I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I’ve not been doing so great this week. In actual fact, I’m feeling kind of low.
And you know what? That happens.
Not all the time. Not as often as it used to. But I have days when I really don’t feel like doing much of anything.
I have been diagnosed with several different mental health conditions over the past few years. Post natal depression. Adjustment disorder. Anxiety. Plain old depression. Burnout.
I’m not sure how many of these terms actually fit me as opposed to me fitting the terms. Does that make sense? For example, I am not sure that I did have post natal depression with my third child, or whether I was simply grieving the loss of my mother 3 months after I gave birth.
I am not sure if I really did have depression, or if I was just totally burnt out after spending 2 years working with an incompetent, inconsiderate bully of a colleague who made my working life a living hell.
Doctors have to be super calm in a crisis and I very rarely panic. Yet I have been told on several occasions that I suffer from anxiety, and the reality is that I probably do. Apparently almost all people who grew up in an abusive environment have some form of anxiety disorder.
What we are feeling affects our physical health
Terminology aside, the fact is that I am feeling blue right now. And that makes everything harder. It makes it harder to choose healthy foods when all I want to do is stuff my face with something sweet and comforting. It makes it harder to muster the energy to do something active each day.
I find myself snapping at the kids more. I have stopped reaching out to friends and become quite insular. The other day I even caught myself biting my nails, which I haven’t done in months!
And the worst part? Eating well, keeping active and getting enough sleep are all pretty much guaranteed to lift your mood. We all know this.
But what do you do when the solution is rendered virtually impossible by the problem?
What I used to do when I was feeling blue
No seriously, what do you do? I’m asking the question because I am 40 years old and I have been struggling with these issues since I was a teenager but I am still no closer to an answer.
When I was 14 (the age my oldest child is now), I learned that there were various ways of coping with my anxiety and low moods. There were drugs, but I didn’t really know how to get hold of them. There was alcohol but the same thing applied. I dabbled in both but they just seemed to make things worse so I soon abandoned ship.
Cigarettes helped calm me down, and I started smoking around that time. I stopped when I met my husband and he told me he didn’t want to kiss someone who tastes like an ashtray. I had to chose between cigarettes and kissing, and most days I think I made the right choice.
And then, one night soon after I turned 14, I found my salvation in a razor blade. Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed, I would make several superficial incisions in my left arm and legs. Yeah, I know. I wasn’t exactly the smartest teenager. What can I say? It was the 90s.
Nothing good came out of the 90s.
People self-harm in different ways
I think people have a better understanding of self-harm than they did back when I was a teenager. And I’d like to think that I have found better ways to cope with my emotional pain since then.
But in all honesty, I’m not sure that I have.
Don’t get me wrong, I no longer reach for a razor blade whenever I feel like the sky is falling. I stopped doing that a long time ago. But I’m not convinced that I have stopped hurting myself either.
Whether it is the voice in my head beating me up all day long, or the way I punish myself by either overindulging in or withholding food. The fact is, I’ve never really been very good at being kind to myself.
What does that even look like? Right now, in this moment, when I really can’t be bothered to get out of bed. What does self-care look like in this moment?
How do I pull myself out of this dip I find myself in? How do I conjure up the energy and motivation to get back to being a bad-ass woman with the positive outlook and cheerful disposition?
OK, that last part might be a bit of a stretch, even at the best of times. I suppose I would be better off asking how I can avoid the temptation of the family sized bag of Doritos and get in the shower before I go completely nose blind?
[Feel free to post the answers in the comments section below, because I have absolutely no idea what I should be doing.]
I have learned what not to do though.
Firstly, I am not going to beat myself up about how I am feeling, and make things worse than they already are. I am going to treat myself the same way I would treat others.
If a friend was in a similar situation, I would be telling them to cut themselves some slack. Stop being so hard on yourself. You can’t be perfect all the time. I’ve got to learn to practice what I preach.
Secondly, I am not going to throw myself in to one or more unnecessary projects as a means of distracting myself from what’s going on inside my head. I have a tendency to do this.
The busier I am, the less time I have to just sit with my emotions. Plus I feel better about myself when I am busy. I feel like I am accomplishing something. Until I collapse from exhaustion, that is.
Lastly, I’m not going swing in the opposite direction and set myself totally unrealistic goals in order to compensate for the fact that I have taken my foot of the accelerator for the last few days. No 5K runs for me, guys. There’s nothing wrong with running, but I’ll get to that when I am good and ready, not because I have something to prove.
Exercise is fun. It should never be a form of punishment. The same goes for healthy eating. There’s a difference between making good, nutritious choices and starving yourself because you want to take back control.
People are like Japanese Art
So there you go. A list of what-not-to-do’s. Nine times out of ten, these dips in my mood only last a few days and settle on their own. I am getting better at trying to figure out what, if anything, triggered it in the hope that I can avoid the same mistakes in the future.
I think this time it was a combination of the holiday ending, going back to work during quite a stressful month, and being let down by the kennel that we were supposed to be adopting our dog from. These things happen. What can you do?!
My husband said something to me recently that has really stuck with me. I was feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I wasn’t such a hot mess when he reminded me about the Japanese art of Kintsugi. For those who do not know, this is the art of repairing broken pottery and transforming it in to something even more beautiful than the original piece.
It’s the broken pieces that have been joined together and interwoven with gold that makes it look so special. No two pieces are ever the same. The same can be said for people too.
In the words of my very clever husband, we are more beautiful for having been broken.