Friday, 5 May 2017

Not Quite Twenty Things To Do Before Turning Twenty: Forgiveness

I have approximately 8 weeks until I turn 20. The big two-oh. Third Decade. I don't understand why we celebrate 21 more than 20, it doesn't mean a thing in the UK. Sure, in America it makes you of legal drinking age, but here, absolutely nothing is any different to turning 20. The jump from 19 to 20 though, that feels like a much bigger deal. 20 marks the beginning of real adulthood, to me, that feels like a far more important birthday. Unfortunately, being so convinced of it's importance has made me a little nervous to actually reach that age. (though, what doesn't make me nervous?)

I don't exactly feel ready to be an adult. I haven't reached those milestones we're supposed to have completed as a teenager. I can't drive, I have no higher education and I don't have a job, I am entiely dependent on my family and I go to bed at 10:30pm and that's not even the half of it. Being 20 doesn't exactly match where I am in my life. 80, sure, but 20? Not exactly. That said, I still have 8 weeks to try to feel a little more functional. It's not that I think I can cure myself in 8 weeks, infact it doesn't have much to do with my anxiety at all. I just think that maybe I should get my brain a little more in order before I leave my teenage years. Decluttering, learning to be a little less like a creature of habit and finally getting round to appointments I've been putting off for months all feel like a pretty good step in the right direction.

First things first, I figure before I can do any kind of moving forward I need to forgive the past and accept the present. One of the more emotional checks on my bucketlist, it seems like a necessary step to take first. Really embracing where my life is and who I am is something I've been putting off since day one. I go through phases, sometimes I truely do feel powerful in my situtation and I learn to put self-care above all else - but some days, I feel more guilt that I could ever explain for something I can't control. Despite what it may seem, what happens in my head isn't voluntary, I can't make it stop and I can't make it better. Some days I need to listen to voice in my mind - I know it's never right, but it's not always possible to defy it.

Self-care should be a staple in every persons life, mental illness or not. Putting ourselves first sometimes is what has to be done in order to stay afloat. Some require more than others. I require more than most and most days I feel incredibly guilty for that, especially when it effects the people around me. Self-care isn't selfish and I shouldn't have to feel guilty, but after a few years living the way I do, you begin to question if maybe you are doing something wrong after all. Over time, I got used to disappointing people, to  hopelessly explaining that my absense wasnt personal, to feeling like a the worst person because I couldn't override the voice in my head. An important part of being an adult to me, is accepting who I am and not feeling guilty because someone else can't accept it. As a teenager, we all experience social insecurity, worrying what others think of us - I'd really like to shake off that whole idea now, it's not healthy and it's not necessary.

It's not that I don't understand why people feel this way when my illness effects them. When my illness gets bad, it influences every aspect of my life and that mostly involves my social life. This means cancelling on my friends and withdrawing entirely, it can be months before I bring myself to socialise again and I understand that it can be really diffuclt on the people at the other end of that stick. I dread having to tell the truth, I'd like to lie and say that I'm busy - unfortunately anyone who knows me well enough to see me knows I'm never that busy. I very intensely fear the reaction I'll get if I'm honest and admit that I'm not feeling well enough to do something, because I'm used to the reaction being less than friendly.

Just as you wouldn't step out infront of a train to please a friend, I shouldn't have to feel bad for letting someone down by not doing something which I percieve to be as dangerous as stepping onto that railway. I always make it clear that my choices have nothing to do with the individual person and does not in anyway impact my love and care for that person. That should be enough. Being in my life means being okay with that, and part of accepting who I am is also accepting that some people don't get to be in my life if they don't understand. Just because the last experience was positive, will  never ever automatically mean that I'll be anxiety free the next time. Sometimes, it's even going to be worse, and that should just be accepted by the people who wish to be close to me. I've made it clear enough by now. As an adult, I refuse to feel ashamed or guilty for my illness. I'm doing my best to be everything I'm supposed to be for everyone else, but sometimes I can't keep that up, and I'm going to be okay with that.

I am also going to be okay with the route that led me here. A part of almost every mental illness is the regret that stagnates for years. I find myself regretting everything I did in the years leading up to my anxiety finally manifesting itself. After years of therapy I have yet to find a reason why this happened to me, and I'm not so sure I ever will, so instead I lay blame on everything, from the small day to day activities to the major life events which shaped who I became. The truth is, I don't know what the cause of my illness was no matter how hard I try to find one, so it doesn't seem fair to pick out parts of my life which almost certainly have nothing to do with who I am now.

We've all had bad people and bad experiences which have permanently impacted our future and the people we became, and it's hard not to hold grudges against them no matter how many years have passed. For me, it's hard not to place blame on every bad experience and person I came across in my teenage years - but the truth is there's just no way that something so simple caused me to develop the way I did. Somedays it's just easiest to wish that very certain things had been different, rather than allow myself to spin out wondering what I did wrong to end up this way.

I may aswell just let sleeping dogs lie. What happened happened and I can't change a thing. So here's to forgiving myself, the people I harbour painful memories for, and the bad experiences I learnt to regret. Carrying around that weight is something I don't need, I don't think it'll ever be healthy. I will be starting my next chapter with an open heart and a clean slate with no bad feelings towards myself, or the life I've lived up until today. For better or worse, I am who I am and I refuse to hold any ill feeling towards the life I live now or the life I lived until this day. Despite everything, I'm happy right now, there's no need to dwell on what brought me here or the hard parts of being who I am,