This week marked three years of our marriage. I could write here about all the joy these past three years have brought us, because they really have, but I feel like it’s important to talk about how we made it here. In times when outward success and only the best stuff is shown, it also matters to be honest about our vulnerabilities too. Is it possible that we all have inner struggles and times of doubt and are still doing ok at life? yes,I really think so.
I’m not sure if you know already, or even care, it doesn’t really matter that much. Either way, both James and I live each day with mental health problems/issues/illnesses. Even writing the words makes me feel like a lesser person, almost like acknowledging it will make you think less of us. But please bear with me.
Some days it lingers in the background, others it is a huge relief to have completely disappeared but there are also those days when it’s there, its presence is crippling and inescapable.
Those days are painful, physically and mentally. For me I have thoughts that tell me I am no good and every one would be better without me. They are wild and rapid thoughts and feelings that take over my whole body. The thoughts fill me with a fire that feels impossible to dampen down and it eats me from the inside out. My arms and legs have those kind of dead bone aches and my stomach is full of fear and fire. Of course on a better day, I honestly believe that none of these thoughts are really true, but it takes a fair bit of strength to find a way out of them and get along with daily life.
For James, as he has explained, it can start as a fear and build and build to a feeling of loss of control, huge lack of self confidence, anxiety and stress. Decisions are tough to make and he wants to make a difference 'right now' with everything, but can’t work out what will work and ultimately feels a deep sense of failure.
When we first met, anyone that knew us back then probably didn’t understand why we pushed to make our relationship work. With two children and their future to think about too, it was a huge weight on both our shoulders, we wanted to make sure it was right for them and for us. It was hard, we cried a lot, we almost didn’t make it and at times it was pretty heartbreaking. There was something that just kept drawing us back together, it was bigger than either of us and we just knew there was no OTHER way.
One of the things that has always joined us hasn’t necessarily been our health, it’s been our deep appreciation of people. Who ever you are, what ever your struggles have been, or what ever has made you beam that day, we see it so clearly.
An element of Mental health that isn’t always talked about is that it also brings with it a great and powerful understanding of life and all it’s intricacies. When you can work on getting yourself better and on a more positive track, it forces you to want to help others and share in their ups and downs. Which is where the photography and our blog came from, we can capture and talk about the most sensitive parts, the parts that sometimes hurt, the parts that show you made it through. Living with mental health is complex but can also be beautifully insightful.
In our day to day we spend a lot of time balancing work, family life and friends but have to keep in the forefront some self care. Looking out for visual cues, mood and tone of voice in each other, can be really helpful. When we notice that one of us is starting to feel the panic, or is behaving a little out of sorts, we try to find some extra time and strength to take care of each other and allow a little bit of head space to clear a way for a more positive path.
Right now we are trying ways of eating better to feed our minds as well as our bodies and read up a lot on how we can heal ourselves. James more recently has got back on the road with his bike and is enjoying the time to ride, free of an weighty thoughts. I spend time in the garden, planting and watching things grow or find peace in a walk in the woods. Searching for what ever makes you happy is always time worth spending towards better mental health. If there's anything we've learnt most in the last three years it's that. Allow happiness to be in your life. It's ok. Besides, when you're faced with the depths of dispair, there's only one way to do this.