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Honestly - I couldn't be happier to leave them behind. At 19, I was plunging into the depths of mental illness. I couldn't cope with the world, I found myself ashamed of my thoughts and constantly feeling guilty, afraid and anxious.

From 20 to 26, I woke up every, single day to a crushing weight against my chest, to a fear that leeched into my bones. I lived on the verge of panic. Everything I loved vanished whilst never actually leaving at all. That is death. To know you want to feel alive, to engage, to live. But not being able to.

I wanted to be dead, I wished every night that I wouldn't wake up in the morning. Everything hurt, a hug can be the most painful thing in the world when the numbness won't leave. A smile can rip your guts into pieces. A kiss. A kiss can destroy you completely.

My 20's - a time I'd believed was for exploring passions, experiencing joy, for loving. It was gone, even when it was still in front of me.

I had great friends - yet inside, i felt so alone. I met kind, intelligent, gorgeous girls - yet I was impotent in feeling. Like every other aspect of my life, I couldn't escape the unnamed fear. I wanted more than anything not only to be loved but to love. But, this wretched disease ate all hope. It devoured, taking any possible passion with it. It built a glass wall just in front of life - you could see when something was good, you could want to step through and experience it - but you never could. I lived with my nose pressed - no - squished - against that glass.

It's never gone away, I've had better moments, but it's never left me, I've learned to manage it better, I've learned to be more courageous. But, when I stop, and realise that I still can't imagine ever sustaining a relationship, it frightens me. Or, when I stop, and think about what life would be like to pursue my goals without this debilitating depth of despair and anxiety - it hurts. It hurts like hell.

I don't know what my 30's hold, but I've got hope, hope that it will get better. I can't always see that hope, but; "hope that is seen is not hope at all", now that is wisdom worth knowing when everything is collapsing and you are close to giving in.

Whilst I'm happy to be done with my 20's, I need to stress - if you took me back to 19, if you told me my 20's could be completely different, filled with joy, that I didn't have to know or understand how someone could wish their life to be over, to hate themselves, to be afraid of the world, to be alone, to live in inexplicable, unplaced anxiety, to be ashamed, guilt ridden, lost, absent of emotion, void of desire or always just millimetres away from love, from life. Fuck it - I wouldn't take it - having been on this side - I'd live it the same.

There is something inexplicably powerful about understanding how difficult life can be. There is something worthwhile in learning to live despite it. Ok, maybe I'd ask for a bit of a break, but then again maybe there is hope for a richer life ahead, maybe it's more difficulty and pain. Let's see what the decade brings and hopefully face whatever it is with courage and hope, yes, hope in what is unseen. Scary as shit, but worth holding onto anyway.


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