Health, Personal

Mental Health Awareness Month (The ‘Turning’ Post)

The response to my last post was overwhelming – both online and off.  In truth, I’m not out of the woods yet. Yesterday was a good day, though and today hasn’t been too terrible.

Many of you were curious to know what ‘turns’ things around for me.  There are a few things.

I do keep a gratitude journal and that helps. I think. At the same time, acknowledging all the things in my life I am grateful for doesn’t mean that the stuff that troubles me goes away, or troubles me less.

Friends. People just picking up the phone or calling in or sending an email of support and compassion makes a huge difference. I’ve been overwhelmed by expressions of kindness. The concern of others is enormously uplifting.

Acceptance. For years and years and years I used to beat myself up and tell myself I was, somehow, a lesser person for being sad. These days, I allow myself to ‘own’ my sorrow and accept that it is real.  I make an effort to be kind to myself. Taking to bed and letting the sadness lie on me like a blanket actually works better than beating myself up for being that way.

Indulging myself. Knitting. Reading. Walking. Cuddling my girls. All the things I love to do, I do. I don’t belittle myself in my own head by telling myself how bad I am for not doing more ‘worthy’ things.  (Okay, I try not to belittle myself for how bad I am for not doing more ‘worthy’ things).

turn off the radio. I love the radio. It’s my favourite medium. But it’s full of doom, gloom, contention, argument and discontent. When I’m not feeling great , it agitates me (in a bad way) and I feel like I need to respond in a very concrete way to what I’m hearing. My feeling of helplessness is exacerbated. So I stop listening. I put on an audiobook, or listen to music or drama (thank you, BBC Radio 4) instead.

If people ask how I am, I honour myself by being honest and saying ‘not great’.  I’m careful not to overshare and if people want to follow the line of conversation then they can. If they don’t then they don’t have to. I’m mindful that I have no idea (generally) what other people are going through.

I do as little as I can. The house is a mess, I haven’t written as many words as I should have, I haven’t finished making those cushion covers……The list of things I haven’t done is as long as my leg. It serves to do nothing but further overwhelm me. So I take a deep breath and decide what is vital – then break that task down into it’s smallest components and call each of them a job. I don’t set out to clean the house. I set out to empty the dishwasher.

Above everything else, my kids keep me going. I am uncomfortable with the idea of giving someone else the job of keeping me alive, but the truth of it is that there is no one else to mind my kids. If I was hospitalised for a short period, someone would be able to take them for a few days or a week. After that, however, there is no one. I have no family who could take them and the ‘care’ system in Ireland would kill them. Figuratively, if not literally.

Also, a few years ago, I made my children (pictured below) a promise. I had one of the worst times ever and ended up – calmly, logically and with extreme clarity (so I thought) – ‘realising’ that the best thing I could do was kill myself. When I got out of hospital afterwards  promised my kids I’d never leave them until they were adults. I take promises very seriously and only make ones I am sure I can keep.

Beautiful Girls

Perhaps the hardest part of this overwhelming sadness is that there is no end date. I have no idea when it will be over. I can’t say to myself “just another week, Larkin and then it will all be over”  or even “this will be over in six months”. I have no idea when things will improve, but I have leaned to tell   myself that this, too, shall pass. I’m getting better at believing it.

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5 thoughts on “Mental Health Awareness Month (The ‘Turning’ Post)

  1. Glad to hear today hasn’t been ‘too terrible’. I’ve only just come across this blog; it’s great when people talk openly about their experiences — for the reader, they feel less alone. I identified with a lot of the turning points you mentioned. I suppose, from my own experience, I’d add ‘not counting days between “bad days”‘. I used to get fixated on how many good days in a row I’d have. Now I just take each one at a time and, like you said, when I have a bad day, I sit with it and allow myself to feel bad, rather than beating myself up about it.

    • Hazel Katherine Larkin says:

      Hi Ciara

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I have to say that today was actually quite good. 🙂 The sun has a lot to do with it, I think. I get very homesick for ‘my’ parts of Asia and the sun makes being somewhere I hate living (Ireland) slightly more bearable.

      I think being patient with myself is a huge part of making the bad days better. If only I’d known years ago how soothing that could be. 🙂

      Hazel

  2. Hi Hazel,
    I think it really shows an inner strength in you that you can recognise what’s going to help pull you back up even when you’re down. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate the insight you’ve given us all into your experriences and I hope each day is better than the last for you.
    Gina

  3. This is a great post Hazel, and one that I could really empathise with. In my experience articulating what you’re going through can really help, and acceptance plays a huge part. (And you are wonderfully articulate, as I’ve seen many times.)

    I used to panic when I hit a bad patch. Now I’ve reached a stage where I can see it coming, and rather than fight it, sometimes it’s easier to just put my head down for a while and let the worst of it pass over, and not beat myself up for not fighting it. Breaking down tasks is also a huge one, because when you don’t want even to get out of bed, smaller tasks are less daunting and give you a greater sense of achievement when you get there.

    “This too shall pass” became a mantra for me in my darkest days and one I have, thank goodness, come to firmly believe in. Wishing you all the best and as Gina says above, that each day gets a little better for you. x

  4. Karen Smith says:

    Hi Hazel. I was reading about cognitive behavioural therapy last night as a treatment for depression and post traumatic stress and I thought of you. I don’t know if you’ve been down that route but it has been proven to be better than medication in many cases. I also wondered then if you perhaps also suffer from some kind of post traumatic stress. I just wanted to pass it on in case it’s of any help. I enjoy your writing so much and wish you only well and great things. Take care.

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