Since my last post things have not been all that good, a family illness and family friends passing away / experiencing serious illness, not to mention all the doom and gloom in the news with uncertainty across the world at every corner and numerous famous people also passing away before their time, and the gloomy cold weather, all conspired against me (and I’m sure others). I suffered ever lower moods until eventually I slipped into a depression, which manifested itself with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, that nothing could be done, nothing I could think of would make me feel better. Through the strength and help of my family, friends, and the support of the NHS and a private therapist I am slowly regaining my strength of will, the spring weather has helped a lot with blossom, greenery, warm sunshine and a warm breeze at last. My moods still swing up and down, my sensitivity to things being quite high still, not least being difficult social situations or bad news. I remain optimistic that I will pull through but I do not expect things to ever be quite the same as they were before, indeed I wouldn’t want to return to that way as it was partly that which led me to my current situation; I must make changes to better my situation, make the most of the good points, try to minimise the effect of the less good things that I have less control over, and make opportunities for myself that I had previously dismissed as too difficult or unattainable.
There has been numerous stories in the news recently about the importance of mental health, wellbeing, and its role in overall fitness. It is often overlooked or ignored, or worse still shunned as something to keep quiet about, however as I have learned first hand it is at least as important as physical health, and the two are very much linked in ways most of us probably don’t understand (or don’t want to think about). Being physically unhealthy can lead to an unpleasant downward spiral of thinking it’s too difficult to become healthy, nobody will understand or be able to help, which leads to low mood and an unwillingness to do anything about it. It’s not true though – there are people who can help, ways to help ourselves, it needn’t feel like a mountain to climb if the slopes can be turned into a series of easy steps. I won’t go into the details here as it’s always best to get the help tailored to the individual’s specific needs, the first step should be to visit a healthcare professional for advice, preferably leading to a consultation with a specialist rather than relying on drugs alone (e.g. anti-depressants).
A few of the things that have helped me through the most difficult times have been watching comedy programmes, be it on TV, DVD, or online, a good action film to distract my mind for a couple of hours, going for long walks preferably with someone to talk with or just listen, and possibly most importantly trying to keep on doing the things that I would normally be doing – going to work, going out for a bike ride at least once a week (weather permitting), attending social events for interests or hobbies (e.g. I am a member of the local astronomy group who hold monthly meetings), generally maintaining my appearance and hygiene. All of these things are about being ‘mindful’ and staying in the present, it helps us to stop dwelling on our perceived problems be they real or hypothetical, and to just live in the moment. One thing that I am repeatedly told is that what’s in the past is in the past, we cannot change that, the only thing we can do is learn from the past and use that to try to make the most of the present.
One of the most important things that I have learned through this experience is that we really are not alone, there are many people all across the world who suffer the same symptoms and go through the same feelings, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The best starting point is to talk about it with someone, could be a friend, family member, a work colleague, or a doctor – just the action of talking about it often helps to relieve some of that unseen tension, then it’s a matter of taking it further to get the right help.
Looking back, I’ve now come to face what I’ve known I was doing wrong for many years but never wanted to admit it or do enough about it; in my case being a recluse really hasn’t worked for me, we are all social animals at heart and shying away from social interactions hasn’t been helpful. I have been stupid, ignorant, and made plenty of mistakes that I didn’t learn from, I need to think smart and change my approach to certain situations.
This post is getting rather long so I will continue with specifics in future posts.
For anyone reading this who is feeling low or experiencing bad times, just remember that there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel even if you can’t see it right now, all you have to do is reach out and tell someone about it.