The big D*. *not that one
I haven’t quite figured out how or why but every year, at around this time, my mental health decides to fall to pieces. This time of year was the setting for my catastrophic breakdown three years ago and reflecting back, this does seem to be a recurring theme. I haven’t decided whether it’s the pressure of the Social Festive Season or tied in with the PMDD or just old, unresolved issues at a time of year solely focused on family. Dunno. I’ve only just realised after 33 years that this is such a recurring theme.
By Friday, last week, I was at the end of my tether and couldn’t see a way out that would come quickly enough to help me reset myself. I was on a train to London after a full (and horrifically busy) week at work, eventing during the evenings and, of course, my PGDE. I wouldn’t be home until after midnight with another busy weekend planned, an assignment due and the busiest week of term flying up. Exam season is always my favourite season…
Instead of suffering in silence, I made the very difficult decision to reach out for help and the response was astounding, if unexpected. To those of you that did reach out to me, welllllll… You exceeded yourself. From Himalayan Bath Salts delivered to the door to confidence boosting (or downright hilarious) memes to quick messages checking in with me every morning to bunches of flowers; I have been astonished by your kindness and generosity. Each and every one of you has made me feel slightly less alone and these new friendships I am developing with people who are, incredibly, just like me (unlucky) are soul affirming. As old doors close and I find myself crying and beating my hands against them, new doors appear from nowhere like a Narnian fantasy and change the paths available for me to walk along.
So, what did I do to tackle this sudden onset bout of depression?
1. Reach out.
I very publicly (and terrifyingly) reached out to people and explained exactly how I was feeling without using the D word. Depression. Not Dick. Although I can see why you would be confused. This can be a double edged sword that can be very sharp. The friends you want to reach out, maybe they won’t. I totally get it. It’s difficult enough for me to manage my mental health on a day to day basis. I don’t expect you to want to. On the other hand, this is a part of being friends with me. I have mental health issues, always have had and always will have. If you can’t handle me at my worst, blahdiblahdiblah.
People you don’t even realise know you will reach out, and they will fill your heart with joy. And the people that impacted me the most this weekend? The people I have known forever, who I might not speak to every day but who understand me inside and out.
I do not spend enough time and energy focusing on our friendships and I guess I have taken them for granted for all of these years. I pledge to try not to do that anymore and to focus on you as you have focused on me this weekend. Your messages have made me cry tears of relief and happiness. Knowing that you understand me without judgement, without reciprocity, without the rolling of your eyes makes me feel safe and secure in this crazy world. Thank you.
2. Cancel everything.
No, you don’t need to do a meal plan and food shopping at peak shopping times at the weekend. No you don’t need to make those Christmas muffins you talked about yesterday. No, you don’t need to clean the house from top to bottom. Sack. It. All. Off.
I’ve caught up on Doctor Who, finished the first draft of my assignment, watched The Snowman and The Snowman and the Snowdog, The Grinch, Ocean’s 11 (Hubs has never seen an Ocean’s film, a fact I learned half way through the Feminist masterpiece that is Ocean’s 8 when I wanted to stab him in the eyes because he couldn’t grasp the concept of what was happening), Ocean’s 12, I’m a Celeb and probably lots of other stuff. I’ve watched all of this from a nest on the sofa made of quilts and blankets and a weighted dog. With Hubs. And chocolate. Everything else can wait. It can.
3. Go outside.
A forty minute dog walk turned into a three hour trek to a country pub for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Get outside, get walking and blast out whatever feelings are making you feel like shit.
I started our walk yesterday in tears and snappy and after a couple of hours, I felt more like me and less like The Grinch. Hubs even made me laugh a few times. Don’t get me wrong, the sensory overload of socialising in pubs near people was a bit much but it was worth it for good, comforting, soul nourishing food, friends laughing and fresh air.
And no, I didn’t wash my hair. That is literally what hats are for.
4. Do what you love.
We’ve made sausage rolls, mince pies and lemon curd this afternoon. We ordered Chinese last night to make me feel better. We ordered so much, that we’ll be having that for dinner again tonight.
And at some point this evening, and whether he likes it or not, Hubs is going to give me a massage and try to relieve the constant pain in my back and hip. I’ll have a hot bath, complete with Himalayan Bath Salts dropped off by a wonderful friend, topped off with a hot chocolate and cream and marshmallows. The tiny ones that get everywhere.
I’ll watch I’m a Celeb and relish in the mind-numbing monotony of mass-produced “reality” TV. Then, I will go to bed, at an appropriate hour without spending six hours scrolling through bollocks on my phone, Yes, that will also be on its way out this festive season.
And that’s that. I feel slightly less overwhelmed than I did on Friday. Not great, pretty meh to be honest, but not as though I am falling apart at the seams. And everything I’ve mentioned above will be flowing into next week too. I will be cancelling anything I have organised (sorry!) to focus on building my resilience back up. I will be asking for help and Hubs will be on early morning dog walking duty. I will be leaving work on time and not working on my days off.
And please remember... Sharing a status about your door always being open for anybody who needs you is easy to do. Supporting your friends when they reach out for help is more difficult and time consuming. It's not always possible for somebody who is struggling to reach out to you. If they do, please do not ignore them. That might have been the last ounce of strength they had and they used it on reaching out to you. Even more so during this Festive Season, think about those friends who find socialising difficult, those who are grieving lost family members or relationships, those without families, those on their own. And reach out to them. A smile, a kind word, a conversation can be the difference between being unable to go on and starting the next day afresh.
I will be focusing on my mental health and on being healthy and happy for the Festive Season. And coddiwompling. There will be so much coddiwompling.