Hi there little readers,
I hope you are well and minding yourself. I’ve been struggling with basics but we can get back to that later.
This topic was supposed to be a podcast but unfortunately my schedule has just like tripled in capacity. The people that requested it have asked a few times and I realise that with topics like this sometimes there’s a sense of urgency. I’ve put off the podcast for almost three weeks now and I am so sorry for that but hopefully we can put all right with this blog post. I know that I won’t be able to fit the same amount of information into a blog post as I would a podcast BUT I’m gonna try. And of course, if you want to chat further or would like me to talk more about it- hit me up on Snapchat (jademccannx) and I can elaborate on my story or write to you personally. Whatever ya like.
Before I start, I just want to refer to a blog post that I put up a few months ago. It talks about what exactly mental health is. And it’s important to note that everybody has mental health, just like everybody has physical health. So, before you think this blog might not apply to you because you have good mental health- think again. Illness does not discriminate. So mind yourself. And click here to read more about that.
Managing my mental health isn’t exactly easy. I generally suffer with whacks of depression, stress, anxiety, paranoia and obsessive thinking.And they have not left me yet. I don’t feel one bit sorry for myself and I don’t argue the fact anymore. I’m actually so relieved to say that I have a certain level of acceptance around these things now. That, and I have picked up tools over the years and because of this it has gotten a lot better.
The first trick that I learned, and I always stress this, is that I stopped putting mood altering substances into my body. That includes weed/hash and codeine based painkillers, alcohol and all recreational drugs (not that I ever took all of them, but you get the point). And there’s a very good reason for that, just hear me out. Not only have I got an addictive personality and do these things get me in a bit of trouble, they also interfere with my emotional and spiritual growth.
Imagine a snow globe. Every time you get a certain length of clean/sober time, the snow globe is still. It begins to collect itself. You can think clearer. You are more connected with yourself. You have a little bit of raw emotion and that can be hard but at least you can feel. But when you use something mind altering, the snow glob is shaken. It gets disrupted. It doesn’t know where it’s going or how it feels. You’ve knocked yourself off whack. All parts of you become confused. And that’s the best way I can explain it. If you’re susceptible to mental health struggles and find it hard to tell how you feel anyway, why would you make it harder? You can probably relate to this if you go into a depression after a night out with huge anxiety and panic attacks. That used to happen to me a lot. I hated it. I used to think that I used drugs (alcohol being a drug) because of my mental health state. I never questioned whether or not the drugs were interfering. Until someone explained the snow globe analogy. And that’s why I’m sharing it with you.
By staying away from mind altering substances, it gives us the opportunity to connect with how we are really feeling. It allows us to feel how we really feel. Which can be really difficult if we don’t want to face it. But it’s like ripping a plaster off. If you feel it now, you won’t have to feel it again. If you deal with this stuff now and talk about it, let it out and come to terms with it. You can bury the hatchet. Don’t get me wrong, staying clean can be extremely testing. And unfortunately, not everybody can get clean in one try. But there are programmes and places that provide support if needed. And if and when we are supposed to stumble across them, we will. I do not regret getting clean at all. It has given me so much. Not only superficially- like the jobs of my dreams and a beautiful car and life- but emotionally and spiritually- I can connect with myself and faith. I know that I’m going to be okay and I am able to make decisions based on how I really feel- most of the time. That’s not to say that I’m perfect and can see everything clearly because I’m clean. But I’m one step closer. There are also other positives: like being more hireable because you’re not a liability, learning how to have fun sober, remembering nights out and other events, being the one that your friends can depend on and of course, being able to depend on yourself. Drop a comment if you’d like me to write a post about the pros and cons of being clean- that could be a could one!
Now, when it comes to mind-altering substances, there is the whole other topic there of anti-depressants. If you’d like me to put a blog post up about my experience with anti-depressants then let me know. For the most part, I have no objection. but I do believe that they should be suggested and prescribed by a doctor. And I don’t believe they entirely resolve the issue. I think they work as a good temporary tool but can cause problems long term- that’s based on my experience.
Unfortunately as clicheéd as it may sound, in my experience I’ve learned that the most important way to maintain your mental health is to maintain your physical health first. I’ve learned this through my experience of not eating, not sleeping, not communicating, not showering, isolating, not drinking enough water- and basically doing all of the things that basic human beings need to do in order to feel safe. This kind of behaviour has never helped my case. And I understand that when we’re in that mind set, it’s almost impossible to get ourselves to move. But we just have to. It’s literally like forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. No matter how I feel, I get up, dress up and show up. Even if I have nowhere to go, I just go. I get in the car. I get on the bus. Somedays I do it crying. Somedays I do it with my heels dug into the ground. I have gone out some days with my face raw red from a night of not sleeping and crying but brought face wipes and just constantly wiped tears away as I sat in a cinema. I’ve taken breaks at family meals to go into the bathroom to cry. I’ve sat in the most happiest of environments with family and friends trying to cheer me up with the sole thought of ending it all. But staying locked away in isolation has always made me worse. And I do not want to be ill. I want to be well. I’ve spent too much time ill. It is not easy to do this. Leaving the house when everything in your entity is telling you to hide is probably the hardest task I face regularly. But I always feel better when I’ve done it. And I’ve started to see the rewards of doing it. When I get promotions in work or make new friends or meet a reader… I know that it’s important for me to keep trying.
I find showering before I go anywhere helps. Sometimes when I can’t convince myself that going out is a good idea, I convince myself to take one task at a time. So I’ll get out of bed. I’ll comfort myself with a dressing gown. I’ll make it to the kettle. I’ll pick some clothes out ‘just incase’. I’ll have a hot shower. I’ll moisturise and do my hair, sometimes my makeup. And by the time I’ve done some of these things, I want to go out. I’ll have come around a bit.
I learned this trick called ‘HALT’. And basically what ‘HALT’ is is that, anytime I feel down or confused, I stop and ask myself- am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? And usually, I’m one of those things. And in the process of rectifying that, I begin to feel better. I might eat and be given energy, or sleep and feel refreshed, I might phone a friend and talk it out or realise that my angry is as a result of any of three things listed. Basic care is so important. We are human beings. We are not machines. We don’t run on coffee (although, I’m giving that a right bash) and we can’t neglect our basic primal needs. And if you watch my snapchat, you’re so aware that I cannot preach this. If I’m being one-hundred-percent honest, almost everyone I know asks me regularly if I’ve eaten today. Mainly because I find it really hard to nutritionally fuel myself. And I don’t do it consciously- honestly, I don’t. But it’s like I just put it at the bottom of my priority list sometimes. And I don’t feel hungry or in pain or anything like that. I don’t do it to hurt myself. I just don’t love myself enough to eat sometimes. I put it off. I tell myself I’ll eat later. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Like, in the last two days, I’ve eaten twice. And that’s while I’m working 12 hour days. I survive on coffee. Literally. And I am so aware that is not good for me. And I’m so aware I’ve to be careful because when I get like this and run on nothing for a while, my mental health eventually crashes- because as mentioned before, I’m not feeling my brain or my body. Sure wouldn’t anyone lose their mind? But important to note at this point is that I am not striving for perfection. I want progress. So although I struggle with food, I have to look at the positives. Last night I got enough sleep. I got up this morning and made it to work on time- clean, dressed and in a good mood. I want to be kind today. I can’t wait to live today. I’m excited to be in work because I love my job. And if I eat, I eat and if I don’t, I’ll get around to it. But at least I have the awareness around it and the tools to notice these things. Before, I never would have figured that this may be linked with my mental health or influence it in any way. So if nothing else, I’m learning.
Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?
I suppose the next elephant in the room is that I work a lot- y’all are like… 12 hour shifts?!? And this can be unhealthy because it fits as an escapism. When I’m working, I don’t have to deal with my problems. I can easily ignore my home life, my friends or my own emotions. But for me, working helps. I always get around to checking in with myself eventually- asking myself how I feel physically and mentally. But work helps me to meet new people, keep active, get out of bed, stay out of bed, engage with people on a professional level and all of these things give me a sense of achievement. It helps build my confidence in myself. I challenge myself daily. I set new goals weekly. And I aim to meet them. And if I don’t, that’s okay. But when I do… I swear sometimes I feel like I am on fire. There is no greater feeling than setting a goal and meeting it. And that’s how I feed my soul. But everybody has something different. My point on this paragraph is find something that interests you and chase your dreams. Because unfortunately outside things aren’t going to fix you– as convenient as that would be. If you are struggling with your mental health that’s something that has to be accepted. Everything external is a temporary fix. Soul rewards are ones that we get when we work on ourselves internally. And I really do believe, based on my experience, that hobbies and passions can enhance confidence and help us to reward ourselves. That’s not to say it’s not testing. Trying new things can be really scary, meeting new people and going to new places can be absolutely terrifying. But that sense of overcoming something, it just really helps to remind me that I can do anything I want to and I’m stronger than I think.
I hate saying this but I always feel better when I drink water and eat healthily. I hate saying it because for some reason I have something built into me that loves to self-destruct. And if I could live de-hydrated and survive nutritionally off chips and pizza, I so would. But the problem with that is when I fall into those patterns, my mental health suffers. So I have to be really aware of triggers that I have. Exercise really helps me, too. I feel confident after the gym. I can push myself at the gym. It’s great way to let off stress and burn all of that hot, pressured energy. At the start, I didn’t like going to the gym. I felt self-conscious and I didn’t feel like I could do it. I thought I wouldn’t achieve my goals. I thought I was doing everything wrong and that I would be judged. But I got a personal trainer to teach me. I did some research and I started making more of an effort to overcome my fears. And I feel so confident in the gym now. I even allow myself to wear sports bras and leggings- I’M THAT YONCÉ. I don’t have a perfect body but that’s just an example of how by working at something and chipping away, you do reap what you sew.
As well as all of the physical elements of self-care, there are mental/emotional ones, too. I had to learn to be aware of how I speak to myself, how I think about myself. So, I had rewire my brain in many ways. I realised that if someone else followed me around telling me the same things I don’t myself, I probably would have knocked them out a long time ago. I would never say these things to anybody else. I would never call someone else useless, or tell them that they’re stupid or less than anybody else. So I have to work on that all of the time. I have to be aware. I used to spend hours telling myself how terrible I was. But now, whenever I have a negative thought about myself, I try to counter-act it with a positive. It doesn’t always work. But, it’s helps me move on to the next thought. I have to be kind to myself. I am not a bad person. I can just feel unwell sometimes. I wouldn’t beat myself up for hurting my leg. So, why should I beat myself up for struggling mentally? It’s the same thing. It’s about health and maintenance.
Obsessive thinking is a huge thing that I struggle with: becoming obsessed with people, places, things and thoughts. And the only thing that I have learned that makes this ANY easier is to just let the thoughts come and then let them go. I used to spend months telling myself not to think about things. I’d force myself to forget or distract myself. And let me tell ya, they just come back with a vengeance. Well, for me they did. So, now when a ‘bad’ thought comes, I just question it. I meditate on it. Why has this thought come? What has triggered it? Is there a reason it’s so irritating for me? Why am I hurt by this? And I also call a friend sometimes just to take the power out of it. Sometimes when I hold things in, they take control of my mind. They consume me. But by just saying it out loud (no matter how many times I have to), eventually it lifts. And it passes. Everything passes. Everything always has and everything will continue to pass. Life goes on. This, too, shall pass.
I’m trying to think of all of the things that I have to force myself to do that may just come naturally to other people. And to be honest, I can’t really preach these things because let’s be real, I am not perfect. I find it hard to sleep. I sometimes go days without food. I sometimes eat a 2 day calorie intake in one sitting. I get angry and I become obsessed with things and I don’t always do what I should to help myself. But I’m still alive and I’m still trying. And I’m a hell of a lot better than I was. There have been times that I honestly did not want to live. And there have been times that I definitely did not want to try. But here I am. And I understand this blog post might not have helped and it was probably really vague but my basic point is just not to give up. Don’t let this win. It’s not real. I know for us it seems real and like the world is ending and it’s never going to pass. But clouds clear. And people do come out the other side. That’s not to say the clouds won’t return from time to time. But it does get a hell of a lot easier. It can be conquered.
As always, I am going to just pop a disclaimer here and state that I do not write about these topics for attention. I write about mental health in the hope that it might reach someone suffering and also, to slay a bit of stigma around it. Not enough people have the capacity to be completely honest about their struggles and I am so grateful that I’m capable in that sense. I don’t want to waste it and allow someone else suffer in silence.
If you would like to hear me talk about this some more, let me know in the comments below or on any of my social media platforms. I genuinely love hearing from you guys because I like to identify, too. And I love to think that this kind of material is reaching someone. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is so much more that I would love to say but I’m strapped for time. I will be chatting about this over on my Snapchat this week to correlate with the post so if you want to hear some more, come on over and join the Snapfam!
Until next time,
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