This is another one of those posts that I’m feeling a little (no, not a little, a LOT) scared of writing. Part of my mind is telling me ‘you’re a wellness coach, don’t write this!’ but another part of my brain is telling me ‘no-one expects perfection, just write’.
The ‘just write’ part is winning. Over the past 6 weeks/2 months or so I’ve felt myself struggling with low mood and wondering what I’m doing here. If there was any sort of trigger it was vague feelings of loneliness, I’ve been single for a long time and sometimes I’d love to be in a relationship and it can get lonely, but before I realised what was happening, I was stuck in that place where my head feels like it’s full of wet cement and every step, every thought is an effort.
The dark clouds settle in over my head, sometimes it feels like I can’t breath. Recently this feeling, feeling suffocated, not being able to get out the words I want to get out, has been showing up a little panic attacks. This is a new thing for me, I’ve never been good in confined spaces but to feel like I’m suffocating and can’t escape is a scary sensation. I think I’m starting to manage it a little better again – pep talks in my head if I feel the panic rising and little mini mindfulness practices to help me feel calm. Sometimes thought it’s easy to forget the tools I’ve learned on my Mindfulness journey and I just go straight to panic mode.
On top of this, for many weeks, I’ve found myself coming home from work and just sitting on my sofa crying. Some mornings I’ve cried off two lots of make up before I can make myself leave the house. I haven’t taken any time off work and I’m fairly sure that, on the whole, most people wouldn’t be aware that there was anything wrong. I’ve cried before nights out, cried on holidays – all when I’m on my own not in front of other people – and then put on my happy face and gone out to have a good time. And I find I can have a good time, there’s no faking the enjoyment even if it is a struggle to get out the door at times, and even though I may come home and feel like I’m right back where I started again – sitting on the sofa crying.
Sometimes I will go for days without posting anything on The Mindful Journey group on Facebook because I just can’t think of anything to write. For the same reason I haven’t posted anything here in a long time. It’s like my thoughts are all struggling in the wet concrete, pushed down by the black clouds, and there isn’t a creative thought to be found in my head. I hate feeling like this, I get annoyed at myself. This doesn’t help matters. Neither does my inability to think about food and eating healthily – it’s so much easier just to order takeaway or pick up some things at the supermarket that are easy to eat (bread, chocolate, crisps – the things that make up my staple diet when I’m feeling low). This means I’ve piled on a few pounds in the past couple of months – not a pretty sight. Then there’s the random thoughts of driving through town in the back of a taxi and thinking ‘I’ll just open the door and roll out into the traffic’ or wondering if it’s possible to open the door of a plane and just step out into the clouds…
I know I’m not alone in having these thoughts, right now when I’m feeling better this is a comfort, when I’m feeling suffocated I feel like the only person in the world feeling like this and I genuinely think the world would be better off without me.
Thankfully I don’t have these episodes as often as I used to, this is maybe only the second time in the last 3.5 years. Besides the occasional feelings of loneliness there is nothing bad in my life – I have a loving family, a fantastic group of friends, a job that pays well and lots of opportunity to travel – there’s nothing here that causes these issues.
What I’ve learned though is that the clouds and the cement can sometimes lift just as quickly as they arrive and what a relief when that happens! The other thing I’ve learned is that everyone deals with things differently, and having someone to talk to is such a relief. It doesn’t have to be an in depth conversation and the other person doesn’t have to ‘fix’ everything (in fact for me it’s better if they don’t try to do this), but it makes so much difference just to have someone to say ‘I hear you’ or ‘I’m here for you’. It’s that feeling of knowing someone is reaching out a hand of support, and that hand can be thousands of miles away or sitting right next to you. Where the person is in the world isn’t important, what’s important is knowing they are there and they will support you without judgement and questions (the questions are better saved for later, when the clouds have lifted).
Although I’ve touched on this subject a few times here, feeling like this isn’t something I like to talk about, I struggle to find the words and it can sound a bit bogus when I really, really can’t explain why I feel the way I do. Why haven’t I taken time off work? Well, sometimes despite feeling rubbish it’s more beneficial to be around people than to be isolated, and sometimes I just don’t want to have to lie about why I’m taking time off. This is why I think it would be good if workplaces could allocate a few days per year for ‘mental health days’ – not free rein to take off weeks or months at a time (that level of illness would require qualified help), but just a few days that people could take safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be judged if they felt they were struggling with anxiety or feeling down and just wanted a bit of time out.
Right now the clouds have lifted and I feel a lot better in myself. I’m focused again on building The Mindful Journey and I’m focused on living the best life I possibly can. My intentions for the next year is to build and grow a successful business where I can use my experiences to help people be as well as they possibly can in mind, body and spirit, to travel, to have fun and to build my relationships.
I can’t say for sure that the clouds won’t come back, but I can live with that and with a good support network in place the clouds will shift more quickly.
(I would also like to say RIP Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time. There needs to be a lot less stigma around speaking out. For anyone suffering and not sure where to get help, in the UK you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 (a free number that won’t show up on phone bills). In the US the number is 1 (800) 273-TALK)