An open letter to those who I have pushed away over the past five years

I am sorry.

And I know that these words are only letters; three little words and a total of 8 letters that cannot undo or fix anything, but I didn’t know where else to start. There seem to be no words in the whole of the English language that can express the way that I feel, so please, let me say this: I am sorry.

I am sorry for hiding for so long, for pushing you away and at times appearing to have “fallen off the face of the Earth”. I am sorry if I have caused you any pain/hurt/worry; it was never my intention and was the last thing that I would have wanted to do. I really did believe that by keeping my distance, cutting all ties and isolating myself, that it would solve everything; that it would keep you safe; and that you would not have to worry about me any more.

But I was wrong, wasn’t I?
So please, give me this chance, to tell you the truth…

The truth is that you did not do anything wrong.

It was not you (and I am not just saying that) it’s me. You see, these last five years have been a bit of a blur and I know that I have not been ‘myself’, but it’s hard to find words to explain what has been going on.

The truth is that I didn’t know what to say.

I didn’t know how to tell you the truth; and part of me didn’t want you to have to hear the things that have been going on inside my mind. To talk about it would make it ‘real’; which is something that terrifies me deep down.

The truth is that all of those texts you sent me, the ones that I didn’t reply to; I read every single one.

Sometimes multiple times once I managed to open them. I tried to reply to you, I really did, but every time I tried to I seemed to find myself paralysed and lost for words.

The truth is that I didn’t want you to see me this way.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I am embarrassed and ashamed; I was always the ‘strong one’, the one that people came to for advice and help, but I crumbled, I couldn’t cope any more and I didn’t know what else to do.

The truth is that I actually think about you a lot.

I see your posts on Facebook, and your pictures on Instagram; and they make me smile. I know things are never as they seem on social media as they usually only portray the side that we “want” to be seen; but to see you living and enjoying life, well, it gives me a bit of hope.

The truth is that all those coffee dates and plans that I cancelled? I didn’t want to cancel them.

It’s hard to find the words to express how my logical and rational mind can all of a sudden be swamped by anxiety and depression, causing me to be paralysed to the spot. No, it is not that I didn’t want to see you (because let’s get this straight, I really do); it is that I felt that I couldn’t. The fear that flows through my body when I receive a text on my phone is indescribable; my mind starts racing, my palms turn sweaty and my breathing starts to shallow.

It gets to the point where I find it hard to pick my phone up, and it can sometimes take me a few days to even open a message, let alone think about replying to it.

Do you remember when we were in school and they used to tell us about the whole caveman “fight or flight” feeling? Well that is exactly what happens to me when I am faced with these kinds of situations; it is extremely terrifying and very real. And sadly that doesn’t even begin to touch on the fear that surfaces when I consider even just breaking my usual routine, let alone the thought of having to leave my ‘bubble of safety’, make conversation and interact in ‘real life’ again.

The truth is that as much as I want to explain to you what has been going on for me these last few years, it would break my heart if I found that you could understand.

Because to understand the mind of someone who suffers from a mental illness, more often that not, means that that person has an experience of it themselves (in one way or another); and I would not wish that upon anyone, not even my ‘worst enemy’ (although saying that, I think that my lack of real world interactions might make it quite impossible to have one of these at the moment, but you get the idea…)

The truth is that sometimes I need some space.

Sometimes there are days when I wake up and all I want to do is disappear. There are days when the darkness feels so suffocating that I can hardly get myself out of bed, and there are days, sometimes weeks, when leaving the house becomes a near impossible task. Right now even to take things ‘day by day’ is an achievement, most of the time it is ‘hour by hour’, so I am sorry if I suddenly disappear out of the blue, I promise it isn’t you.

The truth is that no one chooses to suffer from a mental illness.

It is not something that is within our control. But, as I am learning, it is something that we can learn to understand and ‘control’ (in a sense). There is no ‘one diagnosis’ or ‘cure’ (as much as we wish there was) that fits all; every single person in life is unique and individual and unfortunately this translates into the treatment of mental illnesses too. Although there may be similarities between sufferers, every single person is on their own journey, which effectively means that what might help one person may not help the next; it is a lot of ‘trial and error’ at times and can be incredibly frustrating. It’s hard to hear this and even harder to accept because the term ‘recovery’ on it’s own already feels incredibly daunting without having to deal with the added possibility that treatments may not help.

This is one of the hardest things to admit but the truth is that I am suffering.

I am hurting. And I know, deep down, that I can’t keep hiding it all away. I want you to know that I am trying; I am seeking treatment and I am slowly managing to take some steps one day at a time. I am sorry if I continue to push you away, it is not intentional or personal, it is just one of many coping mechanisms that I may resort to along the way.

So, dear friend, I know that I have pushed you away a countless number of times (and unfortunately due to the nature of mental health disorders, it may not have been the last time), I want you to know that I still care about you. I know that a lot has happened over the past few years and I know that I have missed out on a countless number of birthday parties, celebrations and days out, but I still care. I still care about you and I still want you to be in my life. I know I have not been there for you like I would have liked to have been, but I hope with all my heart that you can forgive me.

Thank you for sticking by me, even when I didn’t feel like I could stick by myself.

You will always have a place in my heart.

Signed,

Your very grateful (and a slight mess of a) friend x

P.S. This is a little reminder to anyone out there who might be reading this and can relate in one way or another: you are not alone. Suffering from a mental illness may not be a choice but recovery can be. Some days will be harder than others, but there are brighter and better days to come. It may feel like a very long and daunting road ahead of you but you do not have to go through this alone. 

And as Winnie the Pooh once said:

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

Words by Caroline Miller

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