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I have been having a bit of a nightmare recently. Where I don’t feel like I have anything to say. It doesn’t sound too problematic to most people, but when you are used to expressing yourself in a therapeutic way, it really becomes suffocating. I have previously found that anonymity of writing things online, without it effectively anything in my personal life. Recently though, I have been finding that more and more things are getting back to people, who are getting offended that I don’t want to talk to them about my problems. And this means that I don’t write down or say anything, because I feel guilty that I can’t simply phone someone up and explain away my feelings. I wish that would work, but it doesn’t for me.

As a result, I have been hesitant on what I write down in personal and public journals. And it has been awful. I feel so much more stressed than I had been, when writing regularly. This could be just a coincidence, with me getting phased on anti-depressants at the same time I found it difficult to write about things, but it feels more significant than that. I think that it hurts that the one thing that provided me with some relief with my mental health issues is now triggering the same issues that I would write about.

My anxiety gets triggered by a lot, but feeling guilty is a major one. A lot of the time the guilt is about something that has nothing to actually do with me, personally. I always worry that someone has taken offense to what I have said, and it really stresses me out. I have panic attacks, which are very messy and full of tears. I will dwell on things for days. If someone speaks to me harshly, then I assume it is something I have done wrong, so I panic over it. Someone can say something to me that they will forget within 10 minutes, but I will stress over it for days. It’s frustrating because, logically, there is nothing for me to be concerned about, but logic doesn’t seem to be a factor when anxiety takes hold.

I remember when I first started having mental health issues, when I was a teenager, and everything was just brushed off. I lost count in the amount of times that I was told to ‘grow up’, something that stuck with me for a long time. Like, this big, dark cloud that I was dealing with, was just me being immature. It wasn’t, but by the time I realised this, had stopped turning to people, as I was obviously a burden. I fear judgement and guilt from turning to other people, something that is a massive part of my anxiety. And now, the same people who told me to ‘grow up’ all those years ago, want me to talk to them?

It is difficult, and people should always be mindful in how they act towards others. Just because something doesn’t effect you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect other people.

Distraction

After a crappy few days, there is nothing better than focusing yourself on a task to help calm any bad feeling you may have. It is one of those things that seems impossible to do at times. I guess the important thing is not to force yourself to do something, especially if it is something that you may enjoy. Because forcing yourself on something you actually like, may take the joy away. It is supposed to be a respite for you, not simply another thing to give you anxiety.

I know, with myself, when I have a ‘bad turn’, I usually have to ride it out. I always try to do something, but if I am not in the right frame of mind, then nothing will help. I can easily sit and stare at the same page of a book for an hour, or zone out and miss 2/3 episodes of a TV show. These things that are normally relaxing for me, don’t seem to have the desired effect. There was a time, when I was younger, I actually thought my ‘zoning out’ was simply another thing that made me broken. Because for a long time, that is what I thought of myself. An unfuctioning, broken person. It has taken years of work to realise that I needed to give myself a bit of a break. Being harsh on yourself for having shit mental health, just makes your mental health worse. It is a vicious circle.

When I realised this, I started giving myself a time scale. For example, still staring at the same book page after 15 minutes, close the book and give it a rest. It became a rule that I followed, something I had to train myself to do. Because, if I didn’t, I would do nothing, and then feel bad because I had done nothing. I think that is the hardest thing about trying to self-manage your mental health. You should be strict enough with yourself that you push yourself forward, but you don’t want to be too strict and send yourself backwards. It is hard, and something it has taken me many years to try and get better at. But, I am getting there slowly.

What can be a distraction? Well, anything really. Here is a wee list of things that I use to help me feel a bit better.

Go for a walk- This could be anywhere. Luckily we have a lot of coastal walks around where I live, and I find the smell of the sea air quite relaxing. No matter where it is, a walk is something that gives you the good feeling of exercise. You may go to the park, walk to the shops, walk to a friends or even just walk round the block. I love walking, as it always has the ability of helping me de-stress.

Listen to music- Music can be great. It is a good way to block the world out, which is good if that is what is giving you anxiety. I have a variety of music tastes, and one day I’ll be listening to Pantera, the next Steps, and then some Faithless. Because different things can trigger my anxiety, different music can ease it. Unfortunately, I have a habit of leaving my iPod (with my full music collection) at home, but that is where iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music come in handy. Every few weeks I make a new playlist. I pick a range of songs, from all different genres. It means, I can have the playlist saved to my phone, have music that is for my mood (whatever that may be), and it doesn’t take up all my phone’s memory.

Watch a TV show- This is hit and miss with me. I don’t have a lot of patience to sit and watch a TV show a lot of the time. But when I am in the mood, I can sit for several hours with the same program. The main services I use are Netflix and Crunchyroll. Again, I have a variety of shows that I am working through. So I can put on The Big Bang Theory when I need background noise, Pretty Little Liars when I want to sit and focus on something longer than 25 minutes or Naruto because I LOVE NARUTO. This again, is because my mood is never the same 2 days in a row, so I like variety.

Watch Youtube- I am addicted to youtube. It is the app I go on to when I am getting ready for bed. I love the variety. I love the variety of content that I can find on there. Watching some daily vlogs do inspire me sometimes, by seeing how motivated other people are, it kind of motivates me. I also like retro gaming, tech stuff (mostly mobiles and computers) and anime (Naruto) commentaries. The good thing is with youtube, especially on the most frequent app updates, you can click one video, and it will automatically set a playlist with similar videos, that it plays automatically. It never fails to cheer me up.

Draw something- I used to be better at this, than what I am now. Nothing I do, ever, compares to how drawing and painting makes me feel. Because of the lack of practice I do, the quality is kind of crappy, but that doesn’t even really matter to me. Whether the cat I drew, looks like a cat, doesn’t matter. I have bought myself these colouring books (the colouring for grown-ups, ones), and as much as I do enjoy them, they aren’t the same as doodling my own wee pattern, and colouring that in. My sketchbook is a mess, but it is mine, and sometimes I can look back and see progress in myself, in how I feel. Which is nice.

As I have said before though, you can do almost anything to distract yourself if you are struggling with mental health. But, do remember not to force yourself to do anything, give it a go, but if you can’t focus, stop. These things are usually so good at being distractions, because you enjoy doing them.

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Mental health is hard. If you are really struggling, you can visit your GP for help. I have found both Breathing Space  and Samaritans to be very helpful. You are never alone as what you feel, and there are so many people out there to help. 

Blue Monday?

It’s supposed to be the most depressing day of the year today. I don’t really understand the idea of dubbing a random day ‘the most depressing’.

I have been reading a lot about mindfulness and how most of what we feel is based on perceptions. So we assume things will be bad, because of the angle we are looking at it. I feel that is what happens when someone tells you a day is supposed to be depressing. You get into that mindset, and there is no getting away from it.

I’ll give you an example. I have been wanting a car, since I passed my driving test in November. I have now been 2 months since I passed my test, and because I haven’t been at a driving wheel since I had a melt down. Now, since I passed, I made the choice that I’d wait till I saved up money, and get the right car. But I made the mistake of reading all these negative articles about ‘Blue Monday’ as I ate my cereal this morning. Because I have so many issues with my mental health, I always think I am prone to these periods where depression runs high.

I was going to get a lift to the gym this morning, but my sister was taking her time, and a bus was due. So me being me, I left and went for the bus. All good so far. But then I started thinking about how at 18 she was offered to share a car with my dad. My brother was that age when he was gifted a car. And i couldn’t even get someone to come and look at cars with me. I started freaking out. What if I forget how to drive? What if I get in a car and freak out? What if I am never able to get a car? I got so worked up, I was sobbing at the back of the bus.

I stayed on the bus, despite just wanting to go home, and went to the gym as planned. I then sweated all the negativity out of my system, and I now feel better.

I feel I got so upset by reading all these articles about how people more successful than me felt low today. I mean, the whole idea of Blue Monday, is because people are waiting for the first payday after Christmas. That doesn’t apply to me, as I get paid weekly, but it didn’t stop the bad feeling. And I think by digesting all this writing about why I should be sad, I over-reacted to something completely different.

I have been reading The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein, and it is a book about changing your mindset. Putting trust in the universe and stop worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet. The book tries to explain that by thinking in ‘love’ rather than ‘fear’, we can transform our lives. It sounds really silly, but this is revolutionary to me. It got me thinking how negativity does effect my day, and my life. I am trying to do the lessons that are in the books, but it is hard. Like everything, new habits need to be formed to make a difference.

Maybe the first habit I need to break from, is sensationalist articles on social media, trying to tell me how I should feel. Focus on the feel-good. Try a bit of positive mental attitude.