12:39pm. I’ve had a really tough past couple of days during what has been a tough year in many ways. I have had suicidal thoughts these past few days because my head is spinning round with so many questions and thoughts and I can’t cope. It’s getting too much for me and the headaches are splitting my head in half. Even the respite I get from life through running isn’t working anymore. The thoughts keep swirling and my head keeps splitting and aching. I can’t live like this because this is not a life, it’s not even an existence.
Being on my own has forced me to reflect on myself and my life and my continuous search for answers to questions that I haven’t asked before. One of those has been what has caused me to have mental health issues at this time in my life and how have they built up over many years to the point I’m at now. I’ve tried writing my life story and despite great support and encouragement from my friend Claire I didn’t get anywhere. There was something missing but I didn’t know what.
Yesterday I decided to be brave and open up to Claire a bit more about my struggles. This was a big step for me as I usually keep my innermost thoughts to myself where they build and build until I can’t cope anymore. The thoughts turn into demons which never leave me alone and they consume my very existence, my very soul reducing me to a broken, empty shell of a man unable to function at even the most basic level, struggling to put on a mask to disguise how he really feels turning to alcohol to forget about the demons for a couple of hours.
Opening up to Claire got me thinking about why I struggle and this got me thinking about why I feel that I struggle. I don’t know why it did as Claire didn’t say anything directly to me to get me thinking like that but she was supportive and sympathetic towards me and this took away the embarrassment I had from opening up to her and telling her I was a weak man struggling in the world instead of a strong man happy with life.
I told Claire that as a child I felt that I never had the love and affection that many other children have. I can’t remember being hugged or kissed by my parents although I’m sure they did. I do remember my mum telling me she was proud of me as I held her hand as she died. Sometimes it’s not the persons fault that they don’t show love and affection, sometimes they may have not had it themselves and don’t know how to show it.
This got me thinking about myself and got me wondering if I have been seeking validation and approval from people all my life in one way or another, validation that I am capable of being wanted and loved and approval of myself as a human being. All through my life all I can remember is being rejected in one way or another and never being told why. All I’ve ever wanted to do is put right why I am rejected and not be rejected by people. This has built up over a lifetime, a lifetime of rejections and thinking about it bullying too, mostly verbally, being told I’m stupid or fat, rubbish at sport, excluded from other peoples groups and clicks, made to feel like an outsider in the cold and rain forever looking, longingly through the window at the group of people by the roaring fire laughing and joking with each other, eating and drinking and having fun while I stand outside cold, shivering with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn to.
In desperation to be let in and to feel I was wanted and loved I did anything I could to be the person I perceived they wanted me to be. I would play sports I didn’t enjoy, watch films I didn’t like, pretend I was interested in things I had no interest in, anything at all to be accepted and validated as a human being. This made things worse. I quickly lost interest in these interests flitting from one to another and quickly lost sight of who I was and what made me who I am. Most friends came and went, a few stayed with me, but for the most part I would sit at home staring at the laptop, crying over a whisky asking the screen ‘what was wrong with me’, ‘why don’t people like me’, ‘what do I need to do to be like others’.
In a world that is increasingly dominated by social media, capitalism and consumerism it is easy to get caught up in a race to seek validation and approval from others for the wrong reasons and forget who we are in the process and this happened to me, slowly at first and then building up until a click on a post, kudos on Strava a PB on a run meant more to me than finding out who I was.
8:34pm. These thoughts where flowing through my mind and for the first time in years I felt a wave of understanding coming over me. I had spent all my life trying to please everyone else and ended up pleasing no-one which has resulted in anxiety and depression, suicide attempts and feeling that the whole world is against me and I have no place here. My head began to clear and I felt liberated as I began to view who I am and what I like through different eyes. Why do I run? Why am I friends with some people and not others? Am I doing a PhD for me or to impress others? All of a sudden I was looking at life from a different angle and my life made sense. I began to understand why I have felt the way I have felt about people and interests, why people have treated me the way they have and why I have had a lifetime of unresolved mental health issues.
So many questions to ask and find answers for, one of them being why I could never finish my life story because I couldn’t find the common thread running through it until now. I had various starting points and I knew that running played a massive part in my life but I didn’t understand why. Now I knew why running is such a big part of my life and I even have an ending for my book although it is an ending that I won’t be doing!
Feeling excited and elated I decided to message Claire and say ‘we need to organise a run’ because I now know why I run. To my surprise Claire replied ‘how about a long run tomorrow’? This completely knocked me off my feet. I was expecting ‘soon’ but Claire gave me an unexpected response. I had, had too many beers in a weekend of drinking too much just to get through it but I said yes because I have been nagging Claire about a run for a long time so for me to have said no would have been wrong to me and not being a friend. It’s not Claire’s fault I’m drunk so it’s not fair that she suffers from my drinking and she did tell me she likes to do things last minute and this is pretty much last minute!
There’s a book in here too, a book based on my life but with a beginning, middle and end and with a common theme and thread running through it. This is a story I can plan and I know Claire will help me with it, but a story I can plan and write a synopsis for and describe chapters, send off to publishers and see where it goes.
It’s time for bed now. I’m looking forward to running with Claire tomorrow.