure that everyone at home knows exactly how much fun they are having. These days, “the fear of missing out”, affectionately referred to as “FOMO”, can actually be considered a real source of stress and sadness. You are not seeing an honest view of others lives. It is like a “best bits” montage.

However, anyone who has a twitter, or indeed a Facebook will know that people will openly talk about their mental issues as long as they can do it in a way that is amusing and witty. Or allows them to put down others, while still appearing to be a victim.

I think its brilliant that people have more of an understanding or their own mental health, and are more honest about the issues they face, but I can’t help get this sinking feeling that this is being used and abused as an excuse for all kinds of negative behaviour. If you have a message to spread and wish to inspire or uplift others, using your own personal experience, go ahead, but this doesn’t seem to be the case a lot of the time. Many people seem to use their anxiety as a crutch, or to lash out at others or compose long-winded essays which portray them as a victim but condemn others. This can be the case with many social media “activists”. Surely attacking others and pointing the finger is not an effective way to get your point across? If you really do strive for understanding, you must have empathy and a well-rounded perspective, and be willing to understand both sides and attempt to bridge the gap, instead of further instigating the divide. But that’s just my opinion. The problem is that everyone has the public platform to say and do as they please. You don’t have to earn it. Online, we can all be Gandhi.

When your message becomes more about how others see you, and boosting your personal image, it is time to step away from the cause. Trust me. That may sound harsh, but those who crave attention the most, are often those who can’t handle the criticism that you will inevitably open yourself up to. This is why it is important to do these things with a real passion in your heart. The human ego is a fragile thing.

There are anonymous sites in which people you know can ask you questions. Some people naively think people will use the site to reveal their secret crush. And I’m sure they often do. But what about the risk of bullying? Why is it that those who seek public approval and validation the most, are the ones who are the most vulnerable to criticism? I am deeply worried for a lot of people, because of this. Why let others define you?? They don’t know the real you.

We can worry about people or wonder how they are, but how many of us actually take a chance and reach out? We let our own anxiety and fear of what others will think, get in the way of what is really important. Trust your gut and hold onto your integrity. You owe it to yourself.

I’m scared. Terrified. I don’t want to lose people I love to this crazy world we live in. Life is hard enough! All these beautiful, beautiful souls stuck in this invisible prison.

I hope that anyone who is reading this and feels affected, knows that this comes from a place of love and understanding. My aim is not to make anyone feel about bad themselves, but to realise that you are special, no matter how high you rank on the social ladder, or how insignificant you feel. It’s funny how easy it would be for me to make it appear as though my life is perfect. Meanwhile I sit at home, agonising over jobs, over not being skilled enough and feeling as though everything is going wrong. The more society progresses, the more we can feel left behind. It’s hard to keep up.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever kind of day you’re having, I hope you can take some time out of your day to be in the moment, to go for a nice walk and look around you. Or to spend time with a loved one. We often think we don’t have time to do this. But the secret is, we can make the time, and it will make all the difference to your day. Sometimes we need to just take a step back and breathe and re-evaluate our purpose. And I’m not talking this big life purpose. Just being. I often suffer from dissociation and existential crisis and I find reconnecting to the universe is the best way to lift me out of this.

I’m sending you all love. As terribly cliche and cheesy as this sounds, the more you learn to love yourself, the less you will care what others think. I used to roll my eyes at affirmations and when people told me to look inward or spend time with nature, but it worked for me. Stop fighting for affection and love and acceptance, and find it within yourself. You deserve it and you are worthy.

Tis the Season to be Jolly……..

It’s that festive time of year again. The time of year that fills people like me with dread. Many people will frown upon my disdain of these kind of occasions or think that I am mean-spirited or a “Grinch”, but that’s not really the case.  I love giving gifts and catching up with people. But sometimes Christmas and the New Year can be very difficult. These are times when you are expected to feel joyous and content. It can seem unnatural. When you don’t feel that way it almost makes your sadness magnified because it is in stark contrast to how you are expected to feel and behave. Maybe I am just a difficult person. I don’t like organised fun or anything that feels contrived or forced. I don’t enjoy the expectation that comes with it or anything that feels like a pretence. Perhaps because of that old façade of perfection and “What will the neighbours think?” mentality that I have always hated. It was such a strong theme growing up in a small town. That said, anything showy or overly coordinated makes me uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy songs that come with dance routines or any kind of forced group interactions such as icebreakers. I’m more of a freestyle kind of person.

Christmas and New Years in particular can often bother me because of the massive unrealistic expectations that are built up over such a long period of time. The “Christmas Spirit” is not always something that you are going to feel. People are often disappointed when they don’t “get into the spirit”. Christmas in particular is very commercial and over the top. While I love giving gifts and the food and the lights and the atmosphere, in reality, being stuck at home with your family can be very boring and can be a time when lots of arguments arise. It’s not always ideal. And growing up I wasn’t spoiled by any means, so I guess I never expected as much as other kids. To many people their “happiness” is a direct result of the gifts they receive. You will see posts on social media of people flaunting their new expensive gifts. Usually an expensive brand and whatever is the current trend. What is more important to me is the meaning behind things. And the atmosphere. All I would really like is to have a peaceful time, which often does not happen. I find it funny sometimes how a lot of people will only admit the reality of how boring their Christmas was when you tell them about yours. Everything is for show. What about the real meaning of Christmas? Of celebrating life and love and giving and sacrifice? I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual. To have such an extended celebratory holiday that is all about materialism and consumerism seems a bit daft to me. All the glitter and parties and run ins with people from the past who will ask you “So, what are you doing with your life these days”, though really they have no interest.

Why cant we show love and be thoughtful towards people all year round? I feel that there’s a reason that Christmas is more magical for children.

Everything is more magical for children. Children know how to use their imagination and spirits to make things wonderful. We have become accustomed to relying on physical and material things. There is pressure to project an image of happiness that sometimes we just don’t feel. And that is ok. Those of us who don’t come from particularly close families know the struggle of the harsh reality that sometimes Christmas is the shittiest day of the year. And that’s perfectly fine. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling irritated. Frankly one day is enough. Things don’t have to be perfect. I guess I found Christmas particularly underwhelming this year because I have gone through a lot of change. I have distanced myself from a lot of people in my life and taken time to focus on myself. I’ve had some painful realisations and losses, as I’m sure we all have. And I did feel that one or two special people were missing from my life. Occasions like Christmas, New Years and Valentines Day can be hard when you feel like your life is lacking love. I wish that people took more time to reach out to each other and show some love. Platonic or otherwise. Kind gestures are important. You have to show people that you care. I feel that these days, with the avid use of social media, people have become more self-absorbed. Social media is no longer used to contact people or stay in touch. It is used as a form of self-promotion and exhibitionism. You don’t see the same level of connection and support these days, I feel. It feels like so many only log on to show off their own lives, rather than to connect with others. I feel that if I reconnected with social media, it would not make much difference it my life. The constant reminder that everyone is just a message away and yet nobody reached out would only cause more loneliness I feel. Solidarity is a beautiful thing to see, and I’m not saying that I do not see beautiful moments of this. I just wish there was more and that I felt more genuine love and empathy from people, and not just when it serves their public image. There is something awfully lonely about today’s world.

I’d really just like to take this moment to send out love to those who are feeling down and disheartened. Just know that there is someone watching over you, and that the universe has your back, even when you feel most alone. It’s ok to be sensitive and to feel things deeply. It doesn’t make you a moody person. You can use this sensitivity is a wonderful way if you put your mind to it. I always find that no matter how alone I feel or how much of an alien I think I am, once I speak up about an issue there are always people who feel the same way, however strange it seems.

The New Year can force you to look back on your life and the past year. And for a lot of us, that is painful. But you must remember that the most painful times offer the most growth and change. Your day is coming and your are getting closer with each disappointment, provided yo take the time to learn from them and reflect. Sometimes we have to learn very hard lessons. We have to let go of people who do not facilitate our growth. We have to say goodbye to things that we wanted, but that were not meant for us.

A lot can happen in a year. We might think we are not where we were meant to be and that everything has gone wrong. But you have to realise that it was important to go through all those things. Every hardship contains a valuable lesson and contributes to our wisdom. You may feel that others are passing you out in life, but maybe they have not learned the lessons that you have learned. Until you learn these lessons, you will continue to fall, and nothing is sustainable. When you have experiences heartbreak and pain you become more selective about who, and what, you allow in your life. And this process is painful and difficult but I believe it is the path to the true self and to true happiness.

If you are dreading the New Year or its bringing up a lot of emotions, you are not the only one. And life is a continuous journey of change. There is no time limit or right time to start. You have the power to make changes to your life at any time and you don’t have to hold yourself to any unrealistic standards. My goals for the next year, and every year, every day are simply to be true to myself, to be kind to others and to continue to grow and learn in whatever way I can. I want to start strengthening my mind with daily affirmations, to keep dreaming and envisioning goals until I have the confidence to believe in them and manifest them, and to hold on to the new positive habits I have developed through the hardships I experienced. My biggest lesson I have learned is to stop people pleasing and carrying the emotions of others. Surprisingly it has made me calmer and nicer. I feel less angry at the world when I pursue my own ideals, regardless of what the crowd does or what is expected of me. And it may cause conflict and alienate me at times but it is what truly makes me happy. What makes you happy? Who makes you happy? Try to keep that in mind.

If you are reading this and identifying with this, then do not worry because it means that you are going through a similar phase of growth. No is not the time to doubt yourself or give up. Now is a time for connecting with yourself and others like you and sending some love out into the world. We all have a special purpose here on earth and figuring out what it is and following that path is what will make you truly happy. Fuck expectations.! Fuck judgments! Fuck behaving in a socially acceptable manner! Fuck this live/work/die thing/ How about live/love/learn/give.

Stay Golden ❤ ❤

 

Depression Confessions

(I wrote this blog entry over a year ago on my last page makewayfortherainbow.com in case anyone is wondering. Reposting because it is still relevant. I deleted my site when I went through an extremely rough patch, which ended with me removing all traces of my existence from social media and a stint in hospital, but more on that another time.)

This is something that I have meaning to do for quite a while and has only been seeming more and more urgent lately. I have witnessed so many people deeply affected by anxiety, depression and poor self esteem and mental health. I have seen it in their words, their eyes, their actions, their smiles and their “jokes”. Most of all, I feel it. A sense of desperation and hopelessness, of feeling confused, lost and maybe broken. There have been so many alarm bells going off in my head, some louder than others. Some barely a whisper, but all with the potential to end in terrible tragedy. Suicide rates are on the rise yet we never really see them coming, no matter how many signs are right in front of us.

I recently saw what seems like the worst possible solution occur to someone who was a bright light in so many people’s lives and a close and treasured friend to many of my friends. She was always the loudest person in the room, who touched every single person they met and whose jokes and stories will never be forgotten… suffer in such a way.It was not something that could have been foreseen or perhaps just the darkest nightmare you could ever even bring yourself to imagine. It is an unthinkable tragedy for the world to lose such a wonderful person in such a way.

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and wrapped up in our own lives that we cannot imagine that somebody could be going through this. We can look at people and see how amazing and inspiring they are and think that they are safe from the misery that can beset us all.  I understand that this is all very sensitive material and some people reading this will have experienced this or something similar in recent times and that you may find it extremely hard to digest this but unfortunately there is no right time to discuss this. There are people suffering everywhere, every day and if there’s anything I can say or do to help that I will. Some people show the signs of poor mental health/depression more than others, some people show them occasionally and others never at all. There are people who radiate beauty and happiness but even those people are not immune. There are people who manage to smile through their sadness and find joy and laughter in the most ridiculous things and who spread that joy to all those around them. This is a wonderful thing and a gift but is not always sustainable in the long-term. No matter how many people love or care about you, its not always enough if you don’t love or care about yourself.

No matter how important or special you are in the eyes of others, if you have no self worth you can feel like nothing. Like an imposter walking the earth, stealing a life and the opportunity for happiness, love and success. Like wasted potential or no potential at all, a wasted body and mind. Like you were never meant for this earth. As if your very existence is a burden on all those around you. Because they have grown to care for you, this shell of a person and even if you feel they don’t care your existence impacts them in some way, maybe in the worst way possible, in your mind. Maybe you have thought about ending it all but you haven’t been able to bring yourself to do it because you know it will hurt people and damage them, even the people who might despise you. You want to stop existing, but you can’t because you do exist and people will notice if you disappear. Or maybe you are so absorbed in these thoughts you can’t even see past yourself. Maybe you know you are not going to take action but you think..well if I get hit by a bus or become terminally ill, then that’s ok. You simply want to click your fingers and disappear without leaving a trace.Sometimes you may have thought about it so much, that despite knowing it would be an awful thing for people to witness, you believe that ultimately it will be the best thing and will have a positive impact in the long-term. People will move on and forget about you, maybe joke about what a strange disaster of a human you always were, they will grow closer together and support each other and take care of their own mental health because nobody wants to be the crazy mess that you were. They will be a bit sad for a little while but ultimately it will solve all their problems. Maybe you can leave your loved ones with every piece of happiness you ever felt, every piece of your heart and soul so that everyone can be happy, because after all their happiness is more important than your own.

WELL, STOP. (if the above sounded completely overly dramatic to you, then that’s probably a really good thing. If not then it’s time to keep an eye on those feelings and take position action) I am not simply saying the above to be negative and morbid.. the most important part of this is that you are NOT ALONE ☆ and these thoughts ARE NOT THE TRUTH. I am just wishing and hoping and praying and BEGGING that anyone who has these feelings, whether it is just for a short period of time or if they have always been there PLEASE, for the love of God talk to someone or do something for yourself to make yourself feel better. YOU ARE NOT A WASTE OF SPACE. YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON. We all have a spark in us, if only we could see it. It is a spark of pure light that lives inside us, fighting to be given the chance to shine. ¤☆¤

Maybe you’ve done things you’re not proud of, maybe you feel guilty for every bad thing you’ve ever said or done to hurt people and replay every humiliating moment you have ever experienced in your head. Maybe you have been hurt, traumatised and damaged so deeply that you blame yourself for things that are out of your control. There is so much stigma around mental health and suicide and such a lack of understanding that it is often referred to as “selfish” or compared unfavourably to terminal illnesses as a “choice”. Yes a person can choose to end their lives, but they did not choose to feel that way. They did not ask for their brains to be haunted by such thoughts and it is not something that should be natural for any human being to even consider. As for the selfish thing, I understand how it could be seen as an easy way out, while leaving everyone else in complete turmoil but there is rarely rational thinking involved.

You might never understand or believe the utter devastation you will leave behind you. The guilt, the regret, the confusion, the heartache. Rooms of people crying and mourning. All the questions and no answers. No solutions. The person will usually think they are doing something selfless by ridding the world of the “burden” that they are. They couldn’t be more wrong, let me tell you that from the bottom of my heart. Your death will devastate more than you could ever imagine. You are so loved.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg and won’t relate to everyone who suffers or has suffered from depression as we all experience it differently but the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are the same. If you have can relate to this at all please seek help. At this point I will strongly suggest that you may need professional help.

I know this because I have felt like this my whole life. It can plague your mind like poison, like voices whispering in your ears telling you that you don’t deserve to be here. Like demons that haunt you, they are always deep in the back of your mind, but every now and then they will attack you. You feel you don’t deserve to be loved or to truly experience life because you were never meant to be here. I myself after 21 years, (that have felt like 100) am just beginning to seek help. It is a difficult thing to come to terms with when it is so at odds with the other aspects of your personality. Your happiness, your laughter, your sense of humour, wonder, love and hope IS NOT A LIE. DEPRESSION IS A LIE. YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. I absolutely do not want anyone to feel concern or sympathy for me or commend me for my words because they are not just my words to say. This is a message that belongs to so many people and could relate to anyone, anywhere at any time. Hopefully someone, somewhere, even one person, might see this and decide to seek help. This is not something I ever wanted to discuss or put my name to for fear of raising concernsbBut I am going to put my pride aside and forget about the bullshit and constraints of society for just a moment. Because none of that really matters. When someone’s life and well-being is at risk, everything else pales in comparison. You start to see what is truly important. Isn’t it a pity that we can’t always do the same for ourselves? I am aware, that for some people, I am not someone who they could ever imagine being affected by depression and that’s why this is important. It could be anyone. And I don’t want to wait for myself or anybody else to hit rock bottom in order to say this, because that is not a place I ever want to be or to see anyone else and there’s no knowing when/if/how you will get back up. It may be seem ironic or hypocritical of me to preach to others in my current position but I’m preaching to myself too and it’s working. Yeah I find it hard to exist sometimes and feel like a walking zombie most of the time but sometimes all you need to get you through the day is one moment of clarity or one happy thought.

It’s going to take time and it’s going to be a struggle but if you are patient you will reach that light at the end of the tunnel. It’s irritating reading this stuff when you’re in a bad place, you just think ” f**k off, you haven’t a clue how I feel”. And nobody can know exactly how you feel except you but you alone also have the power to change that and turn your life around. It’s never too late. Depression and mental health disorders are not always easy to diagnose and just because you have been managing so far and have not seen a professional or have been labelled as having depression, do not fool yourself into thinking that these feelings do not matter or that you are fine. Its okay not be okay but its not okay to ignore those feelings. They will rise to the surface at some point and more the build up, the worse the effects. Whether I am a close friend, a stranger or that annoying-bitch-blocking-up- your-newsfeed-that-you-are-only- friends-with-for-entertainment, I hope that you can not see me, but simply see and hear this message as horribly worded and morbid as it seems (hopefully there is sense in there somewhere). People can try and try to make you realise how important you are but at the end of the day YOU need to realise it yourself. Don’t let things get to a point where you feel like this, if you can help it. PLEASE SEEK HELP. There are a million different forms of therapy and you will find one to suit you. Don’t let a lack of funds get in the way of your health, inside seek any available supports. There are free helplines such as Samaritans 1850609090, Aware 016617211 and National Counselling Service 1800234112. There are also websites where you can find information and support such aswww.headsup.ie , http://www.letsomeoneknow.ie and if you are a student attending university, seek information as there will usually be a counsellor available there which should be free in most cases.

No person is invincible as difficult as that is to admit to yourself. Take care of yourselves, please listen to your inner hopes and dreams and try to be happy. And maybe if you can, try not to roll your eyes or laugh at that “Negative Nancy” or friend or stranger who is acting a little bizarre. We have all been guilty of doing that at some point, maybe without realising it. But it could be you someday. I apologise to anyone who has actually read this whole thing and is feeling disheartened. Please don’t. There is so much more to say but this is only the beginning. ☆ If you are having the worst day or feel like you are, try taking some

time out or finding something to relax you. Maybe its a song, a movie, spending time with a pet or dear one. Maybe you want to indulge in a treat or some pampering. Perhaps you want to watch a video of a cat playing the tambourine or a singing potato. Maybe you want to paint a picture, go for a walk or simply hug someone. No matter how bad you feel, don’t ever punish yourself for laughing or smiling. To find something to laugh or smile about, even in the darkest of times, is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. I solemnly swear to get better and I hope you will too. Maybe this is just another annoying essay about mental health but I would regret it for the rest of my life if I never did this or opened up. I can’t bear to see anyone in such misery and to suffer in silence.

It’s an awful pity, a disgrace even, that mental health isn’t recognised the same way as physical health and is ignored. You probably wouldn’t ignore a heart attack so why are you ignoring these attacks on your mind? However things are slowwwly starting to change. And although the world can seem such a cruel place to live in, it can also be a wonderful, beautiful, miraculous place if we remember what’s truly important and support one another. One person may not be able to change the world, but we can all make an impact, however miniscule it may seem and if we come together, who knows what amazing, incredible things might happen. A smile a day keeps the depression at bay ☆★☆★☆★☆]]>