Saturday, 5 March 2016

Imperfect Me | Bridget Jones Syndrome

Hello. Hello to all the wonderful ‘yous' who have stuck around long enough to read this post.

It’s been a few months since my last update. I cannot apologise enough for this virtual hibernation - to you and myself. But, sometimes life really does get in the way. I’ve thought about writing this post for weeks (months) and have convinced myself hundreds of times to delete, clear all history, step away from the screen and back inside my head. But now, if i’m honest, my brain really has reached full capacity. The wires are crossed the hard drive needs to be rebooted and I need to get this out there to another place, another cloud. It’s time to put pen to paper (fingers to keypad) and share a little bit of where i’ve been with you.  

For years I have put the way I am down to what I call ‘Bridget Jones Syndrome’: an unconscious act of very British suppression/general lack of self worth, that typically results in hours spent crying over ice-cream and feeling generally blue. The doctors call this something else. Something more clinical, something less Warner Bros (severe anxiety and depression). This diagnosis does not scare me. I have been through the routine countless times. The very public anxiety attacks. The very private punishment, the very vocal healing. I’ve had years of practice dealing with more than Bridget, and until recently I thought she was part of my past. I classified these Bridget Jones tendencies - binge eating/purging, manic episodes, grey days/weeks and the scars that go with it as components of a past which made me who I am today: someone stronger, someone better. However recently, despite being happier in some ways than I have been in years, she has started to feature more in my life. Like an old friend you spot in a café and try to avoid. 

As I chart the last six months in my head I realise how happy I have been (truly). My friends are unparalleled. Old and new, these people have kept me afloat without even knowing. They are my silver linings and I thank God for their kindness and love. Discounting anxiety, which for me, will always demand a daily strategy ( the constant assessment of what could bring on an attack) my mental health issues have been categorised as situational. This means that a combination of concrete reasons, which I won’t go into but have written about before, have induced my increased susceptibility to feelings of depression. Recently though it’s more difficult to pin-point the whys. I know I have spread myself too thin, I know I have had no time to re-group, to work out where i’m going, I know I have made people happy, I know I have let people down.

And that’s it. That’s the crux of it. By spreading myself too thin, saying yes to everything I have unconsciously sabotaged my own health journey. I don’t know if it’s because i’m a Leo, because I went to a very achievement driven school in my formative years, because I have big dreams, but I connect my happiness directly to my achievements. Whether it is something small - a compliment, validation, a good grade, a role in a production, I calculate my self worth based on accolades, badges of honour that prove i’m not failing. Because, if I can get through it I win, right? Recently someone pointed out the cracks in this strategy. They stopped me in my tracks and shattered the illusion that by functioning I was fine. They realigned my coping mechanism and forced me to understand that I wasn’t actually coping. That by just surviving I wasn’t really living. They did me a favour, but I couldn’t see that. 

My biggest fear has always been letting people down. The past few weeks alone I have had 18 hour days, working in the library, attending rehearsals, eating, learning lines, managing, eating, having attacks, eating, feeling lost, eating. I never even noticed what I was doing until I was told, not in so many words, that I had let people down. Because I wasn’t bleeding or running into traffic I decided I was healed. I decided I was in control. 

The past couple of weeks have set me back. I’ve reacted in ways that were once second nature, making a mess of my mind and punishing myself for being human. "People don’t know how to help you when you’re like this”. “People don’t know how to reach out”. “It’s okay”. “I’m fine”. You make yourself the butt of their jokes, you focus your energy into cracking smiles and deflecting attention, you try not to cry in front of them. You know they love you, you know the good ones will always be there. You go home. You phone home. You realise, you are not okay. You make a list, you start to take care of the ‘you’ you have neglected for WEEKS. You remember someone loves you. You nurse your scars, you cry a little. You are human. You start tomorrow. You take today back, today is yours. Today is for healing. Tomorrow is for change. 

At the start of this year I bought a “Happiness Planner” and since then I have kicked myself so many times for jumping on this ridiculous bandwagon. But recently my friend Hannah told me that she started writing down one positive thing about every day on her whiteboard. Forcing herself to recognise the good that she couldn’t see before (thank you Hannah, for your kindness, for a chat which actually saved me). I’ve decided to do the same, and it’s silly but it’s helping to see, on paper, that in reality that things aren’t as messy as they are in my head. I have friends that I adore, who give me that validation that everything will be okay. 

A nucleus of Annas and Hannahs, and Fionas and Esztis (okay, just one Eszti) and Robs and Cals and Joshs and Sarahs and Katies and Kirstys and Beccys and Carries and Eilidhs and Amys and Roos' and Maxines and Mollys and Kates and Girls Like That  have given me hope. Thank you. But the rest of it is up to me. And if you feel the same way, it’s up to you - to pick yourself up and banish Bridget for good. 

This blog has saved me before, I reckon it might be the thing to save me again. Check back for new posts every week. It's okay not to be okay.

KJ xo


Rachel Gladstone said...

Dearest Katy,

This is beautiful and so, so true. We spend our lives pretending that we're okay; forcing the world to see that we're okay; that life is fun and the sun is always shining and yet sometimes it's not and I admire you so much for finding that out. Despite wonderful friends and laughter and theatre (fun as they are), it is up to us to find our own way out of the impending darkness and counting our own blessings, in whatever shape they come.

Sending lots of love,
Rachel G xxx

Katy Johnston said...

Thank you Rachel. Lots of love right back to you gorgeous girl xxx

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