Issues within mental health · Stigma

Burdensome, bothersome.

[Warning, this is a whiny rant with no real purpose or structure or eloquent conclusion. Just some thoughts I have ruminating at the minute]

“Alice is always apologising when she tells me how she feels. It’s like she feels like she’s a burden, like she’s bothering me- but she’s not.” It is said about me, rather than to me, so I suspect it was around a table, with a bunch of mental health professionals, my head of year, head of sixth form, and my parents. Though I can’t remember on which particular occasion this was said.

But my head of year hit the nail on the head. I did like a burden, did feel like I was bothering her every time I opened my mouth. I still feel like a burden.

I could psychoanalyse it all if I wanted- provide explanations as to why I feel like a burden, but I don’t think that will change anything. It won’t make me stop feeling like a burden- because the reasons that prompted me to feel that way are still in play today.

The past few weeks, months- year even, since I moved back home 14 months ago, my mum has been implying it. It is always said jokily, or in the heat of the moment after an argument or if I do something ‘wrong’ (forget to unload the dishwasher, borrow her eyebrow pencil without asking). She will joke or snap ‘how long is it until you’re moving out?’ or ‘god I can’t wait to get rid of you’.

It’s kind of getting to the stage where I know she doesn’t mean it jokily or angrily- that there’s an element of truth to it. It’s kind of gotten to the stage where it’s one joke, one heated comment too many. I’ve always been of the belief that when people say things in anger or humour, while they mightn’t necessarily mean it wholeheartedly, their words have come from somewhere.

Last night when my mum said to my sister after we’d had a silly argument “it’s ok, in a few months she’ll be away from our family and you won’t have to put up with her for months at a time”, I knew there was an element of truth in it.

I know it can’t have been easy on them. I know for the past eight years I have been nothing but a source of worry and concern and frustration and stress and strain for my parents. That I have dragged the attention away from my siblings and sapped the life and soul out of my family. Ironically, I don’t actually tell them much- choosing to keep huge things a secret for years, precisely because I don’t want to cause them worry or concern or any extra stress or bother. But they worry anyway. They are stressed by me anyway. So a lot of the time, I feel like it’s by virtue of being, by default, by the simple fact I am alive, I am a burden. A pest. Bothersome. I don’t have to do or say anything to be a worry. Things might be ticking along smoothly for weeks, and still my mother will say something about how future plans will ‘depend on how you’re doing’ or make some other reference that lets me know she is very much Stressed and Worried. For years I have overhead whispered conversations about me, exasperated sighs about ‘what to do with her’; seen terrified looks on my sibling’s faces as mum screams and shuffles me out the door and into the car or their confusion when they realise that the hospital ward I’m in doesn’t look like a ‘normal’ one with beds and machines and doctors with stethoscopes and old ladies in hospital gowns, because it isn’t. My siblings have had to explain with embarrassment to their friends why I was laughing hysterically or ‘acting weird’ when manic, or have sat at the edge of my bed and stroked my face and read me happy quotes when I’ve been sad. They have had to see and try to understand things that they shouldn’t have. I know they worry about me too.

So keep it in, hold it back- that’s what I’ve adopted as my philosophy. There are few people over the years I have felt able to talk to, felt comfortable opening up to. I have been reprimanded by therapist after therapist for my inability to open up. But I just can’t. And when I do, I feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, attention seeking- burdensome. I don’t like weighing people down with my thoughts, don’t like being a cause for concern or a source of worry. And I feel like that’s what happens when I let it out- I just worry the people that are already worried even more. And I can’t have that!

Writing this, I feel that yet again, I am turning the spotlight back on me. Because really, my family put up with a lot. But I just can’t shake the feeling I have that I am a burden. My mother’s words last night confirmed it. ‘Our family’. ‘Put up with her’. It just stung. I am an outsider, an unwanted pest; me, my illness having destroyed my parents desire for a quiet life, quashing their ambitions for an accomplished, adjusted, successful first daughter. I am an inconvenience, unpleasant, difficult to be around. Something that is to be tolerated, something they must ‘put up with’ patiently until I leave again. Out of sight, out of mind. I know that right now, my mother wants nothing more than a fucking break from me. I know that she is counting on the fact that I am moving away in a few months. If I am not there, I can’t infest. I can’t ‘make everyone else miserable too’. And I’ve felt that way for years- that I am poison, casting a dark cloud over anyone that comes close to me, that really, they’d all be better off if I just weren’t around.

I just feel like a fucking parasite. It is always something with me. I don’t have to do or say or think anything to be a bother. I have an ‘illness’, and from the moment I have been afflicted with this ‘illness’, I have Got In The Way. I have been a bother and a burden and an inconvenience and I have been the topic of hushed conversations, and the cause for tears, and a perpetual source of worry-and it always always comes back to the illness. The question is always an exasperated ‘what’s wrong now?’ Now, again, again again.

Mental illness is my burden, and I burden others because of it. And I try and I try and I try, but sometimes it feels like it and I are inseparable. I just want to cut it off me, get away from it. I don’t want to be a burden, I try my damnedest not to be; but somehow, I still am.


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