• Mair Elliott

In the face of a snarling beast....

Last week I felt the familiar experience of a crisis preparing to pounce on my vulnerable body and mind. The swelling of anxiety, throbbing and rattling in my body. The dead weight of depression dragging me to the floor. The angry wasp's-nest of thoughts whizzing and whirling in chaotic fashion around my head, blurring into incomprehension. The startling and frightening rise in self destruct, self harm and suicidal urges battering my defences.

I am familiar to this feeling, although it has taken me a while to be able to recognise that this state is the precursor to a crisis. It is this experience that I have spent years in training for. Learning to combat this attack on my fragile mind, practicing skills as if they were steps in martial arts training, reciting the acronyms I have been taught over and over. Various therapies and therapists over the course of many years has provided me with a bank of knowledge. My painstaking trial and error of these skills and techniques has left me bruised and battered. However, slowly but surely I have artfully crafted my lines of defence for when the storms of crisis start to rock the ground beneath my feet.

So, when I started to sense this incoming storm I braced myself and gathered my defences. I did all I could, used all of my tricks and techniques and utilised all of my knowledge. I lasted several days. In the end I had nothing left at my disposal to fight with, and self harmed.

I could get annoyed with myself, I could beat myself up because I 'failed' to ride out the storm. But I'm choosing not to. I did everything in my power to avoid going back to an old coping mechanism, an old comfort zone. I put up one hell of a fight. Sometimes the victory is not in winning but in trying to stand your ground in the face of something which feels so overpowering.

This is where my dichotomy has appeared. Mental illness is something that takes over the mind, it rages through a persons thoughts, beliefs and emotions. During crisis this effect is enhanced, and yet part of my mind fought back. There is a part of me that has taken opposition to this unfriendly invasion. A part that, to be honest, does not have the odds in its favour given previous experience, but it still stands to face its opponent. I felt this effect more than ever before over the past week.

At the moment, I feel as though I am completely out of my comfort zone - in fact it feels as though my comfort zone is in an entirely different universe. It may not look like it from the outside, but I definitely can feel it from my mind into my bones. In a personal sense, I am embarking on a journey away from my self destructive comfort zones such as anorexia nervosa, self harm and other self destructive behaviours. In a professional sense, I am starting to work at a level that is stretching my abilities and brain power more than ever before.

This week I have really questioned why I am doing this, why am I travelling so far away from my usual comfort zones, why I couldn't just crawl back and snuggle up in the same comfort zones I have had for years. It has been an interesting internal argument, but ultimately I figure that I am a person that strives for more, for better, for self improvement, for positive change. I cant do that unless I'm willing to put myself out there, in a personal and professional sense. As uncomfortable as it is, it is also boring to stay in the same place.

When my therapist asked me to talk her through the events leading up to the self harm, I realised where that drive to move out of my comfort zones had gotten me. It had nurtured the opposition, the part of me which stands in the face of the snarling, red eyed, bloodthirsty beast that is mental illness. Right now that paints a picture of a little girl against a monstrous being. In time, and the further I challenge myself, that power imbalance will change.

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About Me

I am a young patient  activist, speaking openly about life with mental illness and autism. My activism includes public speaking, trying to affect change in mental health and/or autism services by contributing to relevant organisations, panels, committees and executive boards. I hope to break down misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma relating to mental illness and autism, and to create a future where mental health services are fit for purpose.

Want to hear me speak? Curious about my story? Think I could help you or your organisation to understand mental health and/or Autism?

Get in touch; Mair.elliott97@gmail.com


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