It felt important to write this today.
When I first started out with the “online” world, it was crazy reading some of the abusive comments we would receive.
I would have people tell me that they hoped I drowned. That I was fat. That I was a waste of space. That I needed to get my teeth fixed. That I was a slag. For two and a half years, I still get trolls, emailing me, commenting on my videos, or on my Instagram.
There have been hundreds.
Trolling is so distorted. The idea of contacting someone you don’t know- to tell them you don’t like them and what you don’t like about them, their life or their choices- is bazaar to me. To actively take time and energy out of your day to attempt to drag someone else down- it’s screwed up.
I think now is a good time to say that I fell into depression when I came back from sailing in May. I couldn’t do anything. All I wanted to do was stay in my apartment, sit in my chair, drink tea and read books for hours and hours. I didn’t want to wash. And sometimes I didn’t for days at a time. I didn’t want to clean. My house became piled up with clothes, dirty dishes and moulding food.
I didn’t care. I just couldn’t.
And when night fell, I would pull out a bottle of wine and drink it to myself. And wish I was somewhere else. I would spend my nights writing and drinking, crying and hugging my dog.
I was a nobody. A nothing.
I must have called helplines a dozen of times. But I didn’t know what to say.
“Hello there, I’m sad.”
I felt bad for calling them. I was wasting their time. There were others who needed this service more than me.
What is wrong with me?
What is wrong with me?
What is wrong with me?
I felt flawed. Weak. I had a good life and yet everything felt as though it was falling apart. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do. I just wanted to stay inside my house forever. I had lost my fire.
I wasn’t ready to go back to Papageno. Everything felt too hard and yet there was an expectation of me.
I’m not ready to go back. I’m not ready to go back.
The hate mail continued to roll in. The abusive comments. The insults.
Hate, hate, hate.
What a failure.
Absolute train wreck.
No wonder he left you.
I can’t watch this car crash.
She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
I woke up one morning and decided. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to be happy.”
So I put Papageno up for sale. The weight and responsibility fell away immediately. I had done as much as I could. I had done what I had set out to do. I had always said I couldn’t walk away until her masts and rig was reinstated.
And the night I sold her, I bought a bottle of wine and sobbed through the night alone.
I was a failure. I had given up. I was a nobody.
I felt as though Papageno was the only thing that made me special. It was the only thing that was keeping my business going.
Who was I without her?
The hate continued to roll in. No matter what I did, the trolls remained.
I didn’t want to tell my friends. I didn’t want to tell them that I was lost. There was nothing wrong with my life on paper. How much of a fuck up was I to be feeling this way when so many people had it worse?
I bought a canal boat. I had something to be excited about. I went on my first date since my ex. But the joy began to fall away. I had a huge dread within my chest every day. Twisting and clawing at me. It was as though something terrible was going to happen and I couldn’t explain what it was. I never heard back from my date. And my work began to suffer. I didn’t want to paint. I didn’t want to create. I didn’t want to do anything.
She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
She’s useless without the French guy.
I bet he’s glad he’s shot of her now.
I saw this coming.
Despite the comments, I had fiercely told myself that no matter what I did I couldn’t make everyone happy so I decided to continue doing what I wanted for myself. That I would try and stay strong.
Stay strong, Liz. Keep going, Liz!
But it was still there. Over 2 years of online abuse, mixed in with what had happened.
Were they right? Was it my fault?
Anger would flare up at myself for even thinking these things because I knew they were wrong. I had worked so hard. I had accomplished so much.
But there was a blackness that had already settled within. An exhaustion. It was on a drive down to the boatyard when I realised what this feeling was.
Oh, I thought. This is depression. This is it.
I felt relieved almost.
There was a name to it.
And I knew I didn’t have to find a reason. It just was.
So much had happened in such a short space of time and I had constantly kept myself busy with preparing trips to go back to Papageno. Then when she was gone, and my world was still- it all hit me.
The hurricane season. The engine dying at sea. My relationship breaking down. Trying to get home. Feeling like a nobody. A has been. Feeling like I was a failure. Unloveable. Unworthy. Ugly. Coarse. Ungraceful.
I began to cancel plans with everyone. I didn’t want to go to parties because I felt like I couldn’t be the usual happy and energetic Liz. I thought they would have more fun without me. I didn’t want to bring anyone down.
Mental Health Awareness day sprung up on us. And I felt angry. People putting up photographs of themselves wearing yellow to prove they were showing awareness.
“If you need me, I’m always here. Here’s a helpline to help.”
“Wearing yellow today to bring mental health awareness.”
“You know where I am if you want to talk!”
Do you really want me to know you’re there, or are you just putting up that post to make it appear that you care?
I was resentful believing that 80% of people that put up the “you can talk to me” posts would be appalled if I decided to ask them for help.
Didn’t they realise that it’s so hard to go to someone to tell them you need help? Don’t you realise that it takes so much energy just to get in the shower sometimes- yet alone call up your friend and exposing your vulnerabilities and you need help in one fell swoop?
Hi mate, just thought I’d call and let you know. I’m so desperately sad that I haven’t showered for a week. My apartment is such a mess and it’s making me feel miserable. But I don’t have the energy to clean it. I’m lonely. I’m so lonely. And sad. I don’t know what will make things better. You’ll say go to the doctor, but how can I? I don’t want to pick up the phone. I don’t want to leave my house. I don’t want to tell a stranger who will tell me to take pills, or who will give me a leaflet for counselling with a 6 week waiting list, for me to then leave my house again to tell a stranger that I’m sad once a week. I don’t want to seem broken to you. I don’t want to seem tainted or faulty. I wanted more for myself. I wanted more than this feeling. And I want more for you because you’re my friend. I don’t want to put you through this. If the ship is going down, let there just be me. Don’t let us both drown in it.
But please don’t leave me.
Who really wants that?
Whilst I was sitting in my chair, greasy-haired, stinking, miserable and sad, my friend reached out to me.
She contacted me.
“Just a mental health check in, love. How are you?”
And that was it. It was easy.
And then it all fell out. Like a huge stream of pain from my chest, easing until I had no breath left. And then the words wouldn’t stop. I spoke to her mother. And then I spoke to my sister. And told her.
“Oh, that’s ok,” she said matter of factly.
“That’s ok,” she repeated. “It’s normal, Elizabeth. I’ll help you. Depression isn’t a taboo thing anymore. I’ll help you. Don’t worry.”
Depression. It was out.
I wasn’t a freak. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t flawed.
But I needed someone to help pull me out of my abyss to make me realise that.
What I’m saying is- help us. Check in with us. Don’t give up on us. Don’t just put up a post on social media saying you’re there. Contact your nearest and dearest and check in. A lot of us are terrified of asking for help. To ask for your help to carry the cloud. And if you listen, please don’t abandon us. Don’t wait for us to ask you for help or company. Because it’s so hard to ask someone that. Because we love you. We don’t want to burden you.
I was incredibly lucky. I began to talk. I knew the cloud wouldn’t be with me forever. That was the one thing that kept me going.
“It won’t be like this forever. I won’t feel like this forever. It will pass. It will pass.”
“Of course it will,” my sister would reassure me. She was letting me know it was ok to be sad. In this moment. And for maybe the next couple of months. And that it would get better.
My friend Laurianne kept calling and checking up on me. Telling me that if I didn’t pick up it was ok. That if I didn’t call her back that it was ok. But she would continue to call and message until I had enough energy to pick up. To talk. And there was never ever any guilt. And that made things better. And I eventually did pick up. And talked. And laughed. And cried. And then another week of me ignoring calls would go until I would pick up again. She never made me feel guilty. And that encouraged me to talk more. Until, the only reason I couldn’t pick up was because I was on the toilet- and even then sometimes I still did.
It was mid November until I finally started to come out of it. When the cloud lifted.
I had the strength to go through my social media and block the trolls that frequented my pages and website. I wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve. Decided to pursue the illustrator dream. I read the emails of encouragement and love from my patrons. And I decided- that I would never let the opinions of others affect me in such a way again.
In December, I asked myself who and what I wanted to be.
Happy and healthy, came to mind.
So I began running, motivated by a mental health and fitness advocate called Elspeth (@elspethfit on Instagram if you want to check her out). It was a post about her starting her own fitness journey through running. How she struggled. I saw how she was in the present day. I wanted to be there. I wanted to find a way of coping. Find a way to get clarity. To find my pride again. I had followed her for a while but then decided that I wasn’t going to change anything about myself unless I STARTED. That’s all I needed. To START.
I wrapped a running dog lead I had bought from Amazon around my waist, clipped in Leela and shoved on my hat. I hadn’t run since before Delos. And the only time I had done a fast jog was when the bar shouted, “Last orders!”
I ran. And I laughed. Leela was ecstatic- and to be honest, she pulled me most of the way, making me shriek and cackle as we pounded along the pavement with people staring at us.
I ran again the next day. Running for 15 minutes in the morning with Leela dragging me along, and I would stop and start whenever I wanted (whenever Leela allowed me). It made me feel like I had achieved something. And the ache in my body was so good. Satisfying. And it made me happy to see Leela happy, curled up in a little ball by my chair.
In January I found that my day didn’t feel right unless I went for a run in the morning. I needed it. Craved it. It began to feel easier to be happy. I was more productive. Excited.
In January I ran 25 times and covered 51km. My body began to change. I started to lose weight. I felt fitter. And I was proud of my new found health. I changed what I ate. I booked a flight to see my friend (she was the one who reached out) in Spain. I gave myself something to look forward to.
This month I’ve continued to run, covering 35km so far, and I will honestly say, that it is something I want to do for as long as I’m able. I rely on it so much. I’ve been going to the gym 4 times a week, building up my endurance and I’ve recently signed up to Cancer Research’s 5k Race for Life (you can sponsor me here if you like!) https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/elizabeths-race-for-life-291199?fbclid=IwAR1v0PjEhF5eiNM5_dvwG-mGAsx9_yoaecj8e5U6IVTRZOJRELcGJ-rH2T4
I try to run 2km a day. I have a 10k daily step goal, joined a weekly step Fitbit challenge with some friends, of which I get overly competitive about but never win- (I will defeat you one day, Marcel!)
I’ve found a strength and durability that I thought I had lost. It may sound dramatic- but I feel as though running has really helped save me.
I still get trolls. And I think I always will.
They’re currently complaining that I’ve been making videos about getting healthy, running and that I’m still “fat”.
For illustrative purposes- please imagine me eye-rolling now.
If you’re wondering about how I am now- I want to let you know that I am the happiest and at most at peace that I have been in a long time. I educated and empowered myself- and most importantly- I gave myself the love I needed. I told myself that it was ok to not get things right. I told myself that it was ok to be sad. That I could just feel it. That I could cry. I invested in self-care, and told myself that I didn’t have to feel guilty if I simply wanted to sit in my chair and read an entire book in one day. To stop feeling guilty. That I would feel better eventually. I have spent the past 3 months pouring the time, effort and energy into healing.
I’ve still got areas to work on, but I feel relief.
So much relief.
I’m sharing my experiences because I think it’s about time. I was scared to share how I felt when I was going through it because I was afraid of how it was going to affect my business. How my friends and family would feel. How I would be perceived.
And I just don’t want to care about that any more. I don’t want to care about how others see me. I just want to be good to myself and continue caring for myself.
I will NEVER let comments like that affect me anymore. After reading and seeing on the news how the media and trolls have contributed to the suicide of Caroline Flack, a British television host in England, I decided.
That is it.
I will have no toleration for trolls.
I am worthy.
I am worthy.
I am worthy.
We are not broken. We are not flawed.
We are human.
I want to share my story to show you two points: how just one person reaching out to another can make so much of a difference. Secondly- be nice. Don’t be abusive to others. Don’t be a troll.
Don’t be a dick.
Love from Lizbef and Leela. x x x
P.S. A huge thank you to my sister, Laurianne and all of my faithful Patrons. You are the reason I continue to film and share my story.