Six months ago I nearly ended my life.
I’ve come a long way since then. But I have to admit after I was discharged from a psychiatric hospital I was filled with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. I’d hit rock bottom, and for two months I’d slowly and painfully worked my way back to some form or normality. But after leaving hospital I had no idea what was I was supposed to do next.
I wanted the recovery process to be quick and progressive but I soon learned that it’s never simple or straightforward. I still have days I’m too depressed to get out of bed or too anxious to go out in public.
I’ve found on days like that, the trick is to never be too hard on myself. Recognise it for what it is. A bad day is just a bad day. Never let it be more than that. Everyone has them.
Admittedly, when I’m depressed or severely anxious it’s not quite that simple. My sense of perspective can be compromised. A bad day can feel like it will go on forever. And even though my logical mind tells me it’s only temporary, my emotional mind takes a lot more convincing.
On days like that I rely on the skills and techniques I picked up whilst I was an inpatient.
Through a combination of CBT and Mindfulness I now recognise and challenge my negative thinking whilst also accepting my thoughts for what they are without any judgement or criticism. Mindfulness is such a simple process but it can make such a huge difference to how you feel. I try to be mindful as often as I can throughout the day. From walking to work to doing the washing up, there’s always an opportunity to let go for a bit.
I still have one to one therapy, which I find incredibly useful. Being able to voice my innermost thoughts and feelings in a friendly and safe environment without fear of judgement is really therapeutic. It’s also incredibly scary. Laying yourself open to someone else can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable. That’s why finding the right therapist is vital. You need to be completely comfortable with them or you won’t get the most out of the process.
Medication plays a vital role in my recovery. I’ve worked hard with my psychiatrist to find the right combination of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. We’ve spoken at great length about the role they play in treating mental illness. I know exactly how they work and why I need them. To me they will always be more than just ‘happy pills’ to get me through the day. If I had a broken leg I wouldn’t think twice about taking pain killers for as long as I needed to. Why should my broken mind be any different?
I try to be as active as I can, which can be tough. When I’m having a depressive episode the last thing I want to do is be active. But I’ve found that if I force myself to get up and do something I immediately feel better. Even if it’s just a walk or a trip to the cinema it can make a difference. Theoretically the more active I am the better I’ll feel. Unfortunately I’m inherently lazy when it comes to exercise. But I try to make sure I get out for a walk everyday. Ten thousands steps a day is better than none!
As well as all the tools and techniques I picked up in hospital I am always on the lookout for new ways to help manage my depression and anxiety. Recently I had a session in a floatation tank and I was amazed by the experience. In the last few months I’ve been diagnosed with Complex PTSD. When I’m in public or around lots of people I am constantly on edge. I have an overwhelming feeling of dread and a fear that something terrible is going to happen. Sometimes I can control it with breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques. In the most extreme cases I need to take sedatives. But the fear never goes away. It’s almost like it has become my default setting. Getting into the floatation tank was like stepping into another world for me. It was a complete sensory deprivation experience. I was completely cut off from everyone and everything. No stress. No anxiety. It was heaven. I came out feeling so chilled and relaxed that I immediately wanted to get back in again. I had to settle for booking another session. And if goes as well as the first then I will definitely add it to my self care regime.
I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. Until recently I was a repress it, suppress it and just get on with kind of guy. But I could only get so far that way. I ended up having a breakdown and contemplating suicide before I finally gained the courage to ask for help. And that help saved my life.
I know I’m still going to have bad days, but I’ll be having good days as well. And as long as I can recognise and appreciate them I think I’ll be ok.