THE BLOG

Keep The Meltdown On The Down Low

31/03/2017 16:02 BST | Updated 31/03/2017 16:02 BST
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"If you have nothing good to say, then don't say anything at all." My mother preached that to us.

I think I internalised this and spent most of my life on the sunny side of the street.

Whenever I was troubled, down or moody rather than talk to a friend I had another way of dealing with it - silence and sleep. I often walked straight past colleges and headed into the local park where I would lie on a bench, fall asleep and wait for my fellow students to turn up at lunch time at our hangout spot wiping the sleep from my eyes.

I hadn't made the connection between my penchant for sleep and my reluctance to share the difficult things in life. On the days I had nothing good to say I went silent, I went to sleep.

I'm a recovering nodder off. The thing that brings me back to life is often as simple as sharing in a few words the way I'm feeling. I have a new mantra I use when feeling out of sorts: tell three people. It annoys the hell out of me because like an early morning alarm call it stirs me into action I'm often loathe to take. It almost always works in shifting those sticky feelings we all have but when left unattended grow in size and intensity.

I choose my three people wisely. I don't want to prompt those startled and concerned text messages: "OMG are you OK?" that bring added anxiety I can do without. I choose people who know that I'm just sharing. Not looking for advice, pearls of wisdom or "things could be worse" nuggets. Often I don't get a response at all, and that's fine. It's about my process more than their reply. Sometimes I am soothed by a message reading "Yeah I feel like that too today" or "It will pass. I love you" or "So glad I'm not the only one."

Occasionally I need to speak it out. I've found prefacing my conversation with "I just need to get this off my chest. Are you ok just to listen?" is helpful. Much like the knots I discover I have when on the masseurs table I just need to knead them out.

I've also discovered much to my relief that sometimes a simple walk, a jig to a song on the radio or a bath and an early night appears to dissipate what seems like an intractable mood. I am able to tell myself these days that tomorrow it may pass. And if it doesn't then the day after. The key thing is I'm shifting these often overwhelming and uncomfortable feelings leaving space for the vast array of other feelings to come flooding in. Some days I send a text to a friend saying how fed up I am and by the time they ring me for a chat I'm all sunshine and rainbows. "I thought you were down in the dumps?" they ask exasperated. "I was," I explain. "But that was 10 minutes ago."

Of course I do not want to cry wolf too often or burden my loved ones unnecessarily so I consider the frequency of my declarations. I also vary the audience to share the load. But I have come to realise that it's reassuring for them. It sometimes corresponds with the shitty day they have been having too and it gives them a kind of permission to acknowledge their own cloudy feelings. It brings us closer.

Back in the days when I kept the meltdown on the down low I ended up paying a therapist to wade through the years of unspoken upset and distress I had accumulated. It took two years to clear the backlog. These days I'm clearing up my human debris as I go. Much like flossing to keep the plaque at bay, it is saving me from painful visits to the dentist down the line.