Hello everyone and happy Monday, wherever you are in the world!
Today I’m happy to begin sharing with you my personal struggle with mental illness–and triumph over it–in a new weekly series here on the blog. It’s called A Light in Darkness.
What is A Light in Darkness all about? It’s where I share the highs and lows, the tears and scars, and the joy and spark and love that has ultimately gotten me to this wonderful point of my life. My path, my beautiful life. I hope that by telling my story, I can inspire others to keep going with their lives and feel wonderful.
I am by NO means a trained counsellor. I cannot offer you professional advice. I do hope that my words help, and it will be wonderful if they do. My only training comes from life itself, and I’m still learning!
I will get into the history of my life and mental illness in next week’s post, but this week’s is about the nature of my illness and how I combat it. It’s a cathartic process, and I’m even learning more about myself on this little journey.
I’ve been battling depression and severe anxiety since I was about eleven years old. Constantly, constantly battling, but only finding and learning the tools I need to fortify myself at around 26 years old. That includes LOTS of writing and journaling, and tracking my mental health every day!
These are the patterns and cues I have begun to look for in my tracking, and they’re the most obvious red flags to me. Big honkin’ red flags.
– Sleeping too much, not wanting to get out of bed.
– Sudden increase/decrease in appetite. For me, an increase in appetite signals oncoming depression, and a decrease signals intensifying anxiety.
– Feeling generally run down, listless, or nervous with little to no explanation.
– Not wanting to leave the house, or fearing leaving the house.
– Any amount of stress making me very anxious, quivery, and queasy.
– Not wanting to create in any way, shape, or form. This is a weird one and is different than my creative block. It’s not that I WANT to create and can’t. It’s when my passion suddenly dies as though it was never there to begin with. Then I know something is up.
What do I do to help keep the darkness at bay when I notice these cues? I tend to it in whatever way I can. I journal, write, make art; I use my creative talents as much as possible. I surround myself with supportive people. I do happy little things, like watch my favourite tv shows or take a bubble bath. I get outside and sit in the sunlight. I use CBT techniques and refer to the exercises I’ve done with the following books (which I HIGHLY recommend!):
Noticing and tracking my patterns is very crucial to my mental health. Even when I’m having a good, long stretch of no noticeable illness, I have to constantly stay on top of it. Always tracking it. If I don’t keep on top of it during normal days and weeks, if I don’t stay vigilant, the darkness knows there’s no security, and it can just walk right in and take over again.
Sometimes it casually walks in. Sometimes it creeps, taking over in increments that I can’t perceive until it’s too late. Sometimes it sits back and gathers strength, waiting for the right moment, and then it pounces with brute force; all fangs and claws. My mental health in its normal state is very fragile, as it’s never been left alone long enough to grow strong and healthy, so it very easily surrenders to the darkness.
When the darkness slips in, it can seem very sudden. When it walks or creeps in, it starts with worrying and stressing about more than usual. A little queasiness, a skipped meal, anxiety at leaving the house or interacting with people. It slowly increases until I can’t get out of bed, I can’t eat, I can’t function.
And when it pounces, I become outright suicidal with little to no triggers. I panic. I feel hopeless, with a horrible sick feeling churning simultaneously hot and cold in my guts. I can’t breathe; I throw up. It completely takes over, overriding all logic.
Jon acts immediately. My poor, wonderful, amazing twin flame. He talks to me constantly, staying calm, guiding me into controlling my breathing and staying in one place. He’s tried to get me to go to the hospital so many times, but I never have. I have, however, found a life-saving website that lets you chat when you’re feeling in crisis; this is a miracle for me, because my severe anxiety has prevented me from calling suicide hotlines.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND AVOIDING GOING TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM OR OTHERWISE SEEKING HELP IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO HARM YOURSELF!
By keeping close track of my mental health, I’m more able to quickly and efficiently handle both slow and sudden flare-ups so I can return to normal functioning and creating. I win far more often than I lose.
You need to personally find what works best for you, what keeps you safe and what makes you happy again. What helps me won’t necessarily help the next person, as mental illness differs from person to person and can be as unique as a fingerprint in its patterns and ways of existing.
So, that was the first installment in this blog series. I hope this post has helped or inspired you in some way!