Fatigue, Fighting & Future
It has been a funny few weeks and when I say funny I mean a little tough and unusual. I was certain that despite being exhausted and a little off-kilter, that I was fine and with rest I would soon be back on track, I was desperate to feel a sense of normality and I craved it more than anything else. I was extremely confused then when I came to the realisation that I wasn’t fine, that the anxious knot had grown and tangled in my chest and was weighing down on me uncontrollably, I was floored and I hadn’t even seen it coming.
When I started this blog I promised to be frank and document every aspect of my life with mental health, I write this post hoping that, as always, my openness serves to help just one person see that they are not alone because I know that being transparent in these matters is not something that comes as easily to others as it does to me. That being said, we must all cope and manage ourselves as best helps us to live everyday.
So here it is, it was a Wednesday night and I had had too much time alone with my thoughts, I had been spiralling for days without realising and then I hit the bottom. It was ugly and I felt ashamed that I was so weak, that I was so unable to cope with life and I was utterly disappointed with myself. Luckily for me my husband is my guiding light and despite being screamed at despairingly, he held me until the tears stopped falling and I fell asleep. The next day he encouraged me to go to the doctors, I did so and decided to start on medication to help get me back on track, I was very resistant but the Doctor being sensible said to me “we all have our breaking point, being able to accept help is the hardest thing on the journey to recovery”, I may be paraphrasing slightly but the point still stands.
I was signed off from work for a couple of weeks, a fact which hardly anyone knows about, as you know I pride myself on my honesty and openness in all matters and so for me to keep this so much to myself is testament to the depth of personal struggle that I was experiencing. The problem with having such strong beliefs in transparency and truth is that sometimes you end up feeling guilty or uncomfortable for not sharing every aspect with the people you know, but sometimes thats exactly what you need to do and of course you should never feel conscience stricken for keeping your own counsel. Sometimes the best way to be kind to yourself is to do so and to not open yourself up to the opinion or judgement of others – no matter how kindly it might be intended – when you are vulnerable it may only make matters worse.
I was as mentioned, in shock and so more determined to get passed this moment of struggle, I allowed myself a couple of days in my safe place (my bed) but made sure I created somewhat of a daily routine, including eating my three meals and showering (these sound obvious but the hardest thing to do is care for yourself when your mind is not working as it should be). The few days later I started making sure I got up and out of bed and did at least one craft a day, this is both something I find therapeutic and gives me a sense of achievement in a relatively easy way. After this I progressed to going for walks, when you are mentally exhausted it is astounding how heavy your whole body feels, like each limb is weighed down and like your head is heavy and fuzzy and all the while the little voice is screaming ‘I can’t do this’. Imagine walking through a wall of water with dumbbells attached to every single part of your body and you have a migraine and you can just about imagine how intense the feeling can be. With my body engaged I wanted to bring my mind back up to scratch and so I started an online writing course and read a few books. Before long I was desperate to get back into my regular routine of life but I still had to be careful and so my first week back at work consisting mostly of shorter days. It just so happened that I then had my holiday abroad and so off to Poland I went – I hate flying at the best of times so I was fairly nervous knowing it wasn’t the best of times for me. We had a lovely time and by the time I got back I was feeling ever more capable of committing to my normal life. Determination and commitment are all very well, but I didn’t get through with sheer force of will.
Its never an easy decision to start on any kind of medication for any kind of illness, but if you had an infection you would take antibiotics and if you had IBS you would take anti-spasmodics, why would it be any different for an illness in your brain. This is the most important thing to try and remember and it is often the hardest thing to do, what with the self-deprecating thoughts flying through your mind and the overwhelming urge to stay and hide in the safeness of your bed. Its not pretty at first, they make you feel woozy and detached from life, you might have headaches and feel nauseas but over all these are small side effects; if you decide to take medication and feel anything more severe then it is important to tell your doctor ASAP. The good effects start almost as instantaneously, first there is this sensation of release in that broiling knot in your chest, this leads to an overall sense of calm and after a week or so you feel more level and able to cope with life, the fogginess disperses and you are in a better place. It is temping at this point to stop taking the medication, don’t. Everyone knows the phrase ‘Don’t run before you can walk’.
The second most important part of rehabilitation is therapy, its easy to assume that there is always a reason for a rise in anxiety or depression and sometimes there is an over riding issue, sometimes its many little things that have mounted up until you reach breaking point, sometimes its something in your past that is so engrained in your being that there are simply triggers and sometimes its a bit of all of the above. The point is, no one person or situation is the same and so no single form of therapy is best, I have been to a handful of university or NHS councillors in the past and as valiant and genuine as those efforts are, they are limited to their six week time limit for therapy. In my personal experience they do not have enough time or resource to heal and reprogram a lifetime of a persons experiences and habits. This for me is an important part of my recovery, there is so much of my reactions that are habitual and so the hardest part of this journey is retraining my mind to respond differently.
Re-trainng my mind is incidentally something I had already taken steps to do as I have been partaking in daily meditation with the app ‘Headspace’ (something I would highly recommend for daily anxiety or just for a daily sense of balance). On this occasion I decided to pay for private sessions with a recommended therapist, bearing in mind that in this point in my life and career it is the first time I can afford the luxury to do so. Unlike previous experiences, my therapist has had the time to get to know me and my past more intimately and I strongly feel that her methods (CBT as a leading form) are bespoke to me; pair this with my absolute determination that I want these long term anxieties to evolve and change and I am more hopeful than ever that I will reach a place of clarity and of a calmer and more resilient mind.
I am still working on all of the above but I am in a completely different place to any that I feel I have so far experienced in my life, there are things I need to work particularly hard at, my appropriate emotional responses, catastrophising and assertiveness are but to name a few. The difference is that with the combination of aspects mentioned above, I feel more sure than ever that I am on the right and longterm path for me. I want to be clear that I relay all of this to anyone reading in the hope that it might help and not for self-gratification or pity. I know that what has worked for me may not work for everyone, but what I will say is that what I have learned this time is that to make a long term change you have to make it every single day. I am blooming tired to be quite honest, because everyday I challenge my every thought and feeling and its both very self-revealing and very arduous but at the end of the day, better mental health is absolutely worth it.
I also know that paying for therapy is not a luxury that everyone can afford, I know it is hard to ask for help but there may be a member of family or a friend who would love to help but doesn’t know how, be it by being a helping hand or helping financially. Whatever it is just be sure to be grateful but not dependant, the journey is yours and so all of the hardest decisions must be made by you and you alone. I also cannot recommend meditation enough, you might think ‘but she was doing it for months before and it still didn’t make a difference’, but its a long term commitment, changing the way you mind works isn’t going to happen over night. I have twenty eight years of bad habits, expectations, judgements and mental scarring to work through, everything that is worth doing takes time and this is no different. Meditating is not that weird way of having a nap whilst sitting cross legged and humming randomly, sure you can do it that way but it is a very personal thing. When you wake up and you are still tired, when you are already worrying about the day ahead and feel hopeless, then why wouldn’t it be a good idea to quiet your thoughts, focus on your breathing and calm your body before starting out for the day? I use headspace which has guided meditation with a chap called Andy and its almost like a small session of therapy every day, you can choose from ten, fifteen or twenty minute sessions and after you perform the thirty day foundation you can choose from a range of packs including; balance, self-esteem, anger, stress and so many more. Its all about taking time for yourself and being kind to yourself.
Once again I am sorry it has been a while since my last post, there is certainly a sense of irony when you consider where my mind was at then, to where is has been and to where it is now, but I think that shows the pure unpredictability of mental health. I would also like to say that I do not feel ashamed or embarrassed as I did at the lowest point of this period, those are thoughts that are indicative of anxiety and depression, they are not my real thoughts, they belong to the illness. So next time you are hounded by such thoughts consider if they are the black dog (reference to a wonderful video of expression you can find on youtube) rearing its ugly head or if you are just surrounded by arseholes.