It’s kind of interesting how different people cope (or not) with the same thing in different ways. Everybody has a different trigger point, a different level of resilience. What one person will sail through, another will struggle with as if through sinking sands. Some people have incredible levels of energy that allow them to always be on the go, moving from one activity to another, engaging with people all day and still finding reserves for socialising in the evenings, and loving their life. Others, not so much!
I’ve been suffering with a fluctuating mental health this last year, specifically anxiety, and it has made me realise, amongst other things, that I shouldn’t try to compare my resilience levels with others. I’ve found a lot of people online for whom blogging through their mental health problems like depression and anxiety was helpful and empowering, a form of therapy, whereas my well of motivation dried up like an old prune. The mental exertion of dwelling in deeper thoughts was leaving me feeling more tired and anxious. I haven’t been able to write, despite loving and missing it. Part of my coping regimen, such as it is, has been to relax through reading superficial material (e.g. trashy novels!).
After a year of barely keeping my head above water, I am pushing myself out to be proactive again, in part because winter is especially hard for me and I have to be prepared. I am using whatever reserves of energy I have to plan things I enjoy, that are restful rather than draining. And I would love to be up to blogging again.
I’ve not suffered from noticeable mental health issues before, if you discount a short time in my late teens when I had psychosomatic symptoms from stress. A one-time intervention from a psychologist pretty much purged a whole lot of unhelpful expectations I had put on myself and I never suffered from that type of pain ever again – one of the biggest light-bulb moments of my life. Counselling is so helpful and I highly recommend it to everyone.
Anxiety strikes us in different ways. Some people are well acquainted with it and have had to learn coping techniques early on, with or without medication. Others, like me, find that their personal circumstances change and compound to a level where the body and mind no longer react to events in the way they used to.
These last 18 months have just been a bucket full of shit for us as a family, and I found that things that I would have coped with fine on their own, piled up in such a way that I no longer could. It was unexpected, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. If you want an idea of the things that led to this crisis, they are, in no particular order, the Brexit vote and its implications for me and my family both as an EU citizen and as someone who loves the UK, by extension the relentless bad news on TV, the fall out from the death of a close relative in late 2016, a phobia of sickness and Luciole’s long term bout of sickness – think one sick bug after another from end of November 2016 to late February 2017 – that landed her in hospital two days before Christmas. I did finish my business course with flying colours, but that’s about the only majorly positive thing that’s happened in a year and a half. All of these things conspired to turn me from a well-adjusted adult (so says I, you may disagree 😃) to a very anxious person suffering from all manners of physical symptoms, not sleeping or eating well and generally feeling completely unable to get control of my body or mind’s reactions.
Having got to the point where the anxiety was affecting my daily life, I decided that enough was enough and took myself to the doctor who gave me medication along with a look of ‘I’m not surprised you’re stressed’ when I explained the last year (the acknowledgement was reassuring). She sent me to counselling via the NHS Time To Talk service, which I am doing for the next little while in the form of self-guided telephone support with a trained counselor. I am also planning activities to enjoy over the winter. Obviously winter itself is a bit of a trigger for anxiety and fear around my sickness phobia, and I get a bit down at this time of year with S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Syndrome) and struggle with the dark afternoons and general lack of light. Planning ahead is therefore key to my success in not taking it lying down.
This said, I’m doing stuff, but not too much; ‘doing’ always tires me out if overdone. I’m also doing some mindfulness and breathing exercises and generally taking each day as they come. So I may blog, or I may not, but my absence is not for lack of desire. Thinking positive thoughts and cutting short negative thoughts is pretty much a full-time job.
But you know what? I’m much more aware of the fact that you literally cannot tell what’s around the corner, you cannot plan for an unknown future and you cannot control everything. The most important is to be present in all things, to listen to your body and your mind, to take note of what they are telling you and to take care of yourself. And not to expect your healing and self-care to look like everyone else’s.