I’ve never been very good at being out of control. I’ve always pushed against anyone making decisions for me – I studied physics at GCSE because my teacher told me that “girls don’t do physics” (plus I still clung to the frankly ridiculous dream of being an astronaut), I was, by all accounts, a terrible baby until I learnt to walk a shave before turning one and then, buoyed by the ability to make decisions for myself and do things for myself, I turned into a well-behaved, happy child. Through childhood and into adulthood, I have always been a strong advocate of my own independence.
It’s one of the things that makes being mentally ill so difficult, the complete loss of control. Not just of outside factors but of my own mind. I wake up in the morning and have no idea whether today I’m going to be able to get up, whether I’m going to potter about but ultimately do nothing of use, whether I’m going to leave the house, cook a meal, read a book, go back to bed, do some study, do some work, figure out a future. On occasional days, I wake up and feel light. I tiptoe around myself but take the opportunity to be normal. Other days, I wake up and everything is black and nothing will happen. The only thing I can do is hope that I can drift in and out of sleep.
On the rest of the days, I am at the mercy of the whims of my out-of-control mind. I can start crying for no reason and with little regard to societal norms. I can suddenly and irrationally want to end it all and then half an hour later be fist-clenched and ready to battle the world. I can set out with a backpack on and a bottle of water, ready for a long walk and turn around at the bottom of the road and be back in bed before I even know what I’m doing; likewise, I can book and plan an amazing holiday and then (if I get as far as going, which is by no means guaranteed), I spend the whole time in a hotel room trying to convince myself not to leap out of a window.
On the surface, I maintain the independence I have always fought for. But underneath, control has gone and I wonder what comes next.