What do you think of when you hear the word depression? Do you think of the big grand sweeping gestures of low mood, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, ugly crying and sleeping a lot? I wouldn’t blame you if that’s all you’d think of.
Even when someone’s in a place where those oh so glorious symptoms are few and far between if in a, near enough, state of remission, it’s the small things that can sometimes come creeping up on you and continue to bite you in the ass.
Myself, like many others who have suffered from mental health conditions, continue to have relatively incongruous symptoms show their small but mighty gnashers every once in a while, most likely during times of stress or when life decides it wants to throw you even the smallest of curveballs.
Since I was 16 I’ve struggled with chronic moderate depression and social anxiety with the teensiest dollop of PTSD symptoms added in just for good measure at the age of 21.
I have to be thankful that I’m one of the lucky ones. The majority of my overwhelming symptoms have been dramatically lessened through counselling, CBT and SSRI’s. But that doesn’t mean the smaller more prickly little bastard symptoms have been pulled out from under my skin.
The latest curveball to have been thrown everyone’s way is COVID-19. There is no doubt in my mind that the pandemic has and will continue to affect everyone’s mental health on some level.
For my latest update to have a little more relevance I need to turn back the clock to this time last year.
I was a housekeeper in a residential nursing home. I’d been there for a year and my mental health was taking it’s third big nose dive.
I found myself in a place where I had little to no motivation. The number of bad days were beginning to outway the good days. I was feeling out of touch, disillusioned with life, hopeless like I couldn’t see a future for myself. I found my enjoyment in activities and motivation to want to achieve decreasing. I started self-harming again and suicidal ideation was becoming an increasingly recurrent thought.
It wasn’t until I finally left that job at the end of August that I finally began to believe in the notion of the light at the end of the tunnel.
About two and a half months later I began volunteering at the RNIB. For so long I had thought I would never entertain the notion of working for the charity. But three months in I found myself feeling like I had found the place that I should have been since the beginning of my working life.
Three months after I started volunteering, I was in a much better place, motivationally, I’d settled in, I like and enjoy the company of the people I work alongside. This new environment sparked a new sense of joy and passion in me.
Then the pandemic, social distancing, isolating and the shit show that we find ourselves in today started.
Now, in all reality, I have no concrete thing to complain about in comparison to people who work on the front line such as NHS staff, essential shop staff etc or people who have to self isolate because of immunocompromising conditions, people who are carers of loved ones, or those who live alone etc.
I’m still able to go out to the shops, take my daily exercise and me, nor anyone else I know personally has been severely affected, medically speaking, by the virus itself. I’m grateful to be in such a lucky position. That doesn’t mean my mental health has taken note of this logical standpoint.
No, the lack of routine, eating, sleeping, exercise, working patterns have left my brain wandering what in god’s earth is happening. Time has become meaningless. Don’t get me wrong there are days when I’m perfectly happy or at least neutral but there are also days when my brain just decides not to work at all.
I become a little despondent, I can’t concentrate on anything for more than about fifteen minutes to half an hour at a time. My motivation to do anything meaningful has dropped from my usual procrastination default mode to one of below zero.
All in all my mood hasn’t been anywhere near the all-consuming pit it used to be but, it’s these little spiky thorns that never seem to be dislodged that can be the most frustrating sometimes.
Mental illness is a serious and real spectrum of conditions and symptoms that people who face mental health issues will deal with sometimes for a whole lifetime.
This is just my experience of what might be considered as very minor symptoms of a minor form of mental illness. However, it’s real to me and it’s my reality.
There are event’s that may be global or very much personal that can affect someone’s mental health on a major or minor level. Each person’s mental health has its own history, triggers and every individual will have different coping mechanisms to manage the best they can.
Never try and steryotype of pidgenhole someone who has ever been through any time of mental health issue. Listen to their story, accept their truth for what it is. Don’t compare them to others who may have it worse than them. Activley listen to them, support them and validate them to help them in their recovery.