The Facebook invite came through before Christmas.
It was from a good friend, a former work colleague who was planning a get together for us and some of her other pals to catch up and connect. I deliberated, as I always do. My initial instinct was to decline, as I always do. But I paused.
I know that the time I spend alone, in the house, can be as detrimental to my mental health just as much as it can be advantageous. It was one of the things that made working freelance unbearable for me at the time – working alone all day, spending hours on the sofa where I proceeded to stay planted through the evening, not seeing the point in getting ready or doing my hair or sometimes even showering because ‘I’m only in the house’. The thing is, though, pretty soon that attitude turns from a casual no-makeup day into a kind of internalised fear of being in the outside world. Into a feeling that you don’t somehow deserve to make yourself look nice or feel good, that you’re not worth the effort. You become too comfortable being invisible, not seen by anyone but those very closest to you.
Pushing myself to say yes to things, to wear something other than loungewear is key to me staying sane, I know it is. But it’s often easier said than done to be around other people when you’re drowning in self-consciousness and anxious thoughts.
I read once, from Lisa Bean I think, that we often do the same thing we did yesterday (and don’t fulfill our potential) because our brain tells us that we survived that day by taking those actions, and so if we act like that again, we’ll survive another day. If you got through it once, you can get through it again. But it’s said that you don’t grow while you’re comfortable, and whilst it’s especially easy to sink into this kind of mindset when your mental health isn’t tip top, being brave and putting yourself out there is so much more valuable in the long run.
The date of the get together got closer. I’d been mentally preparing myself for it for weeks – I was going to go, there was no backing out. I’d promised myself I’d go to this one.
But sure enough, Saturday 14th rolled around and so did the excuses.
I could just say I’m ill. They’ll never know.
They won’t miss me anyway, so what’s the point in going.
The hours ticked by during the day and my mind went into overdrive. My brain likes to tell me that I don’t deserve to go out, to have fun, but sometimes it’s not that which stops me. When my mental black cloud is at it’s biggest and blackest, every human interaction feels like a facade – and the idea of putting up that smiling, positive facade for the purpose of other people is just too overwhelming, too exhausting to face.
They’ll all be judging you.
You’re too fat, too ugly to be around them.
They’ll see you for what you really are.
I ended up asleep on the sofa. You can’t be sad when you’re asleep.
James could tell, I think, that I was going to get out of it. I said I had a headache but could tell he didn’t believe me. Eventually I got the courage to do it, to text my friend and say I couldn’t make it. Guilt seeped in. There was no real reason that I couldn’t bring myself to get up, shower, get ready and go connect with a group of positive inspiring women in a friendly environment, but at home in my comfortable bubble I stayed.
Depression has this way of cutting you off from everyone and everything. It’s like you’re watching them from a distance, from a parallel universe, and when it comes down to the nitty gritty of having to actually interact and be real with someone, the idea is terrifying. Pair that with a disordered relationship with eating that has lead to my self-esteem hitting the floor, and talking to new people and being in new social environments might as well be climbing Everest.
But it’s not always bad. Now and then, I break out of the bubble. I tear down the walls and help myself feel like a fully functioning human, from the outside anyway, and go be in the world. Breath in the air. Talk. Connect. Make people laugh, even.
I’m not that bad at this socialising thing, when I put my mind to it. I just need to stop letting my mind get in the way.