Finally I have started therapy again which was delayed due to covid. I have discussed in previous blogs how my journey with anxiety has affected me and what I have learnt along the way. But really the truth is when you are dealing with a mental health issue the learning never stops. You think you reach a stage of comfort and safety and life may throw you another curve ball that you then have to adapt to. It is not enough to simply view yourself as a completed work of art there is always room for more growth and lessons to learn. The NHS are quite good in the sense that you can self refer to receive therapy and this means you don’t have to go and face a doctor to explain what you are going through. They have questionnaires that are designed to measure your level of depression and anxiety. If you are unsure of what you are feeling, completing one of those may help in identifying what the problem is or how it affects you the most.
At the start of the year I had begun my journey of self reflection to admit that my recently relapse with weed had affected me more than I cared to admit at the time. You can read about this experience in one of my previous blog posts. I had recognised that my behaviour as changed and now was the time to implement a fail safe measure. Let’s call this stage 2 in self care. (I will explain the stages below)
Over the years of suffering with anxiety I have developed a warming system let’s call it. To use as an indicator of my mental health, a quick way to self diagnose what level of support or intervention I need at that particular time. And to jot it down would look something like this:
Stage 1: Day to day anxiety or a particular situation
This would usually be in the form of a bad day or maybe doing something that triggers my anxiety. When I begin to feel anxious I know I have a toolbox of mechanisms that I can use at that time to minimise my anxiety and my reaction towards it. This includes:
⁃ Breathing exercises
⁃ Listening to music
⁃ Singing out loud (this typically will take me around 3 songs to begin to feel more relaxed)
⁃ Going to sleep
⁃ Discussing my feelings with someone close to me
Stage 2: The point when I notice that my behaviour has/is changing in general
This could include avoiding a specific task or activity, becoming more withdrawn with people close to me or suffering with multiple reoccurring periods of anxiety on a regular basis. I like to think of stage 2 as a stage of growth and being proactive.
⁃ Discuss my feelings and/or behaviour with close friends of family
⁃ Reassess any life changes or events that is contributing towards this change in behaviour
⁃ Maybe seeking outside support or guidance
Stage 3- Full withdrawal and breakdown of mental clarity
I have only reached this stage a few times and if I ignore stage 1 and 2 then it will progress into a full scale withdrawal. This is categorised with withdrawal from all things I enjoy doing, spending time with people, interest in doing anything apart from sleep. This stage will begin to affect my work and may result in me calling in sick a lot or getting signed off from work. And as I said this has only happened a few times and it is not a happy place to be in. I would compare it to depression but not as bad because I still hold some control over my behaviour and hold the ability to change my reality. I feel that depression is more uncontrollable for people.
⁃ Therapy again is always beneficial and there are many forms available
⁃ Some people benefit from medication and don’t feel like you should be judged if this is the path you choose to follow
⁃ Accessing support from those who know you the most. It is often these people that can recognise some of your triggers or unhealthy behaviour
These are just some of the stages I follow for myself but these can be broken down into more stages if you feel that the decline in your mental health goes through more steps.
Mental health issues are often hard to cope with and also provide support for as it is an invisible illness. It can rob you of everything if you allow it too and sometimes you aren’t even in control until it is too late and you find yourself picking up the pieces that was your former life. Just remember though, more people have experienced some form of mental health issue over their life time and in this generation of millennials and even the generations younger than us, sooo many young people are now dealing with anxiety and depression every single day. I really do believe that prevention is better than the cure so the best advice I can give is to practice self care when you can. Exercising, eating healthy, going to bed at a reasonable time all contribute to a healthy mind. Even small things like getting out of bed and making the bed then opening your curtains can set your day down a positive pathway rather than one with a cloud over it. If you have any other tips or suggestions of how to manage or prevent mental health issues from ruining your life then drop a comment to be shared for other people.
I have included some links below that can help you to access support: