One thing that I’m definitely learning (please note the use of the present tense) with great difficulty is how necessary it can be to make sacrifices. Throughout the course of writing these essays I’ve experienced many health difficulties, both physical and mental, relating to my hormones.
Now that LaylahTalks has taken off a bit more, I feel that bit more pressure to be okay. I feel the need to end every essay about harassment that I’ve experienced or mental problems that I’ve been suffering from with a positive message. And don’t get me wrong, putting a positive spin on things comes very naturally to me and I can definitely see the light in the midst of trepidation, but I’m going through a hard time and I don’t want to sugar coat that.
As I write this, I spent last night in a hospital emergency department due to a very serious mental breakdown. I’m fine now and I was assured that it was due to the side effects of my medications, but it was definitely quite a scary experience.
But while I was there I couldn’t help but feel almost hypocritical. I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say but I kept wondering whether my mental illness was “serious” enough for me to be in the hospital. I kept wondering whether my family resented the fact that they had to stay with me until four in the morning before dropping me back to my apartment and driving the hour and a half journey home to get up for work in the morning.
And I also thought about all of you, my readers. I thought about how I talk so often about mental health and self-care and here I was feeling guilt about my own mental illness, as if that’s anything to feel guilty for. Do you ever think about how guilt around mental illness is a completely man-made thing? If we lived in a society where there was no stigma around mental health issues would that guilt even be there?
I suppose what I’m saying is that I don’t have any of the answers and I’d hate you to think that I do. I believe that when it comes to our mental health, we are constantly learning and I do only share what I learn from my personal experiences, nothing less and nothing more.
It’s funny because I had my first mental breakdown at fourteen and I was very lucky to be given the tools to deal with it at a very young age. But it’s one thing knowing these things and another putting them into action.
Throughout the past few weeks there’s been a storm brewing in the back of my head and rather than take the time to deal with it, I kept prioritising everything else. I told myself it would resolve itself. I told myself to throw myself into anything I could to keep distracted. I told myself I had books to write and people to see and work to do. But that’s not how life works, you can’t compartmentalise your mental health any more than you can with your physical health.
The last time I worked through depression I did it so well. I had my heart broken and I looked after myself extremely tenderly until I was back on my feet. As it happens, when I first began writing my first book was when I think I finally escaped the clouds of depression. The period of time since writing that book has been the busiest, craziest, most enjoyable of my life and I think that’s what made me so reluctant to admit that I was suffering again.
I had worked myself to such an amazing point that I was scared to admit that it had now become overwhelming for me. I took one month off from work, which felt really good, but I expected it to be a magic fix and obviously, it wasn’t.
To recover from these feelings of being overwhelmed I know I have to begin sacrificing, something that I’ve never been good at doing. I have to shorten my to-do lists and skip out on certain plans and take days where all I do is lie in bed and eat. This should be easy, but my stubborn side has trouble putting that into action.
Stay Wild has now come to an end and it’s my promise to you that that next time you hear from me, I’ll have made the necessary sacrifices to be back on my feet. I’m not promising that I will be back on my feet as I have no idea how long that will take, but I vow to take care of myself in the way that only I know how.
I often talk about how I come from a family of very strong, impressive women. I also often draw inspiration from them. But one common thing in my family that I see is a reluctance to prioritise their mental health and it disturbs me to see that trait in myself. Because there is a lot more to life than being productive at the expense of your mind.
I feel as though it’s a weird climate to be a creative person in, particularly a writer. It can feel odd to sit here typing about myself and my personal issues when I feel as though there’s so much more to talk about.
But then I remind myself that no one’s being forced to read what I write (I hope). I remind myself that anyone who’s reading these words is choosing to do so and that must mean that I’m doing something right.
In these extremely trying times, I feel the only thing an artist can do is make art for people to immerse themselves in. God knows I’ve spent the last few months doing little more than immersing myself in albums and TV shows and movies and nature and YouTube videos and blog posts and pretty photography and most of all, in books.
It can be incredibly relieving to be given access to a chunk of somebody else’s world when your own is somewhat scary. So here is Stay Wild, a chunk of my world to immerse yourself in. I hope I can provide you with solace or inspiration or laughter or satisfaction or whatever else it may be that you are turning these pages for.
We’ll get through it.
I have every faith in us.
As always, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Buy Stay Wild here.