You told me that when I fell off the rails I would do it quietly and without fuss.
Slipping, hardly noticeable.
I knew what you were saying was right, I saw the worry behind your eyes at the realisation it had already begun. But I smiled, I told you not to be silly.
I feel it now. Your words ring true in my ears as I drink the wine that numbs the feelings, as I crave the words that give me the punishment. It’s all inside of me; my small body and fragile mind keep it contained in a safe and hardly manageable existence…
But I still see the way you look at me, the gaze that lingers too long and the arms that hold so tightly. You know it’s happening and you can’t stop it because I tell you I am fine.
A couple of weeks ago, I reacted to something inappropriately
– I dismissed something that my husband was feeling and I realised as soon as the
words left my mouth what I had done, but by then of course it was a little late
to take it back.
I’ve been having a lot of thoughts lately surrounding vulnerability
and validation. I think vulnerability may come up more in its own post about
the subject, but validation is so very important.
And I neglected that.
A bit of background information would be helpful here… My
husband has an old Mk 2 Golf that is very much a project car. We have named her
Christine after the Stephen King novel as she is, lets say, high maintenance? (Although
she hasn’t tried to kill me yet, so I’m taking that as a bonus 😉)
Anyway, Christine has some relatively nice alloy wheels. On this
particular Saturday we had to pop out to pick up some toilet seat hinges (such
a glamourous life we lead!) and also a few grocery bits. However, before we got
to Screwfix, my husband had to do a three-point turn which was tighter than
anticipated and he scraped the front passenger side wheel on a curb. He got out
to check and it had left ‘a huge gouge’ in the paint. He was pissed off – mostly
at himself, but also because of all the time and effort he has put into that
car, and now something else, so easily avoided had gone wrong. It had already
been a hugely stressful week, he wasn’t looking forward to fixing the toilet
seat, it was hot, we were tired and hungry etc etc…
We went around to the supermarket and as we got out of the car,
he came around to take another look, I also looked and… I couldn’t see
anything. I was expecting ‘a huge gouge’ out of the paint. I’m not into cars in
the slightest, to me it just looked like a regular alloy wheel. He pointed it
out to me – a scrape along the outside edge and… well, I did the worst thing I
could possibly do, I laughed.
Not in a cruel way – I wasn’t laughing at him, but in
more of a relived way. I told him that it wasn’t that bad and hardly noticeable.
I did the one thing that I always try not to do, I minimised his feelings, I
invalidated his concern.
Of course, this did nothing to improve his mood. I tried to
explain to him that my initial reaction was just relief – for him – that it
wasn’t as bad as I had expected. But it was too late – the fixing of the toilet
seat when we got home was punctuated with swearing and the slamming down of screwdrivers,
which was completely understandable. I hadn’t heard him, I hadn’t realised
that actually, it wasn’t about the wheel at all.
It was a build up of things, of worry and anxiety that had
filled our week off. It was the driving to and from Bristol which had stressed
him out for a number of reasons. The additional driving down to Dorset to a
specialist vets appointment which was anxiety inducing, hot and once again gave
no real conclusion to an ongoing concern with our dog. It was the social
obligations which had taken their toll, it was the thought of going back to
work after not exactly having a relaxing time off. It was the lack of decent
sleep on and off for a fortnight due to stress. It was the thought that
Saturday and Sunday should have just been two days to finally chill out – and now
because of an error of judgement, there was something else to ‘fix’.
But… it wasn’t my job to fix this situation, and it is never
our jobs to fix other people’s problems. My job – which I neglected to notice –
was just to hear his frustration. To recognise it, acknowledge it and act
accordingly. Because when we feel heard we feel empowered, we may not
realise it at the time, but we do realise when we aren’t heard and the space
that it puts us in.
However, this ‘trying to make things better’ is something
that I think we have all been guilty of at some point or another. Its horrible
to see someone we love and/or care for upset, angry, or frustrated so we try
and do what we can to bring them out of the situation. It can also sometimes be
uncomfortable for us and so we want to move past those feelings quickly
so that we can get on with our day and put whatever unfortunate happening that
has just occurred behind us.
Is that selfish? No, I don’t think so. I think that we all experience uncomfortable feelings – definitely in adulthood but we would have done so as children as well. We all have our own feelings about feelings – I am uncomfortable with anger for example. If I am ever angry then I don’t know how to safely hold and sit with that emotion, and if someone is angry at me or around me then I don’t know how to react, so I go very quiet, very small and just take it. But we would have all had instances in childhood where we felt strong emotions – such as anger, resentment, sadness and also the extremes at the other end of the scale such as love, generosity and giddying waves of happiness. How those feelings were reciprocated by parents and caregivers when we were at the cognitive developmental stage where we didn’t know how to express ourselves, will undoubtedly shape how we learn to deal with them as adults. This also applies to when we see someone else expressing these emotions that we struggle with – we react in the ways that we were reacted to.
With the incident with the car, I just wanted to make it better for him – but he was also angry, and I didn’t know how to deal with that and so my innate reaction was to get us both out of that situation as quickly as possible.
It didn’t work – and why would it have done? Making light of
the situation wouldn’t have made the scrape in the wheel go away. We could have
held hands and laughed and skipped our way into Morrisons, but his feelings of
frustration and anger would have still been there. The situation that caused
the discomfort wouldn’t just disappear if we ignored it.
Our feelings – whatever they may be – need to be heard. Talking about feelings, with a partner, friend, parent, child etc is such an important step in honouring our true selves and opening up those bridges of communication. If I made my husband feel silly over the car or if I repeatedly tried to distract him or judged or minimised his feelings every time something went wrong – even if its not about a subject that I am particularly knowledgeable on – then he’s going to stop communicating when he is upset, and this won’t just apply to what is happening in the garage. However, it is also important to realise that his emotions aren’t mine – I don’t have to crouch down and hold my head in my hands and get angry and frustrated at instances like the scrape in the tyre, I just need to communicate that I can see that he is upset and angry and keep the dialogue going.
Instead of laughing, I could have said something like ‘Oh
dear, that must make you feel frustrated’ – and then instead of storming off
into the supermarket ahead of me, he perhaps would have said ‘Yes, I had just
got the car how I want it/its going to take time to fix/but its not just that…’
etc. It would have opened up the space for him to communicate and to have his
It isn’t dangerous to have our feelings out in the open –
even the ones that can feel really difficult to express. No bolt of lightening is going to come and
strike us down if we dare to actually feel these difficult emotions and
communicate with each other about them, in fact, much the opposite will happen.
Learning to recognise our feelings and our emotions for what they are allows us
to be more in tune with ourselves and with those around us – it allows us to communicate
honestly and openly and it teaches us that our emotions – whatever they may be –
are valid. In turn, this plays an important role in being able to trust our own
instincts, for example if we begin to recognise fear or unease for the emotion
that it is – instead of squashing it down and ignoring it because ‘it doesn’t
feel very nice’ – then we become better at protecting ourselves and those
I’m not there yet with anger. I can now recognise it as
something that I need to be mindful of and work on – and I am very fortunate
that I have some wonderful friends and a wonderful husband that are more likely
to encourage me to talk about my anger when I feel it and help me unpick it,
rather than try and ‘fix’ it with platitudes, but these things do take time and
a lot of patience. When I have been angry in the past and I have pushed it down
and tried not to feel it because I have had that belief for 34 years that ‘anger
is bad’ – where has it gone? It hasn’t come out of me, no, it has stayed
and whispered in my ear that what I feel doesn’t matter, that what I feel is ‘wrong’,
that what I feel makes me a bad person… and do you know what other name we have
for that voice? Depression.
So, encourage people to talk – those that you love, those that you care about. Let them know that it is ok to feel what they are feeling and that no emotion – however hard it may be to experience is ‘wrong’. We cannot be shining beacons of light and grace at all times; life doesn’t work like that.
In order to appreciate the light, we must also experience the dark – and the dark can look different for each any every one of us.
Hi guys 🙂 So its been a little while since I posted and I apologise for my absence. ‘Real life’ has been kind of hectic and full on over the past couple of weeks – both physically and emotionally. I hope to get back into the swing of things over the next few weeks – writing does bring me calm and does help me to get some things out of my brain which makes it a much nicer place to live in 🙂
Meanwhile though, Naomi at Inching Forwards tagged me in this 73 questions thing that is currently doing the rounds on Twitter so I thought I would give it a go – I haven’t done one of these since they used to be all the rage on Facebook! Some of my answers have probably changed somewhat since then though…
I’ve tagged eleven wonderful bloggers and writers below, so be sure to check out their writing too! So, without further ado, lets get to those all important questions…
1. What is your usual Starbucks order? I don’t buy a lot of coffee from big chains, but I’m not really one for fancy coffees with lots of milk and cream. I tend to go for a black Americano – or if I need a bit of comfort, chai latte with oat milk
2. What does your workstation look like right now? Tidy! For once The in-laws were over for dinner last night and my desk is in the back room/dining room, so it needed a bit of a clear up.
3. All time favourite food? Oh crikey… this changes almost daily. I’m a huge fan of Kedgeree, although I don’t tend to stick to a recipe so it’s different every time Roast potatoes, gravy and mint sauce is also a winning combination any day…
4. Favourite author? There will be a theme in these answers, I don’t have a definite answer to anything I’m a big Murakami fan, but also Margaret Atwood, Tom Cox and Elizabeth Gilbert are very high on the list.
5. What do you think of open relationships? I think that they make a lot of sense and that to limit love to one person and/or expect someone to be your ‘everything’ is something that I struggle with. A polyamorous relationship is something that I would be open to, but I do think that it can leave all parties open to confusion and heartbreak if there is a lack of communication and honesty. It has to be something that everyone consents to. I’ve met guys before who have told me that they were poly – it’s just a shame that their wife or girlfriend wasn’t aware
6. What is your favourite video game? Mario Party, or Tetris…
7. Guilty pleasure treat? Food wise, Chinese takeaway and until recently, my guilty pleasure has been Pretty Little Liars, but I’ve finished it all now so need to find something else that my husband abhors! Mwahaha
8. Favourite movie? Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
9. Favourite book? A toughie… There is a very old book I have from the 70s called ‘The Little Girl who Lived Down The Lane’ by Laird Koenig. I read it when I was a teenager and although it’s set in America, it reminds me of a place I know very well in Cornwall. Its very dark and there was a movie made with Jodie Foster – but it’s nowhere near as good as the book.
Also, ‘The Visible World’ by Mark Slouka completely broke me when I read it. Its very, very beautiful. The type of writing that one dreams about being able to create.
10. Twitter or Instagram? Um… neither? Each platform does have its bonuses but I sometimes find social media in general to be just all too overwhelming. I do interact with people more on Twitter, which can be lovely but sometimes I just need a few days away from it all.
11. Desktop or laptop? I don’t think I really have a preference. Either is better that trying to type up a post or answers to 73 questions on a mobile phone
12. Best advice you’ve ever received? Speak the truth even when your voice shakes. Be proud of who you are and what you believe in.
13. What project are you working on right now? Project ‘get Naomi a new job’
14. Favourite colour? Green
15. Did you get good grades at school? Absolutely not. School was really hard, for a few reasons, but my last 18 months were severely affected and I only took English and Maths at GSCE. I have proven to myself as an adult that it wasn’t through lack of intelligence though – but it’s still frustrating sometimes.
16. Dream job? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Something where I can help people, whilst also being creative and able to write… I don’t know what that job is. I do have a dream of what I would like to ultimately do, but that would take a lottery win to get off the ground
17. Played any sports? shudders
Unless Yoga and Davina DVDs count?
18. Do you have a degree? I will do at some point! I’ve completed my first year with the OU but have taken a little break recently because of health reasons and the amount of time that I could(nt) commit to it.
19. Nationality? British. (Not African as some random in my DM’s was convinced of the other day…) 20. What is your favourite kind of blog post to do? They are the hardest, but definitely the more personal ones.
21. What do you like to collect? Glances over at groaning bookshelves Do all of those books count?
22. Describe yourself in three words Indecisive, empathic, introverted 23. If you were a rapper what would your rapper name be? I think this is the hardest question yet…
24. Who was the last person you DMed? On Twitter, the guy who blocked me after thinking I was African. Instagram, my best friend April and WhatsApp, my husband.
25. What’s on the top of your wish list right now? That hayfever season will end soon (from July mine gets better, I think it’s grass pollen related) that I get the job I really do want rand it’s as good as I hope it will be
26. Hogwarts house? Apparently I’m a Hufflepuff? Although I have never read Harry Potter and I’ve only watched the first two films with a running commentary from my best friends son…
27. How many tattoos do you have? None. I’ve been thinking of getting some temporary ones from inkbox though and seeing how I feel with them.
28. What are you most grateful for this year? My husband, my friends, my dog and my home. They all mean the absolute world to me
29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month? Finding the courage to quit my job. I should have done it months ago…
30. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today? Having some time after a crazy and very stressful week to have some time to myself. 31. What’s the best thing ever? The smell of my dogs fur when he comes in for a snuggle. Chilling out with my husband and sweet and salty popcorn – still hot. Getting to the top of a mountain and admiring the view, the bridge that takes you from England to Wales. My mums roast dinner…
32. Favourite season? Autumn
33. Favourite holiday? I’m with Naomi @InchingForwards on this one – the build up to Christmas is just magical.
34. Which fictional character do you relate to most? I think Clementine from Eternal Sunshine… although my hair is too dark to dye all of those wonderful colours! Or perhaps April Ludgate…
35. Do you like surprises? Not really. I tend to worry that my reaction will never be enough to show gratitude to the planning and consideration that someone has gone through… 36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had? My husband took me to Poland for my birthday a few years ago. I had no idea where we were going until we got to the check in desk – it was a truly wonderful surprise and was like going to a snow filled winter wonderland
37. What’s a surprise that made you cry? Finding out that my sister in law was pregnant and my little brother was going to be a Dad to the most amazing little boy
38. What’s the best surprise you’ve ever given anyone? I’m not one for springing huge surprises on people but I bought my husband an Angry Shiba soft cushion for his birthday this week, which he was definitely not expecting but that he loved 😊
39. Do you like muffins? Cake-y muffins are a bit much in one go for me. But savoury muffins are nice with a poached egg on top!
40. Do you cook often? Pretty much everyday – unless we are very tired and then we just eat pizza 😊.
41. What’s your favourite dessert? I haven’t got a huge sweet tooth – so either something sharp and citrusy, or a cheeseboard. Although saying that, if a treacle tart is on the menu I’d go for that!
42. Is there a dessert you don’t like? Double chocolate cake… anything really rich and sweet
43. Cake or pie? Pie – sweet is ok, but savoury if I had the choice.
(Sorry – the formatting went screwy here…)
44. What’s your least favourite food?
Anything really meaty – I’m not a vegetarian but I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of meat. Thick burgers, chicken packed stuff, any sort of offal-y type things, liver – yuk!
45. What’s your favourite condiment?
Salt. I’m a terror for it…
46. It’s 4am on a Saturday night, what would you eat?
Crisps… Or cheese.
47. If you could teach a college class what would it be called?
Hmm… it would be something about self-acceptance and
kindness / inclusivity towards ourselves and others.
48. Best animated film?
Beauty and The Beast (the original, not the Emma Watson one)
49. What has a guy done or said to impress you?
Been honest with me and consistently being there through the hard times as well as the great times.
50. Best thing to do on a first date?
Something chilled and informal – a nice walk followed by a
bite to eat perhaps.
51. Worst thing to do on a first date?
Be rude to the waiting staff. It’s a common answer I’m sure,
but observing how someone treats others gives you a good idea of their
personality in general.
52. What’s the funniest pick up line a guy could use on a girl?
Aren’t pick up lines all a it cheesy?
53. Best comic book character?
Does Morrigan count as a comic book character?
54. What are three things that are always in your purse?
My keys, tissues, a book
55. Favourite drink?
I like just plain water, or Australian red wine…
56. If you could play a historical character who would it be?
57. Kittens or puppies?
Puppies – I like cats, but I’m a dog fan through and through…
58. Favourite sushi roll?
I should eat more sushi, and pay attention to the names of
the ones I really like.
59. What kind of lipstick do you use?
I don’t really, usually just lip balm. But if I do then I
tend to go a bit dark and gothic…
60. What kind of foundation do you use?
Its one from The Body Shop
61. Blow dry or air dry?
I usually blow dry – only because my hair is quite thick and
heavy, so it needs a bit of uplift from the roots or it weighs itself down. I
am liking it curly, or naturally wavy whilst I’m off work though.
62. Who is your fashion icon?
Its always been Andrea Corr ❤
63. Favourite Disney character?
64. What are you doing tomorrow?
Making the most of our last official holiday day…
65. Movie you laughed the hardest through?
I find Will Ferrell pretty funny if I see him in things… but
I don’t tend to watch a lot of comedy.
66. Movie that made you cry?
Oh crikey… Beaches, Titanic, The Great Beyond, Never Let Me Go, Allied, Up, Hatchi: A Dogs Tale…. I usually cry at a lot
67. If you could sing a duet with someone who would it be?
Probably my best friend April ❤
68. If your life was a song what would the title be?
Kinda depends on the day… Right now Motion Sickness by Pheobe Bridgers seems very relatable.
I wrote this post a little while ago, and this morning I have shared it over on LinkedIn, because like my post yesterday it may be useful for employers to read if they are helping to support an employee with mental illness, or for anyone really to understand the complexities of dealing with mental ill health every day.
Also, I don’t use LinkedIn all that much so I don’t have a lot of connections on there and especially not with fellow writers 😦 If you want to send a friend request then please feel free and if you feel like sharing my post then I am happy to share one in return on Twitter or via a re-blog ❤
I have been a bit quiet and neglectful of both this blog and
my social media presence of late. I have had ideas about what to write and I’m
sure that those posts will make an appearance over the next few weeks, but this
one is perhaps like a bit of a stopgap.
I have been quiet because I haven’t been very well. My
depression and anxiety has been sneaking back in over the last couple of months
– at first I thought it was a blip, but it lasted, and was getting worse…
Last year I decided to come off of my medication – with the
help of my doctor. It was so that I could go onto a new medication that would
treat both my depression and my fibromyalgia. Anyway, once I was off of the old
one, I wanted to know what I was like without it – I had been taking this stuff
for 8 years. For months, I was fine – all throughout winter, this was a
success!! There were still hard days, but the nights were long, the mornings
dark and here I was being able to cope, to work, to socialise, to combat my
depressive thoughts with healthy behaviours…
Until I wasn’t any more.
It started off with a constant sense of being overwhelmed.
Now, I don’t have children, I don’t have anyone depending on me apart from my
dog (and my husband when he’s hungry), I work 23 hours a week, I have two days
off a week completely to myself. I have a therapist to talk to, I have
wonderful friends, a fantastic and very lovely husband… but everything, even
the smallest of things, was beginning to feel like it was too much.
I think something that people who haven’t suffered with
mental ill health struggle to realise, is that when the small things are hard –
the sleeping, the eating, the getting up and showered and dressed – everything
outside of that, seems insurmountable. These are things that other people take
for granted – going to work, going into town on your own for an appointment,
driving, getting public transport, planning things, deciding on things. And
then, then something happens out of the blue, something past the everyday
struggles, something past the tasks we have to do that feel insurmountable and
leave us exhausted, these are things on their own level – a family member gets
sick, your pet gets ill, work messes up your wages – and sometimes, all of
these three examples happen within the same week.
I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. All I wanted to do
was sleep. My concentration was fading fast – I couldn’t even find relaxation
in curling up with a book, I hated the thought that my depression was back and
so, still, I tried to push onwards. In therapy we were talking about bullying
and trauma, I was having intrusive thoughts, unwanted memories, feelings once
again of not being good enough, not clever enough, thin enough, smart enough,
adventurous enough, pretty enough, tough enough. I felt that I was letting everyone
down; my guilt was increasing by the day. I’d go to bed at night and think of
friends I had lost over the years, things I had said in arguments, and mistakes
I had made – which were long forgiven, by everyone but me. Holding conversations
was hard – trying to hear and focus over the voices in my head all talking over
each other and so I became quieter.
And the tears… I was crying at anything, if someone asked
me how I was, tears. If there was an advert with a doe-eyed animal on, tears.
If my brother sent me a picture of my beautiful baby nephew, tears. If I just
so much as thought of someone, in a
situation where they were being taken advantage of, or deceived -this is a very
strange kind of intrusive thought I have which proves quite hard to explain,
but yes, tears nonetheless. My mother’s voice on the phone, tears. The smell of
my dogs fur, tears. My beautiful friend April doing a tarot card reading for
me, after two cards, tears…
And when I cry, my words dry up. So I couldn’t tell anyone
any of the thoughts that were jumbled and overwhelming. They all felt
ridiculous to me anyway -my depression was hissing at me to not be such a baby,
to think of others that have it worse and realise how lucky I was.
I am meaner and harsher to myself than I would ever, ever be
to anyone else.
But it was all too much, all of it. I have self-harmed
before, over a long period of time, but I was even past the point of that.
Suicidal thoughts were becoming more and more frequent – there was a massive,
overriding part of me that knew this could get better and that knew I couldn’t
do that to my husband, or my friends, or my parents and family. But the
thoughts were still there, the need to just stop everything and drift away, was
still there. I felt that eventually, they would be better off without me, but
then I would remember small things – my husband’s laugh, or how he sings along
to whatever music is playing when he’s doing the dishwasher. I would think of
my friends – brave, inspiring and something I never thought I’d be lucky enough
to have. I’d think of visiting my parents and my Dad giving me some whisky as
we settle down to watch some TV, or my mum waking me up with a coffee in the
morning. My nephew, how proud I was of my brother and his wife. How the wind
feels on autumnal days, when that first bite of winters chill is in the air. I
thought of the sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen, I’d remember how everything is
cyclical, that pain and grief comes but it also goes and that’s when joy and
gratitude come to take its place. These thoughts would keep me going until I
slept, or until my husband came home from work. Just a few more thoughts, just
wait it out a bit longer…
But it wasn’t sustainable; I was scared of my own mind and
my own thoughts. This blip wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to go back to my
doctor and immediately he put me back onto the anti-depressants that I had
worked so hard to get off of 8 months previously, I was gutted.
There is no shame in taking medication and I know that if it
was anyone else, I would comfort them with the things we hear all the time
about taking medication for mental health issues; I’d tell them it was ok, that
sometimes we just need that helping hand and that depression is a chemical
imbalance and the medication helps to get things back on track, but I’m not so
great at turning that kindness inwards. Eleven days later and I know that it
was the right decision, aside from the initial side effects, my general mood
has improved – the depression is still there,
it just feels very numbed down. I am aware that I haven’t cried in eleven days,
which having cried so much beforehand is a very strange sensation. I’ve been
close, but it’s like the tears are just out of reach right now, even if at
times they would be a relief.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
It’s not for sympathy – I know some really lovely people
read my posts and I am very grateful for words of comfort ❤ However, it is
more for awareness. For the people who don’t
know what depression feels like; for employers, parents, friends, spouses,
siblings, work colleagues…
When someone has depression it can be very hard to know what they are going through because it can be very hard for them to try and explain it. For example, the word ‘suicide’ makes people panic, but just because we have those thoughts, doesn’t mean we have any plans or even a real desire to carry it out. However, the thoughts and idealisation are a symptom of being depressed and they can be unwanted and distressing. People with depression can very often feel overwhelmed by the smallest of things and they may suffer with disassociation – which, I’m sure is the minds way of trying to protect itself, but again it can be very unnerving and distressing.
I know that when I’m depressed, I’m very quiet – but this
does not mean my mind is. My thoughts are going too fast, getting too jumbled,
being too loud, contradicting themselves. With all of that going on inside my
head it becomes very hard to determine what
one thing is wrong – what do I tell
you, when even to me it makes no sense? When I have the logical answer but the
illogical thoughts are so loud that they drown it out?
Seeking help – even when we know it’s the right thing, can
be incredibly hard for a number of reasons. It can be hard on the very basic
level of getting a doctor’s appointment, but it can also be hard because we
know that once we are in the consulting room, we need to talk and that can
sometimes be a challenge in itself. We have to face up to what is happening,
and this may mean going onto medication or taking time off of work which may
impact on finances and career aspirations. Guilt is also a massive factor when
it comes to depression; I have always pushed on because I don’t want to let anyone down, whilst neglecting my needs in the
process. If you are an employer and a member of staff has called in sick with
depression – please, acknowledge that this was probably incredibly hard for
them to do.
There is a lot we don’t say, a lot you don’t see because we
feel that keeping it hidden will save others the discomfort – but depression
isn’t just a case of feeling sad. It
is a whole myriad of emotions, of symptoms and of discomfort. Its complex, and
its different for everyone – we rarely understand it ourselves and yet people
so often want answers from us.
But this is also how depression works – it isolates us, it
whispers in our ear that no-one really cares, that others have it worse, that
if we tell people the truth we will push them away. Depression lies – but it’s
So, if you know someone who is depressed, in the words of Stephen Fry – ‘please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through.’ – Because we don’t want you to fix us, scold us, push us or protect us from ourselves, we just want you to be there, and accept us.
Because knowing that you are there, without judgement, is perhaps the most helpful thing of all.
Zero Suicide Alliance – A free online course which takes all of about 20 minutes which offers some useful knowledge that will help if you think someone is suicidal or if someone confides in you that they are having suicidal thoughts.
Mind & Blurt – Two really great mental health charities offering great advice and support – for those suffering from depression and also for those who help support us ❤
Thank you for reading
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This is the first writing of mine that I have shared on Elephant Journal 🐘 But it is something that I have wanted to do for years! I’d really appreciate it if you could click through and have a read, I’d really love this one to do well 🧡
Back in 2016, I was pretty good at exercising. I would do a good Davina or Jillian Michaels workout most days, eat well and also walk from the bus stop to where I worked at the time, which was uphill. I lost a little bit of weight, but mostly just toned up and got fitter. I didn’t do the whole diet thing; I just ate reasonably healthy and let my body take care of the rest…
And then that slipped a little. I’m not even really sure when, but I suspect I probably got out of routine when I changed jobs and then it was harder to get back into it. Also, in 2018 my health took a bit of a downward slide with depression making an unwelcome reappearance and the onset of Fibromyalgia.
I never really saw my workouts as a ‘chore’ though – sure,
initially when the alarm goes off an hour earlier than usual, it’s never easy
to drag yourself out from under the comfort of the duvet and haul yourself
towards the television and a frustratingly perma-chirpy TV presenter or fitness
guru. But, I knew that the benefits outweighed these moments of frustration, that
once I got into it and could feel my body moving and working then it would feel
good – I also knew how I looked in a bikini (both pre and post exercise) and
that was a good motivator.
However, last year I struggled. I know that exercise has wonderful and proven benefits when it comes to mental health – but I was back in that place of being too poorly for it to have any real effect. I would force myself through a workout and feel marginally better for a few hours, only to feel exhausted and in pain the following day. I was pushing myself too hard because I wanted to see results, but I was pushing myself too hard and therefore making the work I was doing pointless because I couldn’t be consistent with it.
I had to accept that things had changed since 2016, I had changed, and I wasn’t going to get any better by constantly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and then beating myself up mentally when I struggled.
Christmas came and went and the culture that comes with new-year diets and banishing the Christmas excess didn’t pass me by. I once again tried the regular exercise – bought the new Davina DVD and I did manage it a fair amount – but still, I was so tired. My days of not seeing exercise as a chore seemed long gone, I spent literally hours on my days off trying to talk myself out of bed, I bribed myself with episodes of my favourite TV shows, with the promise of a nice hot bath afterwards, with food – healthy food, usually, but food nonetheless.
My heart wasn’t in it. I was working out because I was
worried about gaining weight, not because I wanted my body to be at its full
potential and not because I was feeling any better with my mental health –
either pre or post-exercise. I soldiered on but it was painful more often than
not and my ‘rest days’ became more frequent, partially out of necessity but
also partially because I didn’t want to do it.
But I knew that I was gaining weight and I knew also that my
diet wasn’t helping. I enjoy cooking and we tend to eat reasonably healthy –
but we were having takeaways most weekends and definitely not getting our full
quota of fresh fruit and veg on any other day. My fluids came from black coffee
and red wine… nothing was terrible, but it wasn’t great either.
Then I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen since Christmas and he made an idle comment along the lines of ‘you look well’ – and that I had put on a little bit of weight. He meant no harm by it, but I was devastated. I have written quite candidly about my battles with my body image here and whilst I kind of knew I wasn’t as small as I previously had been, I didn’t feel that it was all that noticeable. My mental health spiralled over the following few weeks, my inner critical voice got louder and my relationship with food began to suffer. It wasn’t all based upon his comment, but it felt like a wakeup call.
I was back, desperately trying to will myself into daily exercises – and it was torture. I cried to my husband about it, I had moments of panic – deep down I knew it was my mental health playing up, but I also knew that there was some truth behind it and the frustration of not having the energy to exercise and the knowledge of the intense pain that would follow was not making things any easier…
And then I remembered that last year I had seen something on
Amazon about yoga for weight loss. I think I had done a half an hour exercise
session and found it quite hard, but yoga was surely going to be easier than
forcing myself through an hour of cardio, right? (Hahahaha we can laugh now!!)
I had a little look and found a 30 Day Yoga Fitness challenge, for beginners…
So I started it.
That was nearly a month ago. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m
on day 22) because I have interspersed it with some Davina when I feel like I
want something a little more high intensity (Yes, really!) but, apart from last
Friday which was a really hard mental health day, I have consistently worked
out for almost a month.
And it is hard – yoga is really hard. There are poses that the instructor, Julia, does where I rest back on my heels and watch her with both awe and disbelief! There are poses that I cannot get into (yet), there are poses that I can hold for just a few seconds or yoga HIIT flow workouts where I have to break from Downward Dog or Chaturanga and slip back down into Childs Pose and catch my breath – but, I am doing it, and I am doing it consistently. On the days where I work, my alarm goes off at 05.30 and I haven’t once skipped it, on the days where I don’t work I do it before I shower – I know, it’s only half an hour before I can get into delightful Shavasana and I also know that I do not have to push myself, and that makes a huge difference.
I do not have to push myself because some of this stuff is really, really hard. Sure, Julia makes it look easy – but I’m pretty sure her body is made of silk. She has been doing this for y e a r s, I have been doing it since three weeks ago, there is a huge difference! But I can already feel the changes within my body; I can already feel how my body responds when I push it ever so slightly past its comfort zone and how I have improved with holding certain poses or how my breath is easier to control when I time it with my movement. I’m seeing definition come back on my upper arms and I am getting my waist back.
I have also realised that on days where I wake up and my joints ache – stretching them does ease the pain. If my fibro is bad, I’m not going to hurl myself into a HIIT workout and try and hold poses that even the me from three years ago would struggle with, but I will do something and it does help. I have written about Fibromyalgia and how sometimes although it is most definitely there I feel like a fraud because it is not as bad as I imagine other peoples pain to be – and that may be true – I’m not saying that yoga is a wonderful cure for Fibromyalgia, but it has been proven that moderate exercise can help with some of the symptoms and I can honestly say that it has helped with mine over the past few weeks.
It’s not just the yoga though – it’s the learning how to take care of my body again. I’m not going to put myself through half an hour of twisting and contorting myself and then ruin it by eating a burger, or crisps, I’m going to nourish my body so that my muscles and soft tissue can restore itself. I’m not going to do any form of exercise without hydrating, so I am also drinking plenty of water and herbal tea whilst trying to limit both my caffeine and alcohol intake. One thing feeds into another and yesterday I did start to notice that I am looking a little slimmer.
I sometimes feel that I will always be at war with my body. I have a lot of issues with my mental health that I am starting to address properly – a lot of dealing with past traumas and a lot of growth and recovery needs to take place. But I cannot do any of that with a broken and tired body, or one that I constantly berate. Doing this yoga course has taught me that yes, moving my body is great and beneficial – but we also need to listen to our bodies and allow them to rest and recover – but that doesn’t mean stopping altogether.
We also need to nourish them and recognise that physical fitness isn’t just about our physical form – it is so closely linked to our brains and how we think about things and view ourselves. The most rewarding thing about my daily practice is when I can lie back into Shavasana, legs and arms slightly parted and just listen to Julia talk – it’s only for about 90 seconds, but it is one of the most relaxing moments of my day. It teaches me to be still, it teaches me to listen and be grateful not only for the fact I have done this practice but that I have a body that is able to.
I haven’t mastered a lot of the poses – my co-ordination and balance leave a fair amount to be desired, but when I finish these first 30 days, I’m just going to go back and start again, and then probably again, and maybe even again. Because yoga isn’t a short term ‘fix’ – it is a way of moving our bodies to the point where we feel comfortable and then a little more each time. It’s about acceptance and forgiveness and compromise and being able to say to ourselves ‘that’s not perfect, but it’s the best you can do today, and I am truly grateful for that’.
And that gratitude, that love and compassion that we begin
to show ourselves – that is perhaps the most important lesson of all.
You can check out Julia’s 30 Day Yoga for Weight Loss here 🙂
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