Far too long ago(!) now, Adam and I booked ourselves a holiday to Morocco when we realised that we'd both been running flat out since before the MAFS process started, and were both starting to run on empty.
Our entire expectation of the holiday was to recharge, so we unsurprisingly spent a fair amount of time lounging by the pool, which gave me some time for writing. So voila. Here is my first Two Sides of the Coin blog post, written from the Moroccan poolside.
I'm smiling at Adam and his new pal (yep, he's one of those people that makes friends wherever he goes), but my smile feels like an actual grimace. And I’m wondering if anyone can tell.
It’s 70 degrees here, blue skies, doting husband etc… And I’m still having a tough day.
Over the past eight years I’ve struggled with my mental health with varying degrees of success. There were the very unsuccessful years of crippling depression and unmanageable anxiety; not being able to get out of bed to get into the shower, let alone attend my uni classes or try to work towards my degree. Where my brain was just a fog of all consuming fear, where I couldn’t even trust my own judgement and perception of the world around me.
For those that know me today, for people who meet me through work or through social events, this person would seem unrecognizable. But the reality is that even now I consider myself mostly whole (or as close to it that I’ve been in almost a decade) there are days where I struggle, where some small catalyst can leave me struggling to stay one step ahead of that approaching fog.
When I signed up to take part in Married at First Sight we were assessed by top psychiatrists to ensure that we were mentally stable enough to cope with the approaching process, including the press and public responses to the show. And at that time, I can say that I 100% thought that I would take it all in my stride. Because I was fixed. My mental health was top billing. But it transpired that the process was so much more emotionally complicated than any of us thought.
The relationships we found ourselves in were the most intense, accelerated, and scrutinised pairings we had ever experienced. Even for me, making it to the end of the process and to the show airing with my marriage intact, it soon became clear that my mental health wasn’t as robust as I’d initially hoped.
Which leads me back to a Moroccan poolside, in beautiful sunshine, my still relatively new husband trying to encourage me into the water and proferring endless cocktails. And me not even being able to crack a smile at one of his seemingly endless jokes. Because I’m having a Bad Day.
My attitude is a stark contrast to the day before, where we laughed and joked together; we spent the morning messing around in the pool before heading into Agadir to barter for handmade woolen rugs and strolling along the marina, finishing up after dinner with cocktails on the balcony. A day anyone would expect young newlyweds on a second honeymoon of sorts to enjoy.
But that’s how I’ve found it goes sometimes. Sometimes there’s no catalyst. No tragedy. No life wrenching change that throws your entire world upside down, leaving you scrabbling to try and gain purchase. Sometimes your world tips for no reason at all. It’s a new unwelcome take on I woke up like this.
For Adam, as someone who’s never been so close to those foggy spectres of depression and anxiety, this must be confounding. And I watch him, trying to understand. Trying to find that catalyst that’s turned his otherwise jovial wife into insists on at least a foot of space between us, and who will walk on her toes between the restaurant and hotel room for fear of stepping on the edge of the floor tile. Overnight.
Sometimes the fog can last for weeks, other times for days. And I’m learning to be kind to myself until it does pass.
The work charities like Mind do is so important, for not only supporting those currently struggling – but also to raise awareness amongst those who aren’t. To keep talking about mental health and remove the stigma benefits everyone. From personal experience I find it nigh on impossible to communicate what I need in the midst of these Bad Days to someone else; it doesn’t even make sense in my own head, so how can others understand? The more people know, the more they understand. The more they understand, the kinder they can be. The kinder they can be, the more they can help.
And sometimes we all need a little help.