I’m doing well, but I’m not ‘well’.
I’ve been doing really well lately. I’ve managed to do things that I haven’t done in a very long time. I’m making progress and feeling proud of that. But I’m also acutely aware that this can make it look like I’m ‘better’.
I was on a date last week (see, achieving things!) and agoraphobia and anxiety came up in conversation as they invariably do, and after I explained the guy said “so how did you overcome it?” and I said “I haven’t”. He replied “so this is a big deal, being here (gesturing around a busy pub on a Friday night) on a date?”, “yep” I said, “everything’s a big deal!”.
I am at a point where a) I actually WANT to do things and b) I am ABLE to do some things. The SSRI’s have proved quite the life changer BUT it is not easy, simple or comfortable. I still experience so much anxiety, regular panic attacks and a constant general feeling of avoidance of most things! But I am doing things and, as we all know, social media can put a lovely rose tinted sheen on everything so that from the outside it appears hunky dory.
I actually had a panic attack this morning. I am waiting to hear from the DWP about my ESA (employment and support benefit) and whether I can continue to claim it. I had to send them all the evidence of why I’m unable to work. It’s such a horrible thing to have to do, like the opposite of a job application because you have to convince them how incapable you are. I am sure that the DWP will try its best to use my recent achievements and progress as a way to prove that I’m fine, and that is absolute bollocks. This is one of my biggest problems with the DWP and the fit to work assessments – people should be encouraged to and praised for making progress, not have it used against them.
I am doing well but I am not well. My ability to go on a date has absolutely no relation to my ability to hold down a full time job, and neither should it be treated as a reflection of my ‘wellness’.
With any invisible illness there is pressure to ‘prove it’. On top of having the illness, you spend so much time proving it or justifying your behaviour to other people who can’t seem to get their head around the fact that you’re not bleeding from a large gaping wound so therefore must be totally fine…
If you see someone achieving something that you know must have been difficult for them, please praise them; tell them you’re happy for them, proud of them, excited for them, but please do not assume that they can do that thing regularly. Mental illness is nothing short of a rollercoaster; emotionally and practically. Some days I still can’t leave the house so it’s best not to make assumptions.
And thank you to everyone who is so supportive of what I achieve, without being judgey! You have no idea what that means x