I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about the importance of acknowledging when things are good or when life is going well. The same can also be said about the opposite, when things aren’t going so well and when life becomes an uphill battle. In the case of acknowledging the bad times, a lot of it relates to self care and knowing how to look after yourself and if necessary ask for help.
The last couple of weeks or so have been hard. There hasn’t been a specific trigger, I was conscious that starting therapy could cause a wobble, but I have been incredibly lucky to have an understanding therapist who hasn’t pushed me into talking about things that I’m not ready to talk about, meaning there isn’t any anxiety about appointments. The first two sessions progressed in quite a clumsy way, broken up by me filling the awkward silences by saying “well this is awkward.” Any silence to my ears is awkward, simply because I don’t like it. But I’m learning to accept it.
I just feel sad. I don’t know why. I feel very anxious. I don’t know why. Things feel a bit hopeless and life is a mixture of sleeping, working and medical appointments. And by sleep I mean artificially induced sleep because I am incapable of naturally sleeping for more than two hours which certainly does not improve my mood. A few weekends ago, my artificially induced sleep extended from Friday evening to Monday lunchtime, punctuated by doing a wee, feeding my cat (only after he had woken me up by chewing my hair) and trying to stomach a meal. The most frustrating part was, I was still exhausted, mentally and physically.
Anxiety has dipped in and out of my life since I was a teenager. It appeared at all the predictable times: exams, exam results, my fear of mice, grandparents being ill and personal illness. I could deal with that, anxiety was to be expected. Anyone who can walk into an exam hall with their shit totally together and not plotting on blowing up the headquarters of AQA or Edexcell deserves a champagne toast.
More recently my anxiety has manifested in other ways and isn’t so “normal”. Leaving the house is hard, unless I’m going to work or for a medical appointment. My pulse rate shoots up, breathing becomes rapid, I get sweaty and feel dizzy. These are calmed down by driving, but on arrival at my destination, I feel like I’m going to collapse, so I have to hope for the best.
The thought of going to sleep scares me because of nightmares.
I’m having to double and triple check things at work, almost obsessively to make sure I haven’t made a mistake. I have a routine which I need to follow and when following that, my pulse rate shoots up, breathing becomes rapid, I get sweaty and feel dizzy.
I’m scared that people hate me. This ordinarily wouldn’t bother me, I can’t ever please everyone and the reality is, some people would choose not to have anything to do with me, which more often than not, is reciprocated. I’m scared that I’ve done or said something really awful and can’t remember. I’m especially scared of my mum hating me.
I’m anxious about finances.
I’m anxious about the future.
I’m anxious about my health.
I’m anxious about being anxious because it’s taking over my life. I miss my friends and I feel guilty that I don’t feel in a place to be able to go out to the pub and do the stuff that a non-anxious me would do.
Whilst I undoubtedly feel really rubbish at the moment, there are things that I can do to help myself. They can be trivial things or something with a bit more clout. A previous mental health team referred to these things as protective factors, which I guess they are, but they are also ways in just looking after myself, even when that feels impossibly tough.
Spending time with my cat makes me feel happy and safe. Watching him play makes me laugh and hearing him purr is one of my favourite noises. Cuddling up with him in bed and putting the TV one is one of my main distraction techniques. I don’t have the concentration to focus on a film (unless it’s something like Lizzie McGuire) so I’ve settled for watching all five series of Outnumbered, on a loop, or making my way through Absolutely Fabulous. I love reading and always have done, but the same applies with concentration, so I have downloaded some audiobooks and can listen to them, whilst curled up in my den-like bed. Dawn French narrations are particularly good.
I like to go swimming and rely on old fashioned endorphins to do their job and cheer me up. A post-operative infection has now cleared up so tomorrow I can have my first swim in months!
Basic self care is crucial whatever your mood, but perhaps more so when you feel shit because looking shit is not going to improve anything. It’s something that I really have to force myself to do and I won’t lie, my consumption of dry shampoo sees a dramatic increase. My legs are a bit more hairy lairy and I’m less fussy about my makeup. Fortunately I have good skin so can just about get away with only my eyebrows being sorted and some mascara slapped on.
Forcing myself to see friends, whilst initially is leads to almost unmanageable anxiety, is worth it in the long run, especially when I see friends who understand me and never fail to make me laugh. A wonderful friend is coming to stay this weekend and I’m sure there will be plenty of laughter. During times when socialising really does feel impossible, I know that I need to make an effort to maintain some form of communication with my friends going. Making phone calls is a big no for me, so I rely on texting. And who wouldn’t want to receive a text about one my students turning up to school dressed as the grim reaper on home clothes day?! Scintillating stuff.
Most of all, and this has come with time and many learning experiences, I need to know when to ask for help. I think that is the most vital part of acknowledgement. I can’t always face this alone, nor should I have to. I have people around me to make sure I’m alive, safe, coping etc. I have people who strategize with me, to help me stay above weather, or at least float in a dignified way. They can’t wave a magic wand and cure me and that is okay. Maybe not tomorrow, but it will be okay.