Article I wrote for Grey Matters on relationships and BPD
This summer, at the conclusion of the World Cup, BBC pundit Alan Hansen called time on his twenty year media career. Many will remember him for a comment he made about not being able to win things with kids and all that. But my abiding memory of his was his constant harshness on defenders. He would often point out the errors made when players, rather than making a choice to deal with a situation, took the comfort of sitting back, choosing safety, and being punished by conceding a goal. His view on defending has become one of my mantras for life. But sometimes we fall short of our expectations.
I believe that making decisions, making real decisions is the single most difficult thing in life. Most people drift through their existence not having to make anything close to what I would describe as a decision. We go to school because we have to, we follow the path expected of us from there, whether it is university or work, our paths are often laid out in front of us. This is not always a bad thing. But it does create a state of mind where comfort is the expected state of living and tough decisions are a deep internal conflict. Times when we have to chose what is hard over what is easy. What is right over what is comfortable. These are times when we make real decisions. For a broken mind, this state of flux can be very overwhelming.
I will say with certainty that the last year/eighteen months of my life has been filled with indecision. In my last piece I mentioned how suffering with a mental illness is not a choice. Dealing with one very much is a choice. Well, I did not make that choice. It is a miracle I graduated because my attendance was often below 50% and I am sure my university had grounds to kick me out. I did not hand in many mandatory pieces of work. I often went through 24hours spells of not leaving my bed. No exaggeration. But worst of all, I ignored the choice to get treatment. Speaking about what is wrong with me, making hospital appointments, owning up to the fact that I needed help, finding people who understand. All those things are decisions. Tough, scary but necessary decisions. Ones I didn’t make and ones I paid for. Indecision is final. But it is not fatal.
I am sure for some of you, this blog is merely an insight to the workings of a broken mind. For others it may hit closer to home. But there is one universal point I want anyone viewing these words to take from this. It takes one decision to change a life. Whether that is deciding to chase your dreams and abandon the comfort of a 9-5. Whether that is to leave an unhappy relationship. Or make your unhappy relationship a happy one by treating your partner better. Whether that is giving him or her another chance. Whether that is deciding to be sick of feeling like life lacks direction. Or whether that is deciding that the way you view life, the way you view yourself is not right. Comfort is too comfortable. Comfort makes us become too accustomed to unhealthy situations and states of living. We are almost geared to accept things as they are, for that is just the way it is. To that I say this.
Here you read the words of a man who has looked into the abyss and thought it was normal. It was just my life. Many of you told me you thought I was brave for being so open in my last post. I simply thought, hey, I’m just a guy talking about his life. Things that were normal to me. When we don’t decide to make positive change our lives become something we should not expect them to be. So over the last week, I have decided to decide against indecision. No, I am not better. But the things I have been able to confront and address have actually surprised me! And you can do the same! Decide against the unacceptable comfort. Decide that doing it alone won’t work anymore. Decide that you deserve to be more than comfortable. Decide you deserve to be happy. Decide that you know it will be hard. Decide you know it is the right thing to do nonetheless. Decide that it takes one day, one decision to turn around a life. Decide to make today that day, to make today truly
a GREAT day
Around about this time last year I posted a rather lengthy status on the book of faces about dreams. It was nothing too serious, simply me musing out loud. Apparently said thoughts were best left to myself, as someone I know and rather respect called me an idiot on my own post. I quickly deleted said post, not wishing to be ridiculed anymore. I also went into nearly six weeks of dark dark depression. Forced solitude, heavy drinking, razor blades, the whole shebang. I know that the person who commented on my status has no memory of that event whatsoever, nor should he in all honesty. I don’t blame him for what happened to me. But why was I so affected by something so inconspicuous? To me, the answer is very simple; I took his words and turned them into my reality. And what we believe to be true often is more important than what really is.
I am a man who values his intellect. And in truth, I have good reason to do so. I have always performed exceptionally academically. I was a gifted and talented student at school. For as long as I have had the ability to recall events and emotions from my past, being a person blessed with above average intelligence has been a big part of my reality. Three days ago, I received my degree classification. I got a 2.2, and since then I have been sinking into a new reality, one where I am a lower second class intellectual. As I type this, I have not told the vast majority of my closest friends what degree I have achieved. Despite near elation from both my parents (well, my dad got as close to non-Liverpool FC related elation as he can) I have failed to take anything other than sorrow and shame from my failure to achieve what is the average grade for my course. I have sunk into a new reality. But this is something that I have to fight. Because it is the reality I am currently choosing to see. And yes, we can and do choose what our realities are.
Living with a mental health condition is not a choice. How we live with our conditions is a choice. Trying to change perspective is a big part of that choice. And there is real power in the choices we make. Me typing this blog is a choice, and so is you reading it. So is me choosing not to value the fact that despite very unfavourable odds I completed a degree at one of the tops schools in my course. I am looking beyond the strength of character I displayed to get to this point and focusing on my perception of myself as primarily an intellectual. I know that a big part of my condition is affecting how I view getting a degree classification I am not overly happy with. But there is another reality that I have to see. There is another reality we all have to see. We can often have very little power over how our conditions affect us. But the power we do have must be used to seek the positive. Whether that is congratulating ourselves for trying, even when we fail. Or acknowledging that despite being given an opportunity to give up, we have not. Happiness, true happiness, in my opinion, will not come from hoping for things that may or may not ever happen. It comes from seeking and taking joy in what has and is happening.
Many people I know very well will only find out about my 2.2 by reading this post. And truth be told, that is a thought that fills me with dread, fear and shame. But that is only because I am choosing to live in that reality. I have gotten a below average degree from my course at my uni. It also took me four years instead of three to do so. That is a fact. I also got a degree from an internationally recognised institution, in what were, for at least 60% of the time, hellish circumstances. This post may come across as a glorified rant but it is not. It is an example of the fact that the man behind these incredibly well articulated words (though not so much in this post) struggles too, It is an example of the fact that there is another way to view the times we perceive life to be going against our plans. It is sign that happiness, even a state of being content (contentness sadly is not a word) is not something that exists outside of ourselves or our experiences. Let us change our point of view. Not to lie to ourselves, but so that you and I can have
a good day