Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that about 18 months ago I had a breakdown, my depression and anxiety went into overdrive following an incident at my then job.
I spent most of the last year and a half on long term sick leave while I fought with myself and mental illness. I went to CBT and group therapy. Neither seemed to help.
I found the right medication with the help of some super dedicated doctors and started blogging as a means of getting outside of myself, even on days when getting out of bed was impossible.
Thursday was #timetotalk a nation wide initiative aimed at breaking the silence around mental health. It’s still taboo, treatment is patchy on the NHS and the media paints everyone with a mental health issue as a danger to the public.
We might be nuts but we’re mostly harmless. In fact people suffering from a mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than you. Which means they (we) need support and empathy all the more. Our own brains are against us. It can be absolutely terrifying when you’re at war with yourself.
I thought I would share some of the things that have helped me find some balance again. Please be aware that these do not replace the advice of your doctors/therapists etc. I am not an expert in the field and this is all based on my own personal experience of surviving two mental breakdowns in my life and battling depression and anxiety for over ten years.
Depression makes you unbelievably selfish. You just stop caring about anyone or anything else around you. Eventually you stop caring about yourself. You couldn’t care less if you never got out of bed again. You stop eating, washing, wear the same pyjamas for days on end. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.
We got Algernon and Justin last May, they’re part emotional support, you cannot be depressed around them, and part un-selfish device. They need to be fed, fussed over, talked to, cuddled and spoilt all the time. They were joined by three girl rats, sadly Peaches and Cream crossed the rainbow bridge but Custard still rules the rat house.
Pets force us to think about something outside of ourselves – I’m not saying go out and buy an animal to make yourself better, but for me, these little balls of fur have been such a great joy.
I can’t always articulate why I am having a bad day, depression steals my words and anxiety stops me from locating them. But books are always there. On the days when crawling into a novel was too hard, there were graphic novels/comics, poems and declaiming speeches from Shakespeare (I knew my degree would be useful one day). Other people’s words when mine failed.
Adult colouring books were huge in 2015, and I was there, scribbling away, mostly mandalas, but finding the edge taken off my anxiety by the repetitive nature of the activity and the colours. No wonder little kids seem so happy when they colour in.
Blogging helped me immensely, it distracted me from the war in my head. Same with Instagram and twitter, though I had to step away from Facebook and its barely controlled anger, I explored more of the things I enjoy, finding my way back to me.
Going back to work, just not that work. I tried to go back to my old job, I’d been there five years, but there was no support, I was treated like I’d been off with the flu, not a serious illness. So I left again, this time for good. The relief was amazing. Then I started temping, and while I now know that’s not for me, it gave me back a lot of confidence.
Finding the funny – above is what should have been chocolate chip cookies, I honestly have no idea what happened, but instead of panicking about how I’d messed up, I took a photo, sent it to my best friend and reminded her of previous baking fails. Then I laughed, proper deep belly laughs. Because life is ridiculous and none of us are getting out alive.
Lean on others – I’ve been really lucky, the Mr has been the most amazing support. And I know it hasn’t been easy for him. Lean on the people who love you, whether it’s a friend, family member, your mum, partner or Samaritan. Let them take the strain for a moment, don’t be afraid of letting others in.
Asking for help is probably the hardest thing you can do. But it is also the most liberating. We fight our monsters in silence, but it is OK to say “I can’t do this anymore” and ask for help. I cried in my doctor’s office as I finally admitted I couldn’t cope and needed help. I am so glad I did. I’m honestly not sure if I would be here now if I hadn’t.