Updated: May 27
No one likes me. I am weak. It’s my fault. I have so many beautiful things in my life - I should not feel this way. I should be happy. If anyone knew, they would think I am crazy. No one would like me if they really knew me. If people had a choice, they would not spend their time with me. I have nothing in common with others. I am a drama-queen. They will think I am attention-seeking. I have to be strong for the children. I will never feel happy. I was born this way. I am losing my mind. I can’t connect to anyone. I deserve to be lonely. I have nothing to offer. I am not good enough. No one needs me. They are better off without me.
Welcome to my blog. I would like to introduce you to my bully. She masquerades as me. She uses my voice and speaks in the first person. She has a lot to say about me – none of it being positive of course – she is a bully after all! I have known her since I was approximately 5 years old. “No one likes me” was her first evaluation of my character – of who I was. Not the best of starts eh? She has since built up an impressive repertoire. She has had 29 years to fine-tune herself. 29+5? Yes I’m 34. And yes I had to get out a calculator just then...don’t judge!…numbers are not my strength. Plus I’m concentrating on intricately detangling and exposing my bully from my cluttered head – something’s got to give!
Anyway, back to her. Finding new and innovative ways of chipping away at my sense of worth has been her life’s work. And I would call her an expert to be honest. If you practised something daily for 29 years wouldn’t you be pretty darn good?? She sounds like me and speaks as if she is me – this must be me – and it must be true.
“Uh-oh. Ellie has voices in her head”, I hear you say. I must admit I questioned whether I should explore this aspect of myself with you – for fear of being considered “unstable”. However, what I am talking about here is the inner critic that we all have. Your own voice inside your own head that tells you what you can’t do; how you will fail etc. This is something we all have at various points in our lives. This critic can become louder, or quieter. You can sometimes believe it or dismiss it. In my case however, I was unable to quieten my critic (my bully) down. She was so loud and persistent that I believed her. I believed her truth. My subsequent struggles with depression, anxiety and recently discovered PTSD only emboldened her further.
My mental health has therefore taken many downward turns over the years. From where I am now, I know that I have never truly been in a good state of mental health. Even the happiest times in my life have been dogged by my non-existent self-esteem, my terrible opinion of myself (thanks to my bully) and waves of depression and anxiety. I could never allow pure, unadulterated happiness to soak in. It was as though there was a wall surrounding me which couldn’t let anything positive pass through.
Sounds awful right? Yes it was – and still can be at times. Overall, this has been an intensely isolating and lonely time. Why? Because there was just me and my bully. No one else got a look-in. No matter what anyone else said or did for me, I would always find a way to minimise and twist it back into my baseline truth – I wasn’t good enough.
So how did my bully, and my mental ill-health have and maintain so much power over me for so long? This is where stigma comes in. The mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. Groups of people are stereotyped according to ill-informed bias. Unfounded opinions become ‘facts’ and therefore affect how we perceive one another.
We can all relate to that fear of disclosing how we really feel and what we actually think, right? Stiff upper-lip and all that! Then add to that the labels and myths associated with mental health (for example - weakness, being crazy, attention-seeking, and my personal favourite…the “pull yourself together” attitude). With these being the mainstream opinions – why in the hell would I open up and admit what was happening? How could I? Not only did I know that my experiences were likely to be minimised and judged; stigma made sure that my bully also did this for me. One of the wonders of stigma is that it makes sure that we not only receive judgements from others – but that we also project these prejudices onto ourselves. Bloody painful!
So that’s how it went. Suffering in silence. Feeling like I was the only one. I couldn’t speak out and no one could reach me.
As you can probably tell, I am now showing my middle finger to stigma. Starting from now, I am reclaiming my power and hopefully helping others to begin to do the same. By sharing my story, exploring mental health and what it means to us all – stigma and my bully are being told to “do one.”
My following blogs (and even vlogs if I’m feeling brave) are for those of you who can relate; or have a loved one affected by these issues. To let you know that you are not alone. I have no weekly blog schedule in mind. When it’s worth saying and could make a difference - it will be shared with you. Simple as that!
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