I swear to god I have about 9 drafts of updates that I keep going back to and deleting, rewriting or over criticising. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster few months/half a year and right now seems a more appropriate time than ever to talk about it. This summer Britain enjoyed temperatures reaching over 30 degrees for the majority of July and August. I decided to take 6 weeks off during this time, but contrary to joining the sunbathers…
I spent 6 weeks staring at my bedroom ceiling.
When the sun beat down, I didn’t decide to bask in it, I made my own heat under the blankets (and not in the fun way). I’m sure I slept for more than 24 hours a day in the worst moments. I gave more thought to zip ties and creative ways to hang myself than I ever thought I could, or hope to ever again. For the first time I relented and spoke to my doctor who referred me to a counsellor who, after speaking with me for an hour, said, “yes. Sounds like anxiety. Extremely common. Here’s 6 weeks and I think you’ll be fine after that.” Okay, she didn’t say it that rudely but she may as well have. And I am still fighting for an OCD diagnosis over anxiety but that is another struggle in itself. Anyway.
Since then it has been an upward struggle to climb out of what I’ve decided to affectionately call the ‘A-Hole’, however at the minute I can zip my human suit back up and be ‘normal’ for a bit. The following is just a few things to remember when the road gets rough.
Ask for Help
Obvious? Yes..maybe. Easy? No. I know, starting with a cliche. You’ve spent weeks or months on panic mode, eating shit food (if any), taking 5 hours to gather the energy to wash your hair and dodge the mirror. People have noticed a difference, even make sure you’re ok, but you keep giving yourself a pact that if you feel like this in another week you’ll see someone. It was about 9 months after I first realised I was numb with depression that I sought a counsellor, I began to see her a month before I told her I couldn’t sleep because I felt the need to die. This time around, I went to the doctors about 4 months after but still had spent 6 weeks self harming (however infrequently) before that. What is the point I’m trying to make? I’d not like to think about where I’d be if I didn’t ask for help.
It’s been hard to be honest (I mean, I was convinced they’d section me because at that point I was avoiding driving due to fear that I’d run off the road), not just because it’s difficult, but I’ve felt a lot of guilt, fear and self-doubt. But it has helped me to confront and comfort the former ‘me’s’ that desperately needed healing and the current me that desperately needed support. Everyone deserves help.
Accept the Help
The assessment counsellor told me I’d be seeing a CBT counsellor. I mentally recoiled in my chair….I hate CBT. I think it’s pointless, I don’t think it gets to the root cause of issues and it’s a short term fix.
So imagine my surprise when I start confiding in my counsellor things I never have with anyone, let alone the two former psychotherapists I saw. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not convinced with CBT but the lesson I learnt is to come with an open mind. I arrived at my first two sessions feeling as though we weren’t talking about anything substantial and basically going in circles. I left with the resolve to continue with my homework but come back more open with myself and my mind. Guess how the following sessions have gone?
Even after my second counsellor recommended antidepressants I felt I didn’t need them. “I’m not depressed,” I’d repeat. To me, it did have some shame, I want my brain to be able to do what it was made to do. Also my brain likes to tempt me into taking more than the recommended dose for literally no reason whatsoever. I’m fine, remember? I arrived at my doctors three weeks ago after a particularly low weekend desperate to feel anything that wasn’t shitty, I agreed to try them. Now, I feel extremely lucky. My Dr prescribes me a limited amount and it has helped to balance me in a positive way with minimal side effects.
Had I accepted the help in the beginning, maybe…possibly…I could have dodged this rebound. Sometimes all the meditation, vegan foods and positive mindsets aren’t enough (though it does help for me!). Just like the famed Oasis song, I’m trying not to look back in anger. But I could have done a lot more this year than sleep!
Recognise the Signs
The best advice I could give is getting the help before you need it. Does that make sense? So many times I’ve gotten to breaking point and then a few days later convinced myself all was good. As I’m feeling more honest with myself, I can recognise the signs that scream, ‘girl get yaself some help’. Here’s a few:
- Ability to sleep 24/7
- Inability to eat anything other than home made chips (why? I don’t know) or deciding to eat all or nothing.
- Slowed speech that makes very little sense and having to stop often to gather my thoughts.
I have a few others like not being able to sleep in silence and with the light off but I think it’s an individual thing. If you spot the signs, do something before letting it get to the point where your mind convinces you all is well. Your GP is the first port of call for short term counselling and medication, however sometimes long term support is needed and the waiting list can be abysmal. At the same time, if you are unable to find or fund support elsewhere, it is a lifeline. I was scared my GP would detain me and that I’d be refused any nursing or medical education due to my records deeming me unfit. Unless my GP was lying to me, they reassured me how common it was and that information was only shared if necessary.
If you are able to fund support outside of the NHS, aside from private counsellors some charities also offer reduced cost counselling such as Mind. I’ve also found services for the public in some universities and have heard that churches may offer counselling, too.
How to Help
Aside from the above, a few other activities have helped me get better:
- Journalling. Pretty much every day. Journal deep stuff, journal funny stuff, just write!! I’m a person who finds it easier to write than to talk so keeping a diary is natural to me, but I always recommend it to anyone who has a head full of thoughts they need to get out. Writing things down has always helped me put two and two together. I also find reading about spiritualism and mindfulness helpful, but that isn’t everyone’s taste.
- Animals. I’ve wanted to horse ride for years, if you follow my Insta I’ve already talked about this, but never managed to. I’ve now been riding for about two months and it has been one of the best things I’ve done this year. The feeling of controlling a huge beast (and she is a huge beast- 16.2hh and moody!!) is such a mental boost. If I can control this animal, I can control a thought. Even if it’s not a horse, a pet at home can do wonders for boosting mental health.
- Lay off the guilt trip. Once I was able to feel something, I began to feel guilty. I felt guilty for making people worry, guilty for taking time off work, I even felt guilty for having a decent upbringing and still feeling like I want to hurt myself. From the guilt once again came pressure to feel better and to do better…which was the reason why I got here in the first place, pressure. Nobody should feel guilty for being unwell. Nobody got better for feeling guilty about being unwell.
So that’s where I’ve been. My travel is pretty much on halt until the new year and then I have some more exploring to do before Brexit kicks in and Europe kicks me out. Until then I know I have a lot of work to do, literally and mentally!