Mental health is something that takes up a large part of my life but it's something I've always been very dubious about sharing online. In fact, I've only ever written one post about the topic in the past but it's something I want to try and be a little more open about. The past 6 weeks or so I hit a real low with my mental health state and from the outside it looked like everything was fine. And that's the thing with mental health it's not something that you can physically see so it makes it incredibly hard to understand for an outsider who has no experience with. So here's to breaking down some tough barriers and sharing some of the things that I find incredibly beneficial when I'm struggling.
IT'S PERSONAL & DIFFERS IN EACH OF US
I believe one of the most important things to take into consideration when it comes to anything related to health. Whether it's physical or mental is that it differs from everyone. Even if you have the same diagnosis it doesn't mean you're going to have the same symptoms or feel the same way. And we all have our own ways of coping, personally, I've always found relief in exercise as I've not had the most positive experience with medication or therapy. And for some, they find a lot sanctuary in sharing their story and talking it out but personally that's not for me. It's so important to allow people to navigate their own path with their illness and not telling others how they should or shouldn't deal with something.
THE DARK CLOUD
If I had to describe how I've felt for the past six weeks in a few words it would be that I've felt like a dark cloud. It completely took over my being and I couldn't shake it no matter how I tried. I lost interest in all the things that bring me so much joy in life and I didn't want to do anything. Mental health is something that can completely consume you and everything that you try to do.
THE LONELINESS AND ISOLATION
As well as feeling like you're a human storm cloud the loneliness and isolation that comes with mental health is something that I personally find the most difficult to deal with. Even if you're not alone it can make you believe that you are. It's so hard to remember that there are people out there who have felt like you are right now and got through it.
GETTING ON WITH REGULAR DAY TO DAY
Taking time off work when you're going through a really rough patch isn't always an option. It wasn't something I could do even though I'm self-employed and in reality can take a day off whenever I want. I still need to make money to pay the bills and provide for myself so I can't just clock out. And there is no easy way to get things done when your mind is making it cripplingly difficult to even get out of bed. I've found just doing the bare minimum that you have to do to get through the day and make a living is often the only way even though it's incredibly hard and it takes away all your energy which is probably already lacking.
TALKING TO SOMEONE & REACHING OUT
Even if you're surrounded by people that love you and you know that there are people who care in your life it can still be incredibly hard to talk about how you feel. I know at the moment a lot of people have found sanctuary in talking things out with others on Twitter but personally, that's not for me. As much as I love the internet I don't think it's always the best place to share something that personal. When you're in that dark cloud and you feel incredibly lonely it's terrifying to even think to reach to people. As it's hard to find the words to describe how you feel or maybe you're too scared to share how you really feel. And sometimes you don't have to go into deep details of what's going on but just saying you're having a tough time with your mental health is a huge first step.
THERAPY & MEDICATION
Throughout 2015 I spent nearly a year in different types of therapy. I initially went into pain management therapy to help me deal with having a digestive disease and how to find different coping mechanisms when things flared up and became severe. Once I'd had a few sessions and it became apparent just how much I was struggling with my mental health and had been trying to act like it was fine when I wasn't fine at all. I then moved on to see a specialist physiologist for a while, having someone to talk to on a weekly basis where there was no judgement was a breath of fresh air and that was one of the best things about being in therapy. However, in the UK you're very limited to how many sessions you can have and personally, I found when I was making progress that I'd got to the end of my sessions so all the work we'd done became quickly undone. I was meant to be referred to go into long-term therapy but my referral never arrived and trying to get back into the mental health system is incredibly difficult. We're so fortunate to have something like the NHS but the funding and lack of specialists is terrifying as so many people are struggling alone with no hope of help.
Medication isn't something I've had a tonne of experience with but I've had enough to know that's it's not the best option for me. It's a personal choice and for some, they have huge successes with medication and that's awesome but it's not for everyone. From my own experience, I've found that medication for mental health can come with a scary amount of serious side effects and it's not monitored closely enough by the people prescribing them.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH IN YOUR OWN WAY
Self-care is a little bit of a buzz word at the moment and it's not got the best connotations. Personally, self-care for me isn't lounging around and pampering myself, it's simply living the best life that I can that not only makes me a functional person that contributes to society but living a life where I'm looking after myself too. These are 5 of the best things I've found are really good for my mind when I'm going through a rough patch with my mental health.
A lot of people say when you're going through a rough patch that you need to relax. But if I'm on my own and not really doing much then my mind becomes significantly worse and I need something to focus on. And it doesn't matter particularly what I'm doing it just matters that I'm busy and doing something. Things like taking a long bath and yoga are wonderful for unwinding but I don't think they're the best when you're mind is in overdrive.
I've written an entire post about my relationship with exercise and mental health and for me, it's one of the only things that makes a vast difference. This is an incredibly interesting article to read on studies that were performed to see the link between the two.
A COMFORTING TV SHOW
Doing anything that's incredibly comforting is a big help but in particular, I find tv shows that you relate to happy memories are amazing to go back to. For me, shows like Gilmore Girls, The Walking Dead, The Office and Grey's Anatomy are all things that I like rewatch and return to when I'm having a tough time. Becoming invested in a good show is something that I love to do anyway and it's something that can be really easy on your mind as well as taking you away from your own thoughts.
Books are what I turn to when I really need my mind to go somewhere else. There are so many incredible pieces of literature out there that can transport you to another world within a few pages. It's such a cliche and for some, it might not work but for me, it's something that makes a dramatic difference.
DOING SOMETHING OUT OF YOUR ROUTINE
This is something that's a little more difficult than the rest because going out when you're going through a rough patch with your mental health isn't always viable. But if it is, trying to do something that's out of your routine and that's new and exciting can be a huge help. I love getting outside and I find it even more important in the winter months but your thoughts still follow you around when you're out and about. But being somewhere new when you're seeing things you've never seen before I've found can be a big help.
& A PERSONAL NOTE FROM ME
This is without a doubt one of the hardest posts that I've ever written as mental health is something that I've been adamant about not writing about for years. And even though I've not spoken directly about my diagnoses this still feels incredibly personal. I hope that this post has come across as I intended it to which is just me sharing my own perspective on struggling with mental health and how I've found my own methods to try and live as well as I can with them. I would never want anybody to read this and think that's what they should be doing with their health.
I also wanted to take this chance to let you guys know that I'm going to be taking a few days off from blogging in the upcoming week. After over 3 years of posting almost daily, I feel like my ideas have been pushed to their limit and I'm running on empty. It terrifies me to take a step back if I'm completely honest as a large portion of my income comes from my blog but I know it's for the best. I know that I'm fortunate enough to have such a kind readership that would never think I'm lazy for taking a few days off from posting. But I also know there are people who read my posts on a daily basis so I didn't want to just disappear and not explain why.
Finally, if there is anyone out there who is really struggling with their mental health I hope that you're ok as you can be, you're safe and please know that there are people out there who understand. And you're never as alone as mental health can make you believe.
I'd love to know your thoughts on mental health and the things that help you?