For the past few months, I have been away. Not anywhere exciting, or abroad, but deep inside my mind. I’ve taken a trip into depression & I wouldn’t even give it one star on Trip Advisor.
I spoke in my Project Happiness post about feeling like I was on the brink of the abyss of depression & about mother’s guilt in this post & the two of these conspired against me & won. In May, the father of one of our friends died tragically in a car accident & in July, the beloved little brother of one of my best friends died suddenly. There is something so raw about staring down the barrel of mortality that affects us all in different ways. One of these made me question how I would cope with the death of a parent & the other made me consider how I would feel about the death of Little T. With hindsight, that sounds very selfish & – I admit – that worrying about my own life when others’ were falling apart was quite selfish, but also I made an effort to be available to those who were grieving.
For a long time I’d been accutely aware that things were not ok, but I felt like as long as I didn’t admit that, I could fool myself – & everyone else – that they were. I felt like I had been struggling to cope with the juggling of everyday life; the plate-spinning that being a mother, an employee, a wife, a daughter & a friend had become a constant struggle & maintaining my breezy, happy attitude had become draining. The funeral in July was the catalyst to things going wrong….
I got into bed & cried after the funeral & pretty much stayed there for a week. If I wasn’t crying I was sleeping & if I wasn’t sleeping I was crying. Mr T did a sterling job of holding fort & looking after the entire house to keep things ticking over & taking Little T off my hands when things became too much.
When Robin Williams committed suicide, I realised I understood & could relate to the thought that people around you might be better off without you. I hadn’t considered taking my own life, but had wondered if I could just disappear & take the burden off those who I loved. I realised then that I needed help.
The pivotal point came when I started counselling. No one had ever mentioned counselling before. Previous visits to the GP had resulted in an offer for anti-depressants & not much else. Those who know me would say I’m a big talker & the opportunity to talk to someone who would have to listen because they were being paid to seemed appealing. Telling a total stranger my inner-most thoughts seemed less-so, but I knew something had to change to make me feel better & move on with my recovery.
With trepidation, I approached the building for my first session & met my counsellor for the first time. She immediately put me at ease & we discussed what I hoped to get out of the sessions. I cried. A lot.
Identifying the things I do that are ‘unhelpful’ to myself was very insightful, as there were lots!
- I tend to set very high standards for myself & then feel like I’m a disappointed & like I’ve let others around me down if I don’t get there. I often do this with weight-loss a lot & aim to loose half my bodyweight in a month, only to feel – quite literally – like a big fat failure if I don’t achieve it.
- I have a mental filter, which blocks out anything good & I tend to notice only the gloomy & bad, which makes things more gloomy & bad.
- The best word I have learned in this journey of discovery has been ‘catastrophize’ – both because it’s very satisfying to say & also because I tend to do it quite often. When I am feeling down, I can fast-forward any situation & see the worst case scenario ending as an almost certainty.
- I am sure many people are guilty of this one, but I choose to ‘compare & despair’ my life with others’, but often only see the positives & not the negatives. My best friend’s husband runs his own business, so she has not had to return to work after having her babies. When I look at this at face value, I see only this: she is not at work & I am. The reality is that he often leaves the house at 5.30 & isn’t home until after the children are in bed & also has the added stresses that come with being an employer, rather than an employee.
- I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my ‘inside voice’. She is an absolute bitch & makes me think things about myself I would never dream of saying to another person, especially not a friend. This puzzles me; why can’t I treat myself like a friend? I recently went out for a night with friends & before I’d even left the house, my inner bitch had given me such a complex about the way I looked that I considered jumping back in to bed & not going anywhere.
- I often think I know what people around me are thinking about me (& – needless to say – it’s not good). This has a similar effect to my inside voice.
It’s bloody hard work & I asked my counsellor recently if I’d just taken anti-depressants, would I feel better by now. This may sound a bit lazy, but it can be exhausting constantly trying to dig myself out of the fog & if I’m feeling like curling up under the duvet & forgetting all about the world, actually not doing that is a massive pull against what every fibre in my body is telling me to do.
One of the most useful things I have been training myself to do (& I’ve found that this is definitely the trick; training myself to recognise these unhelpful things & act on them) is to ask how I would advise someone else if they were in this position. I’d like to think I give good advice to others, yet the advice I give to myself is so often things like ‘get a grip’ or ‘snap out of it’. I need to find a way of being kinder to myself somehow, & I’m slowly getting there.
I stopped blogging in much the same way as I stopped answering my phone to my friends: I didn’t think that what I had to say warranted anyone’s attention. That may be the case – & maybe no one will read this – but it also makes me feel better to get my feelings out & not bottle them up, so here I am.
The next step will be trying to identify these behaviours before they take control of me & disarming them before they can do any damage. I now believe I’ll get there, which is a big step……