I haven’t been feeling too great. I’m not really sure how or when, but I fell into the black hole.
I felt angry, and sad, and frustrated, and lost, and trapped, and anxious. And stressed, so so stressed. The magic combo of lockdown, home schooling, loss of income and focus, combined with worry about loved ones seemed over whelming. I felt scared. I just wanted to stop, to climb under the duvet and not come out. I cried, a lot. I snapped at my family. I had no patience, but bucket loads of guilt. I pushed away all the things that could make me feel better. No yoga, no meditation, no journaling. Instead I chose crappy food, broken sleep, lots of tv and falling down social media rabbit holes.
My body rebelled and gave me a hidious migraine that lasted 4 days straight. I broke. Tears, shouting, RAGE. I closed myself off and shut everything out.
Then my birthday arrived and I felt surrounded by warmth and love. I was grateful, happy, relaxed. The storm inside me had broken momentarily. Unfortunately it came right back the next day. I felt myself falling even further into the black hole. But that day of happiness had an effect, I’d seen a glimpse of light. I started to take better care of myself. I booked an appointment with a wonderful counsellor. I asked my family for help. I meditated. I yoga’d. I journaled. I talked, and I still keep talking even when I resist it. I slowly started to see myself clearly again. I started to clear away the guilt and let go of the anger. I’m coming out the other side, and these are some of the things that have been (and still are) helping –
- As much as I rebel against it, I NEED some kind of structure and routine to my days. Left to my own devises I will happily spend 8 hours watching Greys Anatomy and eating whatever requires the least preparation or effort. Crisps and hummus for dinner anyone?! So I have a flexible routine, that allows space to be spontaneous but also keeps me and my daughters motivated.
- Journaling when I don’t feel like it. This may sound weird, but when my head is busy and my thoughts are all jumbled, and writing anything seems like an impossible task, that’s when I know I need to the most. As resistant as I feel, I open my journal and just start. Just one word, any word. It’s always clunky at first but when a few words have made it onto the page I feel my thoughts starting to unravel, to get a little bit lighter. A little bit clearer, like the fog is starting to lift.
- Yoga. Obviously. Same as journaling though, it can feel like a HUGE effort just to get on my mat, and I will find any excuse not to. ‘I haven’t got time’ is normally the favourite (yes, even in lockdown), so now I tell myself I’ll just do 5 minutes. My mat is always in the lounge ready to go, and I use easy to follow sequences. More often than not, I’ll practise for a lot longer but if I only manage those 5 minutes that’s great, it makes a big difference. As my husband can confirm, I’m a much nicer person when I’ve done some yoga!
- Dining room dance parties, because that’s where our loudest speaker lives. I flipping LOVE to dance. It makes me feel joy. This doesn’t mean I’m a ‘good’ dancer, far from it, I just love the freedom of moving however I want to move, usually to very loud music. It’s even better when my family join in. I love the way my girls dance; they do not give a crap what they look like, or whether they’re on the beat, they just dance because it is FUN. Dancing changes my whole mood, it throws me out of my head and into my body. Now is the best time to chuck on your favourite upbeat song and GO FOR IT. My personal favourites are: 3 is the Magic Number by De La Soul, Jump Around by House of Pain, and Golddust by DJ Fresh.
- Letting go of guilt. This is a big one for me, I tend to feel guilt about pretty much everything. My children, my marriage, my family, my friends, my work, having time to myself etc etc etc. And it all revolves around the ‘I’m not good enough’ theme. I’m not doing a good enough job, I’m failing my loved ones, my mental health is having a negative impact on my children (that’s a particularly damaging one that induces a guilt spiral, and can lead to me feeling like they would be better off without me). The guilt isn’t deserved, and it serves no purpose to me or anyone else, but it can be so hard to recognise that and let it go. Something that helped me recently was listening to a 10 minute podcast on guilt by Anna Mathur. I won’t attempt to recreate her words here, but it really is worth a listen.
- Going back to counselling. I spoke to a wonderful counsellor last year, who I found on HarleyTherapy.com. I had appointments via telephone which worked brilliantly for me as I could fit it around my schedule. I also found I was far more honest with her, and myself, than I had been when I had face to face counselling. She helped me work through a lot, and when I felt myself struggling recently I booked an appointment. Weirdly, it was a year to the day that I had last spoken to her. It was great because I didn’t have to go back over my history, she already knew it and could just listen to what was going on now. One session was all I needed to remind me that I have the tools to cope, I just need to use them. However, I won’t hesitate to book in again if I feel that I need to.
- Being open and honest with myself and the people who love me. I’ve always been hesitant to fully open up with anyone, I’ve worried that if I said too much or was too vulnerable, they would walk away and I would be hurt. I built up barriers and defences to protect myself, but the only thing it did was shut people out and no one ever got to know the real me. Not the full unfiltered version. So I’ve been slowly dismantling them, but it takes time and effort. Admitting that sometimes I struggle is one of the hardest things, as I feel like that will be my label. That my thoughts and feelings will be brushed off and put down to ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’. This may sometimes happen, but I remind myself that others people’s thoughts and reactions are not my responsibility or my business. I cannot mould how people see me, and trying to is exhausting. So instead I try to just be me, to speak my mind and be honest when I’m struggling.
- Limiting social media. I tend to use Facebook and Instagram as an escape; when I don’t want think I’ll mindlessly scroll instead to make myself feel better. But here’s the irony, I’m never satisfied. After hours of comparing myself to others and losing myself in multiple random videos, I feel a lot frigging worse. Whatever I’m looking for, whatever pick me up or happiness I’m chasing, I definitely don’t get it. Instead I feel ‘less than’, and guilty for wasting time and energy. But it’s addictive, so I kept going back. And every time I’d look up and realise I’d spent 3 hours on my phone I’d tell myself this is ridiculous, I’m never doing it again. I’d delete the apps for a day, but I’d soon have that feeling of missing out. ‘I’ll just have a quick look’… and I’d be right back where I started, chastising myself for falling off the wagon again. And yes, I do set time limits on my apps, but it’s easy enough to ignore them. So I went cold turkey. I got rid of the apps, not just for a day, but for a week. And then another. And another. And I started to feel in control. I didn’t care if I was missing out on any gossip, I was more interested and invested in my own life. Now I’ve put the apps back, but I’m not drawn to them in the same way, they’ve lost their pull. I’m quite happy not to check them everyday, and whenever I do take a look I don’t get lost in it. I don’t need to escape.
I know that this is a constant journey, and there will still be some days that I will feel rubbish and fall back into that black hole, but I also know that I have plenty of ways to get back out, and I can ALWAYS ask for help.