I would like to share with you this video clip from the Reluctant Dragon:
So I have a confession; I am the upside down cake. I find myself yet again at a point where I have to make decisions that will affect the rest of my life, yet I am caught frozen in headlights. The mere thought of being my own agent carries such weighty responsibility it petrifies me. How do people do this? Life? How do to people ‘do’ life? I am still dealing with scarred memories from all past mental ‘blips’ together with my current unpredictable mental state… in comparison to my peers I really am upside down.
To give you an idea, here is an extract from my journal two months ago: ‘I just don’t know what is going on with me at the moment. I have this constant anxiety that sits at the pit of my stomach. Sometimes it overwhelms me to the point that I can’t concentrate. On anything. It’s as though I can’t see. The only way to describe it visually is the spectrum Pink Floyd use on Dark Side of the Moon. Thinking about it, the title, too, encapsulates what it is like inside myself; there is a dark side, a side no one sees because on the face of things I project a light. It is a capable front that all is well.’
I felt like I was in a perspex box. The creation of a cake does not bode well in such a box. My head was flooded with debris from my past and worries about the future. I could see everyone else going about their daily lives, knowing what they were doing. They seemed so capable and responsible. Yet there I was, stuck in this box, suffocating under the weight of expectation for me to perform and keep up: 1. You have a degree, you should get a good job. 2. You have a degree, you should being earning xxxx in said good job 3. You need a good job so you can start your pension soon 4. So what if you have to get up at the wrong side of 6am and spend 3 hours a day commuting? Everyone does it. 6. Take up running, x y and z run 40 miles a week! 7. Have you had your 5 a day? 8. Don’t tell anyone of your mental issues, they will just think you are weird 8. You should be in a relationship at your age.
I have tried these things before and each time it leads to breakdown. I am ashamed I cannot handle this life.
But I have realised that it is ok to feel like this and I should not be ashamed. Furthermore, I realised these expectations of me were something I had created. I do not know what others are thinking; they are probably too busy to notice I’m ‘different’. Besides, on the surface people may seem to know what they are doing, when in fact they too are fretting. The trick is to not let the worries and anxiety of thinking differently get on top of you; try to remain present in the moment and not project fears into the future. Just because the majority of people do things a certain way that is seen as ‘the norm’, does not mean I have to do the same. Take pride in seeing this differently. There are always alternatives. Life does not come with a set of checkboxes. So what if doing a 3-hour commute, crammed into an airless tube doesn’t appeal to me? So what if I am not earning the same as my friends? With the unpredictability of my mind, I know I would not cope. My wellbeing is more important to me than anything else. From all I have been through I want to enjoy life and I know this ‘standard’ way of living is not for me. Too many days have been taken by the leech that is depression (among other mental ills). On those days I felt nothing. All emotion and motivation had been sucked from me. Furthermore, I never know when it will rear its ugly head again. So, during the snippets of sanity I want to create a life that is tailored to ME, and one I know I can handle. Taking control of your own life and feeling in charge is vital.
So my message is this: celebrate who you are. Don’t hide your mental ‘blips’ and feel you have to put on a performance. With upside down cakes you never know how they will turn out; often parts of the cake are left in the tin when trying to turn them out, resulting in an ‘interesting’ decorative top. But they are idiosyncratic and more often than not, upside down cakes prove to be the most intriguing, delicious and satisfying of all.