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Mental Health - Self Care Tips

I'm still trying to get into the swing of things with lockdowns and my health. I've been finding my mental health has really been suffering to the point that I've struggled to function at times. Coupled with the IBD and gallstones, its been tough. The things that I usually enjoy don't seem to make me as happy anymore and for the most part I just want to sleep.

That's OK though.

I'm not going to get myself down about it cause at the end of the day I need to do what feels right for me. I'm exhausted, I need to rest and let my body recover as best as it can. I’m learning that having a chronic illness means I can’t do the same as I used to or the same as everyone else, and that’s OK too.

When I'm feeling a low, it can be hard for my family too. M will notice that I'm maybe a bit quieter that normal or that my concentration is non-existent at times. B has a way of picking up on my mood drop even over the phone or in the messages we send. And I myself notice I am not enjoying the things that I usually do. We talk about it as my brain goblins have escaped and it puts a more family friendly spin on what I know can escalate into a really dark time.

You never know how long the drop will last either. There have been days where I've been a bit more anxious and not quite with it and will be fine the next day or there will be days where I seriously struggle to get out of bed, and I can’t eat as I feel nauseous all the time. I feel miserable in my own skin and I just want to curl in a ball and cry. This can last for days, weeks or a few times it has lasted months.

It’s hard. I'm not going to lie.

There are times where I feel like I'm a defunct human and that I'm just a burden to my loved ones. Then there are days where I know that I have accomplished even the littlest things and call it a win.

I've had conversations recently with people from all sides of the coin. People who haven't suffered from depression and anxiety, who can’t understand why I can’t just “get on with it”. People who have been where I am and know how difficult it can be to function like a "normal" person and people who have been in such darkness, that I feel only they can truly understand where my mind goes.

I don't feel any animosity to those who don't really "get it". I'm glad that they don't understand in a way because it means they have never held this much despair in their lives. I don't even bother when people give me the "Snap out of it" or "What have you got to be depressed about" speech. They don’t understand and they have this illusion in their head that they would be able to shake off any mental illness. I just shrug my shoulders now and hope they never have to realise how wrong they are.

I must take medication to survive my illness in the same way that a diabetic does. I see a specialist in the same way someone with Muscular Dystrophy does. I have flair ups in the same way someone with MS does. Just cause my illness is harder to see, doesn’t make it any less real and just like every other disease, I can’t just wish it away with positive thinking.

One thing I have been very aware of recently is self-care, and as such I wanted to share with you some tips I have picked up in this decade plus long battle. Some of it might not work for you and that's OK, but the point in this is to help make your day a little easier.

  • Keep a mood log - Sometimes I can see patterns in my moods which make it easier to spearhead a dark spell. I know that in the run up to my period I will be a little more hormonal that normal so avoid anything that I know might be a trigger. I know that usually after I see my family in video call, I will have a dip in my mood because I miss them so much, so I know to be a little more kind to myself then. When B has to leave and I know I’m not going to see him for another week, I know my mood will drop.

  • Be aware of what you’re watching - This might sound like an obvious one but hear me out. I once went to the cinema to see War for the planet of the apes. I was trying to keep myself calm and use my anxiety techniques because I was in a busy place. I completely forgot that the premise of this film is pretty much people suck.

    I'm quite empathetic, even with completely made-up scenarios like film and TV. Usually, it’s just a awe 'how sad' and I shed a few tears but in my dark days I can seriously screw myself over. I left that movie theatre thinking about how unbelievably cruel the world is and wondering what kind of screwed up planet I have brought my son into. I know it’s a made-up film about apes and the chances of that happening are like a billion to one, but I know that there are people in this world that treat other humans like that. I know it sounds silly, but it really drained me.

    So, when I am feeling a bit 'meh', I will watch a film or TV show that I know can’t possibly trigger me. I know that can be different for everyone. I know people who can’t watch Disney movies when they are sad cause they have lost their parents which seems to feature quite a bit in Disney. For me, strangely enough its horror movies. I don't know why but watching a horror movie will calm my anxiety down. It baffles me because it usually causes anxiety in most people, but it works for me, so I just go with it.

  • Create a play list of happy music - If you’re feeling a little shit, the shuffle is your enemy. "Only you" came on my shuffle the other night and I just burst into tears. I was having a particularly hard day and when Selena Gomez started singing, I just lost it. I love that song but it’s a sad cover from a sad program (13 Reasons Why) and it’s not a good song for a low mood. Instead I listen to my feel good play list which have gems like Harry Belafonte - "Jump In The Line", "Get back up again" from the Trolls movie or David Guetta ft. Sia - "Titanium". Sometimes having the right music, I can start to feel myself getting back to an even keel ... and if I really feel shitty, I sing along. I might sound like a car going through a woodchipper, but I don't care.

  • Pamper yourself - While you can’t really go for a massage or get your nails done just now, there is nothing to say you can’t make a mini salon at home. Buy a face mask, paint your nails, go for a bubble bath and chill. One of the things that I find really helps me is when I go for a really warm shower, grab my favourite body wash and exfoliator sponge and scrub my skin raw. Might sound counter productive but it makes me feel like I’ve had a deep clean, like I’m scrubbing my way to a better me. My go to just now is coconut scented wash which I then partner with my Body shop coconut body butter. It smells yummy!

  • Discover Pinterest and get lost in it - I can’t enjoy a book when I'm really struggling. My concentration zero and I get frustrated. So, I turn to Pinterest. Type "funny humour" into the search bar and lose yourself for an hour or so looking at some random funny stuff. My personal favourites are the "fails". Like people who have tried to make a cake like a professional and it looks like the dog has made it or when people have order something online and what they get is totally different or hilariously wrong. I don't know if it’s considered schadenfreude or not, but it makes me smile and it’s not like they didn't have a laugh, or they wouldn't have posted it. Posts from Tumbler seem to be gold too. It might take a few scrolls to get me there, but this has never failed me, even if it’s a temp fix, it really feels good to laugh.

  • Accept that it’s OK not to be OK for a bit - You know what, sometimes life is just really shit and that OK. So, what if you haven't brushed your hair today and the dishes still need done. So long as your safe and the kids (if any) are happy and safe then have that duvet day watching movies or order that pizza for dinner. There is no shame in just looking after yourself. Listen to your body. If its overworked or overwhelmed it’s not going to function properly. In the same hand, it’s OK to ask for help too. Need your partner to take the kids while you nap, or shower then ask. Sometimes it’s necessary and it doesn't make you a bad person to need a wee break from life. So long as you get back to it, then take the time off. 

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to take care of yourself when you need it. If you have any other tips then please feel free to share them in the comments below