I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately; a writing rut, a brain rut and a life rut. Still, life did go on – I went on a lovely holiday with friends to Adelaide where we saw a fabulous Facebook friend in person for the very first time (the power and reach of social media is amazing and can be a great resource when you can’t leave the house that much). I had a wonderful time despite my frustrating body not really wanting to participate – I think pneumonia affected it more than I originally thought it had, so it was a bit of a surprise. But holidays end and things go back to normal.
Except my normal at the moment isn’t really that interesting. I have things to do that I greatly enjoy; hats and dresses to create and a photo shoot coming up this weekend at Melbourne Greazefest with Cherry Dollface and All About Pout Photography to prepare for. For once I have had excellent news on the health front but I can’t seem to sustain the excitement and drive. Fatigue plays a big part in that but I can’t help wondering if there is something more going on. I struggled with depression in my teens, so much so that I was hospitalised briefly and on medication for several years – I have to say, there are some wonderful psych services in Melbourne and I greatly admire the people who work in them. Every time I fall in a rut I am conscious that I could have fallen further than I realised and could fall back into that world again – a world I fought really hard to leave.
Living with chronic illness is incredibly hard at times and it is not uncommon for people with chronic illness to have co-existing mental health issues. It can be hard for a lot of us to accept that and seek assistance, as many with invisible and not easily diagnosable illnesses get told at one point or other that their illness is all in their mind. I was pretty fortunate to skip that particular hurdle and only had one jerk doctor who told me a postural drop in blood pressure was normal with a sinus infection (which it can be, but not to the extent and duration that I have it) and that he didn’t believe in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Sure it can be a symptom cluster/secondary condition for many illnesses but for a lot of people it is the only diagnosis they have been given and the only presentation they have so until medical science can say definitively that it is not a condition in its own right I think it’s pretty short sighted and kinda negligent for any medical professional to say that it is not. With all this crap going on as well as coping with the day-to-day crap in the world of chronic illness it’s no wonder that there is a mental health component to living with chronic illness and that sometimes it becomes unmanageable and requires outside assistance.
From time to time I have seen a psychologist who specialises in chronic illness psychology, but I am between them at the moment (I had a good one but she was working at two practices and decided the commute was too far for the one I was seeing her at – damn!) and sometimes it can be tricky to find the right fit. I have been a bit depressed every now and then and not realised until I was out the other side but during those periods I wasn’t writing at the same time, I didn’t have reminders telling me to post things or half-finished posts begging for attention or that last bit of polish that I’m struggling to get to. The absence of words wasn’t a problem pre-blog, when there was nowhere for them to go; I watched tv and movies, read books and napped (with a liberal dose of puppy cuddles and chocolate thrown in) – I let other people’s words replace mine for a time and it was ok.
When I was suffering from severe depression in my teens I had the opposite problem, I was a fountain of words, it seems like there would never be enough pages in a book to contain them all – they poured out of me like a flood. Even when I couldn’t cry, I could still write. Even when I was emotionally numb and couldn’t feel anything I could somehow still write. I have trouble reading back over those pages now, partly because I am scared that somehow the things I felt when I was writing will somehow jump back up off the page and find their way inside me and I won’t be able to get them out. I know it sounds silly but there it is, there is no rational when it comes to struggles with mental health – not really. Rational can be there in the background but it’s hard to reach.
Last year I was diagnosed with mild anxiety – it had always been there but I didn’t know what it was. That sounds a bit silly doesn’t it. I could identify the feelings and the brain processes but didn’t have a name for it because I knew people who had anxiety and what they described was more paralysing than mine – so I felt like what I had was unworthy of the name. I have anxiety around social situations and it gets better or worse depending on the stress I am under; I agonise for hours over things I have said and done and things that have been said to me or overheard. I agonise over leaving the house, usually because of my level of health and concern over getting stuck somewhere, feeling awful and not able to get home, but sometimes it is more than that. My brain is often not my friend at night during times of stress. I feel like nothing I do and nothing I say is ever right or good enough, that only the very outer shell of my being is visible and nobody can see through it to find the real me.
I have a coping mechanism that I use for chronic illness (and pretty well everything); when I start to struggle I put everything in my emotional/mental backpack to deal with later when I am able. The problem is the backpack gets heavier and heavier and I struggle under the weight of it. It digs into my shoulders and presses on my spine, it makes breathing difficult, every step is harder than the last and I can’t lift my head up to see the horizon. Usually something will happen that takes the backpack away and empties it for me, I can see clearly ahead and my body feels free from the excess baggage but this is only after tears appear in the fabric and the contents slowly leaks out, taking an emotional toll as it does. I’m the first to admit it’s not really the best coping mechanism…
Right now I should be happy, I went on a lovely holiday and have had some amazing news – news that could turn everything around for me health-wise. Maybe it was waiting and pushing everything inside my backpack for so long that did it – the backpack has been burst by the potential relief this news brings and now I have to deal with all the stuff I put in it. Maybe it was feeling so let down by my body on our holiday, not being able to see the sights or help out much with essential things like shopping and cooking and feeling like I let my friends down in the process and left lumped them with everything when they were doing it tough too – screw you pneumonia!
Maybe it was all the hits I have taken recently from having more time being sick with various infections and injuries this year than not. Maybe it was all the heartache and tears from the breakdown of long-term friendships, over something I had no control over and no part in but bore the brunt of anyway; a twisted, hurtful saga that was more suited to a drama set in high school than the real, adult world – made even more painful and difficult to come to terms with thanks to a few toxic relationships in my past and experiencing more than my fair share of bullying. Maybe I should have started listening to what other’s had to say about people instead of insisting on making up my own mind a long time ago, but I wanted to give people a chance because I had often not been given one myself, I wanted to accept them for who they were and not judge them based on the opinions of others – more fool me.
So that hurt got stuffed in my backpack with the rest. Maybe it’s just a cyclical thing (no, not a women’s cycle thing!) and now is the time I have to feel it. Whatever it is I don’t like it and I want it gone; writing is a good way to do that, I just need to find the words again. But I will be ok; I am always ok, I have a masters degree in ok. If there is one thing I can rely on it is that I will eventually be ok, I just need to shake it off – might need some help in that department so here is a bit of Tay Tay to help with that <3
Do you have a coping mechanism? If so would you care to share?
One of mine is watching light-hearted and not too brain-involving tv series but I am between shows at the moment – any good recommendations?