Updated: Nov 22, 2020
I was sorting out some drawers in my bedroom last week when I came across old documents from my GP. One particular document outlined my struggles with mental illness. I noticed the date beside a ‘low mood’ diagnosis, 2008, which made me 13 years old. I can still remember that doctor’s appointment. I don’t think we quite understood each other, because all I left with was a prescription for Zindaclin – an acne cream. Just the boost of confidence I was looking for!
The low mood didn't get much better (although my skin was GLOWING thanks to the Zindaclin. 'Sad but has nice skin') and at 16 I was diagnosed with depression. Shortly after, just to keep me on my toes, an eating disorder decided to join the party. It started as Anorexia then developed into Bulimia, which I struggled with into my 20s. If you are interested in more miserable stories from the same author, I will be going into more detail about those jolly chapters of my life in future posts, so stay tuned!
Through anti-depressants, therapy and time, I slowly progressed towards a happier life. I had a few good years after recovering from the eating disorders. I was able to manage my depression (although shortly replaced it with anxiety) to the point were a lot of the time, I felt I no longer suffered from it. Fast forward 3 years and guess who has creeped her way back into my life? I use ‘she’ because depression is a bitch.
It is SO frustrating, because I really did believe that I was over this. I didn’t think this could happen to me again, I thought I was stronger than this. But I guess that’s just a reminder that we have very little control over mental illness. Yes, we can do all the right things to prevent it and to manage it when it does rear its ugly head, but if your mind gets sick, it gets sick.
I am doing all the right things to try to get better: Therapy, medication, exercise, talking to people I can trust, meditation, trying new things, getting outdoors and being around nature. And while I KNOW that all of this is helping and has provided me with some really fantastic days/weeks at times, the progress always feels just slightly tainted by the anticipation for the next bad day. You get that sinking feeling in your stomach because you’ve come to that same realisation that you may always have to work this hard to try to be happy, and that’s an exhausting thought. Some days are much better than others, but I feel like it is part of me that I'll never truly shake. And that in itself makes me depressed.
I sometimes feel that I view the world completely differently to others. And I long to experience how it is seen through their eyes. I often think, ‘Is this it? Is this what life is all about, and is this as good as it’s ever going to get? And if so, why isn’t everybody freaking out?.' It feels like there is a gaping hole in my soul that can't be filled. I read a quote recently that really said it perfectly - depression is feeling homesick for a place you're not sure exists.
Time is so precious, yet so easily wasted. I try to stay busy in order to distract myself from these thoughts, with endless to-do lists, only to grow tired and wish I had more time to rest. The time for rest arrives and I'm overwhelmed by guilt and the sense that I am wasting my life away. It is hard to find a balance that brings peace.
When bad days come, it is a tough mental battle. My mind is at war with itself and I can’t help but feel like a failure. I’ve been trying to remind myself that the bad days don’t mean that all of the good days suddenly become void. It doesn’t mean that the progress I had been achieving wasn’t real. Sometimes you have to experience sadness in order to recognise happiness again. When I wake up with that grey cloud hanging over me, I acknowledge that it’s there and I try not to panic, but to instead accept that I will just have to get through the next 24 hours. The key to not having a complete mental breakdown, for me, is the ‘one day at a time’ mantra. Easier said than done as 24 hours when you are depressed feels like for-fucking-ever. Sometimes I'm convinced there is a ghost in the house who puts the clocks back.
However, here are some things that I have found helpful and turn to when I'm feeling overwhelmed by depression:
A walk – you bet I don’t want to go, it might take 3 hours of inner conflict before I make it out the door, but the fresh air, nature and natural serotonin release is undeniable
Listen to or watch a funny show or podcast. I prefer a podcast because I like to feel immersed in the conversation #helpimlonely. Big fan of the Mental Illness Happy Hour. Recommendations always welcome!
Meditation – either using the Calm app, or following a guided meditation and yoga flow on YouTube.
Sometimes just feeling it, lying in bed wrapped up in my duvet and just sinking into my mattress. Letting my bed hold my weight and allowing myself to have that time to feel how I feel.
Writing it down – I would fucking DIE if anyone was to find and read my journal. Permission to shoot me in the temple if it is ever found.
Spend some quality time with my pet – I have the most adorable Jackshund in the world. His only downside is his severe halitosis, that dog's breath is lethal.
What do you do to feel better? Do you have a list you can turn to when your motivation is a little higher than normal? Do you have options available for when getting out of bed just seems like an impossible feat? Do you have a smelly dog to love too? We need coping strategies that cover all those bases. If you can relate to anything mentioned above then please feel free to reach out. No judgement –Whatever works for you might just work for someone else too. You might even make a little messed up friend out of it, who knows!?
You can get in touch via the 'Lets Chat!' in the bottom right hand corner of the screen (you remain completely anonymous by doing this, all that pops up is 'Visitor 1234 has sent a message'). If you have a WIX account, you can drop a comment below, or you can click here to send an email. It would be so cool to be able to create a go-to coping strategies list and post it on the site, so if you want to contribute, that would be saweeeeet. (Don't worry, we'll keep it anonymous!)
My Emotional Support Animal - Ollie