A recent ‘blip’ has really knocked me for six, I cannot lie. Self – stigma is rife. I feel like a failure, and I am angry with myself for, in my eyes, sabotaging my own progress. Regardless of my mood I will usually ensure that I wake up at a decent hour, shower, open my blinds to let in the sunlight, and keep my home as tidy as possible. This has recently lapsed though, as I have fallen back into the trap of showering at dinner time and living in leggings and long socks to hide my fuzzy legs. And my flat, well, lets just say that, at times, it will resemble that of student halls. I am physically and mentally drained, with the smallest of tasks leaving me exhausted. I have clearly gained weight due to my medication, but I just do not have the energy to spare for a workout on my recently purchased cross trainer. And while many people my age are going on nights out and holding down careers, I rely heavily on two power naps just to get me through the day. I cannot think, I cannot concentrate, and, at times, I will even find myself struggling to string a sentence together. This infuriates me because not only am I powerless to lead a fulfilling life, to socialise and have a circle of friends, I am also slowly losing my ability to read and write, namely to blog and finish my Masters degree. I take great pride in my writing and my education, and I can feel it all slipping through my fingers alongside my intelligence.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
During a recent appointment with my psychiatrist I was told to ‘hold onto’ the hour a week I feel capable of spending with my friend. Hold onto it, like it is the solution to all of my problems. I am ashamed to admit it but I lost my cool with him. There he was seemingly patronising me and writing out yet another prescription, while I was seated before him, clinging onto the edge of sanity. I wanted to, well, throttle him. An hour a week? How dare he. How dare he remind me of how much of a loner and a ‘failure’ I have become. Five years ago I was working, doing my degree, and going out two nights a week, and now here I am having to make the most of a weekly Costa Coffee meet up. Actually, strike that, I am being prompted to make the most of it.
I have been told numerous times that recovery from mental illness is never straight forward, that there will be plenty of ups and downs. There will be days in which it will feel as if you have conquered Everest, but there will also be days in which you cannot scrape yourself out of bed. What we need to remember is that this is all okay. When physically ill many of us will often take our quilts down onto the sofa and have a movie marathon, allowing ourselves the time to relax and recuperate, without feeling guilty. So why is this any different when it comes to mental illness? After all, the main thing is that we try, and try again, reminding ourselves that it is never a set back, more a ‘boo boo’ or a blip. It never feels like that at the time though, and I realise that my writing this is so much easier than actually doing it.
I will often punish myself when it comes to my progress, mainly through impatience. Spending yet another day curled up on the sofa serves only as a reminder of the fact that yet another day has passed. We know that a stomach bug will pass within a few days and we will be back on our feet, but when it comes to a blip in our mental health, sadly there is no such time frame. I will become easily infuriated with myself for being unable to do ‘normal’ everyday tasks such as going shopping, going out for a meal or getting my hair done in a salon because I feel weak. Tasks that sound so simple, until it comes to carrying them out. This alone makes me a key example of how trying to remain positive in the face of such adversity has become one of life’s biggest challenges. As hard as it may be, I do believe that learning to take the rough with the smooth is key to our recovery. As Michael Josephson once said, “Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey”. Now that is a quote to be added to the list.