A Brain Full Of Spaghetti
I’m Tess and I have got a massively messy mind. I’ve always had a messy mind from as far as I can remember, always wanting to be occupied with something, never restful, never not asking questions, reading a book, writing something, being inanely irritating, just generally always talking, always moving and always, always, always thinking.
I’ve had a good life. That’s not to say bad things haven’t happened to me, because they have, and I’ll share those as we get to know each other, but you know, I didn’t live in a war zone (literally or figuratively), I wasn’t put through any trauma as a young child, I never knew the feeling of actual hunger (just the I’m 15 years old and want to eat everything in sight kinda hunger). I’ve still got all my limbs. I went on holidays, I’ve had my own car, I’ve never not had a roof over my head - you know, the basic good stuff that we all can take for granted until something fucks up and then we can’t.
But, at the age of 16 my mum has a brain haemorrhage. Non fatal, but life devastating. For her, and everyone around her. Suddenly I was the kid at school with the brain damaged mum in hospital. I did my GCSEs with my mum on life support and then in a coma. Nothing quite prepares you for switching the plastic chairs of a high dependency unit to the plastic chairs of an exam room and back again. This isn’t a sympathy story, there’s no lesson to be learned about resilience today, I’ll save that for another time - but I did do well in my exams thanks to a good group of friends and teachers, and a good memory and hard work on my part too. She left hospital nine months later, and both of us were very different people to the ones who woke up on the fateful day in May 2003.
I’d say this was the point in my life where I could start to pinpoint the messy mind. I remember telling a doctor it felt like I had a skull full of spaghetti thoughts and I couldn’t keep any of it on the fork. Every time I thought I had something, it slipped away, and took the rest with it. I just could not get to grips with my thoughts and feelings.
I want to preface all this by saying that I was, or more so, I am, a high functioning individual with mental health issues. On the surface, all fine. Better than fine in fact, people generally give me the feedback that I seem to have my shit together more than most. Which is why it blew people’s minds when I attempted suicide after that. And then again a few years later. In fact, from the age of 16-25, I saw numerous doctors, both took and refused various medications, had CBT, private counselling, was under the care of a mental health crisis team twice and was a source of concern far too often for my friends and family when I reached rock bottom lows...rock bottom lows I had mastered the skill of hiding.
Also between the ages of 16 and 25, I achieved 12 GCSEs, 4 A Levels and 2 AS Levels, and a BMedSci with honours from the University of Sheffield. I got my driving license. I got my personal license. I was accepted into the police force before being diagnosed with narcolepsy (yes really). I started managing nightclubs. I maintained a steady job. I had good friends. I did a lot of good things. Like I said. High functioning messy mind. And I’m 32 now, I have even more awesome achievements and messed up moments to tell you about.
To save me telling you my whole life story in just one attempt, I’ll get to the point. The actress Sofia Bush said it is possible to be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. I feel that in my bones! No doubt, that there’s millions of people out there who that message resonates with too. And then there’s even more people who feel like they don’t quite get it right. I always feel like there’s a missing link in services for the people who are doing great at “getting by” but could be getting further, who feel like they’re missing something bigger.
I’m talking about the people who hold themselves back because of previous mental health problems, or a general lack of focus, feeling of overwhelm, limiting beliefs, those people who could write a whole book on procrastination if only they could sit down to do it...you know? The shiny red ball people. The squirrel people. The serial project starters with half finished books and courses, podcasts on pause, thirty tabs open on your browser....I’m talking to you. You are the people who feel dissatisfied with where you are right now, but your mind is too messy and your brain is too busy for you to cut through the noise and get to your success.
Let me be clear, success is a fluid thing. There’s no set success. You want to be the first female president? Yes ma’am. You want to stay home and bring up happy kids? You do you. You want to make an impact, or you want to become a millionaire? Tony Robbins says you can do both, so have at it. You want fame, fortune, friends, family, relationships, travel, good health, good sex, a great body, a big garden, better sales, better customers, tour own business, your own home, your own car, improved self confidence, better speaking skills; whatever it is, your success is exactly that - your success and nobody else’s. Who cares if Karen from school is a lawyer now? Who cares if Ryan next door drives a Porsche? Who cares if your sister thinks you should have stopped working when you had your children? Do you see where I’m going with this?
All you should care about is two things. Get your pen, get your paper, and write this shit down. Two things. What YOU are trying to achieve and what YOU believe is stopping you achieving it.
How many times have you come across someone or something suggesting that you can be a better you. I hate that phrasing. What’s a better you? Let me tell you that right now, right here, you are exactly where you need to be and exactly who you are in every moment. You might not enjoy who you are being or how you are behaving, but every decision you make, whether conscious or subconscious is a direct result of your inner thoughts and beliefs at that moment. For me, the phrase be a better you, suggests you’re not trying hard enough.
When I was depressed, my best was managing to speak to a friend for a few minutes on the phone without crying. Another version of my best is standing on stage in front of crowds of 400 people with a microphone and a fantastic pair of heels telling them exactly why I am the girl they should be listening to right now. Both of those versions of me are doing their best. They couldn’t be doing better in that moment.
So I want to destroy the concept of a better you. You are wonderful already. I can tell, because you’re reading my blog. You’re perfectly capable of success; even when you haven’t showered in three days, even when you cry for no reason in the car on the way to work, even when you yell at your kid for asking three million questions in five minutes and you just can’t think straight. Give yourself a break, you already have the power to be the best you can be. Instead, start believing that instead of being a better you, you can just be better at being yourself. I want you to join me and be part of a “be better being you movement”. I want you to see that all your strengths are great, and all your flaws make you unique, and that you can combine all those powers and be absolutely fantastic , with all the individuality you’ve got already. The magic is already in your bones and your blood...you just have to find what lights your soul.
I believe that it really doesn’t matter how you achieve something compared to how every Tom, Dick and Harry achieves something, as long as you achieve it. I want you to see that you can be a man and still cry at romantic comedies, you can have anxiety and still deliver awesome presentations, you can decide not to have children even though all your family expects that, you can be a badass ball breaking powerhouse in the boardroom and still be a loving wife at home, you can be a fantastic mother without knowing how to make brownies, you can be a successful CEO and still afraid of relapsing, hell, you can be whatever you want to be. Like literally whatever. You can simply be better at being you.