16 October 2015

Being Alone

I know from past experience that there's no faster way to lose friends than to talk about your mental health; but I'm going to anyway. Because I just can't help but think how many of us would be less depressed or less afraid if our society was just... Better.

I mean there's the obvious: People who depend on help from the state are fucking terrified because social security is no longer secure.

But my anxiety/panic lately has been about way more than just money. And I just keep thinking "I wish I had someone to hold me and tell me everything will be alright." But I don't.

I don't necessarily mean a partner. It's perfectly possible for a platonic friend to hold you and make you feel safe.

I know the show was massively unrealistic in a number of ways; but I keep thinking of Friends. Let's use Phoebe as an example. If she'd had a weekend of panic attacks and needed someone to stay with her all night to make her feel safe; you know that one of the other 5 would have obliged. Because they were close friends.

I was incredibly lucky on Sunday when I was panicking that one of my neighbours was home so she sat and watched Downton Abbey with me for a little while. But a couple of days later my cat was ill again and I posted on Facebook asking, once again, if anyone was free and no-one replied. (Luckily after I got home from the vet I wasn't as anxious as I expected I would be when she first started pissing blood again.)

The reason I'm writing this isn't because I want pity. Or I want attention. Or anything about me really.

Surely I can't be alone in being alone.

There must be thousands of people - maybe hundreds of thousands of people - who are in my shoes: No partner, no children, no siblings, no mother, no friends they see regularly. People who got left out and left behind when their friends from the past all got careers, got married, started families. Or even people who have got careers, but see no-one outside of work.

And I'm writing this from the fairly privileged position of someone with an internet connection and quite a few social media contacts who've offered to be there for me via Skype. (Although today's been one of those days when I've felt like I'm Tweeting/Facebooking/blogging into a void and no-one's listening at all.)

How did people like me end up on the scrapheap of life? And how can we fix society so we aren't so alone?

How many people have to do what I did this week and see a doctor having a panic emergency; when we wouldn't have been in a state of panic if we only had people around us that made us feel safe? This time last week I was on the phone to The Samaritans just because I was terrified and didn't know who else to talk to.

Sure, maybe someone holding me and reassuring me wouldn't have made any difference and I'd still need medical help; mental illness isn't totally socially created. But our social structures matter in how we think and feel. Just like poor housing has a negative impact on your physical health; poor social networks have an impact on your mental health.

And I'm not talking about setting up some formal, professional, support group for those of us that society likes to avoid. Or some condescending befriending scheme based on pitying the poor lonely people. I mean real social change so people like me are seen as real human beings with value that are worth spending time with.

I know it's idealistic: But why can't we live in a world where a group as diverse as a waitress, a chef, a masseuse, a frequently unemployed actor, a data-something-or-other and a palaeontologist can all be besties?

You'll have to forgive me talking about TV a lot; but my TV and my cat are the only support networks that I physically encounter every day. I sometimes go weeks - even months - without seeing other humans in a friendship capacity. Yes I see humans in their professional capacity as doctors, doctors' receptionists, pharmacists, vets, staff in shops, etc. But there's that professional boundary between us.

I don't know where I'm going with this ramble. I just know I'm not alone in being alone. It's not just us benefit scroungers at the bottom of society: Throughout all walks of life some people are isolated by circumstance. Because our world is fucked up, and I wish it wasn't.

10 October 2015

Pain and fear, fear and pain. #WMHD2015 #WorldMentalHealthDay

Trigger warning: This post contains discussions of fear and anxiety, medical negligence, animal illness, accidental injuries, suicidal ideation and general panickyness.