I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who got in touch about my last post. There is so much stigma around depression, so I was in two minds (no pun intended) about posting it. Thank you for all your support and advice!
One of the things I've realised over the past 12 months is how many people are experiencing or have experienced some form of mental health issue, but how little people talk about it.
Posting about "courage" was a personal challenge, mainly to see if I could do it. I wasn't expecting the response I got. I guess I was hoping that if I could help just one person then it would be worth it. Well, hopefully I did that.
But if you are going through something tough, here are some tips that I've been given, and some things that I have found help. Not everything suits everyone, so try stuff, and find your own thing. Don't expect big changes to happen overnight. But they'll come.
1. Meditate - I always thought this was a bit "hippy", and there just wasn't enough time in the day for "sitting doing nothing". Well, turns out that may be where my problems come from. Not making time for me, to listen to me, to think about what my head is telling me and why. So a friend of mine suggested a series of 10-minute meditations from Headspace. Ten minutes is not a lot of time to sit down and do nothing but breathe and take in what your body is telling you. And although I've only actually done two of the series of ten sessions in the last 2 weeks (I have commitment issues), I've found I am more aware of what my head and my body are doing, even if the two aren't joined together sometimes!
2. Talking - It took me ten exhausting years to accept that, maybe, something wasn't right. After years of eating disorders, nightmares, panic attacks, paranoia and a whole bunch of other stuff, I went to my doctor and cried. For the first time, I properly spoke to someone. Although I've tried various forms of counselling over the past few years, I wasn't ready to accept there was a problem, so it felt like nothing worked. After I spoke to my doctor, I decided to tell a couple of friends. Without them, being able to share our experiences, I don't know how I would have got through this year.
3. Exercise - I actively dislike exercise. The thought of exercise chills me to the core. But once a week, I drag my bum off the sofa and go "splashing". I'm sure our awesome aquafit instructor intends it to be more than that, but to be honest, I'm generally just splashing around aimlessly. That's what makes it acceptable exercise. It doesn't feel like I'm actually doing any exercise (until I get out of the pool at the end) and it's fun. And for 50 minutes a week, I can beat the crap out of something (the water) like my life depends on it.
4. Eating - I've done the anorexia thing (not through choice. Let's not talk about it). It sucks. While I do still have issues with food, I've realised I need food too much to completely cut it out. There are days when I have to force myself to eat more than just garlic bread or potato waffles. On those days, soup, chilli and pasta (not together) are my secret weapons. I've also started buying frozen vegetables, tins of beans and jars of sauce, just so I can make sure I eat something, even if it is all from jars! And yes, there are days when my boyfriend has to remind me to eat. I'm so glad he's here! (Not going to get all soppy, I promise).
5. Writing - when I first started seeing a counsellor, I struggled to tell him what I was thinking, because I didn't know what I was thinking. He suggested I try writing a diary. After I'd finished laughing in his face, I left thinking he was as insane as I am. But then one day, when I realised I needed to talk to someone and didn't know where to go, I wrote an email. I don't know who I was planning on sending it to, but I wrote down everything that was in my head. Then I just saved it as a draft, and there it stays. Now, whenever I have "one of those days", I just start writing. Most of what I write will never go anywhere, but it's nice to be able to look back and see that, actually, things are changing.
This afternoon, I went to a training for a campaign I'm going to start volunteering on, and on the wall in the toilet cubicle was a poem. One phrase particularly hit me:
"Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway."
Give the world the best you've got anyway."
That's enough soul-searching for one day.
Ps, if you really need to talk, or feel like you can't cope on your own, don't suffer in silence - please tell someone. Go to the doctor or someone you trust. Or try one of these links:
- Health in Mind