ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2016
It’s not comfortable writing about my own struggles; I’d rather write about someone else’s story. But the cloud has been hovering low of late – that fog which so many of us dread.
It’s been many years since I’ve been this far in, its cloudy grey shortening my breath and making my heart hammer. But now that it has descended again for a time, there are things I’ve learnt, which this time around, make it seem a little more bearable.
What I’ve learned about the fog (while still finding my way through):
1. I’m not the only one. I used to think I was the only one who had days when just getting the kids in the car for school seemed impossible and deciding what to make for dinner was a task I’d have to psyche myself up for. I thought I was the only one who felt debilitated by a strange kind of anxiety, which came unannounced and wouldn’t leave until it was good and ready, thank you very much. I thought I was the only one whose mind and emotions just seemed to stop working sometimes, leaving simple questions unanswered, creating gaps in awkward, stunted conversations.
Last week I wrote a short little post on a writers group page I’m a member of. I told them that I’m struggling with depression and did they have any advice? I’ve never done that before. It was a big step, it felt like a risk. I was so encouraged by the amount of people who responded with encouragement – they’d been there too, or were there now. I’ve learned I’m not the only one, and if you too struggle through the fog, you’re not the only one either. There’s hope for us all.
2. It’s not my fault. The reason I feel depressed and anxious and so many other emotions is not because I don’t think ‘well’ enough or ‘positively’ enough or select the ‘correct’ emotions at the right time. It’s not because I ‘choose’ to be sad and dwell on the negative. I love writing gratitude lists as much as the next person but sometimes the rigours of life just get too much and no matter how many gifts I count or positive thoughts I think, my mind and heart scream for attention and I’m forced to give them what they need: time, rest and care. It’s not my fault, and it isn’t your fault either. Unfortunately it happens sometimes and blaming ourselves only thickens the fog and sends us deeper in.
3. My life won’t wait to begin once I’m sorted and whole. My life is now, it’s happening. And this journey I’m on right now, it isn’t something to be ashamed of – it’s part of my story and right now, it’s part of who I am. While I’d like it to be over quickly, to shorten the pain of it, there’s no need for me to quickly stuff it aside so I can get on with life. This is life. I’m living it (and sometimes nervously writing it). And the healing and the living and the story, they’re all built in the journey. Your story, it’s happening right now. Not in a savour-every-moment-or-you’ll-miss-it kind of way, because frankly, there are seasons which would be marvellous to blink-and-miss. No, it’s happening right now, it’s a part of you, it’s part of your story. There’s no shame in that.
4. There’s no quick fix (and that’s ok). I’ve always looked for the nice, neatly packaged 1, 2, 3 step guides when things get tough. And they’re useful, yes, but generally, things aren’t fixed in three easy steps. When it gets to the point where the fog has landed and everything is clouded and there are days where breathing seems such a hard thing to do, I need to listen to my heart and mind and give them the care they need – regular, quality, healing care. Don’t short-change yourself. Reach out, get help (even though those words sound so painful – I know they do to me!). Here are some places where you can make a start:
- Local church (join a group, share your struggles)
- Family doctor
- Social media (it can be a great place to reach out)
- Call a friend
- Book in with a community counsellor (get a recommendation from a trusted source)
- Call LifeLine (13 11 14)
5. Anything’s worth a try. Having been round this mountain before (and before and before) I know that it’s going to take work and process to get off it again. And it’s going to take time…and money. Unfortunately it can sometimes feel like the money thing adds to the fog and the pressure and anxiety but this time round, I’m just going to try things. And it gets expensive because quality costs, and our mental health is worth so much more. And even when there’s just no money around, there are options galore.
Here’s what I’m trying at the moment:
- Essential oils (a little on the ex-y side but well worth it I’m told by pretty much everyone. I placed an order today so here goes!)
- Talking about it here and on social media (FREE)
- Writing about my struggles in my private journal and in more public spaces (FREE)
- Pukka Relax: Chamomile, Fennel and Marshmallow Root Tea ($8-ish) I’m sipping this as I write and as someone who generally doesn’t like herbal tea, I’ve been surprised by how much I love this blend.
- St John’s Wort ($10-$30-ish)
- Learning about different foods which can help improve my headspace (books FREE-ly borrowed from friends and the library)
- Pilates classes ($20-$30 per class)
- Talking to friends (FREE and so helpful)
- Adding certain foods to my diet eg. salmon, health shakes, beetroot (ALDI do a great price on freshly frozen salmon fillets)
- Seeing a counsellor (fees are usually based on your income/ability to pay)
- Working in the garden (FREE)
- Soaking up the fresh Spring-time sun (FREE – which is lucky because I’m addicted)
- Burning iKou’s De-Stress Aromacology Natural Wax Melts ($19.95 for 3)
That fog, it sux right? But let’s allow ourselves to strengthen though we feel weak, to love though we feel unlovable and to do the hard things even when a Netflix marathon calls (okay, maybe a Netflix marathon won’t hurt!)
Together, I believe we can get through to the other side and even now, while we’re in it, our story can still help someone. Never forget the power of your story, as I also try and remember the power of mine.
NOTE: Please don’t do this alone. See a doctor or a pastor or a counsellor, or all three. But make sure you have some good people in your corner. You’re probably going to need them.
*I haven’t discussed anti-depressants here because for me, at this time, they’re not part of my recovery plan but I have used them before and have found them to be very helpful. If you need help, please speak to someone. Unfortunately, the people around us often have no clue what’s raging on inside us and sometimes we are way too good at hiding it. So please speak out and get some help and if anti-depressants are what you need, then make sure you fill that script. Today. UPDATE: Not long after writing this post, my mental health took a dive and I made the decision to visit my Dr. I was prescribed with anti-depressants and began taking them right away. That was almost 18 months ago now and I’ve really been making strides in my recovery with continued regular therapy and antidepressants as well as making sure I look after myself and spend time praying and resting. Please, make sure you get help too, and remember, you’re never alone. Send me an email if you like, I’m always keen to hear from readers. Let’s support each other in this thing called life. x
LIFELINE: 13 11 14