TW; This post focuses on mental illness. It is personal but I’ve wanted to write it forever.
My brain makes me feel sad, apathetic, and numb when there is no external cause for those feelings. Then, at other times, I’m jubilant and racing with energy. Often been called moody and those difficult-to-control moods negatively affect my life.
It’s something I can’t quite explain though I’ve tried many times. I’ve tried to explain the way my brain works to myself, to friends and family, to doctors, to counselors, and it feels like I’ve never been able to get it right. The closest I’ve come to explaining myself is when I say I have depression and anxiety. But even then I’m not sure that captures it. My symptoms don’t present as typical depression symptoms like crying or feeling worthless. I’ve been tested for mood disorders but came up clean. Maybe cyclothymic disorder or maybe I’m just melodramatic and whiney (at least that’s what the unwanted negative voice in my head sometimes says).
So far I haven’t taken this laying down even though I’ve had plenty of days when I don’t want to get out of bed. This sickness is something that’s part of me and I try to deal with it head on. And I’m learning to have more patience wit myself and others.
The message to reach out for help has come across loud and clear. End the stigma and everyone has mental health, and all that. But there hasn’t been much education or discussion about what the receivers or listeners can do to help. I’ve reached out countless times only to be told everyone has ups and downs, that lots are fighting battles behind closed doors, it’s normal to feel anxious, etc. Conflicting messages around mental health are confusing at the best of times. When I’m in a dark place they’re too much to handle. All I can think is if everyone feels like I do then the world is seriously screwed up. We shouldn’t be indignant or competitive. Shouldn’t we be searching for answers to why we’re all fighting with our own minds?
My reality is that I look like a ‘normal’ well-functioning adult. I have a full-time office job, I’m a mother and a partner, I have interests, and I feel OK half the time. But the rest of the time knocks me down and leaves me feeling helpless and weak. My mind relapses to unwanted negativity and feeling inadequate. I grab supports like my CBT training, family, movement, and slowly try to haul myself out of the hole. Even when I’m feeling good, I know there’s a part of me that’s uneasy with expectation that I’ll trip or fall down again. It truly feels like I’m taking one step forward and two back with everything.
It’s a recognition that that there are a million ideas running around my head but I feel paralyzed to act on them. Or I’m discouraged by the false starts and lack of confidence. I swing from wanting to take over the world to hardly having the confidence to function. I have missed opportunities because my brain tells me I’m not good enough. I’ve not applied for jobs (even ones I’ve been sought out for), cancelled interviews, and given up on endless good ideas. My depression and anxiety rob me of confidence and energy, and trying to help myself with all sorts of interventions is so tiring. My mental health is my main hobby.
This is a post about how a difficult time in your life can be called the toughest time – not because of how hard it is but because of how tough you are. Or how tough you have to be. This may seem idealist or trite but I’m going to put it out there anyway because I think it’s true: we are all more capable and have more endurance than we think. Find the strength to change the narrative in your head and spin your situation into a positive light. It’s easier said than done but so worth it. And each time your flip your perspective is practice for the next time. So each time gets a tiny bit easier, faster, you retain that muscle memory, and that’s how habits are formed.
It all starts with recognition of a negative thought process or bad feeling. Identifying it is the key to turning it around. I have found mindfulness meditation and CBT beneficial but, like most good things, they took time to develop and grow to something intuitive and useful for me. I’m still learning and adjusting.
Following a ketogenic lifestyle has also helped tremendously. There are clear links between keto, fasting, and improved cognitive function. I also struggle with disordered eating so keto has been a powerful tool to help with that, too.
After the struggle and work, it’s far too easy for me to get complacent when things are okay, or give up when they’re bad. Rerouting thought pathways can work wonders but it’s a constant battle. I know when I let my guard down during a good streak, or find myself suffering in a dark time, I need to put in the work. You too may need to work harder or differently to not fall into that hole, or to pull yourself out. It’s in the dark times that I need to stay the course with my ketogenic lifestyle, self care, and health practices. When it feels easy to give up is exactly when I (and you) need to keep going.
If you’re struggling, I encourage you to check out a group that’s helped me: Sick Not Weak or find your own support to get through the toughest times.