Mental Health

I've had somewhat of a relationship with bad mental health in the past. However, during lockdown I think the circumstances have changed how we live day-to-day so much that I can see depression sneaking its slimy little self back into my life. I've also recently seen that depressions bringing a friend along, called anxiety which is a new one.

Over the last 10 years of my life I've learnt that writing my problems down tends to help bring them into perspective so why not blog about it - maybe someone will benefit from it.

  1. Knowing the signs/triggers

Obviously as humans everyone will have up days and down days but, for me, it's about knowing why the bad days are "bad". Getting stuck in traffic or arguing with your spouse can easily lead to a typical bad day but when the negativity is coming from within me, that's one of my signals that the depression bug is lurking. Thoughts like "how could I be so stupid/rubbish/pathetic", "obviously that didn't work, what a stupid idea" or the classic "you're not good enough". I don't often have such direct and condescending thoughts so they tend to be a sign.

Another good one for me is lack of sleep. Staying up late worrying about this and that, problems that are never going to be solved by lying awake thinking about them, this is often when my friend anxiety comes along. However, along side late nights and lack of sleep, if I then wake up the next day still feeling anxious and not replenished at all, the mood continues on into the next day - that's another sign.

2. Physical Health

One of the most frustrating things I've learnt as an adult is how important a healthy diet is. This doesn't mean becoming a health-nut or starting some new fancy celebrity diet, it just means balance and moderation. I'm never dieting to help my waistline but more to make sure there's nothing else my body is lacking that could cause fatigue and then mental health problems. Leaving the house once a day for a short walk can totally change your perspective of that day, drinking more water and actually eating breakfast (not just coffee) can help set you up for a "at least I had breakfast today" day. Maybe my life just revolves around food, but once I've eaten, I'm a different person.

3. Talking to someone

This seems obvious, but can be one of the hardest things to do. It took me about 4 years before I actually broke my silence about the struggles I was having. It then took me a few more months to tell my parents and seek any kind of professional help. But I first expressed my stress and mental health issues to a friend I trusted, who I knew would take what I was saying seriously, even if she could only lend an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, it was a start.

Finding someone you feel comfortable with talking about this kind of thing can be hard but by having several resources, friends, family, spouse, the pressure is taken off you, and also not piled onto just one of them. There's a difference between sharing your problems and continuously dumping them on someone else. I was constantly terrified of the latter, but sharing the burden always makes the burden lighter to bear.

4. Seeking professional help

If your problems continue to affect your everyday life and the way you live it, then professional help may be the answer. I had several different therapy sessions trying to break-down my problems and get to the root of this unhappiness. Although intimidating to start with, therapy helped me look at the issue objectively and learn different techniques to cope as well as learning the signs I previously spoke about.

After about a year of on/off therapy I went to the doctors for any other help and they suggested anti-depressants. Although they came with a whole host of side affects, they helped the "chemical imbalance" and after being on them for about a year, along side more therapy, I was off them for good. I understand why people may have reservations about anti-depressants, however, I see it the same as any bodily ailment - if you have a headache you can take a paracetamol to ease the pain. However, I don't think I would be in the same mentally healthy state without the therapy or personal support system as well.

Lockdown has got me seeing some of those triggers I know all too well, but I now know the steps I can take to help nip it in the bud or build the support to help me out if/when I need it. Everyone is different and has an individual relationship with their mental health but this helped me, so maybe it could help you.

If you want any more advice, everything I know is thanks to the NHS and their support:

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