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Shadow Friends

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

My Shadow friends - because at this point it would be rude to call them acquaintances. Depression has been my lifelong companion, although in the early years I mistook her for unfounded sadness or exhaustion. A sadness I could never quite shake. A sadness that through the years became overwhelming. When her name “Depression” was given to me by my counsellor at 16 I finally understood.

Depression Joe Plumb

Depression became comfort, she became familiar. In some odd sense she was safe because she was mostly reliable. Some days she was soft and gentle and embraced me like an old friend. However, there were days it felt like she was holding my head underwater, watching me flail my arms until Anxiety couldn’t bare to watch any longer, and dragged my lifeless body back to reality to keep going.

At my lowest Anxiety would pull me from my bed and make me face the world for fear of disappointing others. She would make me put on a facade to protect my little one from seeing what his mummy was carrying on her shoulders, like a backpack full of stones. Once I knew he was safe and I was alone at home again, Depression would come take my hand, lead me back to bed, tuck me in gently, and tell me I never had to leave again.

In those moments of utter darkness, I lost the will to fight. Depression would whisper in my ear all the reasons why I should never leave my bed again. Why everyone is better off without me, why I was so worthless, why I was an awful mother, why I would never be happy and I would never find love because I didn’t deserve it …and I believed her. Whilst I lay there hanging on every word Depression said to me, Anxiety came to me and stood looming on the doorway. Watching me with disappointment in her eyes. Telling me she agree with Depression, but she had another idea of how I should deal with it. I needed to be in a constant state of worry, fixate and overthink every single aspect of my life. Because, she said I didn’t deserve to rest, I didn’t deserve the peace of sadness. I deserved every moment of shear terror and panic that I was never going to be enough, and I had to live with that, because that was the punishment.

So in one of the worst few months of my life, I was victim to Anxiety and Depression playing tug-of-war with my thoughts to the point I was paralysed. I didn’t know what to do or think, other than the fact that I wasn’t enough and I should stop trying.

Fear Joe Plumb

Then comes Fear. He invited himself along, even though he could quite clearly see 3 was already a crowd. He’s a bit like the neighbourhood watch. A busybody putting his nose in everyone’s business, and very quick to point out any single possibility of failure. Fear ultimately decides what I can or can’t do. Fear of blame, rejection, humiliation, failing, hurt and every single disastrous outcome you could think of.

Lastly is Trauma. He again has been with me from a young age, but he certainly was in his element 5 and a half years ago. He isn’t like the others. He doesn’t make himself known every day, he prefers surprises. You could be having a good day, and that one smell brings your whole reality crashing down. You are back to that moment. Standing in the fruit isle of the supermarket and yet, you feel his cold callous branches wrapping around your throat so you can’t breathe, feel the damp cold grass under your fingers and can only hear your own heartbeat pounding so loudly in your ears you think they might burst. Then, just when you think it’s all over, you’re back staring at the pineapples, and realise none of that happened. No one around you even noticed, and you just have to carry on with your day. Trauma is cruel, he waits for the most in opportune moments to strike. He knows every scar, every wound and exactly how to immobilise you.

Trauma may be a fleeting friend, his visits don’t last long but the repercussions certainly do. Along with Fear, the boys ironically are the ones that stop me ever being able to trust or love another man. I chalk it up to jealousy, they want me all to themselves. I’m not letting it be so easy anymore. I’ve always been scared I deserved what happened to me, that inevitably it will always end the same way because the fault lies with me. Scared that no one ever has true intentions, it is always a guise for manipulation. Scared I don’t know how to love in a romantic way as I have never experienced it, and maybe I never will. Scared I am too flawed to warrant anyone’s love and time and care.

That is not the case anymore. I have learnt that I need to find myself. What makes me a good person and what I am really deserving of. I need to show myself the kindness, care and attention I show others. I need to learn what makes me happy and indulge in that without guilt. I need to love myself and make myself whole again, before I even need to consider the dynamic of another person. It is a learning curve certainly, but I am willing to put in the work to make myself a better person.

Joe Plumb Quote
The power to create happiness is within you

The personification of my thoughts and feelings may seem odd or dramatic, but personally I find it helps make them more tangible. It is certainly hard to understand or control feelings, but people have limitations. They have flaws, and in this case it is about me finding those flaws and inconsistencies amongst my overwhelming feelings, to make them more manageable.

Processing comes in many shapes and sizes. For me personally I find writing down the worst helps me to make room in my mind. My head feels less cluttered, and I can focus on the future once the past has left my mind and is contained in it’s own space. I am taking one step at a time to feeling contentment and control.

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