There are things that I consistently have (and often fail) to consider in my day to day life as a direct result of my mental health.
It’s never anything too serious, but non-compliance is pretty much guaranteed to have an impact on the way I feel and subsequently my ability to function. This isn’t going to be a surprise to anyone who also lives with mental health issues, but for anyone who doesn’t, welcome to our world.
Sometimes things that come second nature to others, or even to me, have to be reconsidered through the lens of maintaining some stability in my life and looking after my continually needy brain.
None of it seems like a big deal, not really. It can add up, though. Sometimes it can all become too much and I’ll teeter on the edge of being right back where I started. In this post I’ll go through some of the simple things that aren’t so simple any more; it’ll most likely sound trivial and I expect to garner a few laughs and probably some criticism. However, it’s my life and it’s my blog and if I want to have a whinge every now and then I think I’ve earned the right.
I regularly forget the impact socialising has on me. Since my mental health has improved over the last year I’m able to do it with far greater frequency than I was previously. The absolutely classic incident of me breaking my leg had some interference with my social life, but I got past that when I realised I could crutch myself to the pub.
In my worst moments socialising has been impossible. The last thing I want to do when I’m depressed is see people. The delightful coalition of full-blown depression and social anxiety created situations where even when I knew seeing people would be good for me, the comparison game in my head would only serve to deepen my depression.
When getting out of bed is nigh on impossible socialising isn’t even an option. Even living with another person (which I’m sure probably saved my life at times) can be exhausting. I expect it’s just as exhausting for them as it is for me. I’m not completely self-obsessed. Despite being a lot more stable than I have been, socialising still surprises me with its power to knock me off my feet for a few days.
Meds for your mind
The things I have to consider vary. I take medication that can make me pretty sleepy, so a late night tends to mean I take my evening sedatives later which knocks on how much I’ll sleep the next day. Drinking isn’t always advised when taking medication (please refer to your medication and GP) and although I seem to be able to get away with it it’s never far from my mind.
Even just a couple of drinks will make me more tired than usual the following day. I don’t have to be drinking to feel the impact, though. Just spending time with people can be utterly exhausting. Anxiety can mean that a lot of noise or people talking is a little overbearing on the senses. Trying constantly to be engaged and to keep my emotions in check when interacting with people is far more draining than you’d think.
Again it’s that combination of depression and anxiety. I don’t want to appear unwell, to give people cause for concern, or simply to feel that I’ve let them down by being anything less than fully on my game. Then there’s the consideration that, particularly lately as I’ve become more emotionally vulnerable post-therapy, I might burst into tears or take something the wrong way and alienate myself for good.
A display of emotion isn’t cause to be exiled from family or friends, but that doesn’t really matter to an anxious brain, does it? A couple of days of trying to keep myself in check is completely exhausting regardless whether I actually have to do it. Take the festive period, for example. A lot of time with people, drinking, social obligations. It’s exhausting for most people and it completely took me out for a couple of days this year.
For me, socialising needs to be planned carefully and when I don’t (which is most of the time) I pay the price. It frustrates me beyond belief that I can’t just pop out for a few drinks or enjoy a busy afternoon with family or friends without somehow being reminded that my brain doesn’t let me do these things without consequence.
Driving is a pretty mundane thing. A lot of people do it. Literal children can do it. Me, a woman in my early thirties? Not so much. It’s not that I physically can’t do it. I know how to operate a car correctly and safely. I certainly should considering how many lessons I’ve had. At the end of 2018 I took my test and failed rather spectacularly, but it was good to get to that point.
It probably took me longer than some people to get to that stage and that’s exclusively down to anxiety. I haven’t felt a sense of panic when entering or driving a car. Instead my anxiety manifests as slow reactions and mental blocks. When I first started learning to drive I was heavily medicated. There were some days I wouldn’t be able to attend my lesson because I was too exhausted from the effects of taking sedatives all the time.
Whilst the effects of medication are considerably lessened now and my anxiety is a little more under control, I can still feel those frustrating mental blocks. Many people say that you really start to learn to drive once you’ve passed your test, and I wonder how I’ll cope when there’s no one else in the car with me? The idea that my slow reactions or mental blocks could potentially hurt someone is terrifying.
A lot of people don’t like going to work. In the era of rampaging capitalism driving everyone to the brink of insanity money is very much a necessity and working the means by which it must be obtained. I don’t know why I wrote that sentence like a stuffy economics professor, but here we go. Even at the best of times with a job you love there are going to be days you can’t go to work.
It’s not that I don’t like going to work – although it’s hard to remember seeing as it’s been so long since I’ve worked properly. Instead it’s the enormous weight and impact of my mental health that’s stopped me from functioning well enough to work. The last job I had was horrible and I hated it, but I was also hideously depressed and heavily medicated. Now I’ve reduced my medications and my mood has improved, I am amazed that I ever made it to work at all. I was up against a lot but never let myself see it.
Back in the game
I work now, but I don’t do full time hours and I’m able to work from home most of the time. My job doesn’t pay an awful lot nor is it particularly stimulating, but I’m grateful for what I have. I am not an idiot and I understand that in order to get my life fully back I will need to return to the workplace proper some day. Recently I had a job interview lined up but eventually decided not to go when I realised I didn’t want the job at all and was still not sure whether I was ready to head back full time.
That wasn’t an easy decision to make and maybe I’ll regret it, but for once I was putting myself first. The last job I had I took out of desperation and I don’t want to be in that position again. I’d rather weigh up the impact on my mental health properly; after all, if it declines then based on my past experiences I’d be out of a job sooner rather than later anyway. My current job finishes at the end of this month and I’m not looking forward to, you know, not being paid any more. As I’m part time I barely earned enough to scrape by and now I won’t even have that.
At what point is it sensible to prioritise your mental health? When does it veer into fear or self destruction? Not going to an interview might seem like a rash move, but the job was so similar to one I absolutely hated that I couldn’t see past that. I don’t want work to wipe me out, but I can’t afford not to work. It’s a seemingly ongoing cycle of worry. How much can I take on? What’s the point in earning more in a decent job if I won’t be able to hold it down?
Obviously, I’m rambling now. The point of this post is to identify and talk about ways in which my (exceedingly boring) life is impacted by my mental health, even when I’m doing better. I’m functioning far better than I was this time last year. Far better than the last time I had a full time job or even when I failed my driving test. Still there are things I must consider and allowances I must make in order to live my life as ‘normally’ as I can.
There are other things I could talk about and things I probably don’t even realise, but it comes down to this. The severe and ongoing breakdown of my mental health has changed me and impacted my life. Dramatically in some ways, but far more mundane in others, it’s not something I can ignore. I’m trying to get back on my feet, and not doing a totally terrible job of it for the most part, but it’s difficult to know when to trust my resilience and when to let myself take time away. I am, to put it frankly, sick of always having to be ‘strong’. Can’t things just be easy?
I’m grateful for the things I have and extremely pleased that I don’t struggle the way I used to. Of course I’m willing to make changes to my life in order to make things easier for myself. Sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to.