16.03.15 (Yes I am aware today is the 14th!)

Without looking in your diary, your calendar or Facebook time-hop, can you remember what you were doing a year ago today?
I can.
I can barely remember what I’ve done each morning by the afternoon, but Monday 16th March 2015 is ingrained in my memory. Monday 16th March 2015, around 4:45pm was the day of my first breakdown.

Initially, I was pretty calm. Surprisingly calm actually; given I had just spent 45 minutes of a typical-manic-Monday-in-retail (I hope that will make a few of you smile! I hope you are no longer sat at your desk on this “manic Monday” and have gone home to be with your friends/families…) sat at my desk staring blankly at my computer screen unable to focus on any of the tasks I regularly undertook; any of the tasks I had several years’ experience of doing; any of those simple tasks. When my eyes flickered to the time and I realised I had 15 minutes left of the working day, I pushed my chair back, stood, grabbed my mobile, and walked away from the long office floor, through double doors, to a quieter space. I’m not really sure why I walked in the direction that I did. It didn’t make a lot of sense, with hindsight. I guess I was headed for a quiet room away from anyone else and unlikely to be disturbed, but the only room in that direction was often locked – as it was that day – so instead, with my phone gripped tightly in my hand, pressed hard against my ear, desperately calling my doctor surgery, I broke down in a corridor; where I could have been disturbed.

I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t know what was going on in my head. I still don’t. All I knew when I called was that I needed something to help me concentrate again. I needed to be able to read books and I needed to be able to do my job and progress in my career. The irony is that there was – still is – absolutely no way on earth that I was prepared to take any medication; so really, why I rang is a complete loss of understanding to me. Perhaps something deep within my brain subconsciously kicked in. It wasn’t until the receptionist asked the routine “can I ask what it’s concerning?” question that I broke. My body crumpled against and down the wall, my voice cracked, and the tears came in floods. I could so easily have been stumbled upon by a colleague; be it one I knew or one I didn’t. I wonder what – if any – difference that might have made if I’d been found in that state; alone, hyperventilating, ugly tomato red and soaking wet face from tears, mind and eyes racing uncontrollably entirely within the grips of one-of-many, many more to come panic attacks.

It’s made me smile, a little, today, that the weather is nice and due to remain this way for a while. This time last year was the first time I was signed off and the weather was the same; beautiful. Full of new beginnings.

Normally, some of the happy memories of time-hop give me a little smile each day; but I know some of the memories that are about to come up over the next year will show a stark difference to that “perfect social media life” so many people so often show. I know, that coming up, are posts switched so only I could read them stating “I want to kill myself.” Words I just needed to write, to get out there, but couldn’t face telling a single soul. Speaking to just one person could have helped to turn those poisonous thoughts around. But who do you say those words to? How? I am not sure how have we got to 2016 and there STILL be various prejudices in this world? How is something as simple as our “mental” health still such a taboo subject – when talking, sharing, caring – can make such a huge difference to mental health illness being such a huge problem; one of our biggest killers.

Someone said to me recently that they understood the need for me to write, but not the need for me to post any of it.

I post because we have to talk about this. It is time to talk about this. I post because I was overwhelmed by the positive reactions and support I received from friends, family, old friends, strangers when I first finally opened up and was honest about what I was going through. I post because that positive reaction helped me. I post because the posts help others. I post because we need to break the stigma.

A year on, I’m free from the suppression of that workplace that tipped me over the edge into breakdown. A place where {my} ideas were ignored, only to be stolen later. A place where I could no longer have a voice because my opinions were berated. I will never again work for a corporate company full of “yes men”, but I don’t regret it; it was obviously meant to be part of my journey, meant to have happened when and where it happened.
I will talk. I will voice my thoughts, ideas and opinions. They will not always be correct, not everyone will always agree, but they are my right; as are they anyone’s. I do not want to always be surrounded by “yes men”, I am happy to be challenged or corrected. Sometimes I need to ensure my wording is correct so my words are not misconstrued; but to those who are too ignorant to understand that sometimes old 400mph-Karen returns, or too “yes man” to stand up for yourself, and would rather delete me/ignore me/block me rather than challenge or discuss – or, even, heaven forbid – use some common sense/unselfish knowledge and think what perhaps someone MIGHT ACTUALLY mean before judging; I think that says more about you than me, and I will simply laugh, be annoyed I wasted time on you briefly, and then move on; you weren’t meant to be part of my life.

 Choose happiness? Of course I choose happiness. Who wouldn’t?? I choose that every day, for everyone, for all our lives. Unfortunately, often for no reason whatsoever, happiness doesn’t choose me and I get to spend the day, or even a few days, withdrawn from the world, hating everyone and everything but nothing more than myself, in tears, terrified of leaving the house and having to engage with others, desperate to punish myself, to no longer exist. I think, more than some, I try really quite hard to stop these days; I eat well (mostly ;-), I move; running, walking and yoga, I make plans, seek travel, practice the piano, bake, cook, clean; engage in activities that release adrenalin and endorphins and therefore MAKE ME HAPPY, and yet, still, there are some vile days where I am a vile person and I know it; but all I want is to be wrapped up/protected/happy.

I will regain my confidence. I will live rather than survive.

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