Thursday 10 October 2013

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. I don't know who decided that 10th October would be the day we think about mental health. Maybe it's because, here in the northern hemisphere at least, it's the start of winter; a time when many of us start to really feel the strain of dealing with a mental health issue. Or maybe it was the only day that wasn't already the international day of something or other.

Either way, today it is.

And so today, I am thinking about my own mental health.

Perhaps, before I get too deep into the grey cloud, I should remind you where I have come from. Earlier this year, I had an epiphany, got a tattoo and accepted my 10 year relationship with a black hole, quit my job, rediscovered a bit of me I forgot existed (the part of me that is actually a valid human being, rather than just a shell of one filled with self deprecation and pent up stress), found a new job (which I love, by the way) and finished an MSc.

Long story short, I have depression. But this year I have realised that although I have it, it doesn't have to define me. Just like my eyes and hair and hips and boobs and tummy and brain and everything else individually do not define me. ‎It's just another part of who I am.

So it is probably fitting that I have spent the last hour sitting in a counsellors room (in the foetal position through choice rather than necessity) having another epiphany, which I would like to share with you.

Over a year ago, I started to see a counsellor for, what I thought would be, a 12 week stint of 'fixing'. First thing I learnt - it is impossible to fix a lifetime's worth of problems.

My counsellor is lovely, but it took me a long time to just be able to speak. By about 10 weeks in, we started to realise that maybe I would benefit from a few more sessions. Then Christmas happened and he went away for 6 weeks.

January 2013, back to square one, but with a lot more awareness of just how many problems I have. By now I could at least speak. But the more I spoke, the more the problems came, faster than either of us could deal with all at once. It was beginning to feel like maybe this process wasn't working when I headed off to the UN for two weeks.

Cue epiphany. 

The problem with having an epiphany is the initial burst of energy/ motivation which is eventually followed by a cloud of self doubt.

And so ‎f‎ast-forward 6 months.

‎Today, I realised that a lot of my issues are interlinked and repetitive. Without boring you with the gory details, my negative opinions of myself, my relationship with food, and my very unhealthy relationships with people are not, infact, separate issues. They're all related.

When I feel good about myself, when I'm happy and let myself be me, and don't let myself take the downs too seriously.  I let myself eat. I want to eat. And I want to spend time with people because I enjoy their company, ‎not because I feel I 'should' or because they might give me the attention I can't give myself. 

I think many of you just face-palmed. No shit, right?

But maybe some of you know what I'm saying. It's very hard to feel good about yourself, to let yourself be happy, when you don't eat (for fear of what food might do to you, or of getting it wrong, or simply because the effort of having to make yet another decision is just too big and overwhelming and exhausting) and don't let other people in to help (for fear of judgement, or of getting it wrong, or simply because the effort of having to act like everything is ok is just too big and overwhelming ‎and exhausting). 

Unfortunately, sometimes that fear is so huge, that the 'simple' act of eating or seeing a friend becomes such a chore it's easier just not to. And there begins the slippery slope. 

So now that I've made the (seemingly obvious) connection, what am I going to do about it?

Right now, nothing. I'm going to get out of the safety of my car, walk up four flights of stairs to my flat, give my lovely boyfriend a hug and thank him for being here, and then I will ask what's for dinner. And if there is no plan, we'll buy (another) takeaway. 

Surely it's better to just eat something than to eat nothing at all, right?

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