As someone with lived experience, who has fed back into the system, I have never really felt like my voice has ever been heard. For the first time, I realised I was hearing the voices of people who needed to be heard.

Sunitha‘s #MadCovidDiaries 2.11.2020

TW: Bereavement

It’s been about a week since the funeral of my uncle and today, in particular, I have been feeling very disconnected from his loss. In some ways, it’s similar to how I felt after the death of my other uncle last year – in that time away from them, softened the blow. With this uncle it was the pandemic, whilst with my other uncle, it was because he lived abroad. There’s something to be said about grief and regularity. The grief that can sometimes hit you the hardest might not be the person that you are closest to in life but the one that is around regularly in your life. One beautiful fantasy that I had after my grandma died was when I walked by her house, I would imagine that she was still alive in her room, possibly even watching me on my way to work. The point when the loss really struck was on my birthday when we’d spend time together and that was finally gone. Not long after that, I remember writing about her following a dream I had and there was this feeling of transformation inside myself. Truly, when she was alive, she judged me for a lot of my behaviour but it was only after her death, I felt a connection. The converse being true with my uncle is something that I am struggling to accept. Whilst he was a challenging person to be around, I could mostly be myself around him.

The feeling of being authentic is something that I feel I have battled with my whole life, which is only exacerbated by living with mental health illnesses. As much as people love me, nobody wants depressed Sunitha or anxious Sunitha turning up to a night out, or dinner, or even just for a coffee (though usually decaffeinated something, coffee puts my anxiety into fifth gear). Of course, there are some unlucky people who have seen me in my depths of despair and in spite of it all, they still love me but it feels like such a honour from my side. When I flirt with emotional shutdown, the first thing to go is my superficial friendships though often even longer term friendships can sometimes become casualties. In all fairness, I present in such a way that if you weren’t someone with trauma or anxiety or depression, you almost certainly wouldn’t see it. The intensity that makes me stay up all night ranting and seemingly connecting with people is the same intensity that keeps me awake at night circulating those thoughts alone, believing I would be better off dead. For so long, people were a way to avoid facing the reality that my mind overwhelmed me.

When I was younger, in those moments of meltdown, I would very rarely self harm but I soon realised that even that didn’t give me much of a release. Inevitably, I found different ways to cope and quite frankly, right now, I have no idea of how to cope. This blog in some ways has become my saving grace, for once in my life I have found something that creates an authentic space to offload without feeling judged by myself. Although, I am left feeling quite overwhelmed after writing, it allows me to let go of aspects of my life that I’m too scared to speak about. Going back to the previous paragraph, it has also allowed me to share this part of my life in an honest and vulnerable way. By mentioning it in passing with friends as something that I do, a few people have asked to read it. Honestly, this was never my intent as I always wanted a space to write without worrying about hurting the people I loved. However, by allowing them access to this part of my life,  where the ball is in their court on whether they choose to read it, I have found a way to provide a window into the mind of my madness. It’s almost definitely how I feel as well, I finally embrace it.

Speaking of which, I attended last week’s madcovid symposium and it never hit me how much a community around my mental health was something that I had always needed. As someone with lived experience, who has fed back into the system, I have never really felt like my voice has ever been heard. For the first time, I realised that existing in that space, I was hearing the voices of people whose voices need to be heard. Every single person who contributed on the panel and in general discussion spoke so eloquently, which made me feel so privileged to have found this space. Times are hard and whilst I’d been in bed all day that day, I found all my energy to get up and shower just for that evening. My heart goes out to the team for creating madcovid in a very organic way, and I am looking forward to the next chapter of this. As several people mentioned on the call, there’s definitely a part of me that feels that mental health activism is something that needs to find space in my life. Unfortunately, wanting to get involved and having capacity to get involved are two very different things but I am trusting that things will find a way organically, which seems to be how this year has gone for me.
Yet, it could have gone so differently. This time last year, I was barely functional, hoping that my life would quickly end as I had no real desire to be alive. For months, the pain inside might have changed day to day but rarely changed week to week. However, slowly, with the people around me supporting me even in a limited capacity, I started to rebuild myself. In spite of the expectation that my partner also mid breakdown was able to care for me, he did prevent me from hurting or killing myself. When he shut down two weeks ago, I was beyond angry because I didn’t know what to do. My anger was placed entirely with feeling powerless that there were no good options, that every time he accessed mental health services, he got progressively worse. My anger went beyond my local primary care health service putting low mood and depression together, conflating the two. My anger went beyond the lack of provision in the NHS for those with long term mental health illness. My anger went beyond the lack of support for couples, people of colour (acknowledging they’re not all the same), those of the LGBTIQA+ community or all those intersectionalities. My anger goes towards successive Tory governments that have allowed a crisis of mental health service by defunding the NHS. Further than that, my anger goes towards them for creating situations through their policies that exacerbate mental health illness, force people into poverty, homelessness and vulnerable situations.

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