For those of you out there that clicked on this because you relate to having mental health issues, I’m so sorry. If you are just curious and maybe want to learn more, you are still welcome here. I will just warn you though, this won’t be a particularly fun post.
When I was originally diagnosed with anxiety & depression, my counsellor told me, “You will get better at managing it, but it will never really go away.” Instead of taking this as a cautionary tale, I jumped back into work. Then slowly, but surely, I slipped into my old bad habits.
What are these bad habits? In a nutshell, I overwork myself. I’m so afraid that any opportunity I get will never come around again, so instead of thinking it through I just say yes to everything. I don’t think about what I already have, I focus on what I still need to do. Which is my bucket list, the arbitrary list of things I want to do before I die.
No one is watching me, or evaluating me. If I don’t get through the list nothing bad will happen, there is no finish line or prise. Yet my ambitious doesn’t just rule me, it screams at me.
My sleep has been destroyed as a result. I lay in bed planning to perfection how I’m going to fit it all in, then have panic attacks in the dark. My body is sore and tired, and it needs a break.
I’m here today to tell you that Thinkingmoon.com will be slowing down for a while. I bit off more of the Moon than I could chew and sent my anxiety into overload.
My priority is and always has been my PhD, but lately, I’ve been overextending myself. Taking extra jobs to pay bills (proof reading), writing this blog, filming YouTube videos and spending waaaaay too much time on Twitter.
I’m not going away completely but I will only be posting once a week, on my original day, which is Friday.
When I feel better and more grounded I will post some extra days again. When the mood strikes or inspiration cannot wait, but this will not be permanent. Not until at least next July 2020.
In the meantime, please use meas your cautionary tale if you are struggling. Your health is more important than anything else. Go rest, then reevaluate. What is important to you?
I went to Iceland in 2016 with my parents and Le Boo. While driving around we listened to Björk a lot. Her voice and music style makes more sense to me now I’ve seen the landscape of her homeland. It’s incredibly beautiful, but also quite alien. I can only imagine living there before the industrial revolution.
It’s desolate and lonely fields of lava coupled with intense coastlines feels genuinely out of this world. It was the trip of a lifetime. We went to the Blue Lagoon, and I’d paid my ticket in advance to swim in it.
That never happened. While my parents and Le Boo were swimming in the Blue Lagoon’s naturally heated water, I was in the bathroom of the facility. Crying as quietly as I could in a stall, while my body panicked so fiercely it felt as though I was going to die. For days afterward I was exhausted, and couldn’t enjoy the holiday as well.
When I got back to Ireland, instead of being able to sleep the night before I returned to work, I tossed and turned. My stomach was sick, and I vomited at one stage. When Le Boo was getting ready for work in the morning he was surprised when I didn’t get up. I informed him as soon as my GP’s office was open at 8am I was going to make an appointment with her.
He was extremely supportive by the way and still is to this day.
I sobbed in my primary care physician consulting room, which was a new experience for me. I told her how I was feeling, and how there had to be something wrong. She suggested I quit one of my jobs (which I never had to do before, I have like 3 jobs now) and try some anti-depressants.
I then found a counselor recommended by a friend. She kindly informed me I had a mental breakdown after many years of suppressing pain and illness.
It’s been two years since that breakdown.
Let me make something very clear. At the time of the breakdown I was with Le Boo, and that is an extremely loving relationship. My parents, brother, and friends are all phenomenal people. I had managed to get a scholarship for my Ph.D. which was what I had always wanted, and my career was finally moving in the direction I wanted.
You think you get what you want and your mental illness will just dissolve. There isn’t a chance of that. What might happen is finally recognise if your internal monologue is healthy. If your relationship with yourself is kind. The road to discovery this may be tough but I found journaling helped. I included a colour chart I use at the beginning of this post. It has been indispensable to understanding and processing my emotions.
What I discuss on this blog is not revolutionary. It’s not ground-breaking in itself. Except for those suffering from cycles of anxiety followed by depression. When someone with other chronic illnesses discusses their symptoms, tt makes you realise you are not alone in your disease. Although it wants you to feel as though you are.
The community of people I’ve surrounded myself with on this site has been eye-opening. Those suffering from an array of mental illnesses from bi-polar to PTSD to social anxiety, and many more. They describe moments of pain, and they share their load. Hopefully making it a bit lighter.
Share your pain, listen to your emotions, and finally be kind to yourself first. Otherwise, you won’t have anything left to give to others.
I’m going to make everything really awkward for a bit so buckle up. Last week I was very ill. It was spent alternating between crying and feelings of numbness. Immediately after that week, I had 24 hours of pain in my abdomen. Thinking I was constipated or something (despite the large amount of fibre in my diet) I proceeded to eat plenty of beans and bowel friendly food.
I wake up on Tuesday morning and boom. Period in my pants. Less than 25 days since the beginning of my last one. So, in order to make myself feel better, I apply makeup and do my hair. Less than a year ago. This would not have been the case.
By the way, this blog post was not planned. I actually have my blog posts planned until pretty much 2019. (I haven’t necessarily written them, but there you go). Also if you don’t feel like reading all this today, I have a link to my Youtube video below explaining everything.
I want to talk about: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Now although I have not been diagnosed with this, it would appear that I have many of the symptoms, especially in regards to depression.
I’ve been keeping a journal just monitoring my general well-being and moods. It appears that the week before my period, my depression is heightened. I’ve always had some form of depression and was only recently diagnosed in 2016 / 2017. I will be bringing this evidence to a gynecologist as soon as I can.
When you think you’re doing everything right by eating well, maintaining healthy relationships, working in a job you love, you feel like depressive episodes shouldn’t be too frequent. For me though it’s always bubbling under the surface. The symptoms are as real as any other disease and there is no definitive cure. So if my period is making it worse, well then I’m going to try everything in my power to, A) find ways to alleviate the pain, and B) build a better internal dialogue with myself.
Women are often ridiculed, “Oh don’t get so offended, you must just have your period.” Which, besides deserving zero response, is not fair. If our internal workings are really affecting some of us so deeply, shouldn’t we at least be allowed talk about it like adults?
It’s been 15 years since the beginning of my period and the realisation of its effect on my life has only recently clicked. When I said earlier that less than a year ago, I wouldn’t have bothered with makeup and hair to make myself feel better, I’m being honest. The general feeling during my period was self-blame. You shouldn’t feel sad, just get on with things, stop being such a baby.
This is not ok. Remember, if you are suffering from depression, regardless of how it is caused or exacerbated, repeat this to yourself. “It’s not my fault.” That’s like saying your auto-immune disease is your fault or the symptoms from the flu is your fault. It’s crazy and it’s pointless.
If anything I’m going to continue to make people uncomfortable and talk period talk. Especially if I spend up to a week beforehand alternating between crying uncontrollably and feeling completely numb.
The mad part? A lot of friends and family will read this, who were with me last week, and they will be super confused because I didn’t let any of this out in front of them. Which is just exhausting, let me tell you. I’m always exhausted.
When I began commuting to Dublin in 2012 it was busy but bearable. Now it’s torturous. The transport infrastructure has not kept up with demand, as current traffic levels were not expected until 2020.[i] Some TDs are even calling for a second ring road to be built.[ii]
I’ve spoken about my anxiety here before, and nothing exacerbates my anxiety quite like traffic. When I’m in a room, or shop that’s too crowded, 9 times out of 10 I can leave. When I’m in Dublin traffic, there is nowhere to go, and I’m trapped. Not a good feeling when you have anxiety (or just when you are a human being in general).
I’ve tried many solutions. Trains and buses were out of the questions because they were far more expensive than my own car. (I am on a student stipend). Leaving earlier in the morning, leaving later in the evening was also doomed to fail, as the volume of traffic prevents this from being a viable solution. I’ve listened to audiobooks in an attempt to distract me from the stress and not waste those hours. I’ve even tried breathing meditations. Which work for about 5 minutes until a fellow road user does something completely inconsiderate and I’m back to square one. My only option was to work from home.
Yet I am one of the lucky few. Being able to work from home for most of the last 2 years comes from the flexibility in my career. There is only a need to venture into the city when I have a meeting or some other unavoidable human interaction. This has made my life infinitely better and I am more grateful than ever for my job.
Millions are not so lucky.
Humans continue to behave in ways our bodies were not built for because it is ‘expected’ of us. It is unhealthy for us to sit for 1 – 2 hours plus every day in traffic, with our blood pressure rising, and our mental health deteriorating.
It’s not healthy for us to spend our days in pursuits that literally makes us depressed. Draining our vital mental energy, so when we finally arrive home, even cooking a healthy meal for ourselves seems like a cruel joke.
Remember, if your brain is sad, this will transfer to your body. That’s because, spoiler alert, your brain is part of your body!
People are out for themselves when they are driving in traffic. I’ve stopped a few feet extra from a red light, to let a car out of a perpendicular road, and I’ve actually been beeped, by the car behind me. More than once. Where is common decency when traffic is involved? People are so amped up and unequipped to deal with the misplaced rage. All we can do as an individual driver is to be the sensible one. Be the one who’s kind and let’s other drivers out. If someone is driving dangerously, get out of their way, because you could end up getting hurt because of their lack of human decency and consideration.[iv]
“Working from home is not for everybody!” I hear this on a daily basis, people argue that you’re isolating yourself, or you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. That you need to work harder to prove your worth. As always I say there are positives and negatives to both kinds of jobs:
“There’s also evidence that some freelancers “overcommit” to work and find it difficult to disconnect or relax, which they say negatively affects their mental health. But overall, the health effects of self-employment seem to vary from person to person and—like office jobs—can be either positive or negative.”[v]
For me especially the good outweighs the bad, because let me tell you something, it would appear that a large majority of workers who have to commute to work aren’t flourishing in that environment either.
Stress is horrible, stress kills, and although we all know this, for some reason we continue to run like hamsters on a wheel. Just because it appears to be the norm, doesn’t mean it’s normal. All of your friends and family are stressed out, so I should just get on with it, right? Wrong. Just google stress-related illnesses. It basically causes a huge amount and apparently autoimmune diseases too.[vi]If that doesn’t scare you it should.
Also, what about the massive amounts of people who die or are crippled on our roads each year? 78 people have died on Irish roads already in the first six months of this year.[vii]
The answer to all of this? Mindfulness. Be aware of who you are as an individual and a human being. Figure out what works for you. If a job is causing an illness and it’s not satisfying, find a way out. Trust me, working for less money, in a more fulfilling career is worth it. I know because I did it, and gave up a lot of luxuries most people think they cannot live without.
Traffic is one of the worst side effects of humanity’s rapid urbanisation. I literally dream of a house in the country. Not because I don’t want people in my life, but because it seems that as soon as someone gets behind the wheel of a car, a rational part of their humanity switches off and they forget common courtesy. We need to reduce traffic anyway for the environment, why not be one of the innovative individuals that changes their own lives for the better.
Magic has been banished to the past. It has been overshadowed by science and its meaning twisted to fiction rather than fact. Humanity has voiced magic for millennia. I like to believe magic is within us all, only we’ve forgotten how to invoke it. When I call out my mental illnesses, voicing to the world their impact on my body, my pain is allayed. That is the magic through words and declarations. We need to be open to magic, and let it flow.
Throughout my life, I appeared to be a happy and contented human. However, I was not always a happy child, nor teenager or young adult. This passage I present to you is not to lay blame, there is no magic in blame. There is magic in self-reflection, and I am lucky to have been a writer for most of my life. I can look into the past to see myself, who says magic is impossible? My writing wasn’t for others, most of the writing appeared in a diary form, for comfort and understanding. Now I am more or less comfortable in my own skin, and maybe that only happens after a certain age. I can’t help feeling my rediscovery of magic helped.
Below are excerpts from a diary between 2007-2008 when I was 17. I was in my first year of college, and unlike most, I was miserable. I’ve decided to post it for me at 27 before I turned 28 next week, so I could see a girl who was hurting. Writing these entries was the only way she could soothe her sores. I want you to know that I don’t hurt nearly as much or as often anymore. The emotions that caused these fragments are no longer my master. Their control has weakened, and although I am still not fully formed, I know who I am. I look into the past to see, someone who is no longer me, because now I have compassion for her. When I was her, I could not forgive her and her demons. It’s calming to see how I formed, not just through my happy moments, but through adversity. In between class notes, and assignments, I wrote the following words.
“Observe and learn. I’m wearing my ring the right way around, and I’m running, not walking down one way.” – 16.10.07
“I’m running away, but I don’t get that far, the blue calls me back, and the voice is my scar.” – 18.10.07
“I just need to get some stuff out of my system. I haven’t eaten… I’ve bruises on my wrist, I know how I got them.” 19.11.07
“Soon everything will work out right? It has too, I’m trying to be strong (failing miserably), but it seems I’m failing in every aspect of my life.” 19.11.17
There is this Othello quote, I need to include it because I was with someone I wasn’t in love with. I was so young I didn’t understand that consciously, but my unconscious self-connected with these words for a reason:
“My love doth so approve him, That even in his stubbornness, his cheek, his frowns… have grace and favour in them.” Desdemona. Act 4. Scene 3. Line 20.
“Can’t wait for my days to be over.” – 22.11.07
“I feel like someone beat me up and left me to die.” – 27.11.07
“The pain! I’ve pains everywhere lately. Chest, stomach, head. Stress is a killer.” – 27.11.07
“I’m in the study room again. I really like it in here, it’s quiet, warm, and you don’t look like a freak for being alone.” – 4.12.07
“I wish I was home with the 3 idiots I live with. Idiots only in the sense that I love them to bits and they’re really special. I miss them too. I miss home.” – 4.12.07
I guess I understood cause and effect when I was 17 but often choose to ignore it:
“I haven’t eaten in a while so that’s why I assumed it had something to do with how crappy I felt. That or the fact that maybe I’d too much to drink last night.” – 17.12.07
“We have to live and grow. Some things have to happen as a natural part of the process. See the concept is crystal but the execution is elusive, and mostly the result is resounding. Either in a very good heart-warming way or, just killing every good thought you have that day. Or week.” 11.02.08
“I hope we don’t fail. I think that should be the motto. Or maybe something a little more uplifting? I believe that failure is not a factor.” – 11.02.08
“I can’t stop writing complete waffle. There has to be something good and worthwhile in all this crap.” – 11.02.08
“I’m confused, really I wish this was all over.” – 13.02.08
“I see the desert red, in my mind it helps, you stand.” 13.02.08
“The blanks and the blanks are just part of that process.” 14.02.08
“As a story begins, so does the whole new world. Growing so fast.” 21.02.08
“Can’t control it. I’m not the only one whose ever felt this way, but you’d have to feel this way to understand.” – 3.04.08
“You know I probably wouldn’t have gotten through this year, if it hadn’t been for this journal. It gave me solace, and a place to voice my thoughts. I’m so glad Mam and Dad gave it to me.” – 23.04.08
“I actually don’t know if all of this is good or bad for my state of mind. I’ll just have to hope it has a strengthening effect on it. It was always fairly week before, I always wished it could be stronger.” 23.04.08
Listen to this poor scared girl:
“It’s 20 to 1 in the morning. I’m sitting on my bed, near tears but none will come. I’m sick, of the mind. I wish my mind would shut up, stop haunting me. I hate human feelings, they are human right? Not the issue, I can’t let go, I’m afraid, so afraid of people leaving, of not seeing and loving what I have, please, please take me away, give me some purpose, you don’t owe it to me but I owe it to you. I can do good, I can learn how to do good, I’m not evil, I’m normal. Sad and normal. It’s extraordinary people that achieve. It’s all relative, I just want to achieve good. Is darkness affiliated with evil because people can’t see what’s really happening? If so the world must be shrouded in darkness and it continues to fall until the world is pitch darkness.” 02.05.08
I am sitting outside my boyfriend’s house, willing myself to get out of the car. Meeting new people always made me nervous but today, it’s debilitating. I am furious with myself. “Just open the door, and go inside, you’re being completely stupid,” I say this out loud. The malice in my own voice causes me to cry. I battle with myself, between getting out of the car or asking for help. Thankfully, I opt for the latter. I ring my mother, and her gentle voice comes through, “hiya honey, everything ok?” The poor woman, I am talking so incoherently she cannot understand a word I’m saying. The sobs are so loud I know I must be scaring her, but I cannot convey myself coherently.
I jump as my boyfriend knocks on my passenger side window, “everything ok?” He mouths through the glass. The best I can manage is to unlock the car, because everything is certainly not ok. He gets in the car, “love what’s wrong, did something happen?” On the phone I hear my mother asking me to give him the phone. He accepts and his face goes from concern, to understanding. My mother is telling him what she suspects is wrong, and how to deal with it. He nods making affirming sounds, then eventually hangs up. He goes through the process of winding down my panic attack. Eventually, I feel able to leave the car, and enter the house.
My body is exhausted, and my mind is cloudy for days afterwards. This affects everything, especially my work. This panic attack was the beginning of a breakdown.
Hello friends, welcome to this safe space. Do elements of that story sound familiar to you? It happened to me just like that. One minute I was driving to my boyfriend’s house, the next I couldn’t get out of my car. While this appeared to be a spontaneous occurrence, it didn’t come out of nowhere. The event that triggered the panic attack was just a final straw. Some of you may think, “poor weak-minded girl,” and that’s what you’re taught to think. It’s not the truth though. Present me knows this, but the girl sitting in that car, would have agreed with you, through her sobs.
I have come to realise that at the time, my generalized anxiety disorder (which I had yet to be diagnosed with)[i], was exacerbated by a simple act: Suppression. I would suppressed anger, I would suppressed jealousy, I would suppressed sadness, because these were not productive emotions. If I felt anger, instead of stopping to process why I felt the anger, I would push it away. Anger is for people who are not forward thinking, there is no reason to be angry just because someone cut you up on the motorway.
So, these emotions felt neglected, because they are tangible entities. Just because you suppress your emotions doesn’t mean they disappear. You need to understand why you’re feeling them, before they will be sated. Believe me, I learned this the hard way. The very hard way.
I am writing this blog for fun, but it also helps me distinguish my thoughts by giving them life on paper. I have been a writer for as long as I can remember (and maybe I’ll put up some really old stuff for the laugh later), but at the moment this blog is therapeutic. I know it’s right to understand that I’m not perfect. I will make mistakes, and I’m not weak because of my generalized anxiety disorder. For me to really believe this though, I have to see it here. In black in white, in words learned from my life, in concepts gifted to me by insightful people.
When I finally accepted that I needed help, and went to a counselor, I experienced such an awakening. My 10 year struggle was finally recognised. She legitimised my experience, so I didn’t feel like a fraud. My depressive episodes were born of my anxiety, resulting in exhaustion of my body and mind. She seen right through my veil. She told me once that while describing some of the most painful moments in my life, I would look up and smile, because I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
If you are feeling any of this, or you are seeing a loved one struggling, there are infinite ways to get help. My GP put me on a course of anti-depressants, and my therapist gave me exercises. The goal was to be kinder to myself, and to be unafraid of being imperfect. Failure is the best teacher (I believe the great Jedi Master Yoda himself said this). I will write more about this topic in the future because it is necessary. Do not view yourself or loved ones who are suffering as weak, see them as being too strong, and in need of help. There are some resources below, and there are many resources in your life you might not even realise. Your friends and family may not know how to engage with you. They might see you struggling and not know what to do. No one is perfect, and we will not all have perfect reactions to mental illnesses.
I will also leave you with a before and after photo, of someone who woke up one morning and said, no more. She said, “please I need help”. She has now realised that this is not only ok, but it is necessary. There is one woman smiling, through pain, her smile is a mask. The other is smiling, because she is joyful and happy to be at work on a Wednesday morning. Maybe you can’t notice the difference, but I can.