Mental Biznitch Health - Ode to RB Biznitch
It's been a couple of months silence from the Biznitch blog. But that's very typical of me. Very Biznitch Claire. I like to deprive myself of nourishment, satisfaction, wellbeing and sit in the rot.
I can write this, and yet I cannot change.
I'm sure it hasn't escaped most people that this week is mental health awareness week. So what do we mean by that? This is what I think:
Mental: Non conformity to 'normal'
Health: Something we need at optimum level to function
Awareness: IN BIG FONT
Week: Craig David. I'm mean 7 days.
IN BIG FONT; not conforming to normality at optimum level to function and talking about it for 7 days. Craig David.
Sort of, not really, it.
My own mental health journey started when I was 16 and I started to have an awareness of myself. I started to self-reflect and start adding judgement to all I did. I'm a "Type A" person and one that has to feel as though I achieve my best in everything I do. At 16 I began a very unhealthy relationship with food which I still struggle with now. I then went to University where I wasn't equipped or ready to look after myself physically or emotionally, and I had my first speed date (which soon became a many year affair) with depression. I had some sub par "Uni Counselling" after a particularly rough 8 days of not eating and sleeping and I was stood up straight, patted on the butt and sent off with a concoction of drugs to numb the pain. Metaphorically. But also kinda just that.
I'm not sure if it was the depression or the idea of depression, but it didn't get better. I was ashamed of my pills and how I was feeling. I felt I should be able to get over it and manage my emotions better. I was surrounded by other 20 years olds who were also growing and finding themselves and I didn't really have anyone I could talk to about my low self worth and dark thoughts. I also didn't have the vocabulary to truthfully describe my feelings. I still remember in 2006 my Uni denied me an extension on my essay as I was just going through some depression treatment and having a particularly low time. A girl who's grandfather died did though. I'd like to think we've come along way now and these can both be treated equally and fairly. Cause grandad's rock as equally as depression sucks.
My depression made me small and bitter and an emotional liability.
Over the next 5 years I would go on and off drugs a couple of times to manage my heavy days, and my weight would drastically change either in response or relation to how I was feeling. They were like twisted roots inside me, intertwining and affecting each other so that I would be caught in their web, feeling very helpless and not knowing how to feel "ok". However, I managed to stabilise myself through most of my 20s (head down, troop on, stiff upper lip etc. etc. etc.) and began coping mechanisms to allow me to survive. Not feel better, but survive.
Fast forward to my late 20s.
And the coping strategies are now failing me.
The thoughts and anger that I have inside me has been pushed and pushed and piled on top off like a pile of dirty laundry that you just can't bear to deal with. Whilst my depression is something that I have managed "Today I feel depressed" as opposed to "I have depression" (perhaps), I now find myself dealing with another beast altogether. Anxiety rears it's ugly head and starts dictating my life.
Anxiety for me manifests a lot in my work, but also how I think people perceive me. I am very meticulous with ensuring every task I do is done to the exact method I intended, I can be very controlling in the work environment and I do not allow for any flexility when things go wrong. I can be rigid in my ways and very inward with my thinking, rather than taking into account those around me. I think of worse case scenarios at all times which can lead to lack of sleep, mindless eating and a disconnect from the world.
Now i'd like to introduce RB. RB is a little shit of a person who if you text them asking for their address, they will send it in video form. Let me tell you now, that is a completely irrational response to a very simple task. But RB also has lots of life stories and knowledge about mental health. And it is because of her that I was able to respond to my relationship with food, moments of depression and anxiety, facing them head on.
I always knew RB had been having therapy and I wanted in. I wanted the therapy-goodness deep in my soul. I'm not going to pretend I did any form of decent research, I just googled psychoanalysis therapists in my area and got signed up the following week for my first session. I was a lucky shit and hit the therapist jackpot. It was expensive and time consuming, and something that initially I was uncommitted to and didn't respond to. Why? See first paragraph. Things that are good for me, I push away.
Fast forward 2 and a half years.
Up until April of this year I was seeing my therapist once every week for this time. Sometimes we chatted about my day, my week, work, other days we chatted about scary things that I didn't always want to look at in the eye. I stopped to have a break to refresh my mind, and well, good therapy is expensive. At £70 a week, therapy is for the privileged not for all. And with waiting lists on the NHS and the low quality of group CBT delivered by the NHS (my opinion, sorry, but completely accurate) it is something that many are being denied of.
Therapy taught me to question. Question my feelings and where they came from. Because when you can understand your feelings you can learn to let them go. We talked about depression and how it can be interpreted as anger turned inwards. We looked at where the anger was in my life and how I could learn to express that outwardly. We regularly talked about my eating habits and ways to manage this. We looked at logical thinking and life strategies to respond to my anxiety.
We talked about how I am enough.
We are now in a society that words like mental health are not as taboo as before. We all have connections with someone who is affected. Damn, I believe we all deal with it personally, just on a scale, in every single moment of our lives. I deal with young people everyday and as they start their exams this week, I wanted to tell them all it's ok. It's ok to cry because revision is hard. It's ok if all your friends have boyfriends and you don't. It's ok if some days you can't get out of bed; try again tomorrow. Be kind on yourself, find an RB who you feel comfortable talking about how you are feeling with. Get therapy! Everyone should have therapy! And just know, nobody is conforming to normality to reach optimum health levels. And if they look like they are?
Give them a fucking Oscar.
If you're struggling with any of the above issues, here are some things I have found useful:
Try a yoga class or join a gym.
Get outside, go for a walk.
Eat 3 meals a day that are balanced and nutritious. Find some that you REALLY like. Eat them all the fucking time so you don't have to think about what you're eating every day (chore).
Be kind to yourself and remember a time where you felt like this before. And how it always turns out ok.
Talk to someone. Find and surround yourself in people who can talk your language and listen to you. You can't have my RB.
Get a pet. Fo realz. There is nothing more calming or nourishing than cuddling a cat or taking a dog for a walk in the fresh air. That dependency forces you to get your ass in gear and BE IN THE WORLD.
Make a list of practical things that make you feel good. Put the list on the fridge. When you're feeling low, do something on the list.
Samaritans in times of crisis; never feel alone.