January is over (insert fireworks and celebrations here). I’m sure many of you warriors were fighting your good fight and let me just say – well done, I know this was a tough one for many of you (myself at times included) and I want you to know how much I have been rooting for you all. And how happy I am that you kept that fight going.
As February is sure to fly by it’s important to keep that fight going, to balance yourself and find your centre… but I have always felt that the term fighting is too aggressive when in reality we are only fighting with ourselves and the the demons in our heads. Maybe we should be kinder to ourselves, lend our focus less on fighting and more on living, and importantly living the life we want.
Finding your balance.
When I am coming out of a depressive episode usually through December and January (for me my cycle lands in October / November and it’s always the worst of it), I find it really hard to find the joy in stuff when I’m coming through it – mostly because one moment I hate the world and myself in equal measure and then in another moment I am grateful and thankful I am alive to be apart of it. It’s a confusing trick of the mind of depressive and manic behaviours and feelings that I find harder to manage.
So what can help?
It helps many of us emotional beings. Whether it’s the music or the lyrics… or in my case both. There’s a comfort in knowing that there’s someone out there who understands so beautifully the feeling enough to pour it out more eloquently than we ever could.
I have a few favourites around this time and particularly at the moment. Most of them sound pretty depressing to the untrained ear but to me they fill my heart enough to quieten the noise. I recommend making a playlist of your own choices that you can revert back to if you’re having a particularly bad day or if you just want reminding of what helps you.
Here’s a few to get your ears around:
During the winter months I partake in 100 Happy Days. It’s a movement to encourage finding the joy in the everyday. In the mundanities of the day. I love it because even on the most depressing days there’s a joy to be found – genuinely. Whether it’s the fact I’m wearing my favourite socks, my eyebrows are on point, my cat is being particularly cute or the sun hits the water in such a way that it pulls me out of the depths even for a millisecond. It’s worth documenting.
Whether you do it for yourself or you share it on instagram #100happydays I really recommend doing it. It’s a good thing to reflect on when you’re out of it – noticing what brought you hope, comfort or joy in a darkened time.
3. Do something and celebrate the victory.
Okay now before you tell me to sit the hell down and shut the hell up. I know when you’re depressed or even when coming out of a depressive episode doing something is the last thing you want to do, it’s a real struggle. But hold the phone a minute will ya.
What I mean is GET OUT OF BED.
If you’re in the depths:
- Move. Move your duvet from your bed to the sofa.
- Move. Brush your teeth.
- Move. Feed the cat.
- Move. Put on clean PJ’s or clothes if you can manage it.
Just Move. You are not a tree. Even if it takes you 6 hours to convince your mind to go to the bathroom – keep fighting until you’ve relieved yourself.
If you’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:
- Move. See a friend.
- Move. Make yourself something decent for dinner.
- Move. Say yes to an invitation.
- Move. Walk to work.
Even if like me it takes you 2.5 hours to wake up and get out of the front door even with a SAD lamp and a million alarms and a cat scratching your face (yes that’s my routine). Move.
Because you know what? Then the depression hasn’t won for the entire day. You had a victory. However small it is. Celebrate it. Give yourself a pat on the back, eat that piece of cake or watch that show you’ve been waiting to watch until you felt better. Celebrate little victories.
Texting is not communication. Okay yes it is. But when you’ve not left the house for 4 days because you’re so deep in the depths of depression that you’d rather starve than step outside; Texting isn’t enough to raise you up out of it. Now don’t get me wrong I am a huge texter. But I am a huge communicator in general, I’m pretty known for it. To the point I’ve turned the blue ticks off on What’s app so I don’t feel so pressured to respond straight away.
But the power of hearing a human voice, of someone you know and not that of someone from whatever Netflix boxset your binging, can send shockwaves. I know receiving a phone call when you’re in one of these places is sweat inducing terror so instead of waiting or expecting someone to call you – communicate with them (if you can – I know it’s difficult – trust me) often I’ll just leave a what’s app voice note to a friend saying ‘I’ve not heard a voice today can you call’ or ‘ just saying hello’. Short and simple without too much fear inducing consequences.
If I can’t deal with friends or family but I know I must leave the house often just going to the local shop to buy food or cat food for Sir Archibald. Interacting with the customer services representative is enough to feel like I’ve made a connection to the human world that day, even if it was only 5minutes.
Note. Receiving texts and messages at these times is very important so friends and family please do not stop doing so… but do not underestimate the weight of comfort your voice can offer.
I bloody hate exercise, always have. I can’t even blame the Bipolar for that one, I was always coming up with excuses not to partake in P.E at school or exercise classes with friends. As a result I am acutely aware of how unfit I am – and lazy for that matter.
My good pal Lucy made the kindest of gestures in sending me her old fitbit in the mail with about a million different coloured straps so I can match all of my jazzy shirts, in a bid to help me get moving. I’m starting small – 10,000 steps a day, if I walk to work and back it’s more like 15,000. I’m not kicking myself when I don’t meet it but picture this: the other day I was 1,500 steps away from my target so whilst watching Eat, Pray, Love (6/10 at best), in my PJs at 11.30pm I ran on the spot and around my teeny lounge until I’d hit it. It’s enough to keep me moving and for that I am grateful.
Now we’re not all lucky enough to have generous pals with spare fitbits and they are expensive (find your own fitbit here if you have a spare £70) but you’ll find the iPhone counts your steps in your health app and there’s many other activity apps that can help.
So there you have it. 5 ways you can help yourself in your own life when in the depths of a mental health episode or indeed ways you can support a friend or family member with their mental health illness – together we can end the stigma and share a little more love.