After thinking about it for years I decided to take matters into my own hands for my mental health and I am using this blog a little to actually go totally and utterly public about it. Those of you who know me may or not be a little shocked to know that I have been taking counselling for a little over a year now on and off, allow me to elaborate.
I have for years felt what I think is depression on and off, bare in mind that I have never been clinically diagnosed with depression, I thought I should at some point get it checked out but I don’t really like to take drugs (of any sort) so I did not explore this avenue. My depression is triggered by an abundance of things, mostly because I generally have a very low opinion of myself (it’s got better but still exists) which goes really far back into my history I will write more on this one day but I want this to be about the healing process which I sometimes believe has started. I find writing about my mental state very therapeutic and the more I admit to what I have felt in the past and what I feel now the more it reminds me of how much has changed. Metal health is a serious issue in most businesses and a lot of it goes undetected so I am hoping that no mater who you are or what you do this tells you that you can get help, you just have to want to get it.
I can only describe my depression as a very dark place, a place where there is no light and no exit. The feeling can last for days and make me hide away from people which does nothing for my relationships. I don’t feel like eating, seeing anyone, talking and all I can seem to do is think and try and pull myself out of it somehow. At the time it feels like nobody can help and even if they could I will find it hard to let them in far enough to allow them to do so. I have found a few things that help me to get out of it, they don’t always work but they have in the past.
Writing from the heart
What I mean by this is almost writing without thinking just letting whatever come into your head appear on paper no matter how chaotic the thoughts are. This is not easy for me to do because I want to be able to write stuff down and make sense out of it days later or write it so that other people can understand it. Despite being this methodical in my thinking it takes a lot for me to just let go of all of that. If it is not possible to do that I still try to write anyway, I have done for years, writing down my current thoughts helps me process them easier and even reflect upon them, at times this feels like trying to unravel spaghetti with boxing gloves on. Thoughts twist and turn escape me easily if I don’t get to them quick enough. I can find it hard to focus on one thing, it’s like the noise in my brain is blocking out rational thought to be replaced by a chastising, disappointed and angry voice that makes me doubt everything I am doing or have ever done the writing helps to make this noise quieter, I think because I am slowly laying out the chaos in my head onto paper or into a computer.
Change your environment
Although it’s always really difficult for me to break out of this mode of thought when I get into it I find that if I change my environment it helps a lot. I don’t mean tidy your room or something no I mean get out, go to a park, a forest, a library, a pub, go somewhere, almost anywhere will do. I believe I do some of my best writing I find away from my room, I have written on trains, in woods, in pubs, in coffee shops just me and some music and either a laptop or pad and pen. I find it best if I cannot access the internet as I can get easily distracted but even just being in these places eases my depression, more so if I can be closer to nature.
This usually takes the form of cycling or swimming, nothing competitive just some solitary time with my thoughts on a bike or in a pool to see if I can turn the anger into physical exertion or the act of exercising in solitary gives my head time to calm down. A good hours swim or 30km bike ride does wonders for my head when it is in that state and just feels like the world is collapsing in on me. Of course exercise relies upon me being able to get up and out of the house in the first place which is usually where the biggest effort is needed. Once I am outside or in the pool the rest comes naturally and I finish feeling better and usually reflective.
Dancing & Music
Okay you could also class this under exercise, especially when I go out dancing I think I loose a few litres of sweat. Again this does involve going outside and heading to a club but for me this is a really good thing to do. For me the dancing doesn’t really conform to any particular style, as long as it’s energetic, bouncy, somewhat fun and you don’t care if people look at you funny.
Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth. – Mark Twain
In the moments when I am either coming away from depression or trying to shake the beast off my back so to speak I take this to a literal form and will happily go to a club and jump around like a lunatic until I just physically can’t anymore and want to collapse in a heap.
So that’s a few suggestions from me, now I will tell you that it didn’t take me years to admit I need help. No for me that step was simple; for me the main delay was actually going to get help. Year after year I said I would and then never do anything about it. I feel sure if I had not already admitted that I could not handle this alone then I would be in a much worse place mentally than I am now. Over the past year I have actually been able to tell people that I am having counselling and not feel shame over it, having that non-objective view to help rationalise my thoughts is worth every penny I pay for it. So how did I find help? Well first of all I got in touch with Mind a charity that focuses on mental health issues. I asked them about some free counselling sessions, I went on a waiting list and eventually someone was able to see me. I remember the day I was supposed to see them and being really nervous, I had no idea what might happen, what I might say, what they might say, if they could help and if they can how do we get from where I am to where I think I should be. The first meeting was intense it felt like I had undone the tap on the link and the emotions were spouting from me uncontrollably and I have no idea how they kept up or made sense of it all but I remember leaving there feeling drained, fragile, weak and in need of solace. After a few days of reflection I had no idea how I was going to cope if it was going to be like this every time. One of my greatest fears is not being able to cope with that and every day life and somehow not snap. At the time I felt so close to not being able to cope if I uncovered things that I was not ready to tackle, I’m glad to say this did not happen. Weeks past and I kept going, five or so weeks in I had to cancel going because I had moved and had changed job both of which made it hard to attend the afternoon session but I vowed to find a way to pick it back up. A few months passed and I got in touch with my new local GP to see if they could help, again I went on a waiting list and finally ended up seeing someone. There was something about the second counsellor that just did not work, maybe it’s just something as simple as he was a man and my previous one was female but there was something about his personality I think that just did not fit me. After telling him something my past that involved a sexual encounter that I described to him and how I felt about it, he got really hung up on it and kept coming back to it. He began to annoy me and somehow I told him that I didn’t think it was working and after the 6 sessions we had scheduled I asked to see if I could change counsellor.
After the first experience put me a bit at ease with the situation this encounter totally put me off the idea. But something had already changed inside me that I can only realise this in hindsight. I had started to talk about this situation openly with people, say to people “Well I had a chat with my counsellor and …. “, the greatest thing is the people I care about were okay about it, sadly I can’t remember if I have told my Mum or not yet, if not this might be a bit of a shock if she is reading this. The best thing is though despite my fear of breaking down and not being able to cope here I was, still holding down a full time job and looking under rocks I had not done for years. A good friend gave me a great piece of advise after I had move house again (I move house a lot) they sent me a link to a website of a local place that offered counselling. Of course I was nervous having just had a bad experience and it felt like I had to start all over again but I eventually enquired and got an appointment with someone and this time I had to pay for the sessions. Now I understand not everybody has the luxury of having £50 a week spare just to spend on your own mental health but I do and I was willing to try. I think I have been seeing this new counsellor for 6 months or more now and yes they have pushed me from time to time. There have been very uncomfortable moments, emotional moments a plenty and sometimes the odd revelation, even inspiring me to recite a piece to them I had written when I was feeling particularly dark, a piece that even months on is painful to read but it is honest, the truth and full of passion.
So what advise can I give you? Well to repeat myself first of all admit that you cannot cope on your own and there are some things that you need help with and it does not matter how clever you are. Step two is just to find help, call Mind and/or speak to your GP and ask for the support you think you need. The counsellor is mostly there to support me in the journey and offer some impartial and external thoughts to it. Don’t be afraid to express yourself, the more honest you are with them the more honest you are with yourself. When you cross that first step do yourself a favour and pat yourself on the back, recognise just how hard those first steps are and be sure to give yourself time to recognise that. Be patient with yourself, these things will not change overnight and you might very well be trying to change something that you cannot change and all you can then do is change the way you feel or understand it. Find something that works for you, the suggestions above are what works for me, not 100% of the time but they work and some success is better than no success.
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