Roll call! Who’s here? I am – just. Well, I say just but I am very much present and almost correct. I’ve been a bit absent of late, both in mental wellness and online presence in the blogging/social media circles of which I partake. The online aspect hasn’t been an issue especially when I most witter on about nonsense and don’t really have any major followings: blogging sensation I am most certainly not. The mental wellness side of things…well lets just say it has been a bumpy ride; turbulent and uncertain but with a small but steady light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve never kept my mental health issues a secret nor have I waved a bloody great big flag about*wonders what sort of flag I’d wave if I had one*.
I’m a wobbler – imagine a child learning to ride a balance bike. At the beginning they start off having no clue what the bike will need them to do. Then, as they set off, a fluke enables them to coast all the way down the path without an issue. Buoyed up by this, they attempt the same trip again, only this time, they start to wobble. Some wobbles are little and self-correct, others send them tumbling into the dirt with a couple of skinned knees and knock in confidence. After a magic make-it-better kiss, they start to feel ok and so start the process all over again. This continues in much the same way, gaining confidence, skinning knees and so on. Eventually they’ll learn how to balance and ride their bike, progressing onto one with pedals. My mental health is much the same and currently, I’m under the “kissing the knee to make it better” phase. An entirely new type of anti-depressant has been prescribed and I’m a week into it. It hasn’t been pleasant but considering the alternative of sitting on the sofa and sobbing, I was willing to give it a go. The numbness has lifted a bit, things are feeling more real and while for about 85% of the time, it feels like I’m trying to read from a script that no one would like to share with me, the remaining 15% feels real again.
I’m aware that posts such as this one will engender a certain amount of thought that I am navel gazing and that frankly, I should just bloody well get on with it and stop the wittering. A very tiny part of me, who really isn’t very nice tends to agree – but as I’ve been told before, if I was told I had the flu or a broken leg, would I tell myself to get on with it or would I seek medical attention and remedies to make me feel better? The easy answer is of course I would do the latter. Mental illness isn’t especially visible – people who on the outside don’t look depressed might inwardly be screaming for an answer to their problems. A person with a “good” job, a “nice” home and a “loving” partner may be the last person that society would expect to have a mental illness (or as I prefer to think, mental unwellness) but that does not protect them. I am that person – I have a good, steady job which I like. I have a nice home and I am married to a pretty awesome chap – what have I got to be depressed about?
The thing is, there is no one thing or reason or issue that has tripped me out. It’s a million (ok, maybe not an actual million) things that make me react the way I do. I have hundreds of thoughts whizzing around my noggin’ that have given me the skinned knees I’m currently learning to deal with. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in the situation and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last, as much as I’d like it to be. I have withdrawn into myself, a spiritual turtle if you will allow the analogy. I don’t have a faith or belief in a higher being or power so I use the word spiritual as loosely as possible. Everyday things that I used to enjoy faded and the more unwell I have become, the less and less I have wanted to do, or see, or taste, or touch. For someone as tactile as I am, this should have been the warning sign. Sleeping is another classic warning sign and when Husband and I talked after one breakdown too many (although how many breakdowns is acceptable is still unknown) it was apparent that I was doing an awful lot of early nights and mindlessly eating without tasting. Food was just something else that had to be consumed to stave off the shakes and headaches.
The Easter weekend also happened to be my 32nd birthday. Coinciding with a long weekend and the first real signs of Spring and also coincided with my new meds starting to work. For the first time in several months, I was feeling like I was connecting with people again. I’d bought myself a new handbag as a gift to myself for a years hard work at work. I’d taken a day off to see my mother in law – a lovely day spent watching otters and owls, having lunch in a pub and then a leisurely walk. My leg muscles are so out of practice after all the hiding I’ve been doing that they complained bitterly the day afterwards – another sign I’ve been refusing to do anything for too long. Birthday day arrived and with it some much-needed sun. We walked up to the ice cream shop about 2 miles away, through the fields and up the hill – all up hill. My fitness levels are at an all time low – I’m horribly unfit and I’m carrying too much weight on account of the hiding. It’s no one’s fault – and I’m including myself in that. Until recently I’ve not wanted to move anywhere other than to bed and to the sofa but a combination of sun, new meds and 5 solid days off from work have slowly started to nudge me in the direction of actively wanting to be active.
To that end, I bought a gadget. I’ve had a Garmin 110 GPS watch for a couple of years when I was running all the miles. I like gadgets, the newness of them, the setting up and then the ongoing thrill of watching the data build. After much researching aka comparing price, colour and what it can do on Amazon, I’ve bought a Garmin Vivofit – a lovely little gadget in blue. It counts steps, sleep patterns, calories burnt, miles covered and a couple of other things that I have yet to discover. It wasn’t expensive and I even managed to get in on a next day delivery so I could play with it after I had finished work today. Currently, it’s telling me I’ve not moved for over an hour which will give me the incentive to walk to the shop to get things for tea – something that I would have done anything to get out of a month or so ago. While it won’t make me feel better, the visual cues that I respond to will help in my “recovery” from my unwellness and anything that works in combination with my meds that are helping lift the grey fog can only be a good thing.
I’m under no illusion that mental wellness will be easy but knowing when I’m not well is a massive part of the problem that I am learning to identify. Being mentally well and staying well are two parts that might take me a bit longer to get to grips with. I have hope though. Hope that as I get older I’ll have better coping mechanisms, hope that I’ll be able to understand my triggers and weak points that might send me off course, hope that I’ll be able to keep my body active and so better equipped to deal with a low front if and when it reappears. My first session with the Psychological Therapy team is in a few weeks and before that, I have a medication review. I have hope for both those things too.
I have friends who are currently unwell and are seeking help. I have friends who have been unwell but are now on the path to wellness and I have friends who are somewhere between the two. My last hope is that they all have someone to turn to when things become dark and scary. I was given the local Mental Health team Crisis number and I had never thought to ask for it – I’m thankful that so far I’ve had my husband by my side so I didn’t need to call it.