To the outside world I probably look like things are okay and everything is ‘normal’.
I’m told I’m funny, and I find there’s nothing better than making people laugh.
Like most people I know, I use social media to make things look glossier and brighter than they are, and will often post filtered, pretty photographs of bunches of tulips, a red-lipped grin, an exotic-looking cocktail, books I’m reading, films I’ve seen, lattes I’ve sipped.
On the surface, things look fine. Great, in fact.
But, there’s a me the photos and my outward façade don’t show.
I have mixed anxiety and depression.
I’ve had it for almost seven years, though I think I’ve probably had anxiety for longer than that. I was an anxious child, constantly worrying about what dangers might be lurking around the corner. I was also a little obsessive about cleanliness; I hated marks on my skin or dirt to touch me and made sure my mum always had a packet of tissues and wet wipes in her handbag.
I sort of grew out of those quirks as I got older, but when I hit eighteen, things became unbearably difficult.
I had never felt so out of control in my entire life. Almost overnight, my mind became something I didn’t recognise, and days became filled with panic and terror at terrible things that might happen. I lived between a state of constant fear and overwhelming darkness.
As a result of feeling so anxious all of the time, I became depressed.
I was like that cartoon of a man with a grey cloud above him and rain droplets pouring down over his head. Wondering whether things will ever lift; if the rain will ever clear.
When I got to university a few months later I decided this depression was worth tackling. I was determined that the next three years would not see me alone in my room, worrying and sobbing. I went to the university medical centre and saw a doctor. I remember the tears running down my face as I tried to describe to her how terrified and alone I had felt over the past few months, and asking, would things ever get better?
She was fantastic. Of all the medical professionals I have seen, she was the most kind, empathetic, calm and realistic.
I will always remember one thing that she said to me as I was leaving, feeling determined and a little more warrior-like as I went back out into the world.
“I would have had absolutely no idea you were so ill. You hide it so well. Even the way you knocked on the door to come in. As if you didn’t have a care in the world.”
I still do that. I still fall over myself to make things appear as normal. But, for a lot of the time, things aren’t normal and I don’t feel normal.
Some days I can’t think for the sadness and worry, wondering if things will ever turn out OK. Days where I’m not sure if I can physically put one foot in front of the other.
You just can’t tell from the outside.
So, the next time you see someone post a photograph of smashed avocado on toast or a bright pink cupcake on Instagram and you’re tempted to roll your eyes, (we’re all guilty of that one) remember that it might be the only source of joy they’ve had for a while.
And that is definitely worth sharing.