The importance of quiet. 

Life with depression can have an almost deafening silence or a ridiculous amount of noise to it. Everything can quickly get too much and out of control. It’s important to make time for you, to be ‘quiet’.

To sit and read or listen to music, have a bath watch a film, whatever it may be – make time to do that for yourself. Something that relaxes you a little but keeps you engaged enough that you’re not asleep. It’s good for your brain to have that little time focused on something that isn’t taxing.

Oh but you don’t look depressed…

Blimey! I must be cured then. Thank you for that incredible remedy, you really should bottle that up.

I am stressed, my anxieties are through the roof lately and my black dog is back for a visit. Crushing me with the cuddle I don’t want. Life is a little bit shitty right now, and it isn’t made any easier by people saying all those unhelpful things, like my mental illness isn’t justified because I am not moping around crying. Incidentally, I am, just not in public and not all the time.

I don’t understand where the idea that depression has a ‘look’ came from. I can’t make out what I am supposed to look like. What the hell does depression look like?

It looks like ME, you, the guy down the road and your best friends uncle. Your sisters boss or the lady working the checkout at the local Tesco. Depression doesn’t have a look.

We don’t walk around with a big shiny arrow pointing at our heads. We do laugh. We have been known to smile – even daily. We go outside, we go to work, we eat, drink, shower and do all those normal things. Most of the time. We function, we fit in and we live.

Depression is an invisible illness, you can’t look depressed. Having a sad face or teary eyes doesn’t mean depression. That person is quite possibly just feeling sad. Depression is so much more than feeling a bit sad, looking a bit down and moping about.

I feel my depression like the ocean, sometimes I am just paddling in the surf enjoying my life with my emotions swirling happily around my toes. When the tide comes in it goes one of two ways. I take a few steps back and re-evaluate the situation, keeping that little pool at bay. Other times I am stuck. Glued to the spot, helpless. The emotions, the emptiness, the anxiety, the feeling lost, incomplete, lonely, sad, overwhelmed and pretty much completely hopeless crash around me. The tears stream and pool in the water. The water that feels as though it’s rising too quickly. The ocean swells, the waves get stronger, the water heavier, tugging and thrashing around me. And then it hits me. That final big crushing wave and all of a sudden I am drowning. Invisible, struggling and fighting with all my might under the heaving flow of water that engulfs me.

 

but I don’t look depressed…

 

How are you?

This quickly becomes one of your least favourite questions when you suffer from mental illness. The majority of people who ask this, generally mean in it in a pleasantry kind of way. Not in a literal, spill all your internal feelings kind of way.

I have got to the point now where I generally answer ‘Tired’ or ‘Getting There’ because I am not okay most of the time and the constant need to be positive is more detrimental than not.

When suffering from mental illness you tend to address things differently, you see things in new light. When I ask someone how they are – I am genuinely interested in how they are, regardless if that happens to be ‘My world is crumbling down and I don’t know what to do’ or if they’re happy as a pig in shit, having the best day of their lives.

I like to listen, I always have done. I’ve spent many years feeling like I am not heard, like nobody wants to listen that I always make it my goal to be the ears that do. To be the eyes that read that message and the shoulder to hold all those tears. I know what it feels like to not have it, so I have to do all I can to give it. Some days it’s harder to do that than others, but I still do my best.

Lots of people think depression means weak, scared, overburdened and many more of those awful negative things, and it is in its own way. However, we are still humans, still capable of that connection and are still loyal to our friendships. We may feel like the universe is going to suck the life out of everything we do like a Dementor, but we still have the ability to listen and communicate – for the most part. We still want to hear how you are doing, what life has in store for you. We can still celebrate in your happiness and grieve with you in your sadness.

Compassion doesn’t fade because the black dog came for tea. I feel like people are too scared to talk their problems with me any more, because it might be too much for me to handle. Most people would never guess I have anxiety or depression, I should win an Oscar for my ability to play the ‘everything is great girl’ to the general population.

Don’t feel like you are going to drown us by sharing your woes, you won’t.

‘How are you?’

Tired.

 

Killing Time Shouldn’t Be Killing You.

So there you have it, my 6 favourite ways to escape my own head

Yes this is quite a dramatic title, but it is fitting for how I’m feeling today.

If I am bored, if I have spare time to fill – that I’m not using to nap! Then I need to be doing something. If I spend too long inside my own head with no distractions I know that it would be detrimental to my mental health.

Yes it’s good to delve in there, have a root around and do some filing in that ol’ brain of yours, but if you haven’t set out with that plan when you start drifting into the unknown depths of your own mind it can get scary and quickly.

It’s always good to have few things that you enjoy, to pick up when you feel yourself wandering in to the darkest depths when you’re not ready for it. Here’s a few things I tend to sway toward.

Number 1 – Reading.

Whether you are a bookworm or not it’s always wise to have a couple of books around to leaf through or get lost in rather than getting lost in your head. I tend to have a variety available from photography filled books that require little reading and not too much focus, to novels and various things in between. Currently I am reading ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ by Nicola Yoon. You can pick it up on Amazon for a few quid.

Number 2 – Something Creative, I usually paint or bake.

This one isn’t for everyone. Lots of people loathe creativity but I think that’s more out of thinking they’re not in the least bit creative. I disbelieve that, I think everybody is capable of creativity in one way or another. You don’t have to be Van Gogh to create a marvellous painting and sometimes, just throwing paint at a blank canvas is quite the release. Messy play is an age old thing that we often don’t follow on into our adulthood. That, in my opinion, is a great shame.

And if arty stuff isn’t your thing, dig out the recipe books! What’s better than a slice of homemade bread or a piece of cake with a brew and a good book for a little bit of ‘me time’!? Not many things.

Number 3  – Go for a walk.

Surprising one from an agoraphobic, I know. However I have an almost 1 year old puppy, so getting out of the house is a daily battle for me, but I am starting to win it more regularly. It doesn’t have to be a long, scenic route. A simple jaunt to the shops or round the block for 20 minutes with your headphones in is good enough to distract your brain and gets your some little exercise endorphins too.

Number 4 – Music.

I’ve discussed this before. Music is something any one can enjoy when they find the sounds that their souls dance too. Explore some new sounds. Listen to something you wouldn’t normally choose, you might surprise yourself. Learn a new instrument, give your brain a challenge to focus on and yield some new skills. This technically falls into creativity too! Two birds and all that.

Number 5 – Watch a film.

I am a sucker for watching films when I am creeping off into pit of despair that is my noggin’. I usually pick from the same 10 – 15 films. Ranging from The Aristocats to The Shawshank Redemption. Really the choice is yours, maybe you could watch something you’ve never seen or find something old that you’ve not seen in ages and fall in love with it all over again. It’s a great way to lose yourself in the moments of another life story without actually leaving your bed/sofa/house.

Number 6 – Get a Hobby.

I have a few, I appear to be eclectic and chaotic in most aspects of my life. My biggest hobby of the moment is Philately – Stamp collecting. I love seeing the designs from all over the world, wondering about the journey of each stamp, the message it was posted to carry. It’s very easy to get lost in the mystery of the unknown behind a well travelled stamp. I don’t collect for valuable stamps. I like to collect for variety of country and design. It evokes many emotions imagining the story behind each stamp.

So there you have it, my 6 favourite ways to escape my own head. I am aware this list of things are quite common ways to kill time, but that is because they work for so many people. Obviously not everyone will find something here – but there is a nice variety of not too taxing things that give you just a few moments of peace in your loud, overwhelming lives.

 

‘Cheer Up’

Oh my good gracious, praise the lord you’ve cured me. Not! 

I don’t think there is a more frustrating phrase to come out of people’s mouths when you’re having a low day and it’s written on your face like some sort of blatant graffitied penis in the school toilet wall. There’s just no getting away from it. I look sad and miserable probably because I feel sad and miserable. 

I’m so glad you’ve managed to come over with that hugely helpful advice though, I hadn’t thought of that. Really. 

Telling someone with mental illness to cheer up is like telling someone with a broken leg to walk it off. It doesn’t work and will likely cause a great deal more pain in the long run. 

It would be better if you asked how I am or is there anything I can do to help. Rather than throwing 2cents of useless, off the cuff ‘advice’ at me that just makes me feel bad for looking as awful as I feel. 

See previous posts about not being a dick.

Mental Health Problems – It could be you.

The mental illness lottery isn’t one anyone wants to play, but odds are you’re going to know someone who was unlucky enough to have their number’s come up.

It’s evident in society there is a huge stigma around having a mental health problem, and that can almost certainly be blamed on the simple fact that people are uneducated.

If I have a broken leg or a cold or some other more palpable condition, the outpouring of sympathies and well wishes amongst the groups I circulate in would be abundant. Now I am not by any means saying that I don’t have a network of support in my life for my mental health problems, because I most certainly do and I am forever grateful for that.

My point is, generally people don’t get it. Depression is often seen as a weakness and in actual fact it’s anything but, do you know how hard it is to act okay when internally everything is falling apart? It takes a huge amount of strength to put that barrier up.

People call me brave because I am open about my mental illness. They tell me I am courageous. I’m not. I am simply a human that happens to have a bit of a dodgy noggin’ – not the most eloquent of descriptions, I know!

 There lies half the problem, it shouldn’t be considered brave or courageous to say it. I am not ashamed of my mental illness, but I used to be. I hid it for so many years. Too many years.
Did you know that it’s estimated 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. ONE in FOUR – think about that. Potentially from 100 people in your life you can stick a big red flag of ‘mental illness’ over a quarter of them. If you don’t think you know anyone that has or had a mental health issue, you are probably very much mistaken, sadly.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and it could be you one day. Never in a million years did I think that this is where my life would be as I near my 30th birthday. I was supposed to be married, with children living in our little home. Not stuck in a rut, emotionally unstable and alone 99% of the time – looking forward to the postman knocking on the door so I can get a minute of human interaction from another adult.

The mental illness lottery isn’t one anyone wants to play, but odds are you’re going to know someone who was unlucky enough to have their numbers come up. Don’t be the person they would rather not encounter when it happens. It really isn’t hard to research mental illness, to find out some statistics or even just find out a little bit about some mental health problems. I am not expecting you to become an expert, but a little bit of extra knowledge is never a bad thing. It takes about 5 seconds to type ‘mental health statistics’ into a search engine and ping the world is your little oyster of knowledge, way more precious than any pearl.