I love the internet. I have a love/hate relationship with it. And the hate side of it comes from exactly this type of thing. I have to remind myself often that what people post online, or show in real life, is only one small piece of their life, and because I don’t have the house, dog and kid, doesn’t mean that I’ve failed.
From Humans of New York.
This week has been a funny one. It’s not quite over yet but I’ve had some emotions that have made it feel like one of those kiddie roller coasters where there are a lot of little humps to go over; you never really dip down too low, nor do you get to high. That almost makes it sound like it’s normal, but it’s the frequency of those little humps that’s the problem; you never really get settled before the next one tosses you in another direction. Don’t get me wrong, it is far better than the high highs and low lows of the scarier variety of roller coaster.
I’ve been honest with my employers about the state of my fatigue. It’s hard to be that honest when you feel your job might be on the line. In reality I know it’s not really on the line, but there’s always the bit of fear that it might be. I’ve tried to be clear that it’s not what’s on my plate at work that’s the struggle, nor is it my abilities to utilise my brain usefully, but physical exertion. They do understand, and are very supportive. I’m very lucky to have this piece of mind.
Today I forced myself out of bed shortly after my alarm went off. (Even before the first snooze went off!) I managed to do the normal things you’d expect to do on a morning — eat, shower, get dressed. I’ve even managed to put shoes on instead of slippers. This is progress! From the outside it probably seems ridiculous that these small things are progress, but they are.
And I hope tomorrow, and the next day, and the one after that, are easier than this morning. I want to enjoy the little ups and downs in life, and be prepared for them.
Roller coaster image from Coaster Gallery
In case it wasn’t clear, I decided to take up blogging about my depression and anxiety to help in my recovery as I realised that this is something I used to do a lot of back in the days of LiveJournal, and while it didn’t stop me from having relapses, it definitely helped me recover faster and gain a better perspective on things.
I’m also blogging in the hopes that people, whether fellow sufferers or not, will learn about the daily, weekly, and monthly struggles someone like me goes through, and how much we wish we didn’t have to go through these struggles.
When I made this spur of the moment decision I hadn’t realised there was a community doing the same thing. So, I’m joining that community as much for the community as myself. It would be great if more people who support friends/family with mental health would share their challenges and struggles. Care to join us and share your story?
“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
Yesterday I had felt enough was enough. I felt like I was constantly taking the easy route and not pushing myself to take up new (yet not new) habits.
I wanted this morning to be one where I woke up feeling refreshed and functional, where I could manage the basics of having a shower, getting dressed and fed, and getting to work. All things I used to manage in the not too distant past. (Well the feeling refreshed thing has often been a struggle truth be told.) Yesterday I planned my evening so I could do what needed doing, essentially eating and packing my bag for work, so I could get a good rest and start back on this road to energy recovery. I checked my alarms, read for a few minutes then put out the light.
Unfortunately sleep only came in restless fits. My alarm went off and I couldn’t believe it was time to get up already. I got up, stumbled around and just felt flat. I was so frustrated that all my efforts to get a good rest failed.
I tried to do some work, but only became more and more frustrated with the exhaustion. As I said yesterday, the frustration is down to the depressive mood lifting and the brain beginning to function almost normally, but having no energy. Once I’ve done the basics in the morning — bathing, getting dressed, and eating — I feel like I’ve used up most of the energy I had regained over night. My head is swarming with ideas and activities that I want to implement personally and professionally but the lack of energy is not allowing it to happen.
Today that frustration reared its ugly head in the form of tears. I actually began crying at work out of frustration. I don’t cry at work! I don’t do much crying, even when crying is called for. This was so out of the ordinary that it startled me. It has also woken me up to the fact that I am still recovering, and these changes can’t happen overnight despite how desperately I want them to.
The challenge with this is even though I recognise it, and some friends/colleagues are sympathetic, I worry about The Others. The Others being those who don’t know my mental health status, or care, and their opinion of me personally and professionally.
Two steps forward, one step back…
I’m currently suffering from a relapse of a depression that struck about four years ago. I made a partial recovery, and was on my way to a full recovery, when factors out of my control, yet very much influential in my mood, struck and I relapsed. I hadn’t really realised I had relapsed until I started withdrawing and really struggling with my day-to-day routine.
I’ve again made a partial recovery, but this time around, the hardest thing for me to regain has been my energy levels. I become exhausted so quickly from both physical and mental effort. I had a couple weeks where I thought I’d got over the worst bit of that fatigue and was in the clear to regain a normal life. Alas, it seems it was a blip.
By the middle of the week I feel like I could sleep for England. I can’t make it through the day without falling asleep shortly after getting home. And I fall asleep fast and deep. So deep that I often struggle to wake back up, and get up, knowing that if I stay and sleep then I’ll just be up the whole night making the whole issue worse. Sometimes this sleep is 45 minutes which is acceptable, other times it could be two hours, but feel like it was only minutes.
I have done sleep hygiene in the past with some success. I definitely need to re-introduce this to my life. I just want to have the energy again to go to work (it’s as much about going to work to get a regular pay cheque as it is for the social benefits of seeing friends/colleagues), go out for a drink after work, do activities at the weekend, etc. I don’t want to just be (barely) surviving.
It’s a real catch-22 this energy thing as I know in some regards I have to spend energy to gain energy, but it’s pushing myself to do this that I struggle with.
Any ideas on how to really push myself to get up, get out of the house, get to work (and manage my full time hours), and avoid sleeping in the early evening or ignoring the alarm and being late in the morning are greatly appreciated. I’m a list maker by nature and this does help a bit because it’s nice to cross things off, but it also brings feelings of guilt when I can’t manage the things on the list.
This post from Humans of New York says a lot about the stigma still attached to depression… I relate. I find it terribly hard to admit to my family that I’ve had relapses, though they are more understanding now than when I was first diagnosed with depression in the late-1990s.
The other morning I read a story about hipster toast. Yes, hipster toast; one of the latest trends in foodie circles. People are paying US$4/slice (that’s about £2.75) of toast at cafés in San Francisco. One of my favourite, local, independent cafés started offering sourdough toast with jam for about £3 (roughly US$4.50), and as much as I love sourdough toast, I cannot bring myself to order toast in a café. But this story about how hipster toast appears to have started, and spread across the city, and inevitably across the world, is absolutely fascinating to me.
It wasn’t about trying to find some niche trend and get hipster credit for it, but as a way to ground oneself from a lifetime of challenging mental health issues that cost the ‘inventor’ jobs, relationships, a roof over her head, and a lot of hardship in her life. Her small café is her way of creating a network of friends for when she needs help. I relate to her story of needing a network of people to help you out, make you feel safe, but trying not to overwhelm any one of these people. It’s tough!
What do you think of her story and her method of creating that safety net we all need regardless of our mental state? How do you react when someone you know is in crisis?
Toast image from Mo Riza on Flickr.
I’ve started this blog to help myself and others who live with mental health issues. This isn’t something I’ve been considering for some time, but a gut reaction to a story I read the other morning.
You see, I’ve had bouts of depression, panic attacks, and anxiety for a very long time. I wasn’t diagnosed until my late-20s when I really felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. While being treated, via anti-depressants and talking therapy, I realised that I’d had other episodes, and that some of my behaviours over the years could be traced to this ongoing issue.
I’m hoping this space will allow me to share my experiences, thoughts, tools, ideas, and stories (mine or those of others). I hope it will be a way to help me to continue to recover, maintain an even keel, and get to tease out where I am, and how I feel. I need to be more aware of my triggers and manage those before they get the best of me.
I’ve invited others to participate — both those who experience mental health issues and those who are friends/family/partners to someone who experiences these issues. I hope they’ll take me up on the offer.
Oh, and my next post will be about the story I read that inspired this blog.
And never tell someone with a mental health issue to pull their socks up. It’ll either make them see red or make them feel even worse. Those are the only two possibilities.