A beautiful garden

Sometimes I feel like my inner world is an actual, physical place I can visit.

Here I am, firmly in the real world. But at any moment, whenever I feel like it, I can take a walk and open a door. Then I step into a room that looks like a beautiful garden.

It didn’t always look like a garden, much less a beautiful one. Many times in the past it has resembled a rubbish dump or a dark, cold, featureless place. It used to be haunted by monsters.

I have talked about my experience with depression/anxiety but failed to mention that at my lowest, I feared walking on bridges or going up tall buildings, because all I wanted was to jump off them. Killing myself felt like a logical solution to my “problem”, which seemed grand and unsolvable.

12 years ago I woke up and suddenly felt the quality of my mind changed, darkened, to the point that going from my bed to my bathroom felt like the world’s greatest impossibility. I began to have constant panic attacks. I also began experiencing something called depersonalization disorder, which made me feel like I was constantly living behind a veil, separate and disconnected from the rest of the world.

It was scary beyond description. I didn’t think I would ever get better. My room was a prison. My mind was the imprisoner. And I was the only soul in this room. This went on for many years.

Fast forward to 12 years later. I am still here, having never succeeded in killing myself. There are still some monsters in my room, but I am much friendlier with them now. Most days they don’t appear at all. I have low days, but they are normal low days, not fuck-I-really-want-to-kill-myself kind of low days. I haven’t experienced a panic attack in four years now. On occasions when I feel one bubbling up – which is hardly at all – I welcome it and say hello to it. It then loses its energy and slithers out of the room quietly.

I don’t want to downplay the difficulty of recovering from mental illness. And of course many other things helped (when one is trying to recover from mental illness one tries every solution available), but really, nothing has helped me as much as realizing that the monsters in the room aren’t as scary as they seem to be and that they aren’t. Even. Real.

(To be clear, this has nothing to do with positive thinking. Positive thinking sucks – it’s forceful and denies reality. What has helped me is meeting reality as it is and accepting it, warts and all.)

I write this because one of you reading this might be experiencing what I once felt. Maybe you are fighting a daily battle to stop the pain you are feeling. Maybe there is no light in your life. Maybe you just want to kill yourself.

I write this to remind you – or even my future self – that even if your room feels like it’s haunted by monsters right now, one day it can feel like a beautiful garden, warm and full of interesting things that you want to spend a lifetime exploring and learning about.

So get friendly with your monsters. Acknowledge them and find out why they are there. Then open the door and let them out.

Your garden awaits.