Tonight, a feeling has struck. It’s one that, according to statistics, 1 in 4 people experience. It’s a feeling that we don’t often talk about, and it’s something that we tend to hide away, obscured from the view of all but a select few, chosen in our most difficult moments. It’s a feeling of depression. Of anxiety. Of numbness, and a lack of motivation that comes with experiencing mental ill health.
I’ve personally suffered from mental health problems since I was about thirteen. That’s over ten years of daily combat with my own brain. Sometimes, I’m the winner in the ring. Sometimes, I’m the one knocked out. It depends on the day, the week, the month (or even your year…). Often, it’s without cause or explanation, whereas other times, there’s a reason, an excuse, a real and present trigger that sets it off.
Tonight, there is no reason. In actual fact, I’ve had what most would call a brilliant day. I got an unexpected lift into town, saving me a thirty-seven minute walk (according to Google Maps). I saw one of my best friends for the first time since December, and spent the day wandering about the place I, honestly, most call my home. I received a First for an assignment I didn’t even proof-read (bad idea kids, don’t do it). I enjoyed lots of lovely food (probably too much, I had to take half of my peanut butter stack away with me). I had a beautiful walk home, through fields and grass and meadows and sun.
But brilliant days don’t always stave things off. I feel gripped by a feeling of no motivation. It took me at least four hours to even think about writing a post about how I’m feeling, in which I watched a lot of YouTube (although, in the end I had to even turn that off), and scrolled aimlessly through Instagram. I feel low in mood, but at the same time I don’t really feel anything. I’ve been grinding my teeth together, and knotting my eyebrows together, until they’ve given me a headache. I’ve eaten food that tastes not dissimilar to cardboard. I’ve felt a deep seated knot of anxiety in my stomach, that for me is always there, but grows and grows at times of rumination, but I’m not even sure what I’m worrying about.
I’ve never taken medication for my mental health problems. I’ve felt a faint distrust of it all of my life, afraid of the negative side effects. I know medication isn’t evil. In fact, I’ve given it to people (under the watchful supervisory eye of my practice mentors, of course). I actually think medication can be incredibly helpful, even life changing. But I don’t ever want to take it. I think that’s okay. Maybe one day, I’ll think differently. At this point in my life, I don’t believe that I need it. I’m self aware, and understand when I’m getting ill. I reflect deeply, and know what can help me, personally. I do know, however, that when those things stop helping, I’ll need to find something else. For now though, I’ll be okay.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve for beating my shadowy opponent. I like to watch videos online, normally uplifting ones, from my favourite YouTubers such as Zoella, Dan and Phil, Shane Dawson, Fleur de Force and many, many more. I like to crochet (no really, I really, really like to crochet. You should see my ridiculous box of yarn). I sometimes draw, though this is rarer these days. You’re more likely to find me colouring in (my housemate got me a fantastic little baking colouring book for Christmas, it’s lovely – I really should finish her scarf… in March). I sometimes go for walks, weather permitting and there’s someone to go with me. I watch films with my housemates and friends. I cuddle up in bed and read. Sometimes, shock horror, I even talk to people about how I’m feeling. I’m fortunate enough to a) live in a house full of mainly mental health nursing students, and b) have lots of friends with mental health problems, who are more than happy to listen to me. Obviously, these are my personal coping methods. Not everyone will be able to do these things. That’s okay, you do you.
The point I’m trying to make is this; when you’re feeling down, whether you’re sad, or clinically depressed, it’s okay to take time out for yourself. Do what you love, or don’t, it’s up to you. Often, people don’t have the motivation needed to run an all out marathon, or even leave the house. Sometimes, just taking a day off work if you can, or taking a moment to breathe can be just as helpful.
Don’t feel ashamed to talk to someone, if you feel able to, whether that be a parent, a friend, or even your pet. Mental health is just as important as physical health. I always say; you wouldn’t hide a cold, or the flu, so why should you be expected to hide depression, or OCD, or anxiety? Why should you hide from the world your psychosis, your intrusive thoughts, or your poor body image? We all have hang ups. We all have bad days. Society as a whole needs to start to address the way we see those days, so that people can cope in the best way possible.