Witty Title to Mask an Emotional Subject

It has been over a year of exploring how I feel about many, many things. That looking inwards wasn’t just related to Dad’s illness, but had been building for some time. There were questions about why I felt the way I did so often, why I worried so much, why I struggled with some of the most basic tasks.

I’ve often struggled to talk in huge detail about exactly what I feel, but since working at Cymorth, and seeing so many others being open about their lives, I started to wonder if that would help – to confront and address some of the issues I’ve grappled with.

Part of my reason for putting finger to keyboard about this is to be able to track my progress from this point forward. To try to unravel the tangle of thoughts and worries and make some sense.

I had a breakthrough of sorts, just a few weeks ago. It was such a breakthrough that I’ve bored people to death with it. My mood and mental health since Dad’s illness has been patchy, oscillating, up-and-down, whatever phrase you care to use.

There are times when I have been able to be ‘normal’, and there are times when I’ve barely been able to function. A few weeks ago, whilst shaving for the first time in two weeks, my brain clicked back into place, to such an extent that I actually looked around the bathroom and wondered where I had been for a month. Not, I hasten to add, that I had been unconscious, but that I had been in a sort of fugue state, wandering from bed to work to bed to work. With moments of excitement along the way, but generally just a mulch of seconds running into minutes, running into hours, running into days.

But the breakthrough was powerful. Because as my brain jolted back to my body (or that’s what it felt like), I had a sudden thought: I don’t need to change the world.

Now those who know me well know that’s been something I’ve cared about for years, since at least the age of fourteen. And when you’re a teenager and you know everything and everything is certain, that seems like such an easy thing to aim for. It is only as you get older and you realise how complicated life is, how messy and clogging and strange life is, that you start to doubt: can anyone change this world?

So you lower your ambitions. And maybe you aim for what your Dad or Mum did, and think: alright then, I’ll change my neighbourhood. Or maybe you think: I have to change the lives of everyone I meet, I have to be the best, I have to be the most caring, I have to be the cleverest, the most competent, the bravest, the kindest, the most creative…

And before you know it, it has tangled itself around you like a horrible trap that tightens every time you breathe. So that you don’t really notice it at first, until you can’t breathe.

Well, as I stood there looking at myself properly for the first time in weeks, I saw the trap. And I just laughed to myself. That’s all it took, I just laughed. Because for the first time I looked properly at what I was expecting myself to be, and realised how utterly stupid it was.

It seems ridiculous to write, but at that precise moment a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I ran into Harry, a little bit delirious if I’m honest, and just said, “I don’t need to change the world!”

He obviously looked a little bit confused. But over the next few days there was such a difference. I started to put less pressure on myself, started to feel more honest about what I could do, and how I could help people.

So the first entry today, part of my commitment to talk about my mental health journey, finishes like this: nobody has to change the world, nobody has to do anything. Instead, the powerful realisation I had was that I can change my world. I can help people that I can help, and I don’t have to help the people I can’t help. I don’t need to bury myself at home because I can’t do everything I feel like I should be doing to make the world a better place. I don’t need to wade into every argument, or try to fix everyone’s problems. I have a choice.

And that was the most incredible feeling in the world.

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