After The Crash

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a breakdown when I was 22.

After the initial shock of the breakdown, I had a long course of therapy and everyone around me was really wonderful and supportive.

But what happens after that?

I was discharged from therapy when I was 24 and was considered ‘cured’. My depression had slunk back to its cage and my anxiety was at a level where I could function in an almost ‘normal’ (oh, how I hate that word!) way. In fact, after the inital shock of the breakdown, I’d been what was called a ‘high functioning depressive’, which meant that I could walk and talk and eat and wash myself and sometimes laugh and smile, even with the depression eating away at my insides.

My last day of therapy brought with it very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I felt ‘ready’ to work without the net of my therapist and it felt good to know that my doctors felt the same. But it was also terrifying to know that it was just me and my brain, on our own, from now on.

But, we managed.

My CBT training kicked in and my brain and I slowly learned how to live with each other and to cope with the world around us. My depression stayed firmly locked in the cage and I started to breathe a little bit easier each day.

It took a very long time – five years in total – but two years ago, I looked up and realised that my anxiety had receeded.

When I was first ill, and for a long time afterwards, my anxiety was this constant roar in my head.

What’s happening next? Is that safe? Are they looking at me? Do I look stupid? Do they hate me? Can I eat that? If I get on that bus, will I have a panic attack? Everyone hates me. I’m stupid. I’m ugly. I’ll never be loved. I’ll die alone. Why did I say that to that person? Have I locked all the windows? I can’t breathe. Everything is too loud. It’s too bright. I can’t stop shaking. Will I be late? Do they hate me?

Therapy helped me reduce that roar to a shout and when I looked up two years ago, I realised that it was barely a whisper any more.

I am of the opinion that depression and anxiety are not something that will ever go away completely.

There are some people in my life – and I’m sure in the wider world – that think I’m wrong. They think that depression and anxiety can be rooted out and removed, with enough therapy or medication. And that is a valid point of view too.

But for me and my mental health, I believe that they are so intertwined and rooted in me that they are now just a part of the fabric of what makes me.

I am lucky that I have been able to fight my depression back into its box and I count myself lucky every single day that it stays there. I am painfully aware that its claws could come out at any time but I also know that if that does happen, I have the tools and the support to fight back.

Anxiety is more difficult, because it is so embedded in my life, but I realised about six months ago that I hadn’t actually felt anxious in a long time. I’ve felt tired or nervous or stressed but those are ‘normal’ emotions that come with a busy life and the pressures that that brings.

Being mentally unwell also changes the way that people look at you, how they treat you and what they expect.

My friends and family were wonderful when I was ill but it has been harder for them to see the changes in me as I’ve recovered. That isn’t their fault, everything that has changed has obviously been in my head and it has naturally taken time for them to catch up.

I no longer consider myself to be depressed. I also don’t consider myself to be anxious. But I do consider myself to be someone who lives with both demons; they just aren’t in charge anymore.

And that’s the difference.

IMG_1189

VJ x

Self Care 101.

Following on from my post last week, I wanted to write about some of the things that helped me when I was struggling most, and that I continue to do now, to keep me on an even track.

These are of course just the things that helped me and I find/found useful – they may not be of any use to others, but I thought I’d share them here.

So, here we go…

index

The Basics.

  1. Feed your body.

Microwave rice with cheese and sweet chilli sauce. That was my depression meal of choice. It was hot, it was quick and it required absolute minimum effort to make. But it didn’t fuel my body properly and it fed into the constant cycle of feeling rubbish.

When you’re down in the darkness, it can feel like a mammoth task to make a proper meal. But you can’t even try to begin to sort your mind out if your body isn’t taken care of first.

Start small. Buy a packet of grapes and leave them by the side of your bed, where they are easy to reach. Have a handful a couple of times a day.

Try and have three ‘meals’, even if two of them are toast. Try and work your way back into a more normal routine of breakfast-lunch-dinner, even if it’s not at the ‘normal’ times of day.

Feed your body, it deserves it.

2. Drink water.

I am the absolute worst for this – even now! – but water is so important. Again, it can feel like a massive task to keep yourself hydrated but the best way that I’ve found is to make sure I have a huge bottle of water with me all the time.

And break it down, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Start with a few small sips and eventually, you’ll find that it’s all gone. Add squash if that feels boring but try and get as much water into your system as you can. When you feel crap, adding a dehyration headache to the mix is just going to make everything feel so much harder. Trust me, I’ve been there.

3. Get some fresh air.

The reason that the stereotype of a depressed person is someone that can’t get out of bed is because when you’re depressed or anxious, your bed is the only place where you feel safe.

So getting out of it can feel impossible.

But even just a few minutes of fresh air each day can help you feel a little bit less like a creature from the deep.

Again, start slow. Open your bedroom window. Leave the blind or curtains shut if you need to, but open the window and let the breeze in. Then open the blinds. Then try sitting near an open front or back door (I used to do this all the time, when I was ill the first time and living in my little cottage). Then build up to sitting in the garden. Then walking down the road. Then around the block. And before you know it, you’re outside.

4. Tidy up.

You know the saying; tidy home, tidy mind?

We all know that simply tidying your house up won’t cure a mental illness but bringing some order to the chaos could help you feel a little better.

As with the other things on this list; start small. Just clear up the area around your bed. Get rid of any plates and mugs, throw away the old tissues and straighten up your bedside table. And then build from there, one of the best self care tips I found was to change your bedsheets. There is nothing nicer than fresh bedsheets.

self-care-squad-2

The Little Things.

Those four are the main things that I found help me to feel a little more human; eat properly, drink a little more water, get some fresh air and clear some of the clutter from my room.

But there are dozens of other small things that I do, which all consitute self care.

These are just a few…

  • Taking a hot bath with some of my favourite products. There are few things that a hot bath can’t help to ease.
  • Watching some trashy tv, to help switch my brain off for an hour or two.
  • Reading. Bonus points if it’s under a soft blanket.
  • Colouring in. It’s so relaxing and it helps you to focus only on what you are doing in that moment, instead of letting your brain spin out in a thousand different directions.
  • Taking the time to do my nails.
  • Pottering in the garden. I’m not a great gardener but even just spending half an hour outside, planting and watering stuff can help me breathe a little bit easier.
  • Getting organised. There is a fine line between being organised and being obsessive but after learning the difference during my CBT, I know what to watch for, to make sure I’m not crossing over. When done in a healthy way, being organised is a definate act of self care, because it lowers my stress levels to know that I have everything in hand.
  • Drinking tea out of cute mugs.
  • Treating myself sometimes to the things that I want. #treatyoself is a real thing.
  • Cooking food that I enjoy.
  • Watching old films. Disney will always have my heart.
  • Exercising. I will freely admit that I haven’t done much of this lately but I get a really great buzz from working out.
  • Listening to music. Choose carefully – as music can bring you down, as well as lift you up – but the right soundtrack can be such a boost.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing. Trust me, you’re never too old for Harry Potter pjs.

 

Self-Care-Ideas

The biggest piece of advice that I always give when people ask me about self care is this; the way you’re feeling is real and valid and allowed.

Once I accepted that fact, a big part of the weight that was on me was lifted.

Find what works for you and do it; no apologies needed.

If my list doesn’t work for you, that is completely fine – you’ll find a list of your own.

And talk. Talk about what’s happening to you, don’t hold onto it, it will drag you under.

Talk, shout, scream if you need to; just get it out and let go of it.

You are not alone and you’re doing so well; I’m proud of you.

IMG_0621

VJ x