I am quite open about the fact I suffer from mental health issues. I have since secondary school, with peaks and troughs of good times and bad times. Some of the thing I am going to be talking about can be triggering, and if you want to know what I do to keep myself moving forward towards the good times I am going to be using red and underlined to make it clear so you can skip bits if you want.
In more recent years the bad times have been really bad, and my most recent episode has prompted me to write this, to share my experience and how I move forward. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and I now take tablets for both. I had been avoiding using the drug option for so many years as I didn’t want to be reliant on them to have a normal life, so I tried on my own.
- This is my first piece of advice and probably the most important if you are having issues, talk to someone, don’t try to deal with it by yourself. I was so concerned with burdening my friends and family that I ended up digging myself into a very deep and dark hole. It got to a point where I would have anxiety attacks just thinking about leaving my flat, but being trapped made me think more and more dark thoughts. I became extremely suicidal and was referred to the Crisis Team in my area. They were the ones to prescribe me my current medication.
- Count good and bad hours, rather than days. I found that if I was having a bad morning I would end up writing off the whole day as bad and my mood would stay constant. I then realized that if I classed it as a bad hour rather than day I could move on a lot quicker to hopefully have the next hour be good.
- Keep busy. This is hard, but is helpful for me. I have found that when I don’t have a lot of things to do, the things that my mind go to are dark and extremely unhelpful for living life. I continue to go to work when I can get out of my flat, I meet up with friends when I have the energy (my friends are aware of the situation so understand if my mind wanders – I am lucky in the fact that I have some friends who understand what I am going through, though I wish for their own sanity it had been through empathy rather than their own bad experiences).
- Take up a hobby or 2. I started sewing to keep my hands busy, it is difficult for me to keep focused for too long so I sometimes jump from one activity to another quite often to keep my mind busy. I will start an episode of a new series, just to feel my mind wander halfway through and have to find something else to watch.
- Get out in the sunshine for some vitamin D and fresh air. I find this does help, the winter months are always worse with my moods as it is always so dark and cold that you don’t want to leave the safe confides of your bed. I try to go for a walk or at the very least (and trust me it does make a difference) open my curtains and window.
- Exercise and eat healthy. Now this one I know is self explanatory, but thinking and doing are 2 very different things and I know which one of those 2 I do the most! I find that when I am in one of my low mood or having a bad hour I am less likely to feel hungry and when I do realize it has been a day since I last ate anything I am more likely to grab quick things so I can get back to want I am doing. I no longer plan meals for the week, I have quick go to items like fruit, almonds and porridge.
- Leave positive notes for yourself (and others). I have a couple of white boards around my flat that have positive notes and quotes on in places that I am likely to see them, like next to the bathroom and as I leave my bedroom. My friends also have a Whatsapp group where we just post gifs and quotes that we think with cheer each other up.
I always hope that nobody else has to deal with anything like this, though I know that is a very futile hope. What strategies do you have, or do you think would be useful for me and others?
Stay strong, positive and remember that you are worth it.