Today I feel very thankful, I am surrounded by some truly wonderful people both on and off line. They all accept me for who I am. Despite the pain that being so open about what I have been through has brought, it has also brought me a great sense of achievement. I cannot stress the importance of having support, no matter where you find it. Dealing with mental health issues is often very traumatic and doing so alone can often be near impossible. It is very easy to feel alone, depression alone often tends to cause us to become socially withdrawn.
Dealing with my problems, facing things that I have suppressed for so long has been very disturbing. I soon came to realise that just getting medication was not going to change my life, it would only give me the time to sort it out. I see so many people on forums and social media going through their first few weeks on SSRI medications and the like, and suffering not only with their original problem but also the side effects from the medication. I have been there, I know what it is like to be constantly fatigued, dizzy, and numb both in mind and body. Many people simply give up on the medication after only a couple of weeks, not realising that most of these medications take 6-10 weeks just to become fully effective. I know some people do not like the idea of taking strong medication but I personally do not think I could have made the progress I have without them.
The other problem is those people who do take the medication but do nothing about the actual problems that caused them to need them in the first place. Like most medication, all they do is ease the pain. Taking paracetamol for a tooth ache does not repair the damage to the tooth, it just allows you the time to get it fixed without suffering so much. The same can be said for SSRI meds etc, they help you cope. If you do not resolve any deep issues you will be no different, and all too soon your life will move beyond the capability of the medication. You’re at square one again, only this time with more baggage and no means of support. I know that for some life itself can be the problem, tight finances, relationships, work etc. These problems may resolve themselves over time and this will help you, but for those who are sitting on deeper issues these will need to be addressed.
The bedfellow of depression is often anxiety, if you have not experienced anxiety before it can be a very painful process. Anxiety seems to be individual, how I suffer is not the same as others I know. We all seem to tweak anxiety slightly depending on our circumstances, that being said it does follow a pattern. Anxiety can leave you completely paralysed inside your own head while still appearing totally normal on the outside. Once it starts it is very hard to stop it and learning what triggers your anxiety is often very difficult. Often there can be multiple overlapping triggers, a simple thing can lead your mind to deeper darker triggers. Before you know it just waiting in the bank or going shopping can become as hard as climbing Everest. I have learned from my anxiety, I can spot the warning signs early. I can now pause to reflect on what is causing me to feel anxious, most times I can trace it back but not always. I have started to use anxiety to my own benefit, allowing it to warn me when my mind is wandering into the restricted section. When my anxiety gets too bad I know I must pull back, as long as I have chosen to go there it often isn’t as hard to get it under control again.
Sometimes though the anxiety will be triggered by something new, or more common, I will have overlapped triggers. I may attribute my anxiety to something I am aware of but actually it is something else that has triggered it. Sitting on emotions is very dangerous, I cannot bottle emotions anymore, not without them leading to anxiety. I have to deal with things as they happen or at least as soon as I can. Now only on rare occasions do I have to rely on medication to ease the anxiety, and I push myself every day. Meditation and mindfulness are very good at helping to control your mind and thoughts. Learning to let your mind clear is a very good thing, not only to give you some peace, but also to let you concentrate on one thing. Mindfulness allows you to reconnect with the world around you, it is very easy to become numb both physically and emotionally. Reconnecting through your senses to the moment helps ground you.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are also very important, a thing I often tend to overlook. I am very stupid and do not eat regularly or that healthily. I know I need to correct these things and I will advance further. The “healthy mind, body and soul” thing is more than just an advertising slogan, it is amazing to learn how much of a difference just eating right and getting some exercise can change your state of mind. Drinking alcohol should be restricted to a minimum, either on or off the meds. I’ve looked for the answers in the bottom of a bottle before and trust me I never found more than an empty wallet and a bad head. Alcohol does not make you forget, alcohol reduces what little control you have, a couple of glasses may be fine but be very careful. Coffee seems to be another favourite for the masses, nothing better to wake you up than coffee. Trouble is whilst the meds make you tired the coffee can have you bouncing off the walls. Each to our own but its a good idea to watch your caffeine intake, you might be surprised.
Every day I poke and prod my illness, most days I write about it here on my blog. I am no expert, I am not a doctor or therapist. I am just like you, I write because it helps me and I have been told that it helps others. I said at the beginning that I could not have done what I have done without the help of others. This in some small way is my way of trying to return the favour. I hope that by sharing what I feel and do I can help others, I also try my best to support others on social media (Twitter). I have yet to find someone who I could not learn from, I consider myself lucky. If you are alone, come join us on Twitter #mhfriends #mhcommunity or even #mentalhealth, #MentalHealthAwareness or #MentalHealthCommunity will get you to us. As I continue to test the path ahead I will let you know what I find, I hope that something, no matter how small helps you.