Saturday, 13 February 2016

What Makes Me, Me - Laura

When Jess asked me to write a piece about ‘What Makes Me, Me’ I hit a bit of a wall. What does make me, me? For so long I’ve labelled myself and presented myself as Laura: the one with anxiety and depression. Instead of letting my mental health problems be a small part of me, I chose to let them define me. Whenever I met someone new I’d try and slip in a “oh by the way I might have a panic attack so don’t panic if I panic” kinda thing. Instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Laura and I have lots of other identifying features aside from my scrambled brain.”

There are so many other things that make me the person that I am. So I sat down and took my anxiety right out of the equation to see what I had left; what else I was made up of. I thought I’d make a list instead of things that make me Laura. 
Here’s what makes me, me:
  •         My insatiable appetite for books
  •         My insatiable appetite for pizza
  •          My addiction to cats, cat videos and the idea that one day I can have LOTS of cats
  •         My love for writing about and reading books, in fact anything to do with books.
  •          My aspirations to be a published author. (I once met with a publisher who liked my writing…WHATTTTT)
  •          My insistence that pyjama bottoms are acceptable every day clothing. (only indoors)
  •           My perpetual need to sleep
  •           My hatred of driving (much to my boyfriend’s annoyance)
  •           My love of Devon (I’ve only been there twice but want to be there foreverrrr)
  •           My lack of travel (I’ve never left the UK or been on a plane. Booo)
  •           My lasagne making skillz
  •           My love/hate relationship with the word ‘bae’. Boyfriend and I started using it in jest and now it has become the third wheel in our relationship
  •           My love for the word pulchritudinous because it sounds like the complete opposite of what it is
  •           My love of crisps (salt and vinegar Tyrell’s if you’re offering, please)
  •           My overuse of exclamation marks, the word ‘just’ and commas
  •           My love for baby things. i.e kittens, puppies and fluffy ducklings
  •           My addiction to stationery and notebooks
  •           My complete disregard for fashion
  •           My complete disregard for makeup that isn’t eyeliner, eyeshadow or mascara.
  •           My lack of interest in TV unless it’s funny or dark and murdery
  •           My love of musicals
And now I’ve got bored thinking about me. (I think I have some sort of brain filter that says NOPE too much self-analysis.) But, there we go; a short-ish list of things that make me, me. Excluding my anxiety and depression and agoraphobia, I’m pretty normal…right? Everyone loves cats and pizza…? (They do, even if they don’t admit it.)

N.B. My anxiety and depression also make me the person that I am today. If I hadn’t spent nearly ten years in the grip of perpetual anxiety and waves of depression then I wouldn’t be as strong and determined as I am today. It’s so easy for people looking in from the outside to say ‘hah, you haven’t left the house in months, you’re not living your life to the full’ but I know that sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement. Managing to engage in conversation with my family without spiraling into a panic is an achievement. Heck, even going into the back garden to put some bird seed out is an achievement. Yet I feel bad about this. I feel like I shouldn’t see these things as achievements because no one else does…no one else pats me on the back and says ‘well done for making it through another day.’

But I’m still here, I’m still standing, I’m still trying to find a way to get better and without these years of suffering, of tears, of panic attacks…I wouldn’t have the determination and strength to carry on. Everything listed above makes me happy – they’re the things that compel me to get up every morning; they’re the things that make me feel like a normal person. They give me hope I can one day be the person who walks down the street without crying and running back home.

My anxiety, depression and agoraphobia do contribute to the person that I am, they influence the way I behave and the way I see the world but they’re not the only things I want to use to define myself anymore. I want to feel unashamed to say to people ‘nope, sorry, not today, I don’t feel up to it’ without feeling horrendous guilt and wondering if anyone will ever like me again. I want people to understand that depression isn’t just ‘feeling sad’ and anxiety isn’t just ‘being a bit nervous.’ I want people to acknowledge that something they find a doddle is actually really, really hard for me. I want society as a whole to be more understanding of mental health and how we can all support each other. I want people to ask me how I feel instead of just pretending that my mental health is fine. And, most of all I want people to stop passing judgement on my life and telling me how I should feel and what I should do.

I think I completely went off point there. (Oh, that’s another thing – I like tangents.)

So, that’s me. That’s what makes me the person that I am today: anxiety, depression, cats and pizza.


And I’m cool with that. 
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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.