Mental wellness and the radical act of self-kindness

“Mental Wellness” does sound like something posh people with lots of spare time do, it sounds inherently pretentious and when you’re depressed and unable to make yourself get out of bed in less than half an hour, it sounds impossible. Sure, the idea is nice – exercise regularly, eat well, do things that make you happy – but when you’re unhappy and tired, and feel a little bit hollow, going for a jog isn’t exactly priority number one.

I know this, because I’ve been there. I live with anxiety and depression, though the latter I am pleased to say I am recovering from at a steady rate. University took a lot out of me, and maybe one day I’ll talk about that more. Long story short I spent a lot of my first week unable to breathe, feeling constantly sick and bursting into tears at inconvenient moments. I often joke that I am literally afraid of everything, but some days that feels very true. It’s been a tough realisation that perhaps my mental illness will never totally leave me – I came off antidepressants, only to be put back onto them. I cried in the doctor’s office. I had done it, I was better, and then I had failed. Some days I feel low for no reason, and fortunately I have a hugely understanding partner who supports me when I feel like crap, who kept me going through my final year of uni and who continues to be my rock when work or money or life in general gets under my skin and makes me feel wrong. I have come a long way since I sat sobbing in my university halls willing the world to stop feeling broken, but some days a girl just needs a fuzzy blanket, a hot drink and a hug. Wellness sounded dumb to me when the university counsellor suggested it. What use was meditation and positive thinking when the only positive thought I could summon was ‘I am positive I’m going to fail this course’ and any moment of rest was a moment I wasn’t working?

I now include it in my weekly routine as a way of reminding myself that I am worth those moments of rest, and that taking time to collect myself is not something I should feel guilty for.

I am not a therapist, if you feel like I did once then please don’t rely on me to solve your problem. I am a human disaster made up of anxiety, cups of tea and lipstick. I will include some links down below for those of you who might need support. Please know you are not alone, and if it counts for something there’s one recovering depressive, tea addicted blogger out there who would very much like for you to be okay one day.

Wellness does not have to be yoga at sunrise while listening to whale song. Wellness is the radical act of being kind to yourself when you feel like you don’t deserve it. At university I slept a lot, struggled to get out of bed, hated my job, hated my course, gained several stone and worked myself to exhaustion because the measure of my self-worth was my grades. On top of this, I didn’t accept my own mental illness until, worried, my parents suggested I see a doctor about how shit I was feeling all the time.

So here’s Lottie’s top tips for maybe being less sad/stressed/generally crappy feeling:

Tip number one: Doctors are literally paid to help you.

Find a doctor you like, and trust, and talk to them. I understand that sometimes doctors can seem like they’re brushing aside your issues, but they will listen to you. They have to. It’s literally their job. A doctor can suggest medication, offer advice and information on local mental health support groups and give you a recommendation for therapy. Now, the mental health field is under a huge amount of pressure, so the waiting list can be long as heck, but if you need it then its better to be on that list than not.

Tip number two: Tablets are not the devil.

MEDICATION IS NOT A BAD THING. It can feel like failure, taking tablets every day to feel normal, but honestly without antidepressants I wouldn’t have the life I have today. You might not find the right one straight away, different types and doses might need to be tested before you start to feel more stable. This is totally normal, and if anybody tries to make you feel bad for taking meds, they’re a dick and you should ignore them.

Tip number three: Talk to people.

Therapy might work for you. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Doctors often recommend therapy alongside medication, because while meds can treat imbalances physically, I know from experience a lot of mental illness is..well, mental. A huge source of my unhappiness was the fact that I’d mentally beat myself up for every perceived failure, every drop in grades or panic attack, every moment that I wasn’t the perfect human. So a lot, basically. I was lucky in that my university offered counselling in a little mental health centre on campus, it was busy and oversubscribed and sometimes you’d have to wait but it was there and during my sessions there I was introduced to CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. Basically, I learned how to spot an oncoming panic or mood slump, and how to guide or prevent the mental process that knocked me on my ass on a regular basis or the ‘spiral of doom’ as I lovingly refer to it. Ask your doctor about it, they might be able to refer you to a specialised professional who can help. Private therapy can be faster, but also more expensive. If you can’t afford it, it might mean a waiting list but they will try to help you. Even talking to a friend, a partner, or a family member can help. I cannot stress the worth of supportive, healthy relationships. If a person is unkind about your mental health, if a relationship is toxic, you are in no way a bad person if you don’t want to talk to them any more. If you don’t have that support, that is what therapy is there to provide.

Tip number four: The internet isn’t always terrible.

Google local mental health charities, or look for leaflets in a doctors office. They’re often small and part time, but they can be a source of support especially if you’re on a lower income and can’t afford private therapy and can offer a safe space if you don’t feel supported at home or just need somewhere to go. There are wonderful people in this world who use their time to help others when they feel lost and alone. You are not wasting anybody’s time by asking for help, you deserve support and love.

Tip number five: Set a damn alarm.

Getting out of bed is a struggle even now I’m recovering, I am inherently lazy and getting up early for work is the literal worst. However, having a routine to stick to can do wonders for your mental health. My work day is very structured, I work alone in my office so by doing everything at the same time every day I can be sure it’s been done properly – it’s just part of how I cope. Getting up at the same time every day, even if it means allowing yourself twenty minutes of calm before the day kicks in as opposed to actually doing something, does help. I used to wake up early so I could drink a cup of tea and watch an episode of Blackadder before my lectures. It was my ‘me time’ before ‘Theories of Reading’ or some other equally thrilling lecture. It sucks being up early, especially when its cold, but it might help.

Tip number six: Doing things that make you happy is not a waste of time.

Here’s a list of things I do to take care of myself that might seem dumb:

– Make tea (the method of this, especially matcha and leaf tea, makes me feel calm and accomplished and also it tastes fucking delicious)

– Watch something that makes me laugh

– Wallow in the bath for half an hour listening to music (make sure nobody needs to pee first)

– Do some reading (can also be done in the bath if you’re brave enough, not recommended for kindle readers)

– Crochet

– Cross stitch (it’s amazing how therapeutic stabbing something 200 times can be)

– Stand outside and breathe air that isn’t office/bus/home air.

– Cook something yummy because you like yummy things (moderation is key as I learned while using baking as stress relief and getting a lot bigger as a result)

– Put on makeup and look fancy

– Literally anything that makes you happy because being happy is not dumb or something to put off until later.

Tip number seven: Maybe eat a vegetable

I know, I know ‘exercise and healthy eating’ sounds so much fun when you’re sad all the time and can’t remember when you were last out of pyjamas and wearing a bra. But seriously, eating is one of my favourite things to do which is why I did it to distract myself from how depressed I was. I’d bake cakes, smother pasta with cheese, eat crisps because hey I was buying my own food I could eat what I wanted. I got a lot heavier, my skin was horrible and I felt physically awful for years. Now, I still eat chocolate, I love a cake, crisps are super tasty and I will bite whoever tries to take my cheese away. Dieting made me feel even unhappier and it never worked. So I eat in moderation, make sure every meal involves veggies of some kind somewhere if I can, maybe don’t eat that second pack of crisps. My job involves a lot of moving and we have a dog, so that helps, but taking a walk even if its to the shops is better than sitting on my sofa throwing Maltesers at my face and thinking about how awful I feel. Plus it gives you time to listen to podcasts.

Tip number eight: Be kind to yourself.

You would (I hope) never yell at someone for feeling sad, so don’t do it to yourself. These things take time. I was diagnosed with depression at eighteen and now at twenty two I’m still recovering, still taking my tablets, still working towards my own mental health goals. I still have days where I am literally paralysed with fear over tiny, silly things, or I feel sad for no reason, or everything feels like it’s taking so much more effort than it did yesterday and I just want to sleep. At the same time I am so, so happy. I’m engaged to a woman I love so much it physically overtakes me sometimes, I have a job I enjoy instead of the one I hated in a way that meant I spent every shift close to tears, I’m co-parent to a dog whose care and wellbeing I will support every day regardless of how little I want to get up from the sofa and walk him. Four years ago I could barely see myself passing the exams for first year, I was shakily coming to terms with being open about my sexuality and I slept to avoid facing the reality of my daily life. I know people say it all the time, I know it sounds cliché and stupid, but things can get better. Mental illness can force you to look inside yourself so much you can’t see the people around you who want so desperately to see you smile again. There’s no instant cure, it will take work and it will take time and you might feel worse before you feel better but you can do it. Who knows, one day you might wake up and realise that actually, you quite like yourself.

And please, I’m no therapist, but if you need a chat I’m here too. You can do this.

Mental Health support resources:

UK:

http://www.mind.org.uk

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/ (not just for those three, they offer links to all sorts of helplines)

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support

http://www.mindout.org.uk (an LGBTQ mental health service)

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/ (a list of suicide support hotlines you can call at any hour of any day)

USA (PLEASE REMEMBER I’M ENGLISH AND DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THESE):

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/contact-us

https://www.mentalhealth.gov

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

EVERYONE ELSE (I had literally no idea where to start here I’m so sorry if you have any links please post them below and I will be sure to include them in this post!):

http://cugmhp.org/advocacy-the-arts/resources/ (Columbia University has a list on their website of worldwide mental health resources which I thought was kind of cool!)

7 comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful post! Very inspiring, encouraging and motivational, while also being understanding. You got the balance just right, and I absolutely love your writing style.

    Sending you lots of love on your own journey with these two pesky mental illnesses! You are fantastic. 🙂

    Ruth | http://www.ruthinrevolt.com

    Like

    • Thank you so much! Mental illness is still so misrepresented and misunderstood and if I can lend a little humanity to the clinical terms then hopefully that will help! I’m so glad you liked it, it was a little nerve wracking deciding to put it up 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It’s sometimes difficult to choose the right words when talking about mental illness, especially when its your own so I’m glad you think I did well! I got help, I’m getting better, and the least I can do is open up about how so that perhaps other people can get better as well 🙂 Have a lovely day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great to hear that you are getting better – your post will definitely help inspire others.
        You’re right, choosing the right words to describe and discuss mental illness can be tricky!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you soso much for this post – I do struggle with anxiety and depression aswell; and it’s just such a good post ❤️ Almost shed a feew tears, definately will keep it to reread it if needed.

    One of my « are you serious.. » moment was actually my first time I went for therapy. I was at my lowest, and so terribly scared that I kid you not, I bursted crying right here and then in the waiting room of my therapist. Alongside my mom. At 19years old and yep, there were people in that said room 🙊 I am so much better now, 4years later, though i get some down peaks often (triggered by my feminines hormones. Hurray. 😪) .. I do think it’s there to stay now, and its one of the (very annoying) part of me that I need to live with, now. I’m.. i’m okay with that. I’m not ashamed of that part in my story

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anxiety and depression is a double-whammy of awful sometimes, I managed to burst into tears in my first creative writing seminar in front of total strangers and felt like a total tit. It took a few weeks for my lecturer to stop looking at me as though I might spontaneously combust. The trigger? We were asked to write letters to ourselves, and mine wasn’t that friendly. I am so happy that you are recovering, that’s absolutely amazing to hear! Learning to live with anxiety is rough and the realisation that it might be there forever feels utterly unfair, and it is – but it doesn’t have to stop us being kick ass individuals with awesome, happy lives despite it. We are not, and have never been, defined by our illnesses and should not ever be made to feel ashamed of them. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I am so happy that you enjoyed my post! Just remember, if you can only do one good thing for someone each day it is 100% okay to do it for you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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