Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Mind is a Warzone! Always Keep Fighting

I have tried to write a post...this post...and then just any post, countless times over the last few months. So many of them I approached the subject sideways, with analogies and metaphors. Once I even used a sports metaphor complete with curve balls and getting hit straight on. The thing is none of them seemed to get across what I wanted to say, none of them conveyed what I was feeling. I kept hoping that writing would help me work through things, but every time I started it got more and more knotted up. In the end I had to step away for a while. Things are a little better now, so now is the time to get back on the horse, maybe this time without too many metaphors though, and add in this most recent chapter in the life of Sleepy Joe.

About three months ago I ended up off work having been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and getting to the point I could no longer cope with daily life. In all honesty it had been building up for a while; stress on stress on stress plus some changes and uncertainty equals the last straw on the camels back (see I can't help myself) and I broke. There were tears enough to fill an ocean and guilt like I have never felt because surely I was letting the world down if I stopped for a moment. But more, I was lost. I had no idea who idea who I was anymore.

I once thought of myself as strong and capable woman but I found myself scared and a wreck just going into a supermarket. There were days where I couldn't face leaving the house or answering the phone and the thought of going to work terrified me. I felt like a failure, like some weak thing that could no longer cope (sometimes I still do) and I think that horrified me even more. And tired, so so tired. Every day was (and sometimes is) a battle with my mind over which voice would win; the one telling me not to do something because I would get it wrong or the one telling me what a failure I was because I'd already messed up.

The first few panic attacks had scared me and my Other Half had seen me withdrawing so he 'encouraged' me to seek help and by the time I broke completely I had worked my way up the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It sounds weird but I think the best way I can describe it is a healthy eating package for your mental health. The fabulous lady I have been seeing over twelve or so weeks has helped me to look at all the unhealthy ways I think about things, in particular with regard to my anxiety and panic attacks. She has helped me see that life is not black OR white - control OR out of control - strong OR weak. I have come to realise I don't hold others to the same standards I was holding myself to "be perfect or you've failed" "be in control or you're weak". It's a cliche but I now understand why I am the way I am, what experiences from my past have shaped me and reinforced my beliefs to mean I got stuck in a cycle of panic because at the end of the day being anxious sometimes is a normal human response, getting stuck in those feelings probably isn't so helpful.

I have made peace with the fact I am always going to feel like this; I am going to have low moments, I am going to over analyse, I will probably beat myself up about things that I cannot control, and I will probably panic. The difference now? I know how to handle it, it won't handle me!

When I started the therapy one of my goals was "to feel like me again" and it's strange because I don't feel like the me I used to be. I don't think that I will ever be that me again. For quite a while I have identified with a song (pinned in below) and a line in it says, "If I recover will you take me back again." I thought all this time that I needed to 'get well' and get back to being what I was because I was ill. I have come to realise now that yes anxiety and depression, like other mental health issues/illnesses, are illnesses. They are diseases of the mind. But they are ones from which you never fully recover, you just learn how to handle it, how to live a more mentally healthy life. I will never be that me again because that me never ran a day in her life, this me runs three times a week to get head space and stay calm/sane. I will never be that me because that me tried to write a journal every day but could never quite maintain it, this me has to to clear out the mental baggage and to see her achievements on a daily basis. There will be more differences because I'm still a little lost trying to figure out who I am in all this but I'll get there.

None of us have any issue talking about our latest healthy lifestyle craze do we?! Healthy eating; #leanin15, juices or 5:2 Fitness; spinning, burpees or the latest gym membership. Why then can we not feel free to chat about our mental health too? Why does that have to break down before we decide to take our mental well being for a healthy spin? One of my biggest fears at the peak of my problems was the social response I would get to having a panic attack in public. That people would think I was weak/stupid/silly, that I just needed to pull myself together when in fact I had little control over it at that point. And I know I am not the only person with fears of this nature. Would it be like this if we talked about it a bit more? If we talked Sinceriously.

From the Stephen Amell Represent campaign see here

I feel lucky. I have my family; my Other Half and my Munchkins and although it's been hard I have not seen the bottom, I know I didn't get that low and help was there when I needed it. There are people not so fortunate and that's where we fail as a society to look after each other. 

Finally in the words of Jared Padalecki, who has openly spoken about his fight with depression, 

Always Keep Fighting!