So it is Mental Health Awareness Week. I think.
I say, ‘I think’, as I am not properly tuned into life at the moment. I have good intentions – sometimes – when I plan to watch something on television or do something simple like go to the shops, only to find that the time has passed and I have missed whatever it is that I was going to watch or do. Perhaps the special week was last week or the week before that. Who knows?
The lack of concentration is the worst ever. I walk from room to room wondering what I was going to do. I write a To Do list but lose it under a pile of other pieces of paper that, at the time, seemed so important. I am overcome with an urge to simplify my life. To rid myself of its complications.
The theme of MH Awareness week this year is a focus on relationships. When I am well I seem to have lots of friends, contact with family and I have some connection with many others. Once I crash, all this is lost and I feel totally alone. My partner pops in several times a day and he cares, I know he does, but it doesn’t seem to make me feel better. I speak to family but know that I am not really saying what they want to hear which is that ‘I am fine’. That phrase rings in my head all the time but only because I know it is a lie. I know I am not ‘fine’.
Yesterday my partner said it would rain today so we went out for a ride in the car. It was too late by the time we reached our destination to get a sunny walk in and so we sat in the car. He slept. I closed my eyes but I can only sleep after my meds at night. Sleeping in the day is only possible if I am ill – physically ill, that is. A virus or some other physical illness will allow me to sleep either on the sofa or in bed. Not so this illness. This one actively prevents any switching off of the nagging thoughts, the internal negative chatter, the worries – real to me but apparently not a problem for others.
I am signed up to several newslists from organisations such as Mind and people who write about their struggles with mental health. When I’m well I scroll through without clicking on the content but now I am clicking on everything as I think the answer must be out there somewhere.
But it isn’t. The answer I know is inside myself. I don’t even think it is inside my head as I think the answer is to get out of one’s head. Walking can take me out of my head and into my body as I feel the vibrations and rhythms of step by step movements, travelling onwards. It doesn’t matter much where this happens as in my deepest depression I don’t see the world around me but walking can bring about awareness of one’s surroundings … eventually.
The worst part of crashing is feeling a fraud. All my abilities have vanished and my present reality is that I really cannot do anything properly at all.
Some weeks ago I wrote two blog articles for Depression Alliance. One was on early warning signs and the second was on how to cope with these early warning signs and first symptoms. They were retweeted and favourably commented on. I even received emails saying how much they had helped sufferers. So I felt good about that. But I haven’t taken my own medicine. I did spot the early warning signs but the spiralling descent into inertia which followed was so fast that I did not have time to address them. In fact, the truth is that I had probably ignored earlier signs. All the busyness and frenetic activity. The projects I was starting and not finishing.
Some years ago a colleague said ‘don’t stir up more snakes than you can kill’. It was her motto for managing her busy life but how true this is for those who have mental health conditions especially Bi Polar when, during active phases, we take on projects, start courses, agree to do things, join committees, and generally ‘bite off more than we can chew’. We don’t see the end result – the reality – which is that all of this is impossible once we crash down into depression. The buzz of activity cannot be sustained when the brain starts to close down on us.
Every time this happens I try to think how it can be avoided. Once everything becomes an effort and the body and brain become dull and inactive I am full of regret that I have overstretched myself and brought myself to this point. I am furious with myself for falling for it once again.
But, what is the answer? It is not to sit about not doing things for fear we will not be able to complete the project. Somehow, I need to be a better judge of how much I can usefully deal with. It is our judgement that is impaired with this illness. We do not see what is round the corner or the consequences of what we are doing. When we are well we feel we can cope with everything.
The inspiration for this post came from an article from The Blurt Foundation, the mental health organisation, the ‘blurtitout’ post dropping into my inbox. I identified so much with the writer that I just had to put my own view down. A comment box would not have allowed sufficient space. It opened my eyes to how I am now and is the most accurate account of how it feels to be truly depressed that I have ever read.
You can read it here
One interesting point made was how time flies – we are not having fun but we lose track of time and life seems to be zooming past ignoring us. It seems as if life is a fast moving train that we can’t catch. We don’t know where the days have gone as they are full of emptiness, lacking in structure and interest. I just cannot wait to get back into bed even though I have not been out of it for long.
Wherever possible I try to keep a diary, even if only for events although logging mood is helpful. When I look back I am often surprised at how short a time it has been since I was ‘out of action’. It seems like this has been going on forever but I can often see that one month ago I was fine with a brain that was working properly and happy with life. And, yet, it seems as if it has been going on forever.
Certain phrases ring true in this article. ‘My mind has run out of juice’ and ‘the batteries are flat’ were two but her final comment ‘everything has become so complicated’ sums up everything I am feeling right now.
But as I said in my last post on here, it will pass. It always does.
I just hope it does not take too long.