First of all, if you’ve left a comment for me or sent me a message over the past 24 hours because you found me through VEDA, thank you so much. I promise you haven’t been ignored or forgotten. I’ll be in touch directly by the end of tomorrow.
Yesterday the Vestibular Disorders Association shared my Level-Up: Part 52 video on their Facebook page. They’re probably the biggest charity and leaders of community information for those living with balance disorders around the world, so it’s a big deal that they shared it to a few thousand people. I didn’t know about it. My face just popped up on my Facebook feed late in the afternoon. Even though I thought it was nice and a bit exciting that they’d shared it, I didn’t expect it to have much in the way of impact. I was wrong.
People who’d watched the video started leaving comments in various places and began emailing me with thanks for sharing my experiences, in turn helping them gain some perspective on theirs. Someone told me today that because of my video she now believed there was hope that she could live with what had happened to her. I was stunned. I don’t expect to inspire anyone. I always say, “Maybe what I’m doing will help someone else in the same boat.” but I never expect it to happen. How could something I’d started doing for myself have an effect on anyone else? I don’t think I’m remarkable, I don’t think I get noticed that often, I don’t think the universe pays me that much attention. That’s not me being falsely coy or humble, just past experience.
The praise and thanks felt… overwhelming. I started denying it and thinking of reasons why they must be mistaken. But I thought about it some more and realised that nobody gives kindness away for free. Nobody has time for that. Most people only do it when they mean it. When someone steps up to tell you something good about yourself, to be kind to you, they’re taking the time to give you a present. It’s nerve-wracking to contact a stranger. It’s scary to pay someone a compliment when you feel like they might reject it. When you don’t accept the compliment, or worse, choose not to acknowledge it at all, however much you’re inclined to think you don’t deserve it, you’re taking the present, putting it on the floor and stamping all over it. You’re left without the good feeling of having been given the present and the person who took the time to be nice to you feels like their kindness is worthless. Two people are left rejected. I don’t want that. So thank you to everyone who contacted me. I’ll try to explain in my replies how much I appreciate it and will offer any further advice I can.
The other reason the messages were overwhelming is that it showed me just how incredibly far I’ve come. It’s shocked me. A lot. Sometimes you don’t notice progress on a daily basis. I’ve said before that I was never diagnosed with depression, but I think I did have a form of situational depression. I was just so afraid that looking at it that way would sink me deeper that I kept pushing it down and letting it come out in other ways. I hurt people close to me with the anger and frustration that repeatedly bubbled up. I was selfish. I made everything about me. I cried a lot. It wasn’t deliberate, but I pushed a lot of people away before they’d even had chance to help because I assumed they wouldn’t understand what I was feeling. Physically I was so broken, so dizzy, so constantly sick, and the majority of my life had slipped away from me. If this also meant I was depressed on top of my physical limitations, which were extreme at the time, I didn’t know what that meant. Not without consequences, I reached the point where I got some help. I don’t think that first course of counselling saved my life in that I’d wanted to die. I never did. But it set me on a long path of accepting my life for what it had become and it showed me that it was possible to live again.
It’s been a long road, but looking at the person who made that last video and the way it’s helped other people, then comparing myself to the person who walked into a counsellor’s office 16 months ago and worried her because I was too closed off to even connect to her initially, there’s a massive difference. That’s why this 24 hours is overwhelming. I couldn’t have made that video last year. I didn’t know where to start. I am a much better, stronger, nicer to be around version of me now.
I think I’m being a bit annoying online and with friends at the moment. Maybe pushing the whole ‘life is short, let’s make the best of it’ thing a bit too often. It’s not my baseline to be a happy-clappy, sunshine and rainbows kind of person. I’m a bit of a grump really. I ask a lot of questions. It’s part of being a writer to hold people accountable, make observations, expose yourself to all the bad things in life and not keep yourself in a frothy bubble. But the reason I try to keep my spirits up and try to cheer people up when they’re having a bad day is that I’ve been to that really low point. I always wanted to live, but I’ve been in the place where you wake up every morning thinking, “Urgh. I don’t think I can get through the day. I’ll just survive it until I can get back to bed again. Where, of course, I won’t sleep. Again.” And I’ll tell you this, it fucking sucks, man. (Sorry, mum.)
Being angry and sad and miserable every day is the worst and it takes immense strength to break the cycle. I never want to go back there. I never want to feel that way again. And yeah, some days I really don’t want to get out of bed. Some days I could punch my physical disability in the face, if it had a face. I still have days where I struggle emotionally, because I’m human and we’re all allowed to have bad, sad days. But I always pull myself back to the middle. And now there are other people looking to me to help them, I’m all the more inclined to try even harder. So in helping myself I helped other people, and helping other people has now bounced back to me again. It’s a lovely cycle. I love when people lean on me, ask for my advice and let me lift them up. So jump in any time. I’ll catch you. It’s hard making it to the other side, but it feels great when you do. I promise you’re worth the effort.