I have not been writing, I apologise. I’m currently in hospital. There is a lot to say, but I’m not able just yet. I’m increasing my medication, starting yesterday. Migraines, naseau, dizziness, blurred vision, tremors, muscle spasms, hot and cold sweats, (more) sleep disturbances. I’m exhausted already, and this is just the beginning.
I will write more when I can.
I’ve been neglecting this space somewhat. I’m drowning in university work which I don’t seem to be able to do. I have all my references, I’ve written out structured plans for my reports and essays, but somehow there is a block when I actually attempt to do this work. I lay out my books, articles, pencilcase and laptop, open a word document… and then nothing. I’ve spent hours sitting staring at the blank screen, knowing exactly what I need to do but not being able to string the words together to form a logical argument.
It makes me feel so lazy. It’s so hard to explain the complete absence of motivation that comes with depression. That I love what I study – I love learning, I love doing well academically, I love piecing research together and weaving ideas into a coherent response. But recently my mind is blank. I close my eyes to try to focus and there is nothing there – a faint buzzing and grey static, punctuated only by intense ideation, primal screaming and violent imagery.
I’m going to need to apply for extensions for these assignments which makes me feel so pathetic. I got through last year without using any extensions, and that made me feel good about myself. I don’t like having to ask for special consideration. I don’t want to be that person. It embarrasses me, and it makes me disappointed in myself. Surely if I’ve managed before I can manage again? I need to keep reminding myself that there is a reason this is happening. I need to get back on my medication. I need some more support so that every inch of energy is not expended on keeping myself safe.
I’m going away for work tomorrow, I’ll be without internet until Friday. I’m not sure how I will cope with my headspace – but I keep reminding myself that I have been away working in far worse states than this, and I got through that. This – medical complications, ideation and strange sensory side effects – this is small game. I can do this. Thankfully I have an amazing job – on an isolated island surrounded by bush. When I’ve been unwell while working in the past, I spend the nights wandering the beach and navigating the island by moonlight. It’s a beautiful place.
The week that I return I have two exams, and when they are done I will be going into hospital. It’s a complicated situation that I don’t have the energy or cognitive function to explain right now – but I’ve been teetering on the edge for a long time, ignoring the signs. I’ve been lucky to have managed to stay out (not including schedules and emergency presentations) this long since returning home, and it’s time I swallowed my pride and accepted more help. Noone is going to change this for me. I have to make these decisions myself, and accept that things aren’t okay. When I can think more clearly I will explain further. For now, look after yourselves, and look after each other.
An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…
He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.
The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”
The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Check out part one of this post here.
Over the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking about what my life would look like if I were where I want to be. In each area, it would look something like this:
Health (physical): exercising each day, eating three meals & snacks each day, taking iron tablets, keeping up to date with my b12 injections, having regular iron transfusions, sleeping at least 5 hours each night.
Health (mental): being motivated enough to get up each day and achieve something, be able to do what I want, when I want – without my mental health being an obstacle.
Relationships: being comfortable with others, being able to be open with friends about what is going on for me, feeling comfortable expressing (and accepting) love.
Education: attending classes, completing necessary readings and assignments, continuing into Honours and Masters in Psychology.
Employment: continuing working in the positions I’m currently in, feeling satisfied with what I am contributing to the world, earning enough money to be independent and comfortable.
Community: actively volunteering, feeling useful, feeling as though I am making a meaningful difference.
Leisure & relaxation: resuming sailing, seeing friends regularly, practicing mindfulness, baking, travelling, bushwalking.
So – that’s an indication of how things would be if they were ideal at the moment. Employment and community are pretty much the only thing I’m satisfied with at the moment. This impression is quite dissonant from how things actually are. There are quite a few things that could change within each category, but it’s not exactly realistic to attempt to entirely change my life immediately – that would just set me up to fail. So I’m going to make a couple of small, SMART goals for each area that I feel isn’t where I want it to be.
SMART goals are something I learnt about during some hospitalisation or another – they’re a framework for setting goals which we are more likely to achieve than grandiose, unrealistic ambitions. You can read more about SMART goals here, but basically they are goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
– write a meal plan incorporating regular meals for the next two weeks, and do my best to follow it.
– buy syringes & do b12 injection for this fortnight.
– for for at least 4x 1hour walks each week, for the next two weeks.
– journal daily to get an idea of what I’m feeling and be better able to identify patterns and triggers.
– attend psychologist appointment next week.
– contact (text/call/facebook/skype) at least one friend a day for the next two weeks, telling them something I love about them.
– email a friend and explain that I have been struggling.
– write a realistic daily to do list in order to catch up on lectures and readings that I have missed.
– organise notes to study for an exam I have next Wednesday.
Leisure & relaxation:
– go for a bushwalk this weekend.
– resume crocheting the blanket I abandoned.
So, that’s a start. Steps to getting myself back on track.I’m going to print off these goals and stick them on my mirror, along with a daily checklist to tick off whether I’ve accomplished what I intend to. This will be difficult – at the moment it’s an effort to get out of bed, brush my teeth or open my mouth to speak to anyone and it feels like I’m trudging through knee deep mud – but I’m not going to get anywhere by staying still. I’ll check back in after a week to see how I’m going with these goals, again in a fortnight, and then perhaps reassess and make some more goals.
The last couple of years I have come to realise how important it is for me to keep my life in balance. ‘Balance’ is such a subjective term. For me, it’s feeling like I’m in the right place. Like I’m headed in the right direction. It’s an imperfect mix of values, which even out to where I feel satisfied and at peace.
I find that when I’m feeling like things are off – when my mood is worse, my anxiety is skyrocketing, my eating begins to slip and I regress to not sleeping for days at a time – often it’s because somewhere, I’ve let things fall out of balance. Whether that’s by something as practical as not taking my medication or something less obvious, like not taking time out to sit and drink tea on my own, or going a few days without checking in with friends.
A few weeks ago I co-facilitated an online session for young people about living in line with your values. It should have been obvious at the time (hell, it should have been obvious four months ago when I started struggling more again) – But I think things are out of balance. So here we go – time to reassess my values, where I’m at, where I want to be, and how to get there.
First up, here are some general areas that I care about: health (physical and mental); relationships (friends and family); education; employment; community; and leisure and relaxation. There’s more to it than identifying these areas though – within these categories, what is important? What is meaningful?
Health (physical): fitness, nutritional balance, looking after my iron and b12 deficiencies, getting enough sleep.
Health (mental): regular mood, controlling anxiety, developing and utilising coping strategies, practicing mindfulness,
Relationships: connecting regularly with others, maintaining positive relationships, showing people how much I appreciate and care for them, feeling valued and loved.
Education: performing well at university, attending classes, potentially furthering my studies beyond this degree, training in areas that I am interested in continuing in.
Employment: working in a job I enjoy, doing my best, providing a service to people, connecting with individuals, earning money, being independent.
Community: giving back to my world, doing what I can in areas that I am passionate about, making a difference.
Leisure & relaxation: keeping myself calm, doing things that I enjoy, taking time out for myself, being creative.
Now – is my life at the moment actually reflecting any of these things? I guess it’s painfully obvious to everyone around me, but it’s taken me a while to catch on. It’s not. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. It’s hard to face up to… And it’s not something that I can look at, and look away. Something (many things) need to change.
* I’ll continue this post later tonight or tomorrow – thinking further into where I am versus where I want to be, what my ideals look like and starting to develop some steps and goals to get me there.