Write-Off Weeks

Last week was a struggle. Why? Because my anxiety and depression were worse than “usual” (which gets redefined regularly, depending on the variety and severity of symptoms I experience over a several weeks or so). That’s it. Nothing bad happened. I just felt worse.

A lot of people find this hard to accept: how can someone feel significantly worse for no apparent reason? I find it hard to accept, though experience teaches me again and again that it happens.

I have given up trying to analyse every fluctuation in my mood, because often there is no reason for changes in my symptoms. Even when I can pinpoint potential reasons, I can’t be certain whether they are causes or correlations — sometimes “reasons” are present but don’t affect my mental health. Winter, of course, presents its own litany of potential reasons — cold, wet, dark… Yet my mood isn’t always constant throughout winter.

I’m trying to be more compassionate towards myself and practice self-care, so I didn’t pressure myself as much as I have in the past. I gave myself permission to do whatever I could, even if that meant I did nothing. I focused on my priorities, but didn’t have the energy to fulfil all of them. In fact, the week was pretty much a write-off.

I feel guilty for neglecting my work, studies and volunteering, but part of me realises I could have done nothing more. Actually, I managed to go to all of my gym classes and walk the dog on my own, despite the heightened anxiety, which means the week was more of a success than it felt at the time. I tend to be strict when it comes to exercise, because it’s one of the main ways I manage my mental health. Skipping a session leads to more depression and anxiety; it also makes the next session much harder to do, creating a downward spiral.

I’m focusing on combining self-compassion with being strict about completing activities which help me to manage my mental health in the run up to Christmas. Christmas is difficult for me, but I also love it. I like the sense of togetherness and celebrating the days getting (gradually) lighter again. I like making time to watch films and bake. I love Brussels sprouts, cinnamon and tinsel. I enjoy buying presents and seeing colourful lights everywhere.

Yet some aspects of Christmas aren’t easy to deal with. I get frustrated when I make an effort and other people can’t be bothered, despite being far more able than me. It’s not a fun time to be single either, though at least I don’t have to deal with someone else’s family as well as my own! I shall be referring to my Christmas Survival Guide (and Part Two and Part Three) to help me through.

I have been feeling better since Friday, so I wonder if getting November out of the way has helped. November is the worst month of the year, in my opinion, so it’s always hard to cope. My plan is to concentrate on the things I like about this time of year and look forward to 2018.

I’m also in a reflective mood, brough on by the combination of the end of the year and my final counselling session on Friday. I have achieved a lot this year, but it hasn’t made a great deal of difference to my daily life. I’m still earning next to nothing and relying on working tax credits. I still have an enormous amount of debt. I’m still stuck living with my parents. I still have mental health problems which convince me I’m worthless and better off dead.

Yet trekking to Machu Picchu and being an integral part of a crowdfunding campaign which raised £15,070 for The Project have given me touchstones. I have achieved significant things this year and nobody can take them away from me — not even my mental illness. 

I may not have transformed my life, but I have completed a long-held life goal and made a difference. I have inspired at least one other person to chase her dreams — despite also struggling with mental illness. I may not feel confident a lot of the time, but I think my self-esteem has improved and I’m more willing to take on challenges.

I need to remind myself that while some weeks, or even months, will be write-offs, it doesn’t mean my life as a whole is a write-off.

4 thoughts on “Write-Off Weeks

  1. I found your blog recently and have read several of your posts. I appreciate your clear and honest explanations of your experiences. It is helpful to me in trying to understand how it feels to have BPD. I plan on reading more of your writing, but I am also wondering if there is anything you have found especially helpful that other people have done to support you?
    Thanks.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I think the most helpful thing anyone can do is accept me; it means I don’t feel pressured to downplay my problems when I’m around them, (which improves my symptoms), and can focus on whatever is needed in that situation, e.g. having fun if I’m with friends or my volunteer work when I meet with The Project staff. Acceptance means I’m not being treated as a problem to fix or a burden people have to put up with. It also means people don’t patronise me or dismiss my problems. I think it’s the basis of any good relationship, whether personal or professional.

      Following on from acceptance, the best thing people can do for me is to listen. Very few people listen properly — they are mostly thinking of themselves, how they are coming across and what they will say next. Listening is very valuable. It means people ask questions to reach an understanding of what I’m saying and don’t give unsolicited advice or tell me my feelings are invalid, e.g. by saying “your life’s not so bad” — because if I feel that my life is terrible in any given moment, that’s my truth. People may thing comments like this are reassuring, but all they do is contradict me and make me feel I’m not being heard.

      There are also loads of little things people do for me which help a lot, such as sending a text when I haven’t been in touch for a while or socialising at my home when I can’t face travelling or public places. During my worst episodes, practical help (especially from my parents) has been invaluable — picking up my prescriptions, accompanying me when I go to the doctor, cooking meals for me, etc.

      Overall, I think the best people can do to help others with mental health problems is to be compassionate and empathetic. Think about what you would find helpful in their situation.

      Kind regards,
      Hayley

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