I wish I could be strong by Jolene Rae-Walsh

I sit down in a chair that’s designated for the sick, for a ten minute appointment with a clock on the wall that goes tick, tick, tick.

It happens like clockwork, no sooner have I sat, the doctor asks how I’m doing.

My mask slips, the tears start to flow, and he’s able to see my suffering.

I’ve been trying to hold it together, trying to look like I’m coping better, but for whose sake I wonder?

Inside I’m dying, I’m hurting, regressing, fantasising about red baths and razor blades cutting. Releasing. Disappearing.

He asks have I been taking my pills and how am I sleeping, any better do I think?

I don’t know why he asks cos he can’t give me anything to help me sleep; prescribing those kinds of meds is the job of a shrink.

Then he asks about my drug and alcohol consumption and because I’m honest he can’t refer me to the shrink for a medication review.

I’m drinking alcohol and smoking the herb and until I stop, there is nothing they can do.

I wonder about the people who are on the right medication, who recreationally drink or smoke without detriment to their well-being or illness provocation.

And I think about the people like me, who are stuck in that catch 22, who aren’t properly diagnosed or treated, so we self-medicate with our own form of drug.

Which prevents us from being properly diagnosed and treated, so we continue to self-medicate with our own form of drug.

I leave the surgery with another monthly script for pills; the maximum dose of sertraline to cure my ills.

But if anti-depressants are supposed to level out a chemical imbalance in the brain, and if my illness relates to the trauma of an abusive childhood, then by taking these pills what do I actually gain?

They don’t help me sleep, perk me up, make me feel nice, or take away the feelings of despair.

They make me forgetful and ditsy and slow which frustrates my daughter cos it’s like her mum never listens and therefore doesn’t care.

But that’s just not true.

I get back to the house that I hate to call home, from which I want to pack a bag, run away and be free to roam.

Like a gypsy, a traveller, a nomad; I long to be free.

But maybe I just want to run from the pain that consumes me.

Instead I climb into bed and I pull my duvet over my small, weak shell.

I bury my head and I wish, wish, wish that I could handle life.

And I ask myself ‘Why can’t I be strong like everyone else?’

I find it so frustrating.

I find it so frustrating that I’m encouraged to acknowledge the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 which confirms I have a disability in the form of a mental illness.

But the government won’t allow me the benefits or support that correlate with this diagnosis.

It’s so frustrating that I missed a medical with ATOS because I didn’t receive the appointment.

So the government stopped my benefits leaving me 2 months with no income. And we’re still counting.

Every time I go to the Job Centre to try and get some help I end up in tears as I’m passed from pillar to post, I’m given the wrong info and it seems like everyone has a problem in knowing their arse from their elbow.

It’s so frustrating having a mental illness when those around you don’t understand and can’t support you properly.

There’s no explaining the dark thoughts and feelings that have me wanting to leave this planet early.

It’s like there are two of me; the professional woman who has strived for so long, to be a good citizen, a good employee, a good mum.

Then there’s the other me who is damaged and weak, who is wading through mud on her hands and her knees, who is struggling to be and struggling to breathe, and it’s so frustrating because I know I will never intentionally leave.

I will never intentionally leave. I just wish I could feel strong.

Every day, week and month blends into one and the hours in a day can feel so incredibly long.

From when I wake up and wish that I hadn’t and I think here we go again, to the time when I climb into bed and I pray, pray, pray that I can sleep and I pray, pray, pray that the nightmares don’t come.

I wish I could be strong.