I found out last week that World Mental Health Day for 2018 is today. If you have been following me a while you might be aware that I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was diagnosed at the beginning of this year and have taken a blogging break recently to try to work on this. This has been a journey that started a while before but I can’t remember when things started to go down that road. That isn’t the point of this post though. I wanted to use today, World Mental Health Day, to highlight some things that are especially true for me because some well meaning people don’t always realise.
Every day is different
I may be having a bad week, or even a good week, but each day my depression/anxiety could be causing me different symptoms. That doesn’t mean that one day is much better because I haven’t had problems with symptom X when instead I have had more problems with symptom Y. Both can be bad days, and the same “level” of bad day, they are just different, equivalently both could be good days but I may have different issues. I can also have a good day but that doesn’t mean that I’m out of the woods and back to “me”, and equally as I get better if I have a bad day it doesn’t mean everything is bad again it could just be a blip.
I’m not just sad with depression
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this but I also think I should. Depression is more than sadness. It is the main thing mentioned in a stereotypical sense but it is more than that. It can be having so little energy that you can’t get up, it can be sleeping all day or not sleeping at all. It can be bursting into tears at nothing or zoning out completely. It is losing interest in things or feeling overwhelmed when you try to do things, even the things you love most. It is no hope, poor concentration or memory and so much more. It will differ for everyone. Leading nicely onto…
I’m not just panicky with anxiety
Again, anxiety is a complex thing. It isn’t defined by one symptom. It can be trouble with sleep, it can be being on edge and worried. It can be being irritable or needing reassurance. It can be constantly thinking about 100 things and scenarios which then leads to bad concentration because you can’t focus. It can be panic attacks or headaches or fast breathing. Like I said it’s more than one thing. Also it could be different for someone else.
My impossible tasks are not a joke
I saw something on Twitter which I can’t find again that described an impossible task with depression/anxiety. An impossible task is something that other people see as simple, something that you used to manage perfectly fine but now struggle with. If someone opens up about their impossible task, then listen and try to relate. Under no circumstances do you laugh or try to act like it is nothing. It is really hard and opening up to you means you are trusted so don’t damage that trust.
My impossible tasks include checking emails. I am now better at this, though I still struggle. I was at a stage that I couldn’t check my emails at all. Then it graduated to I could check my emails but only with my other half sitting with me, then slowly he can be at home but not right there with me. I haven’t been able to check my professional email at all (though that is now not important), but now I can look at my personal/blog emails. Sure, maybe I’m still not checking them every day but I have been checking them every few days which is slightly better. Other tasks are phone calls, answering the door unless it was expected and going to pick up food at the supermarket amongst others. The tasks vary but all are valid. The email thing in particular has been the source of “oh but that’s simple, just look at them” style comments. Just stop doing this please people. I know you probably mean well but it is not helpful to me. Take care of yourself by building it up slowly and take care of your friends if they are struggling. Ask if there is something you can do to help.
Find something, anything that is a tiny thing that you can build on
I took this literally as I started building Lego.
My “project” was meant to be a craft, namely cross stitch, as I could see this build up and I used to love it but after it made me have crossed eyes and headaches I decided against trying to do that daily (or more accurately a few times a week). So went to Lego. I had to get to a point where I felt like I could commit, to some very flexible degree, to try to do something every few days that was for me, that I would enjoy and I could use to try to focus and build my concentration again. I love Lego and had a few kits waiting to be made, found some of the Brickheadz to try and all of these were great for me. In terms of the kits I could build one bag at a time and come back to it the next day or in a few days to add to it. For other people, this task/activity could be anything but this has really helped me. Of course, this took me a while to find the motivation to take up the advice of doing something. I mean I’m also meant to be doing regular exercise and that went out the window… in my defence I was doing dancing on Kinect and the summer got too hot and now the room that I do that in is in use for other things. Honestly I will try again.
Be kind to yourself and get help
I say this as someone who is terrible at being kind to herself. It is hard having a mental health problem but if you can reach out to anyone they can help you. The hardest thing was to admit that I needed help, but the best thing I did was go to my doctor (even if I was being dragged/pushed there by Player 2! He’s a good person and had to put up with me complaining about going and didn’t give in). Just having someone know can help, and if need be people like the Samaritans can be great to talk to or email. Also remember that you are more than your mental illness, you are loved and you will get back to being “you” (whatever way you want) again. I’m not there yet, far from it, but I am taking one step at a time. Once in a while I’m trying to be kind to myself too.
Medication/therapy doesn’t make you a failure
I have seen several things online that criticise the taking of antidepressants or going to therapy. In a sort if “you should be fine”, you should be “strong enough” blah blah blah that is believed by some. Just no. I was scared by these being what I might have to do but it has helped me. If you don’t need either that’s great and if you do then that’s great too because you are getting help. Though I’m still (hopefully) on the waiting list to get counselling/therapy… any time now I should be getting a phone call.
Having a mental health problem doesn’t make you weak
Honestly it doesn’t. Your brain might be telling you that you are weak, stupid, and other descriptive words (taking what my brain says to me as an example) but it is not true. You are strong the only thing is that you need some help but everyone does from time to time. Also it is very important to remember that if you have reached out and got help or even just told someone how you are feeling that this is a massive step and takes a whole lot of strength and guts to take this step. Therefore you aren’t the bad things that your brain is possibly telling you. Now just to remind myself of this from time to time.
Of course this is just from my experience, for others it is likely to differ. Overall just please take care of yourself if you have a mental health condition (or are undiagnosed) and be kind and take care of your friends/family if they do. I may not always be the fastest person to respond to messages because it’s hard but I still love my friends and talking to them, this could be true for others. Be there. Be kind.