The theme for WMHD is actually Schizophrenia, however I don’t have any experience with that, but do visit the site to find out more about Schizophrenia and why it’s been chosen as this months theme.
So some background on me, I have depression and social anxiety. I’ve had them both for over 10 years and have received therapy (CBT) and medication for both illnesses. I actually wanted a write a post like this about 2 weeks ago, but then I changed my mind, but I thought it would be fitting to go ahead with it considering the day.
I use to volunteer with Time to Change, but now that I work full time I can’t do that. I joined TTC to find out more about the community around mental health and to fight the stigma that was attached to it. I was an involvement worker at TTC, so this involved going around to schools or youth clubs and sharing my story, which included the help I received and the bouts of stigma I had experienced. I really enjoyed it and I really credit the campaign and the work I did , as helping with my recovery. I met so many different people and put a lot of my life into perspective by writing and sharing my story. However about 4 months ago I did stop doing this because it all became too much, sharing my story was exhausting. Being a private person, it was really taking a lot out of me sharing these really intimate and dark moments of my life, and truth be told I was starting to become ill again. Since then I’ve dabbled with volunteering with TTC and other charities in other ways, however encouraging people to talk openly about mental health will always be on my agenda and that’s why I want to share today.
In the past two weeks I have felt that my life is one big balancing act. I feel like I have been shoved on this earth, and I really have NO idea how to handle anything, I panic if anyone asks me a question, even if it’s something I know the answer to. I watch people around me sometime sand I’m just there ‘like how are you all okay? How do you know how to be a human?’ Sometimes I just don’t know how to handle family, friends or work colleagues, I just feel like there’s an invisible barrier. Don’t get me wrong there are times when I manage and I just able to be carefree, but for the most part I am very overwhelmed on a day to day basis. I know it’s because my brain has a lot to manage to keep me well. I’m constantly applying my CBT to situations to ensure I’m being rational. But in addition to all of this, I am coming off my medication, the thing that has played a large part in my mental shift. I’m not going to go into the science of anti-depressants, but I’m essentially saying “goodbye, I’m going to see if my brain can now produce happy signals all by itself.” It isn’t as hard as I thought it would be because I am still in the midst of cutting down, but what happens when my brain is off it fully? Alongside this because I know I have to take care of myself and keep those endorphins buzzing about I’m trying to motivate myself to exercise and eat right, to support my body and my mind. Managing anxiety is also the other thing, if I’m not plagued by depression it’s the day to day anxiety, the panic over small things like having to get off at my stop when I’m on the train to work. Working full time is also another thing, it’s not the first time I’ve worked full time, but now I’m “beginning my career” and although it’s thrilling it’s also scary. When I last worked full time my days were measured by how many days I actually went into work “today I managed 2, at least it was better than last week when I was just there once”. So it’s about balancing all the aforementioned with being well enough to work full time. I have frequent panic attacks at work and although I have no idea why, I’m learning to manage them because there is no threat here.
Another thing to throw into the balancing act is making friends. I’ve always been a solitary person, as a kid I just read and played by myself. Now I don’t see anything wrong with that being by yourself is good, but for me it wasn’t it’s because I was so petrified of people finding out I wasn’t “happy” that made me keep to myself. I’ve always been quiet about my depression and never wanted to let people in, I know it sounds cliché but it’s the truth and it is a lonely one. I hate when people try and shutting people out is cool or something, if you really do it because you dislike yourself it’s not cool it is lonely. Anyway I always thought if people knew the “real” me they would back away and then I’d really be left alone, so I’ve always kept people at arms length. I can’t even say that’s changed, but I am working on it. But what’s thrown me is making friends at work, I’ve always held the belief that people don’t like me, but at work I’m actually making friends with people . You’ll probably gather from what I said before that I didn’t grow up with a lot of friends, I didn’t have a close knit group of girl friends who all hung out together. I do have friends dotted about that I spend time with one to one, but they all have their own friendship groups that they are all very much a part of. I’m not even complaining as it suits me just fine now because I know I mean something to them, but what’s weird is coming to work and suddenly there is a friendship group forming. I like it, although I’ve never been used to it. But sometimes managing social expectations is exhausting for me, because like I said before – I don’t know how to handle people.
I’m writing all of this because I don’t want to become so overwhelmed that I take several steps back in my recovery, but I’m also writing this to talk about recovery and its stages. When you have depression and then you’re going through recovery, naturally you don’t want to revert back to your old ways. It’s all about “I’m not going to be sad, I’m going to think positive, and I’m not going to self harm” And yes they are things you should no go back to/do/not do, but sometimes I sit back and think what’s the different between now and then? I think the behaviours but now I don’t do them, is that actually recovery? Granted I am so much better now but I struggle to understand whether things like this means I am not recovered and have not left my old ways behind, or whether my version of recovery is unobtainable. If it is the latter, I am at risk of becoming unwell again.
Often depression is described as your reality not being what you expected, whilst I disagree with that definition, I do know a large proportion of my low moods stems from “I thought this would like this now. I thought I’d be happy now etc etc” Whilst I know this sort of thinking is not limited to depressives, when you are depressed these feelings are amplified. Although I know I am better off now, part of me thinks really? Is this constant balancing act the better? Instead of juggling dark dark thoughts and pretending to be happy, now I’m juggling everything else and trying to be happy. It’s still a lot of work, and sometimes I feel like I will cave.
I wouldn’t class myself as depressed right now, but sometimes I feel like I am bridging the gap back to that place. But in the end I think it’s a case of reality vs expectations, yes I am recovering but no my recovery is not what I thought it would be like. There is a lot to balance, but it’s a good balancing act. I’m desperately telling myself that “it’s okay that I’m 23 and have only started my career, it’s okay that I’ve actually had a long term relationship that I have felt respected in, it’s okay that I’m a little bit broken,” because I have been through a lot. It’s so easy to let these thoughts drag you down to the place of ‘don’t bother’ but I am fighting them. I do often wonder if the fight is worth it, because it seems I will always be fighting, always be balancing but I guess it’s better to be coming from where I am now, than from the deep pits of depression.
I hope the majority of this made sense. As much as I love writing, sometimes trying to be coherent with these things can be difficult.
Places that can help/provide more information Mental Health Foundation, Rethink, Mind.