Habits

Blogging about my experiences with mental health really is providing the opportunity for reflection that I hoped it would. Pushing myself to write daily is making me search through my feelings day-to-day and to process them into an edited piece of writing. It is time consuming but worthwhile, although it does feel that I am spending most evenings with my computer rather than my husband. Fortunately, he is very supportive and I can already see benefits from this exercise.
This afternoon the dog had to be left alone for two hours whilst I was at work and my husband ran an errand. Unfortunately, during that time she had an accident, referred to by Miranda Hart in her book Peggy and Me as a ‘poocalypse’. Thankfully, the dog is fine but usually this scenario would greatly unbalance me, especially having felt quite low yesterday. However, I didn’t think about the surrounding areas, the dog’s paws or even consider not petting her when I got home. Another day might have seen me trying to disinfect every surface in the house in one go, bathing the dog and compulsively washing my hands every time the dog approached.  Not only is this an observable improvement in how I respond to such situations, but is thanks to developments in how my husband reacts.

I am very fortunate to have a very supportive and loving husband. He has always been a great source of strength and tranquillity for me at times when I have been stressed, anxious or depressed. But until he met me he had very little understanding of, or experience with, mental health, so this has been a shared experience in learning how to cope with my mental illness.

Today, he simply removed the wooden floorboards where the accident occurred. This isn’t as drastic as it sounds. As I mentioned yesterday, we are undertaking refurbishments and had already removed the threadbare sludge-coloured carpet from the landing. We are intending to sand and varnish the original floorboards but two of them were in need of replacing after a botched job of laying new boiler pipes by the previous owners. Thankfully, these were the ones that were affected by today’s incident. It was the best response as the wood had not yet been treated and so difficult, if not impossible, to properly clean and fortunately were going to be replaced anyway.

I was intending to write about something different today, to delve into some of my darker experiences and what could have occurred if any part of 2016 had turned out differently. If the events that led to my husband and I meeting hadn’t happened. If I had been alone on the 3rd of April. If my husband was a different sort of person. But I am enjoying the more organic origins of my posts. Of sitting down to write and almost letting my subconscious choose the direction. I have said before that I am not usually good at reflection, perhaps this is the start of a new (good) habit.

 

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Good Day Gone Bad

Today started off quite well. All was perfectly satisfactory.

It was my day off today, so I took the dog for a long walk along the coast (18km in total). The benefits of exercise for mental health sufferers (and of course health in general) are well documented, but I am sure I am not alone when it comes to how I feel when I’m having depressive episodes. When I am suffering from depression, it often includes not wanting/having difficulty leaving the house. So going for a walk, running, or any other form of exercise, especially if there is the possibility of encountering other people, can be very daunting at such times. Let’s face it if you are feeling down about yourself or extremely body conscious then gyms are the worst. You will undoubtedly end up having to talk to someone at reception, then there are the changing rooms, and then not only are you in a room full of lots of other people but there are mirrors everywhere so you can see yourself from all angles. It doesn’t matter how gorgeous others perceive you to be, practically everyone dislikes some part of themselves and seeing it bobbing about in a mirror is not going to make you feel better about it.

I apologise now, this is going to be a flow of consciousness exercise, it might get edited, it might not, either way it will probably not lose the ranting tone. Sorry.

Fortunately, I didn’t wake up this morning feeling low. I felt like my more usual self. So I enjoyed the walk. I am grateful to no longer live in the city, I was brought up in the countryside and am just not well-adjusted to city life. That I can also go for walks by the sea is a dream come true. So I have a lot to be thankful for and in truth a number of good things going. Having a dog is a real blessing. She helps me get out of bed. Truly. Even on days when I don’t wake up feeling good, when she needs to go out, she potters up and places her nose on the edge of the bed. She doesn’t lick my face or anything like that, and fortunately she’s young so her breath isn’t too bad. But seeing her little nose snuffling at me to let her out makes me feel loved and needed and is fantastically motivating. She also helps me get lost in the moment when I am out walking her, something that I have never managed before. I really struggle to focus on just one thing. I’m useless at meditating and yoga and such things. But with my dog, either I am just enjoying the walk, the scenery I am part of and seeing her enjoy the walk, or I actually start day-dreaming again. Not catastrophizing or dreaming up disasters but proper day-dreaming. The realms of fantasy or things that I might hope one day to achieve and for once not mentally putting obstacles in place at every turn.

When I returned home, I had soup for lunch, wholesome and healthy. The day seemed to be getting better. Then I managed to make some headway in the home improvements my husband and I are undertaking. Our house is quite old and the previous owners did not take great care of it, so there are a lot of things that we are having to patch up and renovate. We also like the character features of the property and we are trying to highlight these and expose those that had previously been covered over. With my husband studying a PhD and myself working multiple jobs, our projects are currently progressing rather slowly. So I was pleased with my work this afternoon.

I had managed to achieve my goals for the day. But for some reason, as the sun began to set, my mood began to sink as well.

I don’t know why and I find it incredibly frustrating. I hadn’t watched or listened the news, which is something that can sometimes trigger my anxiety and fill me with a feeling of hopelessness. What I had done was attempt to fill out my tax return. Other than the goal of writing a daily post, this was the last thing I had hoped to achieve today. It wasn’t particularly urgent. As my contract changed last year I am no longer categorised as self-employed. This is a relief for me. I am aware that for many people of my generation, being their own boss is the dream goal. But for me, that’s too stressful. I am happy working for, or with, someone else. It’s not about responsibility or the ability to make decisions, I’m actually quite good in both of these areas. It just feels like having all ones eggs in one basket, and with someone who overthinks every little aspect of almost every part of their life, working for myself would likely end in disaster. Maybe that’s weakness in character, or a personal failing, but it’s the truth.

Each and every year I that I have been registered as self-employed I have experienced some complication with my tax return. It should actually be really simple. I have all my receipts, figures and so on. But logging in, time after time is just a nightmare. I didn’t realise how stressed it was making me until I sat down to dinner. I haven’t really stopped grazing since.

Now I am just waiting to be tired enough to go to sleep. I see sleeping as resetting. I am fortunate to know that I will feel different tomorrow. I haven’t always felt that way though.

 

Lessons from Blogging: Reflection

For me, reflection plays a big part in how writing a blog can hold great benefits for mental health. It is an aspect that I am not naturally good at. I am one of those people who jump from one project to another and am always looking for the next challenge. Whilst I find this fun and exciting, it does mean that I rarely take time to think about what I learnt from experiences or to really enjoy the results.

I am relieved that writing yesterday’s post held everything that I’d hoped it would. It was really cathartic. To systematically work through some really tough memories and to be fully aware about the feelings that those memories evoke. Publishing the post felt good as well. Whilst I doubt that it will have forever expelled those memories from my mind, pressing a button and sending it away did feel like I was finally letting some of those feelings go.

I am now feeling a lot more confident about posting and am looking forward to writing more about my personal experiences with mental health and the circumstances that I feel impacted upon it.